(VENTS Magazine Interview)
This is the vibe that is shaking. An earthquake of rattle, rolling and baking. The scene has been set, the guitar slide met. Linking yesterday's rocking blues to today's glory days of flowers, music, grit, rock, and hues... comes The Roomsounds. A tale of history from the younger days of punk to finding one's way back to where rock all began- taking that knowledge and melding its power into what it is you really feel in the gut... that is what singer/songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Ryan Michael of The Roomsounds did- truth isn't all that hard to find- you just have to listen to your own tune.
Song River: How old were you, Ryan when you entered the music scene and began playing?
Ryan Michael: I was 14 when I formed my first band that actually played shows. We played punk rock in a bunch of VFW Halls and skate parks around CT and Western Mass. We put out an EP when I was 15.
SR: Nothing wrong with being a part of the Warped circuit of sound (as their musician layout changes yearly which make them very unique)- yet there was something that must not agree with you Michael and the music surrounding you at that time. Talk about that period in your life.
RM: Because I had come from a punk background we got absorbed into that warped tour scene. It was fun at first but by the time I was 21-22 I felt like I was at a bad Hot Topic party. Most of the bands were gimmicks, popular for a year or two and then they'd lose relevance. I realized that I wanted to make timeless music and distance myself from that scene.
SR: What genre or style where you playing at that time and how much of it was coming from you to the band overall?
RM: Some sort of alt-rock I would say. We thought we were like Foo Fighters or something. I was writing all the songs but I didn't have anything to really say yet, lyrically. I hadn't developed any real taste yet.
SR: We change, we grow, or we finally find ourselves. Which was it for you and do you think you might try on another direction in music production in your future?
RM: Well the beauty of the Roomsounds and the promise I made to myself is to never let the expectation stifle the creative process. We call ourselves a rock band but we have blues, country, folk, soul and pop elements... even the punk ethos that Sam and I came upon. Our only rule is that the songs have to be great. So I feel quite content moving forward and doing whatever I feel like musically.
SR: Connecticut to Texas, correct? Would it seem you have a penchant for making huge changes? How did your upbringing direct you towards first of all living in the big state of Texas?
RM: My parents were living there already for a year or so and we would stop by and stay for a few days when we were on tour. Eventually, we became disillusioned with what the north east had to offer. I wanted to start over somewhere new with no expectations and Texas seemed like a good place. Cheap to live, sunny weather, beautiful women, not to mention we wanted to surround ourselves with the best blues, country, and folk pickers out there to make us better. The south has honesty and integrity to the music. All my best friends here grew up playing in the church. It's a lot of roots music. As you can imagine it's made all of us way better players to be in such a big pool of talent where only the best survive. We also considered that Texas was a good touring hub between NYC and LA. Another wonderful thing about Texas is that people go out constantly and support live entertainment!
SR: Second, how did it direct you into the lifestyle you've created from day to day?
RM: Well we're able to survive playing music, which is great. We all live together so it makes the creative process easy.
SR: Music... seems there were some influences from your parent's vinyl tastes?
RM: My dad is a total rock historian so I grew up with Zeppelin and Beatles records. But then he was always going through phases of soul records, Bob Marley, Dylan, etc.
SR: Do you feel you're looking to recreate a time/sound/place or is this a throwback to pull forward into the 21 century? (Musically/Lyrically).
RM: I'm definitely not trying to be a revivalist. To me, it's just roots rock. I don't like production gimmicks, programmed drums, anything not real turns me off. I don't think about it too much honestly. My feeling is great songs will stand the test of time regardless of trends.
SR: FAME studios had to blow your mind. Tell me how did the meeting with Rodney Hall come about?
RM: A fan of the band posted our music video for "Couldn't Break My Spirit" on her Facebook page and she happened to have known Rodney in college. Apparently he saw it and loved it so much he called me and asked for a copy of the record. A week later he called and asked what he could do help us out. So I said, "we're ready to make a new record!"
SR: Rodney has an incredible story. If you haven't chatted with him about, I strongly suggest it. His influences because of his own background have created what bleeds America.
When you all were recording at FAME describe that first session as you settled in to record Elm St.
RM: We got the tour which was a blast seeing so many gold records on the wall. Pictures of Etta James, Otis Redding, members of the Swampers everywhere. We were definitely running around like little kids. Then we felt out the room, talked about getting the "muscle shoals" drum sound. Had a lot of great talks with John our engineer about the history of the room and tricks to pull the best from it. It was all very effortless and fun.
SR: The rock/blues/rollers have a long lineage coming out of Muscle Shoals... how long did the recording process take?
RM: We tracked the whole album in 8 days. We spent a lot of time back in Dallas doing pre-production with Beau so we had the arrangements all down by time got to FAME. We tracked the band live and then I laid down vocals on top.
SR: When the time comes, would you consider heading back there?
RM: For sure! It was a great experience and very comfortable. The vibe was right up our alley.
SR: The song "Letters" has a beauty of a slide to it. What elements do you feel must be incorporated into The Roomsounds to make them feel right?
RM: Whatever we think serves the song best. Everyone's approach is to play for the song. Sam and I could riff all over the place but it's the discipline that separates the boys from the men. We take a lot from guys like George Harrison and Mike Campbell in that regard. They play very economically.
SR: I immediately thought of The Black Crowes when "Bad Situation" opened up. You have a great mix within this album that touches the heart and soul of not just classic rock, but the gritty dirt of rock.
RM: Yeah for sure. "Bad Situation" is the first song I've ever played slide on so it was new for me in the studio. I kept telling myself to channel Duane Allman! That song was the last one written for the album and it has a very CCR meets Skynyrd vibe to me.
SR: As the band works together- that seems to be key- together. Each building on top of the other... do you think certain styles of music lend themselves to working in unison easier than other styles?
RM: Since we all live together and listen to records together constantly there's usually an immediate understanding of how to approach each song. The hardest ones are probably the slower songs because they lend themselves to more nuance in the playing. It's a good challenge and I'm a sucker for ballads.
SR: Looking at your tour schedule it looks like the furthest west you will be coming is Colorado. Any chance Arizona, California, Oregon might get put on the list anytime soon?
RM: We're looking into launching west after Colorado but we shall see! We're going to Europe for a month in October so the year is filling up quickly.
SR: Another track, "Lay My Head Down" the spirit of Lynyrd Skynyrd flew in. Going forward Michael... what old ghosts from the past of rock continue to speak through you? And as you've created a 21st-century heart and soul of rock I get the distinct feeling that each day has their own moments and you are perfectly fine living in this one right now.
RM: I am constantly looking to be inspired. It just so happens I look to the past more so than to my contemporaries for inspiration. I don't listen to the Black Keys cus I'd rather go listen to John Lee Hooker. I wouldn't say I'm a purist, maybe just a brat. Ha! Most modern music lacks sincerity to me. A lot of "indie" bands are into being weird for the sake of being weird. I think most of it won't be around in 10 years anyway. By then we'll all be replaced with MacBooks on stage. Hah! But seriously, times have changed and I get that, the old stuff just still resonates with me more.