We chat with The Black Ryder’s Scott Von Ryper and Aimee Nash about their latest album, emotional journeys and touring with the Jesus And Mary Chain …
A few months ago The Black Ryder arrived in the UK to play their first ever UK shows. We were there and yet regrettably we missed them due to an unfortunate and rather dull set of circumstances involving set times and car crime. The Australian L.A. based duo paid a flying visit to the UK in support of their wonderful second album ‘The Door Behind The Door.’ It’s a beautifully realised collection of songs in which Scott Von Ryper and Aimee Nash sculpt soaring cinematic soundscapes to create an album that is intimate, seductive, otherworldly and suffused with a glittering dark beauty. The duo conjure up a world where love, regret, euphoria, melancholy and hope all walk hand in hand, and where their influences converge to create something that is personal and heartfelt and as such is very much an extension of themselves. In essence, ‘The Door Behind The Door‘ is an album that can be admired on a technical level, but also touches the listener on an emotional level and in common with many great albums is one that reveals it’s subtle beauty with repeated listens.
We may have missed catching their live shows this time around but we did have a chat with Scott and Aimee, who during their time together have married, divorced, relocated themselves and their business to LA from their native Oz, and most recently supported The Jesus And Mary Chain on their triumphant ‘Psychocandy’ tour in the U.S.
VP: why did it take you so long to come to the UK and have you got any plans to return in the not so distant future?
SCOTT: – It really is just a logistical thing. We didn’t tour the first album in the UK, as it was never really released there due to an issue with our record company at the time. It was a real shame that it didn’t get a local release in the UK, but we are also inspired and grateful that many people found it themselves and simply imported it and turned others onto it. We also don’t have an agent in the UK, so putting together longer runs ourselves are a little more difficult. Saying that, we had a great response to our last shows in the UK so would love to return later in the year for more.
VP: Hard to believe it’s 6 years since your debut ‘ Buy The Ticket, Take the Ride’ but finally we have The Door Behind The Door’. It seems to be an entirely apt title as each track ends it kind of opens up a doorway into the next track and reveals something different… if that makes sense!? Each song is somewhat self-contained, yet it works as a cohesive body of work. When you sat down to plan album two, did you have any overarching master plan, or did the sound evolve organically
SCOTT: – I think we did have an almost unspoken plan to create an album that worked together like that. We definitely don’t like to feel limited in any way by genre, or people’s expectations. We wanted to create the experience, one of an emotional journey. You can’t do that easily if you have 10 songs that come from exactly the same place musically. Each track must be it’s own world. Sometimes that means using completely different instrumentation.
VP: At times, it is very cinematic and I think I read an interview whereby you said there was a point in which you thought that perhaps you mightn’t use guitars at all on the album?
SCOTT: – I feel like I do ‘see’ the songs sometimes, more than hear it. I think we both have more visual influences than musical when creating, so it would make sense that the music is cinematic to me. Yes, I think I did say that about one track “Let me be your light”, that I wasn’t sure that there would be guitars. It’s important to me to not have any rules or standard playbook when working on a track. It also makes it far more interesting an exciting to work on something if you have a completely different palette to paint from all the time. It doesn’t always have to be “so what is your guitar playing and what is mine?” For me, it should be “what instruments make sense here?”
VP: You both moved to LA, – there are quite a few Australian artists who’ve moved to the UK…. Howling Bells and Nick Cave spring to mind … what it was about LA that appealed to you both enough to make it your home and creative base?
SCOTT: – We both feel that our music is very connected to the environment we’re in, and we feel much more connected and comfortable with open spaces (desert, mountains, ocean). Los Angeles provides the opportunity to be close to that yet close to other things we need. City environments, such as London or New York, for example, are just something that we don’t feel fit who we are, or make sense in terms of inspiration for us. That’s right now anyway. Sources of inspiration always change, and sometimes you have to go where they are and possibly even go looking for them.
VP: Given your relationship (married/divorced) is it easier to write songs together … is there a level of honesty that perhaps you couldn’t achieve with other songwriting partners?
SCOTT: – There’s an unspoken understanding of each other’s taste and aesthetic. Yes, there’s absolute honesty there, but most of the time we already know what each other will think about something before it’s asked. We both appreciate and respect each other’s taste, so it’s always a positive acknowledgement if Aimee loves something I’ve done for example.
VP: Are you the sort of songwriters who take notes as you go about your daily life, or do you sit down at specific times to write? What sort of things inspire you?
SCOTT: – I don’t usually take notes as I go. I’ve never kept a journal for example. I need to be in the album-writing zone to go to that place usually. Writing lyrics for me happens after the basis of the music has been recorded and then I’ll sit with it. While I’m listening to it over and over in different situations thinking about production ideas, I’ll also stumble upon melody and lyrics. It all happens simultaneously for me. Only very occasionally will a line come to me outside of this process, and then I will hold onto it and find something for it later. I think the track “The going up was worth the coming down” was one of those times.
VP: You recently joined the JAMC on the U.S. Leg of their Psychocandy tour… How was the experience and any memorable moments to share?
AIMEE: I try not to have expectations as a general rule, particularly when it comes to making music or touring because it’s an unpredictable journey, however if I did have any expectations for the tour they would have been exceeded by the reality of how awesome the whole experience was.
The shows were powerful & inspiring. The audiences were very warm & generous with us & I believe we played some great shows as well.
Aside from the quality of the shows and touring with a band, that means so much to me/us, on the last day of tour in San Francisco Jim & some of the band & crew surprised us by turning up to our in-store performance at Amoeba, which meant more than words could express. They certainly didn’t have to do that, but it meant so much that they did. Jim also very kindly bought a CD & got us to sign it, which was very sweet, so as far as memorable moments go, that along with the tour itself will stay with us as some of the most precious.
I also had the pleasure of signing ‘Just Like Honey’ with JAMC, which was surreal & wonderful.
VP: Aimee, you’ve also mentioned to me that when you heard ‘Barbed Wire Kisses’ it changed your musical life, (same for me with Psychocandy) – what do you think it is about the Mary Chain’s music that has that effect on people ….?
AIMEE: When I first heard Barbed Wire Kisses, I would have been about 11 years old or so. By that time, I’d been learning to play various instruments, violin, piano & guitar. The music I was listening to then was mostly The Beatles, The Beach Boys, classical music & music from the 50’s & 60’s, so when I heard Barbed Wire Kisses it was like nothing I’d ever heard before, it was quite a revelation & it blew my mind. It was darker & more chaotic than anything I’d known up to that point, & I instantly loved it & wanted to hear more. At that moment I realized there weren’t any rules to making music, it opened a door to a world of endless possibilities, which felt very exciting.
VP: I was watching the video for ‘ Let Me Be Your Light’; I know some bands aren’t that keen on making videos but feel it’s a necessary evil. However, the Black Ryder does have a very cinematic sound, and you and Scott always look comfortable in your videos. Firstly do you enjoy making them and how do you go about getting your ideas across on film?
AIMEE: I’m drawn to music & film because I’ve always liked going on a journey outside of myself, some healthy escapism. I spent a lot of my childhood & teens studying dramatic art & music, and after leaving school & in addition to my musical endeavors I’d also spent quite a few years working as an actor in Australia, so the idea of bringing both music & film together makes sense to me.
I enjoy finding different ways to convey thoughts & moods as much as I enjoy the process of creation & having something at the end to show for it. I find that with making films it’s a similar process to creating a song, there’s an element of storytelling, & it’s a process of working through ideas.
We’ve connected with some wonderful directors & people who we’ve really enjoyed collaborating with. You can learn so much from other people & as we work autonomously most of the time, it’s nice to collaborate with other people & work with their visions for our music as well.
VP: Back to the album, it concludes with the amazing twelve minute ‘(Le Dernier Sommeil) The Final Sleep’. Some might say, in this fast moving age of attention deficit listening it’s quite a brave move to release such a long piece of music. Were there ever any thoughts of trimming it down, or would that be considered an artistic compromise- In a sense writing music tailored rather than what’s in your hearts?
SCOTT : – Yes, I totally expected that it would split people and it has, and I like that. I recall someone saying to me once that if everybody loves everything you do, then you’re probably not doing it right. It was a bold move in a way, but you’re right that there’s not enough of that being done right now with pressure being applied to musicians all the time to cut their songs down to radio length etc. I really didn’t want to cut that piece. In the first place, it was totally improvised when it was written and I wouldn’t even begin to know where to start, but the other important element there is that to pull the listener into that emotional place takes time. You can’t always do it in 4 minutes.
It is sad about our age of attention deficit though. I recently saw a You Tube comment posted under our clip for “Let Me Be Your Light”. The comment simply said “the credits were too long”. The credits happen after the song finishes and over black screen.
VP: Finally, it may be a little too early to talk about album three, but I’m hoping it wont perhaps take another six years ?
SCOTT: – It definitely won’t take another six years. The reasons for that were more business related, and we’ve now sorted that out for our future releases, so we’re looking forward to thinking about the next album soon.