Over the years, I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of incredible concerts (and Britney Spears twice) but it wasn’t until I went to see the Cult on a whim last October that a band drove its music through my heart and left me for dead. Opening for The Cult and wrapped in mystery, The Black Ryder delivered such a powerful set that I remember very little about the rest of the night. They only played for about 45 minutes, partially hidden in smoke and darkness. Between songs, there was no talking as pedals were adjusted and glances exchanged between the two guitars. Then, the next rush of noise soaked the crowd. From the shadows, two voices took turns riding above the dizzying wave of droning fuzz.
The Black Ryder’s debut album Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride became the highpoint of new music in 2010, a year that witnessed some fantastic releases. The meticulous production work on the album places it alongside landmark albums such as My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. For a debut album, the band’s creative identity and mission arrives fully realized. Having worked together in the Morning After Girls, Aimee Nash and Scott Von Ryper launched The Black Ryder with all systems firing. Listening to Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride, the songs slowly attach themselves to each other like stars falling into a black hole until you find yourself floating in an ethereal universe where time has lost meaning. Fifty-two minutes later, you are gently deposited back on earth.
Venturing into the visual arts, the band’s video for “Sweet Come Down” tells a dusty tale of betrayal and violence (reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men) in two minutes. On an album built using a rich sonic palette, the song, seemingly transmitted from an abandoned bar deep in the unforgiving backcountry of their Australian homeland, slows down the trip only briefly. Having caught your breath, the final two tracks on Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride are epic supernovas that run over six minutes and pull the listener through a world of droning reverb, acoustic guitar, and swirling vocals. Neither song ends as much as it fades away, the noises slowly drifting into the ether until there is only silence. At the end of the album, silence seems the only appropriate response to such a mind-blowing trip.
The band has a show coming up in San Francisco on February 25th as part of the 2011 Noise Pop Festival, sharing a bill with the exquisite shoegaze outfit Tamaryn. I have a plane ticket and a couch to sleep on. See you there.
Having come off the road, Aimee Nash was kind enough to spend a little time answering questions for Essential Junk…..
The Black Ryder spent a lot of 2010 opening shows for The Cult. What did The Black Ryder learn supporting such an established, sonically focused artist that you grew up fans of?
I saw The Cult in my early teens and it was a show that definitely stayed with me. Pretty amazing to think we’d be touring with them at some point… Ian Astbury is an incredible performer; always entertaining to see him work a crowd… no two shows the same. The Cult knows how to put on a show, and they’ve been doing it for a long time now, so you could learn all sorts of things from that.
Having seen your show in Las Vegas, it was quickly obvious that The Cult’s fans were embracing your sound even though it explores different tones and moods than a lot of The Cult’s work. Was that typical of the entire tour and were you a little surprised by the positive reaction?
We were really surprised by how well we were received. We weren’t sure what to expect really…although The Cult do have a very broad audience, which is a great thing. Thankfully for us they reacted in an incredibly positive way. We sold out of our albums a few times during the tour & had to get more sent, so that’s not a bad thing.
Your U.S. label Mexican Summer is also home to Tamaryn and several other artists with an artistic vision similar to The Black Ryder. Did that influence your decision to sign with them?
Most certainly. Mexican Summer had sent us a bunch of vinyl when we first started talking along with some recordings of Tamaryn, which we were instantly impressed by. We really liked what we heard and felt that a label that ‘gets’ the sound and has a vision for that style of music, well, it seemed like a perfect fit.
In interviews, it sounds like the end of your time in The Morning After Girls was a difficult experience for you and Scott. Did that period help strengthen the artistic relationship between the two of you as you embarked on this project?
Scott and I have a long history together. There were many parts of our time with that band that strengthened us individually and as partners. We’re birds of a feather…we have a shared vision for how we want to express ourselves personally and musically. We learned a lot about what we wanted and what we didn’t want. I think going through the process of writing and recording the album has made us even stronger, and I can’t wait to see what develops now that we’ve started writing again.
The album manages to create a mood that is spellbinding from beginning to end. Every texture and tone exists with a purpose to create a sonic collage. But what strikes me most is how the two of you manage the pacing of the music. A song like “The Greatest Fall” would unravel if played any faster and the acoustically grounded “All That We See” immediately follows the swirling noise on “What’s Forsaken”. How much time was spent on the sequencing of the album to capture the overall mood?
Endless hours, countless days. We were literally driving ourselves crazy with recording / mixing / fine tuning…every thought went into every part of every song… and ultimately how they would sound..
I’ve read that the band’s name was taken from the William S. Burroughs play. The name of the album could be interpreted as a reference to a line in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. And it works. Was that an intentional reference or just a coincidence?
Both were pertinent to the sentiment of where we were at the time. Both references remain relevant to where we are today…we’d recently been to see the stage production of the Black Rider…a musical fable based on a deal with the devil, madness, ultimately addiction (as it correlates to Burroughs own life).
When the email came telling us we weren’t in the Morning After Girls anymore, Scott and I posted some songs up online that we’d worked on throughout that time. It was a way of moving forward when you find yourself no longer apart of something you’ve just spent the last 3 years working on. When the need for a name came along, The Black Ryder seemed to fit where we were…and the album reference was also fitting…once you’ve signed up for something you’ve got to see it through.
The video for “Sweet Come Down” was a brilliant marriage of film and music and its obvious that the band has an artistic vision that extends beyond the music. Do you enjoy working on such projects and are there any others in the works?
We were ridiculously lucky that Michael Spiccia presented himself when he did. He’d heard the music through his work with another artist (Michael is an Australian director). He contacted us and said he would love to work with us. We worked together on every aspect of the visual element to accompany the music, including the album artwork and the film. We’re kindred spirits & have said he’s certainly a silent member. We’re in discussion right now about the next collaboration so it’ll be exciting to see where that leads us.
Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride was my favorite new album of 2010 (though you released it in 2009 in Australia so I’m a bit late). What were some of the favorites that you and Scott listened to while driving around North America on tour?
Tamaryn – Waves, the new album from Australian band Cloud Control, The Black Angels, plus lots of Johnny Cash, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins etc. I don’t know that we all collectively listened to music in the van so much…but those definitely made the playlist.
Were you able to collaborate on new songs while touring and is there a timeline for the next album?
Not at all…driving and touring all across America doesn’t leave too much time to play and write…although we do have some ideas up our sleeve that we’re ready to start working on.