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IN YOUR EYES EZINE

In Your Eyes ezine  we are a group of passionate creatives who believe in the power of DIY in music, art, books, and film. We pour our hearts and souls into every piece of content we create, striving to inspire and connect with our readers on a deep emotional level.

Answers are below in red by Ryan Allen Extra Arms.

How did Extra Arms come together? What brought the band members together?

Extra Arms started in a slightly non-traditional way. I guess I’m best known for playing in a spazzy post-punk band called Thunderbirds Are Now! back in the early 2000s, when blogs could make or break bands and streaming was still in the distant future. When we finally ran out of gas and decided to go on indefinite hiatus, I wanted to get back to writing the kinds of songs I used to write in high school; upbeat, crunchy power pop similar to Superchunk, Teenage Fanclub, Matthew Sweet, etc.

So I started a new band called Friendly Foes, which was a male/female fronted 3 piece that had kind of a Pixies vibe to it. That band also petered out after a few records and a handful of years, so once again I was left without anybody to play with. I started to write some new songs and eventually decided I would just record everything myself and have some friends come and guest on it. That’s kind of where the “Extra Arms” thing came from; it was a solo project, but I had pals helping me play things I couldn’t play. So while I played all the guitars, bass, drums, vocals, percussion, etc., I had friends come and guest on keys, sax, violin, vocals, etc. It was a super fun experience, and I did a handful of records in a similar fashion. I did play live from time to time and had various versions of the “Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms” live band, but it was sporadically active and really, when it came down to it, a cover band of my songs. We weren’t writing anything together, is what I mean.

Anyway, after I made my 3rd solo album I decided that it was time to get a full time band together to go play these songs live. So that’s what I did. I asked my friends Mike, Sean, and Ryan to join me, and after a little bit of time, we started writing songs together and decided to axe the “Ryan Allen” part from the name.

Since then we’ve made 4 full length records as a band, and I’m really proud of all of them. There are slightly different lineups from record to record, but I think the version of the band that exists now with Dan Stover on drums, Ryan Marshall on bass, and Jordan Wright on guitar is the definitive lineup of this band, and I would love for it to stay that way.

What were some of your early influences, both musically and otherwise?

I kind of already mentioned it, but because I came of age in the 90s, a lot of the indie rock from that era is still a big influence on me today.

I love that loud, crunchy, “big” sound of 90s power pop…bands like Sugar, Sloan, Teenage Fanclub, The Posies, Superdrag, etc. But I’m also into all the music that influenced those 90s bands…Big Star, The Who, Elvis Costello, The Cars, The Replacements, Husker Du, The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks. That said, I try not to stay closed off to other genres of music, so I’m 100% down with trying to sneak other stuff into these mostly melodic pop/rock songs…anything from hardcore to stuff like Devo, Kraftwerk, Stereolab, Fela Kuti, hip hop, folky stuff…I think there’s room for all of it, and if you’re solely focused on just emulating one specific sound your music is going to get stale pretty quick. So I’m not afraid to scream on one song and then do something country influenced on the next.

There’s really no rules when it comes to music, and fuck anybody who makes you think there are.

How has the band’s sound evolved over the years?

I think a lot of the evolution has to do with who is playing in the band. Like I said, when we first started we were just recreating songs I had already recorded on my own as a live band. It was fun, but if I was one of the other guys I may have felt frustrated by that. Once we turned the corner into an actual band, I would consider the playing style of the guys in the band when I was writing a song. There’s been times when people have been in the band that didn’t really like the slower, more jangle-y, sweet sounding songs. So a lot of our songs for a few years trended towards more upbeat, in-you-face-style rockers.

With the current lineup, we made a conscious decision to really dig into the dynamics of the songs and make them as fun to listen to as possible. Having Jordan join the band really changed our approach; he’s a songwriter as well so he had a lot of great suggestions on how to tweak lyrics or chords so they were a little less expected.

We also decided to dial back the distortion and attack a little bit, while still maintaining the core of what makes the band feel like Extra Arms. We just wanted to do something a little more timeless and not just rip off 90s indie rock. I think we achieved it!

 

About “RADAR”:

“RADAR” is named after bassist Ryan Marshall’s dog. Did the dog have any creative influence on the album? (Lighthearted and personal)

Radar the dog guided every decision we made on this record. One bark for a “good idea”, two barks for a “bad idea”.

The album seems to jump around stylistically, drawing influences from The Replacements to Guided By Voices to Elvis Costello. What inspired such a diverse sound on “RADAR”?

It’s just in my DNA I guess. I love all of those bands/artists so those influences are pretty much inescapable. That said, there’s aspects to those bands that I’m really drawn to. I love Costello’s wordy, intelligent approach to lyrics and slightly marble mouthed vocal delivery. I love the rambunctiousness of the Replacements. I love the brevity of Guided By Voices songs. So instead of taking, like, direct influences (although we certainly do that) it’s more an influence of the spirit or aesthetic of these artists that really, at least to me, seeps in there.

You mentioned the album being recorded live in the studio as opposed to your previous remote collaboration. How did being back together in the same room impact the songwriting and recording process?

Oh man, it was a game changer. Our last album was done almost totally remote or in small pods of 2 or 3 people, fully masked, and learned only from demos that I made on my own. Being able to move on from that and feel the energy of 4 people in a room again was invigorating. Like I said, it really allowed us to go beyond the demos I made that were reference points for us and really dig into the dynamics of the songs. It’s so much easier to figure out the feel of a song as well as drop in little twists and turns when you can talk about it with your buds in a room. There’s more opportunity for trial and error as opposed to being boxed in by the original blueprint of a song. There’s a lot of magic that comes from mistakes, mishearing something, trying something totally stupid, or even having a disagreement that you’ll never get on Zoom.

Ultimately I think the energy comes through on RADAR in a way that grabs you, but then the little earworms and dynamic moments that may have been slightly missing from the last one really stand out, to me anyway.

The press release mentions “wistful country song, featuring pedal steel and all.” Can you tell us a bit more about this unexpected addition and what motivated it?

One thing I love about a lot of my favorite records is that the artist doesn’t box themselves into one specific style. Of course the best bands have an overall aesthetic that they more or less stick to (Led Zeppelin was never going to make an out-of-the-blue polka record, for instance), but they also tried different approaches and allowed for influences that didn’t necessarily line up with their overall persona. The Beatles are probably the best example of this; “Elanor Rigby” sounds nothing like “Rain” which sounds nothing like “Honey Don’t”, you know? I love that. 90s bands seemed to really embrace this, too, with bands like The Smashing Pumpkins putting “Disarm” on the same record that has “Cherub Rock”.

When it comes down to it, a good song is a good song, whether you wrote it on acoustic guitar, created it all with software instruments, or recorded it using household appliances for percussion. It really makes no difference to me. If it’s got a catchy melody, thoughtful lyrics, and a certain type of energy, then I’m in. “Space and Time” (the song you are referencing) is a really important song to me. It’s a song I’ve had for awhile, and as soon as I wrote it I knew it was one of my best tunes. I had a few different versions of it – one that was more rocked out, one that had a lot of keyboards, etc. But then before we went in to record the album, I was playing around with it some more and found this nice strummy rhythm for it that, for some reason, didn’t really reveal itself to me up until that point.

Once I started strumming the chords in a certain way, I could immediately hear pedal steel on it, and an acoustic-forward approach to the production in my head. So that’s what I settled on as the aesthetic, and it came together nicely, especially with the pedal steel performance by my friend Dave Feeny. Lyrically, the song is about acceptance and moving on while still trying to honor important moments of your past. It’s basically telling somebody that I hope that they’ll be ok, and that I’ll always be there for them, even if the relationship has changed over time. That there may not be any way to go back and change things that had happened in the past, but we can still be in one another’s corner at the end of the day. It’s a song that has moments of sadness and heartbreak, but is also hopeful at the same time.

I’m really glad the song is on the record, as I feel like it breaks up the more high energy approach of the first half, and offers a little contemplative break before things kick back in again.

Lyrics seem to grapple with themes of aging, relevancy, and the passage of time. What inspired these introspective themes on “RADAR”?

Well…I’m getting old! I’m 44 now and I’ve been playing in bands since I was 15. That’s a long fucking time. I’ve experienced some high highs and some very low lows in that time. I’ve been super lucky at points in my musical career and I’ve been totally unlucky at others.

But, still, I soldier on, because I believe in the power of music so much, and frankly, don’t know what else to do with my time and energy. That all said, music has kind of always been seen as a young person’s game, which part of me gets and understands, but the other part of me is like “Fuck that!

Why am I less relevant now?” It’s just a weird thing. In a lot of jobs, the longer you work there, the better you get at the job, the higher you move up the ranks, etc…music doesn’t always work like that, and at some point – to some musicians anyway – it can be discouraging. So there’s a certain vulnerability to aging in music, and part of my processing of it all is to write songs about it. I think we all – or most of us – experience this type of “Where am I/Who am I” feeling when they age. Being in your early 40s is especially weird, because you’re no longer “young” but you’re not necessarily “old” either. It’s just a strange limbo of feeling like your younger self some days, but also feeling like a cranky, curmudgeon the next day with a sore back.

Sometimes that’s confusing, sometimes that makes sense, but regardless, it’s happening and part of accepting it, for me anyway, is to inject my thoughts around it into my art in an attempt to understand it.

About the Band:

With the addition of Jordan Wright on guitar in 2022, how has his presence impacted the band’s sound and dynamic?

Jordan basically saved this band. Our previous guitar player was pretty busy with work and practicing/shows were becoming stressful. Jordan stepped in and knew most of the songs right away. We didn’t lose much time at all between that transition and were playing shows only about a month or so after he joined. He’s got an insane muscle memory for music, barely needs to practice yet is always prepared, and is just a brilliant guitar player.

He’s also got a great voice and writes songs himself, so his musicality is really next level. With that said, he’s also really humble, and just a joy to be around. He’s a longtime friend of our drummer Dan, and that familiarity between the two of them helped us become closer as a band. Truthfully, all 4 of us are total social weirdos with odd quirks that somehow balance one another out. We’ve developed a pretty good language to communicate with one another, and I really feel like that comes through on this new record in a way that it maybe hasn’t before.

Extra Arms has been around for a while now. What keeps you all motivated and passionate about making music together?

The songs keep coming, you know? The well refuses to run dry, and so we just keep chasing after it. It can be tough sometimes, with all of the extra things you need to do to try and get people to pay attention to your art – begging/paying to get on Spotify playlists, being a clown on social media, spending random amounts of money on social ad campaigns, pleading with your friends to come see you play, preorders, presaves…it never fucking ends…it’s all work and it’s all understandably expected in some regards, but damn if it’s not defeating sometimes. That all said, music is inside of me. It’s inside of us. And every year or so, it wants to come out and be heard.

So I just try to align myself with the universe, keep my mind sharp and open to inspiration, and try to capture it when it shows up. I mean, I’m prepared to do this until my last breath…whatever trends come and go, whatever dumb marketing bullshit is available…all that stuff doesn’t matter as much to me as writing a great song with my friends that we’re proud of.

What are your hopes for “RADAR” and how do you envision it being received by fans?

Well, at this point, after it comes out, there’s not too much you can do. You can play shows, you can post on social media, you can send it out for reviews, do interviews (if you’re lucky)…you can do all that stuff. But ultimately you can’t control what people think or how they’ll receive it.

That said, I do hope folks who have followed my music and the band’s music like it; I feel like they will if they hear it and spend time with it. But if you’re creating music (or any art) to please others, then you’re removing the purity of why you are creating in the first place. Regardless of that, though, it does feel good when people respond positively to something you worked so hard to create, especially nowadays when there’s so much content vying for our attention at all times. Ultimately, I hope that anybody that listens to it “gets” it, you know? I hope they feel the emotion in the songs, both in the playing and the lyrics; I hope they notice the earworms and fun little bits and bobs that give it character; I hope they can hear the influences or references that are both obvious and maybe not so much; I hope they appreciate the mixing and production choices; above all else, I hope it brings the listener some joy and respite in these ongoing weird times we all live in.

What does the future hold for Extra Arms? Any upcoming tours or plans for new material?

It would be great if we could go off and tour the world, but that’s not really in the cards for us. That said, I hope we can do some regional gigs and play some fruitful local ones as well. We have a record release show with our friends Norcos Y Horchata in Detroit on May 10th that we’re looking forward to. After that, who knows! The universe has a funny way of dropping some unexpected things in your lap, so we’ll see.

Jordan just had his second child, so he’s obviously very focused on that. That said, I’m always working on music so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was another record not too far down the path.

THANKS SIMONE!

Extra Arms
http://extraarmsband.com
http://extraarms.bandcamp.com
Instagram: @extraarms
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ryanallenandhisextraarms/

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