The Black Ryder – A Ride Worth Taking

Written by Jessica Knippel
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the black ryder  scott von ryper aimee nash jessica knippel zani 1

If you don't know The Black Ryder, you are missing out on some of the best music to showcase in the last few years. The magic of The Black Ryder composes desert dreams, rolling ocean tides, and transcendent moments of awakenings. As co-founder Scott Von Ryper once said,

"The three best complements he and partner Aimee Nash get on their music is that it's good music for road trips, fucking, and sleep." Nash and Von Ryper have toured with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Ravonettes, The Cult & Brian Jonestown Massacre. Their music is a composite of influences that stem from country, blues, shoe gaze and psychedelic rock. Nash and Von Ryper formed the band after leaving Melbourne (now New York based) psych-rock group The Morning After Girls in 2007. Their first album "Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride" title inspired from a Hunter S. Thompsons' novel is still under the radar and being discovered by music fans all over the world. When I met with them to do the interview I was eliminated by the presences of these Australian natives. They are the type of people who instantly set you at ease and make you feel like a you belong on the ride. The Black Ryder is Scott Von Ryper and Aimee Nash with a rotating list of incredibly talented musicians who play or have played with them.

ZANI - Since founding the band you have played with a variety of different musicians. Do you like having a rotating line up or do you find that it throws you off?

Aimee -I think we were pretty exhausted this last time. It can be great to change up your line up, but it can also be really exhausting, because you have to go back to the start every time. Because it is just Scott and I. It's our baby, it's our project, and we're engineers, producers, singer songwriters, the players, the management, the business people. Everything. And that can, at times, become somewhat overwhelming.

ZANI - It's been an exciting year for you as a band. Probably a lot of highs & lows. The title buy the Ticket & Take the Ride says a lot.

Amiee -Yeah, I've been exhausted. I mean we moved here in September in 2010 and then we went touring for two months. It's been a year of highs and lows and sometimes more lows than highs. And, I think just knowing that it was the last show of the year, it was like "ah" grateful to do it (my high) but at the same time grateful for the time off (getting low). Anyhow we just had to figure out what we're doing and not feel like we were having to catch up all the time with things. When you're in another country and you're trying to figure out where everything is and how everything works, who people are, who can you trust, and who you can't. I don't, I guess you could say that it, at times, can be exhausting, overwhelming.

/the black ryder  scott von ryper aimee nash jessica knippel zani 2.ZANI - How did the two of you meet?

Amiee -I used to go to a gothic nightclub, well we both did, but I was fourteen, maybe fifteen.

Scott -Aimee was underage.

Amiee -I was VERY underage and I'd have to get two buses to get there, too. I lived in the suburbs. So we used to go to this place, everybody had teased hair, wore black clothes and it had great music. It was a great time to discover music, very inspiring. And, Scott was in a band back then. He was incredibly striking and I had a huge crush on him.

ZANI - I know you have a new album coming out so what does/did the album writing process look like for you as a band?

Scott -Our perspective of that is really just the work process because after the last album was done and came out, the last thing we wanted to do was go anywhere near the studio. We had really burnt ourselves out. I know I did, and then we toured in Australia, and then we were looking at coming over here. So there were a whole bunch of things that were easily distracting us from not doing that.

Amiee -But the process of the first album was very much we just got in there and did it. We just started recording, and we pretty much just did that for a couple of months solidly, right? Because Black Rebel (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) were coming out to Australia, and I'd just been over here and seen the guys (BRMC) and had said to Rob (Robert Been) "oh cool you're coming out to Australia...we should do support for you, we should open for you," and he's like "ok." And then I got back to Australia, and I was like "oh wow this is gonna happen in a couple of months." I think we had three songs and no band, but I was like "oh yeah fine." Then it was, "ok we've actually got a tour coming up in maybe two months we should do something. We've gotta write some songs." So, that was a really good catalyst and a good kick in the ass. I love those guys. All of them Peter (Hayes), Rob, and Leah (Shapiro) all really supported us, and what we were doing, and we were both really grateful for that.

Scott -One of the first shows we ever did as a live band, was with them on tour in Australia. And, both Leah Sharpiro (drummer for BRMC) and Pete played on the album. And, this was before Leah was even in BRMC.

Amiee -She was playing in Dead Combo (now defunct NYC psych-punk) back then and I was over in America and ended up jumping on the tour 'cause I know those guys and through that I became friends with Leah, because she was playing with them. They're one of my favorite bands in the world, when they broke up I was incredibly sad. I loved them. But the process was just, we were doing the music full-time for a couple of months and then that was that. Now we're here in this different place, we're not living together anymore. That was a big thing about process, that we lived together and we did the album pretty much constantly, which I think helped.

Scott - We had built up a very comfortable working studio in the house. It kept getting moved and up-graded, and moved and up-graded. It was a good space to work in. There was a lot of that gear we didn't ship over because it would have been too much.

ZANI - So here it's a very different process because you don't have that built up comfortable home studio environment, that known workspace and familiarity. It's been over a year now, so how do you find that you write and compose since you're in separate places?

Amiee - We have our days that we get together during the week, and then there is stuff that we already started working on before that we are just coming back to now. We have this space that's set up in my house, so Scott and I will get together a few times a week and go through things, play each other pieces, build on what's already there.

Scott -Most of the gear is at Aimee's place and I just have a bit of stuff at my place so that I can noodle and come up with stuff. And Aimee can come up with stuff on her own, and then when we get together, we can play each other what we've been up to and usually it's pretty well received. Vary rarely would there be a...

Amiee - That song sucks. What were you thinking?.

Scott -Because we are both highly critical of our own music anyway, so if anything really wasn't that great it would never get to the point of being played to each other. We wait until we think it's ok before we play each other stuff.

the black ryder  scott von ryper aimee nash jessica knippel zani 4ZANI - It's sounds like you hold it sacred, letting it percolate and coalesce before you are willing to share it with each other, because you want it to be the best.

Amiee - I like the percolating.

Scott- Even after all these years of knowing each other, we still want each other's approval on what we create, and we value it. As soon as I play you something to Aimee that excites her, it very much enhances my own feeling on it and there is this thing inside me that goes "ok we're doing this."

Amiee - I think this album is going be different. Well, everyone says "This album is different from the one before." Of course it's going to be different, you don't want to do an album just like the one you already made. I don't think that our album could be put into one slot. I think that there is a lot diverse sounds, diverse influences. I mean we like country music, we like drone music. We never wanted to be like "we'll just make this kind of music." We like all kinds of music.

Scott - The spectrum has grown significantly on the new stuff, in the differences. There were variances on the first album, but the ones on the second album are going to be significantly wider I think.

Amiee -It's funny, because I think with the first album, we didn't have any delusions that we're going to be some mainstream band with radio friendly hit songs. I think our music lends it's self to stuff like soundtracks, which I'd love to do more of. We just did some musical scores for our friends who have this jewelry line (ManiaMania), so there's a little bit of the new stuff in that. It was so fun to write stuff to a visual. We've never tried that before, and they gave us these free films, and it was like "oooh." That was so fun. It was like someone giving you a paint set and going "here's what you're going to paint, paint it." With us it's usually, "here's idea of something" and that gets more emotional. I found that the time recording with the visual didn't get as emotionally heavy and hectic as it usually gets.

Scott - There was time pressure was very different for us. There's something kind of wonderful about that. You can't stew over it for months.

Amiee -No. We stewed a lot over the first album.

ZANI - What do you love about music, the experience of music?

Amiee - I just like what music can lend to your imagination, and I don't want it to start just being music. I don't want to be lazy and be "well that's an album." I want to be across all fields. Like I've just been doing screen-printing at home. I think there are just a lot of things these day that are too digital. Everything's fast, everything sucks. I love typewriters. I had a crazy collection of typewriters, and I'd type people letters. Everything now is text or  emails and mp3's, just shit. And I'd like to go back to something more slow and meaningful. There is an element where you do have to roll with the times a bit, but I still have to think there are magic charms with the things that aren't so instant. It's interesting how things have changed so much that we are making ourselves obsolete. I won't use the self-scanning things at the supermarket, because that's putting someone out of a job. Everything has just become so easy. So I like to find the charm and romance in other things that aren't all digital and fast and immediate.

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ZANI - Do you think that desire comes from an aesthetic of looking at craft? Like the importance of craft as a musician or artist? Going back to the pure mediums, like real film stalk or screen-printing. Things that take time and skill?

Amiee -There is something that is romantic about that. Maybe it's that you just have to work a little bit harder to get there. Maybe that's what it is, maybe that's the rewarding of the experience. That it's not just given to you.

ZANI - There is something about the crafting and layering of your music that lends to that idea.

Scott - I think on that theme, the way that we did the first album and even the way we're starting this next one is that there is the extra work that we've wanted to do. By working out how to use the equipment, how to record it, how to mix it ourselves and produce it. It's almost like without doing that - Although I love doing that. We love doing that. - If we remove all of those elements and we just play the stuff. And someone else does all that work, it feels like it's cheating a little for me. Because so much of the element of our music is the studio craft. The studio is an instrument. It is painfully slow and technical, but if someone else was doing all that work, I would feel like I was missing out on half the creative element. Even if we did get other people involved to do that, I can never see myself completely letting go and watching absolutely everything over their shoulder, and wanting to learn whatever I can.

ZANI - Now the music, do you find that - well like all art - it's an outpouring of your heart, soul, and the inner workings of your mind? Is that what comes out when you're playing?

Amiee -I think that the music is cathartic. But there are just some things that sometimes you just can't say or don't want to say. Or you're in denial and you're struggling with something, but that feeling is still there and so it can still come out. I think there are these beautiful and poignant moments, on the album that we wrote, that I feel like are so genuine and honest. Those were defiantly cathartic.

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ZANI - How did The Black Ryder come about?

Amiee- After The Morning After Girls, Scott and I had these three songs. At the time it was "Rise", "Let it Go", and "Sweet Come Down" so we put these demos of those three songs up on line straight away. We had to think of a band name. "It's gotta have black in the title," because it seemed funny to me. At the time a lot of our friends' bands had black in the name. It was a tongue and cheek thing. Because what's in a band name? What does a band name really mean? And we had just seen The Black Rider (a avant-guard musical fable); it's the Burroughs' fable with the Tom Waits score. Which was amazing. And we love Tom Waits. So it was, "we'll just call ourselves The Black Ryder," and we put it out that quick.

Scott -But from the beginning our intension was not to start another band, because we had seen how that works. We didn't want to ask anyone to join our band or for us join anyone else's band. It was more "Ok, who do we trust, I trust you and you trust me, let's keep it at that." We knew we had many musician friends so when we needed other people to play, we'll just ask. So we didn't think too much of it. Rather it was more about recording at the time. It wasn't until that BRMC thing came up, we thought we better put a band together."

Amiee - I like the "no sense in having to sign your life away" with a group of people - I don't really know what that means, "being in a band." Oh what, we're looking out for each other?

ZANI - It's like a gang with musical instruments. "Westside Story" with guitars?

Amiee- Sure. I like that. I think there's the beautiful idea of what a band could mean. Like the comradery and you're in this bus hurdling towards something great. And there are beautiful moments in that, when you do have that comradery with the people you're playing with.

the black ryder  scott von ryper aimee nash jessica knippel zani  8.jZANI - So you'd say you were in a band, even if it's just you two.

Amiee - Yeah that's true.

Scott - You have to agree on the creative direction, and the music, and all these different business decisions. Everything happens so much quicker when there are only two people who have to agree upon it. Once you get more people involved the process is a lot harder. But there is a separate element about being a part of a tour band that is really amazing, as well.

ZANI - How so?

Scott -The comradery of four or five people on stage. Travelling constantly, and feeling each other's energy, and making each other laugh. I mean, me and Aimee, we have a great thing. But it's always nice to involve other people in that family at different times. I really love that element as well.

Amiee - We're a contradiction.

So, The Black Ryder, as a band, is a "contradiction." And, I walked away from the duo feeling like all is right with the world, at least for now. I'm looking forward to the new album. And, if you haven't already please... "Buy the Ticket & Take the Ride." With a nod to Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Waits and all Black Ryder fans out there, I know this can't be wrong.

© Words – Jessica Knippel / ZANI Media

Read 3675 times Last modified on Friday, 08 May 2015 15:27
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