It is a serious time to be an American. Double dip recessions, startling unemployment, two wars, a president who may or may not be a radical Muslim sharia sympathizer, a cyborg pop assassin sent from the future named Justin Bieber, Twitter. Phew.
In these trying times, we should be thankful to have Ryan Olson. Alongside his merry band of slow-jam minstrels (fyi-on the lineup: members from bands like Bon Iver, Solid Gold, Megafaun, the Rosebuds, Leisure Birds and Lookbook; as well as Doomtree rappers P.O.S. and Dessa, jazz saxophonist Michael Lewis, Channy Moon-Casselle and Katy Morley among others.), Olson implores us to relax, grab a suitable mate, and enjoy the balloon drop. We had a chance to catch up with Olson and discuss his band’s proclivity for basketball, potential prom themes, 10cc, GAYNGS’ Tuesday night show at the Black Cat.
BYT: How’s it going, this is Mitchell London from Brightest Young Things.
RO: I actually just got out of the shower.
BYT: I caught you in prime form.
RO: I’m so incredibly wet and naked. (Laughs)
BYT: That’s really the only way to give an interview.
RO: I can stay at least naked, but I’m gunna need to towel off.
BYT: Great, I’ll call you back in a minute.
A few minutes later….
BYT: Are you “decent,” as my grandmother would say?
RO: I’m about as decent as I get.
BYT : Can I say your phone number has a lot of 2’s and 4’s—it’s very easy on the fingers.
RO: Yea, usually it’s only dummers that remember it.
BYT: I can see where it would get confusing, but after a few dials you get used to it.
RO: Yea, I feel like I’m the only one that even remembers anymore, besides any one I know who is in jail.
BYT: Yea, that part of my brain just kind of shut down with the advent of cell phones. I was like, “there are numbers in people’s phones?” (Laughs)
BYT: So, let’s talk about the logo for a bit. It’s pretty much the sweetest thing ever and a lot of people tend to agree with me. It reminds me of the kind of thing I would have drawn on a Middle School math notebook and just been like, “This is the sweetest thing ever, I’m going to put this on everything.” Is that a factual depiction of how this logo came into existence?
RO: This guy Eric Carlson who is an artist in town and I came to him with a symbol for the band and told him about what the album was about and he came back with like 20 different versions of stuff and this one was away to spot on for what we needed.
BYT: So, you just saw it and knew that was the one?
RO: Yea, totally. He has a bunch of other cool ones which I have to start new bands in order to use. That one was just perfect though
BYT: I feel like that is a good enough reason to start a band. Like you see something and you’re like, “Oh yea, that symbol is perfect for the music I am going to create.” I feel like now to few bands with really distinct symbols. Like, in the 70’s you ad the Led Zeppalin symbol, Prince…
RO: Yea, I’m not to big of a fan of Prince’s symbol.
BYT: Since so few bands these days have symbols, have you put anything thought in to what other band’s symbols would be if they did have symbols?
RO: No, I haven’t, but that’s a good question.
BYT: I don’t know if Justin is in on the symbol making process, but maybe Bon Iver’s symbol could be a softly weeping child?
RO: Probably. Not when you hear his next shit!
BYT: I love his stuff. I’m consistently impressed. Talk to me a little bit about the saxophone? When you set out to make this album, were you like “10 CC saxophone—go!”
RO: Yea, kinda. I mean, it was more like looking back at it was just more of something that jumped out at me. We wanted to make it soft rock but I knew we needed saxophone. I was like we need Mike Lewis. He is an amazing saxophone player and he was awesome to work with and he helped flush out—as soon as we got a lot of the songs done—he was one of the first people we had go in a n track some parts. That pretty much just solidified the album. It wasn’t as hard cut as 10 CC saxophone, but we needed some soprano and Lewis’ touch on it.
BYT: I mean, it’s magic is what it is. You just needed to get some pure solid gold o there. You were talking a little about the recording process. I feel you kind of doom yourself when you record yourself when you are in a 20 something person bad to get questions like “What’s it like recording when you are a 20 something person band?” But what was it like pulling al the different musicians together and how was it different than your other bands?
RO: Um, it’s a lot like my other bands actually. The first time I did something like this was with a band called No Hops In The Pants, and on our first album I think we had like 40 players on it. It was like my way of learning pro tools. We just had someone come on and add something to it and edit things. Now, like Marijuana Death Squad is another thing we do and it involves a lot of people. It’s fun as hell, but the hardest part about being in a band is A) getting a commitment out of people. Basically those two things are enough to make most bands a pain in the ass, so I just tried to figure out routes how to never do that again. So, I would have people just come over and make music and figure out ways to que improv music and just doing studio stuff. Like, just having people come over and do whatever they want to do and just go through and edit it later.
BYT: That’s the beauty of digital recording. It sort of puts everything in your hands here you have a ton of source material and then you kind of go from there.
RO: One of my favorite things to do is edit, but that’s the way I like to do it.
BYT: Relayted has been described as some as “Yacht music” only because we need a label for everything in the Indie-rock crit world. If you could relabel the band with a genre, what would that genre be and why?
RO: I guess I always pictured it as like soft rock-esque.
BYT: I think white suits are pretty important for the sound
RO: We did have some pretty nice white designer jeans made for us.
BYT: I mean, “white jean rock” definitely says a lot.
RO: You could maybe say “white jean rock,” I don’t know if it’s really rock though.
BYT: White jean mellow sounds, or just white jeans.
RO: Kind of just abstract pop…soft abstract pop?
BYT: I feel like the words “soft focus” come into mind. But, I’m going to drop that…
You’re first show in Minnapolis was a huge success—Last Prom of All Time—the video’s I saw on the Internet looked like it was a blast and just a huge party. How much of that gets to come on the road with you all? Are you going to have someone dress in purple and nod approvingly from the side wings of each show?
RO: My guess is that he will just follow us everywhere we go. But he stopped returning my phone calls. It’s going to be a 10-piece crew which I think will make a lot more sense and will be a lot tighter. I think everyone did a bang up job for that show, but like it was still insane trying to deal with 22 0r 23 people coming on and off stage. But, I’m about 4 days away from knowing what will actually happen. It’s basically a bunch of people that get to hang out together who haven’t hung out together in awhile getting to play music, which they didn’t have to slave over. It’s gunna be really fun to play.
BYT: Since you are still in the planning phase, I have an idea I want to pitch you. Have you given any thought to each tour date could be home to a different Prom theme. DC could be “Welcome to the Jungle”… New Orleans could be “Under the Sea”…
RO: Oh my god, I would love to do that. It was such a pain in the ass figuring out that one prom show though. We had like 30 people helping us out as the “Prom Committee” that set up and blew up balloons. I feel like if I showed up to Webster hall and was like “Hey can you guys help blow up these balloons,” they would be really pissed.
BYT: Do you think a lot of those people on the Prom Committee were like, “You know what, I thought I hung up my Prom Committee shoes back in the 12th grade.” No body ever really expects to join a Prom Committee again.
RO: It’s like riding a weird Prom Committee bike. People got on it instantaneously and just filled that room up with streamers and balloons. I would, but I think we should concentrate on just sounding awesome. But, that is an amazing idea.
BYT: So, in the Prom vein—I’m not going to give up on this yet—if Gayngs was playing the best Prom ever, like 90210 season finale, which band would open for Gayngs. You can pull musicians fom any era, but it has to be in that prom vain.
BYT: Or, you could just choose 10 CC.
RO: I probably would just choose 10 CC, because that would be amazing. But, I probably wouldn’t have them open. Gilbert Sullivan, maybe? Definitely, George Michael.
BYT: Maybe Boys 2 Men? Children would get conceived.
RO: I think so. I guarantee it.
BYT: So, is your new album tailor made for conceiving children? Or, at least getting the motors of potential child conceivers ready to go? Have you thought about the consequences of this? What is a child conceived to a Gayngs album going to turn out like?
RO: Some sort of birth defect maybe?
BYT: Should you have a Surgeon’s General’s warning on your album? Kind of like a Parental Advisory sticker.
RO: Yea, maybe a morning after pill
BYT: That would be a really good packaging idea. Alright, I’m going to make a million dollars. This interview is never going to print and I’m just going to steal the ideas. So, you guys have embraced auto-tune, despite or I guess because of it’s cultural relevance. What is the future of auto-tune?
RO: I mean, there are lots of route to utilize it. I’ve heard it used really subtly and it sounds great, but I’ve also heard it used incredibly harsh and it sounds awesome. It will definitely go down, but I think it will always be used. I love processed vocals in every fashion so I don’t mind auto tune existing really. But, it can be used for miserable reasons.
BYT: Just like everything. Do you think Beethoven would have used auto-tune if he had the capability?
RO: For sure. Guaranteed. If he had any of the shit he had he would have used all of it.
BYT: We can still do that. We can revive the cops of Beethoven. Um, Gayngs has enough members for a major league baseball active roster—has there been any talk about who would play what position?
RO: No, but we are going to do 5 on 5 basketball tournaments while on tour. We have a killer basketball team. Our average height is like 6 foot. Baseball is way too boring, all it is, is stats.
BYT: Bam! Take that America’s sport. I was thinking about this the other day. It seems like a lot of grea modern literature is very self aware and comedic, and I feel like a lot of rock and music these days takes it self really seriously, and one thing I like about Gayngs is that it does not take itself far to seriously. Do you think there is more room for that these days, or do you think you are comfortable filling that space?
RO: Yea, I mean. Most of the people I know that music aren’t wacky or anything. I guess that’s one of the perks of being in a band is that group feeling that we can do anything and take on the world. I think some people start to really believe in that when they start to get a little bit of success and that fucks them up. Most of the people I know are really happy to be making music and doing this shit. Yea, we definitely don’t take to things seriously. We don’t do it as a joke, but I guess we do it for a lot of reasons. I don’t really know any bands that take themselves to seriously though.
BYT: Alright, last question. Bonus round. IN the event that Broken Social Scene and the New Pornographers joined to form a Canadian Megaband, will you guys consider joining the Polyphonic Spree and the Traveling Wilburys for the sake of the nation?
RO: I will gladly join with the Travelling Wilburrys. With open arms. I’m trying to think of other mega groups I’d throw down with.
BYT: Do you know if there has been any joining of super groups?
RO: I don’t know, but the next Gayngs stuff I’m planning on doing isn’t going to be soft rock and bass, but more like New Edition.
BYT: This interview is going to be incendiary. The New Edition thing is going to light people up.
RO: That the jam right now. I’m not going to do another album that is as depressed. Not depressed, I guess, but…