Ryan Thomas Becker & Last Joke

Ryan Thoms Becker and Last Joke Session - October 2011

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This Session
Violitionist Sessions

Session Date: September 28, 2011
Posting Date: October 17, 2011
Artist Hometown: Denton, TX
Links: Tumblr, Bandcamp, Facebook
Recorded by: Michael Briggs

No Time Lover (Ron Scott)
The Train (New Science Projects)
Stake Thru Heart
RTB + Last Joke consists of Ryan Thomas Becker, Tony Ferraro, Grady Don Sandlin, and Andy Rogers – four Denton-based musicians whose collective resume is impressive, if somewhat musically incestuous. The former three have shared stages in a number of different Denton-based bands, including RTB2, Hares On the Mountain, and Eaton Lake Tonics.

In their latest incarnation, with Andy Rogers on bass, they have assembled a six-song EP simply titled “Last Joke Band”. Five of the tracks are covers of songs by friends such as New Science Projects and Leatherbag, and the sixth is a Tony Ferraro original. The EP is available on a limited vinyl run and also as a digital download on October 21st.

In this session, they play Ron Scott’s “No Time Lover”, a melodic take on New Science Projects’ melancholy “The Train”, and end with Becker’s sassy “Stake Thru Heart”.
– Austin Islam

ONE: How did Last Joke come together?
Ryan Thomas Becker: Hmm…Well, I’ve known Grady for a very long time. We’ve been playing music together for…oh, fifteen years? No? No!
Andy Rogers: Good lord!
Ryan: Fourteen or fifteen years, I guess, and I’ve known Tony for…I don’t know. We’ve just kind of known each other from playing in bands. I played in Tony’s band. I know Andy from other bands…
Tony Ferraro: All of our bands played together quite a bit for a couple of years. It was just easy to be like, “Oh, you’re good. Let’s play together in the future.” You know how people promise each other that all the time…
Grady Don Sandlin: Networking!
Ryan: And how this band came together was pretty much the last solo record, the Neighborhoof, my solo record, for the release show, I wanted to add a little bit more to the sound for the release show and we had Andy play bass. We liked it so much that we eventually invited Tony to play to elevate the sound even further…and we had a name for the band, and it was Last Joke.
MB: Where did the name come from?
Ryan: I was talking with Justin Collins one night at a show. I think we were just talking about bad band names, and I came up with Last Joke in my mind, and then I asked Justin if he would want to join my band if it was called Last Joke, and he said yes, and he still has not joined the band.
Tony: So, it worked.
TWO: Can you tell us about your new EP?
Ryan: It’s six songs, a six-song record, and all of the songs are by our friends…except for Tony, one of them is by Tony. We started off playing the Neighborhoof stuff and some of my older material, and then quickly acquired these tunes by our friends, and kind of started to specialize in, like, playing other people’s tunes by people that we knew, and I thought that would a really cool first release. An EP of other peoples tunes, like, I’m sorry…I know it’s kind of, um…it’s unusual to me for a band’s first record to be other people’s songs.
DJ: How do you approach doing covers? Is it any different than how you approach your own material?
Ryan: I don’t know…I guess it’s just like other covers…you listen to a song, and you…
Tony: Well, Ryan plays a lot. We all play a lot, and we all see a lot of shows. We all see a lot of our friends play, and other local bands that we don’t know yet. There are always songs that grab us. I don’t know, I just don’t want to be scared about doing a song wrong when it’s by someone I know. There’s no distance — it’s the biggest compliment you can give somebody.
Ryan: Even if you do it all shitty.
Andy: I wanted to cover Ryan and Tony’s songs for the past five years, so, it’s good to be in this band. Of course, now we’re not playing any of Ryan’s songs…
Grady: But…we haven’t really answered the question.
Ryan: Yeah, I know. There’s Grady. Go, Grady!
Grady: I think, probably…I don’t know, I don’t write songs, but if I think if I did, when I was writing, I think I would be like, “I can’t wait to hear how this sounds like when I’m playing it.” That’s probably the same approach that you take when you cover a song. Like, “I love this song. I’m going to play this. I can’t wait to hear what this sounds like when I play this.”
DJ: How is your approach to music different in this band than in your other projects?
Ryan: In comparing this band to RTB2, like, what I’m actually playing, I’m playing less guitar and in a different way in this band. My attention is not just with Grady, it’s with two other dudes, so…
Tony: It’s all a super-fun listening game.
Ryan: It’s like being in a band.
Grady: I don’t work as hard. To me, it doesn’t sound as good if I’m trying as hard as I do with RTB2, so, I like what these guys are doing, so I try to stay out of their way and just play the drums. Less personality, less talking.
Tony: More business.
THREE: What is the future of Last Joke? Will you do originals of your own, or play other songs from your personal back catalogs? More covers?
Andy: Show tunes album.
Ryan: Show tunes?
Tony: Show tunes.
Ryan: Yeah, that’s just kind of an…unusual kind of…starting point, I think, with the covers record. We’ll hopefully be writing for a new record…
Grady: We hope to be a band.
Ryan: Yeah, we just…
Grady: I definitely want it to be a band.
MB: So you’ll be writing original material just for this band?
Grady: Yes. This record isn’t part of a…
Ryan: This isn’t our thing.
Tony: This record isn’t our gimmick…well, there is no gimmick, it’s just…
MB: Do you see this conflicting with RTB2, as far as writing enough material for both bands?
Grady: Oh, that’s a good question.
Ryan: That is a good question! Well, uh, I don’t know yet. I don’t know what’s in store…because I haven’t been writing too much here lately, but that kind of just happens…I don’t know, the last song I wrote, I don’t know, it might be the last song ever! I don’t know!
Tony: We haven’t talked about it yet. We don’t have a plan on that.
Grady: Hopefully not.
Ryan: Yeah, hopefully I and we will be able to write material for this band for us to perform and record in the future! New material: Yes.
Grady: We should set a deadline.
Andy: We work best with deadlines!
Ryan: Yeah, we do. By the end of the year, January 1st, 2012, we will start recording the new record.
MB: For which band?
Ryan: I don’t know, all of them!
Grady: This one.
Ryan: Oh, this one. So, hopefully, it won’t be difficult.