RTB2 - June 2012

RTB2 Session
Violitionist Sessions

Session Date: May 23, 2012
Posting Date: June 11, 2012
Artist Hometown: Denton, TX
Links: Facebook, Bandcamp, Twitter
Recorded by: Michael Briggs

Cool In The Dark
ONE: What has been driving you to experiment with more aggressive, angular songwriting, rather than the soulful rock style of your earlier work?
Ryan Thomas Becker: I have a theory, and it’s…listening to more, I guess, the word ‘angular’ or something like that, and I don’t want to keep dropping the name Captain Beefheart or anything, but it feels like that influence is actually starting to seep in. It took a while to kind of seep into some of the songs and some of the things that I was writing…some of the guitar work. But, some of these ideas are really old. I pieced a lot of these ideas together even before I started listening to that music. Some of it is really, really old, but still fits into that sort of ‘angular’ kind of thing, so, I don’t know if I have an exact answer. Grady? I mean, we still play that kind of thing. I still feel like it’s rooted in rock and soul…
DJ: As a listener, I think that there’s a pretty dramatic difference in the style of something like your latest single ‘Goon,’ and a song like ‘Wishy Waltz’ or ‘Yer Fool’s Suite (Part II)’…
Grady Don Sandlin: When we talked about making this record, before any of the songs were written, the idea was to make a rock and soul record, sort of…It’s like, maybe we never made any material to be the sound we were going for between records, and it was like, in between the time we made the first record, which, anyone’s first record is probably pretty incidental, and then the time we made the one that’s going to come out, it feels like the rock and soul thing was a touchstone and it got dismissed. Like, we tried to change a lot of our material, live, to be that way, and then…you know, we talked about this record a lot before we made it, and it was like, ‘Let’s make a rock and soul record.’ Something that would sound like Solomon Burke and the Sonics, but as the material started coming down, I remember Ryan, in this almost apologetic tone, being like, ‘I’ve just been writing these weird songs. These riffs are just what’s coming out of me, man.’ And that’s what the record is.
DJ: It seems much more aggressive than what you’ve done before, at least from what I’ve heard live.
Grady: You’ve heard them all, I think, if you’ve seen us live in the past like four months…
DJ: Do you think that you’re just angrier now?
Grady: [Laughs] I don’t know. I’m less so. I’m less angry.
Ryan: Really? I’m a little more cynical, I think, with songwriting. One of the songs that we did for the session is called ‘Brownstar,’ but when I had to write the lyrics, it’s about writing songs and kind of being frustrated. I think…I’m in a weird spot, in the time that I have written songs, where it’s not really…It’s not coming out as fast as it used to, I guess. I don’t know…I’m more or less pretty accepting about it, whether what’s going to happen tomorrow, if I’m going to write any more songs or anything like that, or just like…I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. But, I am in a…I wouldn’t call it a slump, it’s just what it is, I don’t know. It’s just not coming out as fast.
DJ: Is it personal, or related to the atmosphere of music around you? Do you see yourself as getting jaded?
Ryan: Probably all of those things. Playing in a band in this area for a certain amount—
Grady: A band!
Ryan: Huh?
Grady: Just one band.
DJ: Right, only one.
Ryan: No, I’m in like— I think it happens if you’re in a band, you play around a lot, you meet other people, and you start meeting, particularly, people five or ten years older than you who have become jaded and cynical and things like that, and that rubs off on you a little bit. Keeping busy with a bunch of projects puts the focus on that kind of thing, but I never felt like I was ever focused on songwriting. It was just kind of something that happened. I’d sit down and start fiddling with the four-track or something, or I’d have an idea that I couldn’t stop playing on the guitar, and then I’d come up with words or melodies while driving around, but it just doesn’t really happen as much, and I think I’ve just kind of spread myself a little too thin. But not— I don’t want to complain about it or anything, because I think I’m still being productive creatively….
TWO: In the “Goon” single from last year, the liner notes mention that the track is from a yet to be released album. Can you tell us about that album, and the process of making it? When do you think it will be released?
Grady: Sure. We made this album off of…it feels like, maybe, since…was The Both of It in 2007?
Ryan: I think so.
Grady: Okay, so, it seems like since we made that album, and we were playing live a lot, that we were just on a working streak. We did that, and then we did an EP, and then we did Ryan’s solo record, and then a live RTB2 thing, which all felt very productive, and then maybe 2009 or 2010 is…I guess we released that live record in 2010, and so, that’s been a couple years, and it’s just been solid work for both of us, for RTB2, for Ryan Thomas Becker, and then whatever else we happen to be doing. We set ourselves a deadline to make the forthcoming album. Like, ‘We’re going to book studio time.’ We didn’t have the songs finished, and that probably has to do with the frustration Ryan’s talking about with the ‘Brownstar’ song or whatever. It probably has a lot to do with me being like, ‘Write a song! Write a song! Can you write some songs for us, dude? That would be great!’ Because all I have to do is play drums and that’s it. And help, or something. I try to.
Ryan: I wrote those lyrics the day of, before we left to go to the studio and record vocals.
Grady: While I was asleep. We set ourselves a deadline, and we did a couple things to prepare to record and everything, and I think it worked out in a really great way, but, in my mind, everything leading up to it and then making that record was as much as we could do. Like, it seemed to me we were like, ‘Okay, we finished that. Now let’s chill for a second.’
Ryan: It kind of felt like that.
Grady: Or a year. The last year, since we made that album and up to this day, has been the least productive year of RTB2 since we started.
Ryan: But probably the most productive years in our lives otherwise. At least for me, it’s just been one thing after another.
DJ: When do you see the album coming out? Is there a date scheduled?
Grady: You know, you don’t want to say anything about that until you have the thing in hand, but it’ll probably be out this summer. I feel like August is probably the idea. August, like late summer or early fall.
DJ: So it’s all done now? It’s just waiting?
Ryan: All done.
Grady: It’s been done for a while.
DJ: I remember reading somewhere that making this album was different than your previous recordings…
Ryan: I’m trying to remember…Well, The Both of It, for example, was all live performances, singing and playing guitar and playing the drums…
Grady: That was basically playing our set. We had a set. You saw it a hundred times, everybody else saw it a hundred times, or hopefully at least ten or something, but it was just going into the studio and playing our set.
DJ: And the new one is not recorded live?
Ryan: No. I mean, the basic tracks, which are guitar and drums, were recorded live, and then we overdubbed kind of sparingly what we saw fit for the song. We went song by song, too. We’d record the basic tracks for one song, and then we’d stand back and say ‘Well, let’s put a vocal on it.’ Then we’d stand back again and say ‘Let’s put organ on it. Hmm, that’s good. That’s a song right there. Let’s go to the next one.’ We’d just kind of…yeah, we’d just add an instrument or two…I don’t know what the idea was, to only do one or two things…just to keep it, the feel of it just being the two of us? In the core of it, you can still feel that it’s vocals, guitar, and drums— what you kind of expect out of us, I guess.
Grady: That’s always the center, and then, I don’t know how other people make records or whatever, but it’s like, ‘Let’s record us playing the songs how we play them, and then let’s listen to it and be like, “What does this need?” You know? Maybe it just needs a tambourine and a double of the vocal or something, and some things I think we probably ended up with that. Then some things have piano or synthesizer, some of it has bass guitar…
Ryan: We did demo the whole album before, didn’t we?
Grady: We did.
Ryan: And one of those demos ended up on Gutterth Compilation III.
Grady: ‘Hands?’
Ryan: ‘Hands.’
Grady: ’Hands.’
THREE: I think that the question on everyone’s mind is: Which of you would win in a fight?
Grady: Well, Ryan was an athlete. I would think that he would probably have more stamina. Maybe I could take a punch better than him, but I feel like if it came down to it, he would last longer. It would probably be him. I think he would win in a fight between us.
Ryan: I think…I’ll put it this way: I could lose, but keep fighting. I always thought about that growing up in elementary school and middle school. All of these bullies and big guys, they’d get into fights, and I’d just be like, ‘Whoa, they’re getting into a fight! This is cool! He punched him in the face!?’ And, if that happened to me, I knew that I would lose, but even at the point where everybody would say, ‘Oh, he just lost this fight,’ I’d still be fighting. I don’t know exactly how to put that…The fight would never be over with me! I’d get you in your sleep, Grady! Slit your throat!
Grady: You’d Cool Hand Luke it?
Ryan: Yeah. Lovingly slit your throat.
Grady: You would win at losing.
Ryan: Yeah…no? Yeah.
Grady: I still think it would be him. I think he thinks so, too.
DJ: Obviously. He’s pretty confident.
Grady: Cocky. Let’s take this outside.
Ryan: Really, you think so? That was confident? That whole thing? You got confident out of that?
Grady: You would still beat me at losing. You’d be like, ‘Grady, you lost the fight!’ But you’d still be punching and shoving and kicking in the dirt.
Ryan: No, I wouldn’t— Well, OK. That’s…that’s fine. That’s the end of that one.
– Interview and transcription by Dale Jones