Hello Internet travelers, music fiends and general passerbyers. A couple of weeks ago I was out on the Taste of Chaos tour and had the time of my life, this has seriously been one of the best summers ever. To continue this theme of all things awesome and rad, I asked my friend Tom Ryan of The Early November, who are currently opening up on this tour and absolutely killing it, if he would do a blog post with me about his upbringing, his love of music and some pictures of his travels. If you don't already know and want to know, I have an old post about my actual time with them on tour. Without further ado, here is my blog with Tom:
Hey Tom, thanks for doing this, dude! Since this is all based on music, I figured that would be a good place to start, with your background in music:
Music is my absolute support system and resolution to everything i know in life. My world revolves around it and I'm lucky enough to be reminded every day why it's so important to me.
My first memories of music are being a little kid with Saturday night dance parties in the living room with my sisters while my dad would spin his record collection. Albums like Thriller or Elton John and we'd just let it rip. So much fun.
A handful of movies also changed everything for me: La Bamba, Moonwalker, American Tale and Batman. My dad bought the record soundtracks to all these for me. I'd sit and listen, still can remember the feeling I'd get. La Bamba introduced me to not only one of my favorite songwriters of all time, Ritchie Valens, but my most favorite song of all time, Sleepwalker by Santo & Johnny. Man, that song hits every chord and emotion for me. It was the first movie to give me actual feelings. The scene where Ritchie's brother learns of his little brother's death and screams on the bridge… fade to the flashback of them running up the hill along with the sound of that slide guitar from Sleepwalk… gives me chills just thinking of it. The fact that a sound along with a visual could make you feel something I've never felt before, still to this day blows my mind. And everything musically about my life stems from that. My best bud, Amir, and I became obsessed with Michael Jackson's Moonwalker. I was already a fan of MJ, but this movie introduced me to songs like Man in the Mirror and Smooth Criminal. Those first few notes in both song, then the vocals with the snaps… damn, I remember how cool i thought that was. And bring in Batman. I had no idea then I was getting a full helping of Prince with that soundtrack.
I've always been attracted to cinema and soundscapes. And these were my first experiences with that. Mix that and how cool I always thought the guitar was and how much I idolized any musicians I saw, it was a no brainer that I would pursue a lifelong goal of making music.
I loved the La Bamba movie, too. So great how they did it and did it so well that it was an instant classic. Also, anything Batman, I'm all about that life.
From your introduction to music, to actually learning how to play, can you share some background in any lessons, classes and/or equipment you use?
Growing up, I had really supportive parents that encouraged me to pursue whatever I was into. They basically involved me in everything they could and let me decide what to stick to. When I was 11, my dad gifted me his first guitar. A Silvertone electric from the 60s, one of those Sears guitars that came in a case with an amp built into it. It was my first guitar and it looked like the one Ritchie Valens played. By that time, I started getting into bands like Green Day, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Counting Crows and Weezer. I had gone through a heavy Beach Boys phase, rightfully so. But I was introduced to some albums that are still some of my favorite. Siamese Dream… it doesn't get better than that. One of my best friends, John Gavarone, was also getting super into these bands and his dad is an amazing guitar player. So he started teaching us all the songs but also pushed bands like Pink Floyd, Yes, Zeppelin on us, which ruled.
From there, I took a couple years of guitar lessons with this rad hair metal dude who would try to teach me the fundamentals, but I just really wanted to learn all the songs I was listening to and could careless about the theory of it. Music has never ever been about theory of it, always about the sound and emotion. Lessons evolved into playing some talent shows and battle of the bands in middle school. Which eventually evolved into getting into actual bands by high school and so on.
Equipment: I never ever expected to become a gear guy, but naturally if you do this every day, you do. I'll keep it brief here. With guitar, my go to is my Les Paul through a Peavey Classic 100 amp and a 2x12 Avatar cab. I do a ton of mellow / explosive post-rock style stuff and have found the perfect tone there with that setup. I also have a strat and this beautiful custom acoustic my friend's father built for me. For bass, i keep it very simple. And very Fender. For years, I used the Fender Jazz but have recently moved to the P-Bass. When recording, I use a Rickenbacker a good amount but never could get down on how they sound for live. My rig setup is just a simple Sansamp through a power amp. I use the same pedal board for both guitar and bass… three very simple pedals and a tuner. The pedals I use are a DD6 Delay, Rat Distortion and the Tom Ryan Gosling Fuzzrocious pedal(my most prized pedal possession). My dude Carmen from Young Statues gifted that to me after we finished making The Flatlands Are Your Friend. It mimics the tone we used a ton for that album, which was '73 P-Bass through a big muff and rat.
Love the gear set up, total tone zone, and the Tom Ryan Gosling pedal! I back it. I need one in my life.
As far art goes, there are a ton of things that could move us to create, what are some the sources of inspiration, music and/or non music related for you?
My musical taste is pretty diverse. I'm a mood guy and Motown almost always suits it. Love it. And can't seem to get enough of Ray Charles or Sam Cooke. And the oldies like Ritchie, the Beach Boys, Pink Floyd. Some of my favorites are Broken Social Scene, Explosions in the Sky, Ambulance LTD, Smashing Pumpkins. Like anyone else, that list could go on forever. Being from NJ/Philadelphia, it's rad to see so many amazing bands coming from the area right now. The Districts and Hop Along are two amongst many that are crushing it right now and I love.
About 10 years ago, I started recording at a place called Gradwell House in Haddon Heights, NJ. And the friends and fellow musicians I've met there all have some really incredible bands. We all seem to play in each others bands or are involved somehow. It's a really great circle of people to be in and I'm always inspired by all the amazing music my friends make.
Live music is everything to me and a very obvious inspiration. There's not a better feeling than getting lost in a song at a show. Or being totally blown away by a band or artist. If I'm not doing the touring or traveling thing, I work for Philadelphia venues Union Transfer and Boot & Saddle when I'm home. So I'm literally immersed in music at all times in one form or another. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Can't ever go wrong with Motown. Classic hits on classic hits, all day!
You've already touched on this for a moment, but dive into the history of with the bands you’ve played in and your current role with The Early November
My first real band was when i was 15, I started with my best mates Amir and John. And from there I've been involved in about a dozen bands, give or take. I've always been a guitar player, but bass came into the picture about 10 years ago. My cousin had some friends in a band called Windsor Park Walkers (a killer Oasis/My Morning Jacket inspired band). They needed someone to fill in for some shows. So I said, cool. I'd borrow my roommates bass, enjoyed hanging and making music with those dudes, so stuck around to make three albums and hit the Philly music scene hard for about five years. This was the same time (around 2006) I started hanging and recording at Gradwell House Recording Studio. During that time, I also had started my own band called Atomic Square. Was such an important time of music development for me. I went on to make what i think is and will be one of the best albums of my life. What started as an instrumental post-rock style band, evolved into an indie/alternative band when I met singer Ete AhPing.
Around this same time, through Gradwell, I had met some dudes in a band called Makeout Party. Really enjoyed their company and dug their music. I eventually ended up filling in for them on some tours and shows, which evolved into me just joining the band. In late 2009, we disbanded and everyone went their separate ways. Carmen Cirignano (singer/guitarist) started working on some really awesome music. He was getting ready to do an album with Steve Poponi at Gradwell and we have always synced musically, so it just made sense for me to be involved. We eventually became Young Statues and our buds Dan Bogan and Matt Weber joined the crew and so it goes. Joe Marro (The Early November) was our manager and our debut S/T album was received extremely well, it launched us into a great few years of touring and making music. We're currently keeping quiet, but I don't think for long. There's been talk of doing a new record very soon.
Along with that, I have an instrumental based project called Endor Endor with my good bud and fellow YS bandmate, Matt Weber. That project is a total passion piece that we don't get the chance to do much with, but whenever we do it's amazing. And I play guitar/keys in my friend Brian Mietz's band, It's a King Thing, which is a rad Weezer/Lemonheads kind of band. Somehow, I fit all this music into my weird life and love every minute of it.
I've done a good amount of touring with TEN, the past couple years I've been pretty involved with the band in one form or another. Have spent time on the road with them as a supporting act with Young Statues, as their guitar tech and now as their bassist. Have always loved the dudes and really enjoy being out here with them and the opportunity they give me to do so. This Taste of Chaos tour has been amazing, the shows have been rad and the lineup is unreal. Been having a lot of fun and it's a really great group of people that are making this show happen everyday. Have made lots of new friends on this run that I look forward to continue seeing on the road.
We're headed to Australia this fall, which I'm stoked for. Ace will be doing some touring before we head out for that. And immediately following this tour, I'll be hitting the road with my dudes A Great Big Pile of Leaves playing bass for them. We're heading out with Motion City Soundtrack for a few weeks as they wrap up their final tour. I tend to not stay still or in one place for very long and i'm way okay with that. Looking forward to the next few months!
Definitely going to look into those bands. I love all the projects and juggling of chainsaws. I can appreciate and relate to just staying on the move and staying connected through so many outlets.
With all the bands and touring comes travel. I intentionally saved this for last because it's always a personal favorite of mine, but touch on your travel over the years and share some pictures with some places you've been in your lifetime.
I love traveling in every respect. The locations, the people, the cultures, the food, the everything. It's become a true addiction of mine. When I'm not out touring, I do my best to stay out in the world and visit locations I've never been. Throwing myself into a scenario where I can't necessarily communicate other than hand or body language is a sensation I've learned to love. Going into a place and just pointing at something on the menu and hoping it works out is about as much gambling as I do in this life. Every trip or adventure changes me as a person and always for the better. The beauty of meeting people around the world and from every walk of life I feel genuinely makes me a better human. It helps me grow and changes my perspective. Which is everything in life, in my opinion. I've learned it's absolutely crucial to be positive, even in the most negative times. And the return of that will always be so much greater. The more good you put out into the world, the more positivity you radiate, the more you will receive. Everyone has opinions and views, respect them all… even when you strongly disagree with them. Especially in times like these. Everyone is so quick to jump on their FB page and rant about what's wrong with the world. And trust me, I often have to catch myself before posting my opinions or comments on current events. Because that's not what I'm about. I don't have answers on how to fix the world, so why should I clog someone's feed with my opinions. I just choose to look at the positive side. The good of the world. Because there is plenty of it. And know that the one thing I truly have control of is myself and how I can change the world around me by what I can offer and how I present myself. Even in the smallest of ways. Traveling allows me to do just that. Music allows me to do that on a greater scale. When I find myself in another country or place where I'm the minority, it gives me a perspective I generally don't get in the states. But the one thing I truly can say is, everyone is always welcoming and accommodating and willing to help me. It's a general misconception that traveling is the super expensive thing and going to certain places is unsafe and you shouldn't do it. No. That's not true. Do it. Sure there's unsafe places, but at this point I can honestly say, I feel more threatened in the states right now than most third world countries I've visited. There is so much good in this world and we tend to focus on all the bad. I am fortunate to travel the world and see how beautiful it is. And how small we really are. Being able to do that both through travel and music is a beautiful thing that I hope never end.
That's such a great place to leave off because I couldn't agree more with all of those sentiments. Thanks Tom for taking the time to do this with me! I had a blast and I know it'll be just a few short months before we get to see each other again. You've got a lot of platforms in which you're getting content out, can you share some links with us?
Young Statues: http://runforcoverrecords.bandcamp.com/album/flatlands-are-your-friend
Endor Endor : http://endorendor.com
Atomic Square: http://atomicsquare.bandcamp.com
Windsor Park Walkers: http://windsorparkwalkers.bandcamp.com
It's a King Thing: http://itsakingthing.bandcamp.com
Gradwell House Recording Studio: http://gradwellhouse.com