Ah, the indie-rock super-group. A wonderful idea that is fraught with danger. Thank heavens for Ryan Olson, who is the mastermind behind Gayngs. With a little help from his friends (Justin Vernon and Mike Noyce from Bon Iver, Solid Gold members Zack Coulter and Adam Hurlburt along with a plethora of genius musicians) they’ve created our favorite album of 2010. Period. Blissfully impossible to classify with traditional genre-labeling, it is the perfect album to listen to while staring at the stars on a hot summer night. Or while driving on a desolate road in the middle of a storm. Or while waiting for any of the Pitchfork-hyped bands to actually move you. This is the real deal. Frankly it was an absolute thrill to get an opportunity to pick the mind of Ryan, who described the process of making an album with 20+ musicians.
TDOA: One of the flaws we see in the modern age of mp3′s and iTunes, is that people are more concerned with singles than listening to an album in its entirety and in its proper track order. One of the beautiful things about Relayted is the way the tracks follow a logical progression. Was there a conscious effort to make an “album” as opposed to a series of singles?
RO: For sure, one of the main points of maintaining the same bpm was so the tracks could blend and morph seamlessly together. I didn’t know how the album was going to flow until later in the process. I think the idea should be approached as a whole album piece, but it wasn’t this time, not completely. Another run on this concept will be really fun.
TDOA: The process of making this album sounds like it was quite a journey. Can you talk a bit about how the album came to be and how some of the various musicians got involved in the project?
RO: I tracked sketches of the songs with Adam and Zack from Solid Gold, recorded with Megafaun and Ivan at April Base, recorded a bunch of people in Minneapolis at my house, mixed with Justin when he had time.
TDOA: With so many musicians involved, I assume there weren’t many times where everyone was in the same room at once. Did Ryan, Zac and Adam generally write all the music in advance and let the others add their own parts? I guess what I’m wondering is, how much of this was improvised during recording and how much was pre-written in advance?
RO: It was all based on people playing off of loops i’d make with Zack and Adam. They would do several takes of mostly improv, and then I’d edit their best parts into the songs. I usually didn’t let people hear the full tracks before they recorded on it.
TDOA: Given the number of musicians involved in the creation of the album and the complexity of the music, we’re amazed (and thrilled) to hear that you’re playing this album live. Who is in the touring band and what challenges did you have to overcome to perform it live?
RO: We will play a version of the album live, it’ll probably be way better. We’ve got a solid set up with Mike Lewis, Adam Hurlburt, Brad Cook, Joe Westerlund, Mike Noyce, Justin Vernon, Zack Coulter, Jake Luck and Ivan Howard.
TDOA: We first heard about this album via NME, which has already proclaimed it one of the best albums of 2010. Given the fickle nature of the music press, how important is it to get praise from the media? Does it inspire you and make it more likely that you’ll tour more with this record?
RO: It’s neat to hear that people enjoy the album, it’s probably really important to get praise from the media, i guess. Isn’t media’s deal to be important? The business isn’t inspiring, we make music for ourselves and our friends, that’s why I’m broke. The idea of touring with a bunch of my friends is the inspiring part. We’d love to do a west coast run.
TDOA: Justin Vernon’s vocals in some sections(which your press release describes as “Bone Thug’s-style R&B) are indeed quite a departure. Is that the product of something spontaneous or were those parts written in advance?
RO: I sent Justin that track a few days before we were going to invade his home and as soon as i walked thru the doors he was like “i recorded this one thing, I’m not sure if it’s what you were looking for”. That started off one of the best two days of recording ever.
TDOA: Are there any plans to do any videos for this record?
RO: We already made a video for Cry, and released a video from our live show at First Ave….I’d love to do a video for every song, but I don’t have the time to pull that together right now.
TDOA: Given that everyone is involved in other bands and how long it took to make this record, do you forsee a second Gayngs album?
RO: Yeah, in a while from now. I’d like to re attack this idea knowing what I know now.
TDOA: You’ve referenced 10cc’s, “I’m Not In Love” as an influence. Do you make those references in hopes that it’ll spur people to seek out older music like this? Or is there some motivation to try and steer critics who’re looking for a reference point?
RO: I think that connecting with that song at the time I did made me want to go at this project in general. But I didn’t think about it when recording the project, it was something that I realized after the album was completed.