Interviews: Ryan Michael of The Roomsounds

The Roomsounds. Photo by Will Von Bolton.

The Roomsounds. Photo by Will Von Bolton.

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

Hype a band? I’d never do such a thing. Seriously. The Roomsounds, there’s substance in that band. No hype here.

It’s pure rock and roll made by twenty-something-year-olds for twenty-something-year-olds–not that you can’t enjoy it if you’re older. But it’s that state of mind. It’s a little fuzzy and driving.

There’s this pipeline from Dallas to Lubbock that’s been as beneficial to Lubbock as it has been to the bands playing. The Roomsounds are seemingly next in line after ODIS, Jonathan Tyler, Rise & Shine, Quaker City Night Hawks, Dovetail, etc, etc. I guarantee you’ll love The Roomsounds.

Don’t misread that though. They’re not a cookie cutter version of those bands by any stretch. They’re their own band through and through.

In many ways, they’re more refined and smooth, yet, there’s still this nice analog warmth that wraps those guitars notes.

Their latest single “Lay My Head Down,” which was released just a couple of weeks back, picks up right where their self-titled 2012 debut stopped.

The harmony vocals fat and encompassing. You don’t feel like a wallflower watching, but rather in the center of a room being surrounded by crisp, punching guitars and hearty vocals.

It’s the first single from their upcoming album recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala that they just wrapped up a few weeks back.

We caught up with lead vocalist/guitarist Ryan Michael of The Roomsounds last week to talk about the upcoming album, Dallas music, and songwriting. They’re playing The Blue Light tonight (Thursday, Oct 16).

Watch/Listen to “Couldn’t Break My Spirit” from The Roomsounds below.

New Slang: One of the things that’s always used to describe what The Roomsounds’ sound is “retro rock” or “classic rock.” Lines like “These guys sound like they stepped out of a time machine and are actually from 1969.” In my opinion, that’s really just too simple of a way to describe what a band sounds like. But, for you, does that comparison ever get tiresome?

Ryan Michael: Yeah, in a way. I guess it can be a tiresome comparison, but it doesn’t bother me that much because the stuff we’re being compared to is timeless music. You know? I take it with a grain of salt I guess. 

NS: Speaking of timeless music, you’ve been recording this second album in Muscle Shoals at FAME Studios. How’d that connection and relationship get started?

RM: It was actually this crazy thing where they actually got in touch with us. A friend of ours had posted a music video for “Couldn’t Break My Spirit” on Facebook. She’s originally from Northern Alabama and was old college buddies with Rodney Hall. He runs the studio now. He just called me one day. “Hey, this is Rodney Hall of FAME Studios. What can we do to help out your band?” I was thinking, “what the hell?!” It just came from that. 

NS: How long did it take to record the first album? Have you spent more time on this one or anything?

RM: We’ve knocked out both of them pretty quick. We spent a lot of time on pre-production with our producer Beau [Bedford]. We really knew exactly what we wanted on songs by the time we went into the studio. I think we did both of them in about seven days. For this, it was in two sessions. The first was three days and then we did another four days a couple of weeks ago. Now it just has to be mixed and mastered and all of that fun stuff–the business stuff, I don’t want to even think of that really [laughs].

NS: When you’re recording in a place like FAME Studios, you obviously know the history of the place. What do you do to get that part of your head? The part that’s maybe a little star struck and in awe.

RM: Yeah. I think in a way, it really inspired us to bring our A game. We can’t afford not to and mess around. Even in the control room, you see Duane Allman outtakes and it’s really hitting home. “OK, some really great people came out of here.” I think it really inspired us to be the best we could.

NS: Every band, after an album comes out, there are things that in hindsight, they wish they had done differently. Was there anything that you guys sat down and discussed that you wanted to do differently this time around? 

RM: Good question…I don’t know. I guess I had this vision for this record. I want it to be in that same vein as great classic records. Like Tom Petty’s Damn the Torpedoes. Also big on getting a certain vibe, a certain sound, throughout. Our name is The Roomsounds for fuck’s sake [laughs]. But there are records like Exile on Main Street and Neil Young’s Harvest where you hear where they’re playing. You feel like you’re inside that room. I really wanted to capture that kind of vibe.

NS: Yeah. There are those records where you feel that magic that was happening in the room when they were recording. There’s those tones, textures, and warmth that run throughout too. Have you seen those documentaries on Exile? I think there’s a couple.

RM: Oh yeah. Seen them all. 

NS: Yeah. When they’re in France recording in this sweaty, hot basement. You knew something incredible was being captured and created. To have been a fly on that wall. Anyways, you guys are from the Dallas area. It seems like every few months, there’s this “new” rock band from there that I hear. It feels like you guys are in this long line of great rock bands that are coming out of the area. What do you think it is that’s helped create this community that’s so good for rock and roll bands? 

RM: You know, I’m not really sure. It’s something that I think about sometimes. Beyond rock and roll, there’s a really great Americana scene popping up here. It’s something that a lot of the bands have been talking about. Some of the cats here who used to play in the ’90s and such, they’ve been really great and have pointed out this great community and movement. It feels like it just sort of happens on its’ own. There’s really this great Americana undercurrent here–and obviously rock. Where does it come from? I really don’t know. 

NS: Yeah. I think it’s really interesting, that it’s usually only after a scene has died down, that people go “oh yeah, those were the good ol’ days.” It’s 10, 15 years after when the bands and artists have either moved on, disbanded, or just not as good as they once were, that’s when you realize how great it actually was. Seldom do you think about how great it is in the moment.

RM: Yeah. We love the Dallas area, but we’re really anxious to get on the road now. We’ve played a shit ton in Dallas and are just really excited to get out more now. Breaking out and touring a little bit.

NS: Yeah. A lot of these Dallas bands who’ve come to Lubbock, they’ve all been really great. I saw you guys opening for Red Shahan the last time you guys were here and really liked you guys. I thought, maybe not this time, maybe not next time, but sometime in the immediate future, people are going to latch on to you guys here. 

RM: Thanks. That’s what you hope for.

NS: Yeah. Another part of your sound that I like is your harmonies. It doesn’t feel you’re doing harmonies just for the sake of doing them either. Do you guys ever try and write with harmonies in mind or anything?

RM: Not really. I kind of bring them to the band and from there, I guess it’s just The Beatles in us. The choruses need to be hooky and bigger, so everybody’s singing. It’s very important to pop music. It just sounds good to the ears. 

NS: So the majority of the songs are coming from you originally. Do you usually bring a skeleton to the band and go from there or do you try and bring it as soon as possible trying to get that full band collaboration experience? 

RM: I usually write on an acoustic and mess around on them for a while before I introduce them to the band. Or maybe I’ll start playing sections in rehearsal and see how everybody’s playing with it. I won’t even tell them it’s something. Just see where everybody takes it because maybe it’ll inspire me to go in a different direction. They come in all different directions. There’s one song that we wrote literally the day before going to the studio. Beau walked in and asked what song we were playing. He’d been working with us all week doing pre-production and we said “Well, we kind of wrote this new song.” He said, “Fucking awesome. So glad this is going on the record!” Sometimes, they just come out of nowhere.

But the process, it’s usually be bringing a skeleton to the band and going from there. And with them starting out on acoustic, I’m usually thinking, “This may be too wimpy [laughs].” But then you throw some drums behind it and realize it is a rock song. Cool. Alright. Something I really love is having a power house band behind me.

NS: [Laughs]. Do you ever find that you want to keep some songs acoustic?

RM: Yeah. We have a couple of ballad type songs on this record. There’s some cool instrumentation. We found an old sitar guitar at FAME. It was back in storage. We saw it and thought, “Well, we have to put this on something.” The last day, we sat around messing with this stupid sitar playing around with it and we finally found a place for it on this one song. I love little happy actions like that. We never expected to put a sitar on this ballad. 

NS: Yeah. I love those little moments on albums. Is that your favorite moment on the album or is there something else that sticks out more?

RM: That’s still probably it. Back when were listening to mixes, when that moment it comes on, we just looked at each other and started laughing. That was awesome. That’s gotta be it.

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