I found out about singer/songwriter Zoë Ryan through Cayden Hodgson, a friend I met at UH. Cayden was also from Perth and moved to Melbourne shortly after he returned. There, he met up with Zoë, a friend from Perth who was looking for a band for her solo project. Cayden joined Zoë and four others to form Zoë Ryan & the Dandy Lion. Thanks to Zoë Ryan for taking part in the interview and to Cayden for letting me know about Zoë and the band. To find out more, you can head to their iTunes, Bandcamp, Facebook or Twitter. You can also check out the Wireframe Records Website or Wireframe Records Facebook.
What brought the six of you together to form Zoë Ryan & the Dandy Lion?
The band came together one by one after the record was crowdfunded. After playing solo for many years, I had started playing as an acoustic duo with my friend Gemma. Then when Reuben pledged to my crowdfunding campaign we got talking and I asked him to join us and we began playing as a 3 piece, still acoustic. Then I asked my friend Ben to join, as we had jammed together a couple of times. I always intended to play with a full band, so Bass and Drums were the only parts missing and the timing worked out perfectly for Cayden, who I went to High School with, and Travis who I went to uni with, to join and complete the full line up. We have occasional guest musicians join too, who are all considered part of ‘the Dandy Lion.’
Where did the name come from?
I’d been playing under my own name around Melbourne for quite some time, and I was going to keep it that way for the record, even with the full band sound, but it was someone from Pozible – the crowdfunding website, who suggested I think about what a band name could do. They had a point, I realised, because since I was set on being independent, I realised a catchy name could help us stick out when it comes to posters, street-press, that kind of thing. Then while riding a tram the “Lion” part popped into my head. The rhyming aspect appealed to me, and at this point we were the three piece, so Gemma, Reuben and I brainstormed descriptive words until we got to “Dandy” and we were sold because of the double meaning, and just as well because it set a whole new direction for the band, from the drawing I did of ‘the Dandy Lion’ to our style and the way we dress up for shows and our ‘dandifying’ of the stage.
Your EP “Our Patchwork Hearts,” was crowdfunded and set to be released early 2014. What can fans expect to hear?
Listeners should expect to hear a collection of songs that both thematically and dynamically aim to capture the way we, humans, are in essence, a collection of our experiences and the sum of our own emotional histories. Whilst there is an overarching style and sound to the whole record, each song is supposed to convey a slightly different feeling or emotion, relevant to that story. Instrumentally it is tinged with feature instruments, such as a cello, horns, and banjolin as features, and the majority is made up of a balance of keys, acoustic guitars, interwoven with catchy riffs, complete with the wholeness of a full band, and marked by the unique vocal. As a whole, the record is supposed to take us on a journey that sees us relating to the various types of exchanges and common problems that are prevalent in human relationships, leading to a resolution by the end of the record.
Your music has an alternative feel to it. What drew you guys to Indie Pop?
The music just kind of happened, really. The songs had already been written when each of the parts of the band came in, and because they were added one by one, in a way, we just kind of went with the emotion and style of the song, the way it felt like it was meant to go, but I was never conscious of being any particular genre or style, or creating any one – I guess that’s why it turned out as a bit of a mix. Genre was completely out of my mind when it came to figuring out the arrangements; I’ve always been a fan of music for its melody and its feeling but aware that a song could be transcribed in any genre. So it was just a matter of trying some different things and seeing what felt right with the energy of the song.
Loving the new video for “Your Ghost” off your new EP, filmed all around the Melbourne CBD. What was it like making it and where’d the idea for the white balloon come from?
The video kind of came together a lot like the band and the record, in some ways. It just happened, although a lot quicker than the rest. I’d said that we had to have a video for the launch (it was being advertised as a video launch) but we were really pressed for time and budget so (Cayden, bass – who filmed) and I planned to do it with just a handheld DSLR and make it guerrilla/d-i-y style. The Balloon idea was a convenient accident. I wanted to cover the balloon with a sheet and make a literal ghost. But when the sheet was too heavy, we decided a ‘symbolic’ ghost in the form of a white balloon would make for a better video anyway. I was always set on a big ending scene to ‘release the ghost’ and I had to source extras in the form of people I know who were willing to rock up, and I had told everyone a different day, so we were making last minute phone calls to get people down, and then the camera battery was dying, so we were rushing to finish it. It was really hectic actually. But we got it done, and it turned out to be a cool little clip.
You guys released the video at your Single launch at the Curtin Bandroom in Melbourne. Tell us about your launch party.
The launch was great! We had decorated the stage which already looked really pretty with the lights, plus we had two giant balloons like the ones in the video on each side of the stage so it was really nice to look at even before anyone started playing. We had Ayleen open with a really nice acoustic set, and Murdena got the party started with their country tunes. The venue filled out pretty quickly early on, and during Murdena’s set there were people dancing with their shirts off already. (It was definitely the right kind of music.) It was our first time playing live as a six piece, and our first time playing with musical guests (we had Anita on Cello, and Will on Trumpet) and we were in our finest Dandy attire, and the set went down amazingly. We’d spent the last few months either in the rehearsal room or in the studio so it was great to finally be playing, and to such an amazing audience. There are lots of great photos taken, and we even sold some of our revolutionary QR music card singles and T-shirts. And there were confetti cannons! They went off during the live screening of the video. Yeah, it was a big night.
Where’s your favourite place to gig and why?
So far the Curtin, where we had the launch, has been the best sized and nicest looking stage we’ve played on, I think. We’ve played at Grumpys a couple of times, which is kind of nice because of the upstairs mezzanine area, it’s kind of like playing a really small scale version of one of those theatres that has the upstairs and downstairs rows of audience. It’s like, if you see people looking really interested on BOTH levels, then you know you’re playing a good show. But yeah, we’ll probably be playing shows at venues like the Workers Club, and the Grace Darling in the near future, and we’d love to eventually be filling venues like the Corner or the Forum.
Who writes most of the songs?
The band came together out of my crowdfunding venture for my solo project, so yeah, I wrote the songs. I’ve had a large collection of songs I’ve wanted to record with a full band for a long time and the crowdfunding campaign was a way of making it happen, while putting some deadlines on it. Funnily enough though, the one song I have co- written lately is on the record too. When Gemma and I started playing together we talked about co-writing a song sometime (we’re both songwriters) in the future. But it just kind of happened right then and there! That was in December of last year, and now, a year later, Your Ghost is out as our first single! The other four I had written throughout 2011 and 2012.
2014 should be a big year for you all. Have you got any tour plans coming up?
It will be! We’re planning a National Tour for March, to follow the release of the EP. It will be the Our Patchwork Hearts tour, and we’ve got a few locations in mind. I won’t reveal too much just yet, as we’re still planning a lot of logistics and I don’t want to let anyone down if we can’t make it to somewhere in particular. But I can definitely say that as well as trying to cover as much of the east coast as we can, we also intend to make the trip across to play a long awaited show in Perth, where both Cayden (Bass) and I are originally from.
What advice would you give to young songwriters looking to do what they love?
Keep doing it. I was given that advice once by a singer-songwriter I admired. She was doing what I wanted to do, and was where I wanted to be. So I kept doing it, I would always pass on that same piece of advice. Keep doing what you love, and the rest will come.
Zoe Ryan: After the crowdfunding campaign and the formation of band I started the independent record label Wireframe Records to release through. Your Ghost is the first release for the label. After releasing a couple of EPs we hope to expand the roster.
Check out the Website here.