An Interview with Ryan Walsh of Hallelujah The Hills
Hearing Hallelujah The Hills 2006 debut, Collective Psychosis Begone was something of a eureka moment for us, one of those records that you can't wait to tell your friends about or anyone who will listen, for that matter. With Colonial Drones, Boston's indie pop titans managed not only to match the excellence of their debut, they trumped it with a stunning recording of fuzzed up pop and infectious balladry just 3 years later. This past November HTH turned to their fans and Kickstarter, to launch a campaign that gave fans the opportunity to pre-order the bands yet to be recorded third full length. The Kickstarter Experiment was designed to assist with the expenses of recording and releasing a new record while the band is in a limbo period with their current label.
Hallelujah The Hills linchpin Ryan Walsh recently agreed to field a few question from us, we discuss The Kickstart Experiment, the recording of the bands next record, and what we can expect tonight, from the bands first show of 2011 with The Capstan Shafts. We'd like to thank Ryan for his time and willingness to share.
Bryan Hamill: After finding the band in a pause period with your label Misra Records, you decided to turn to Kickstarter for the HTH III experiment, can explain what led to that decision and how you feel about the strong response from Hallelujah The Hills fans who contributed to the recording of the next album?
Ryan Walsh: Albums cost money to create (at least the type of one we want to make right now). Without label support you can raise the money but doing that might delay you a year. A year in band years is like 2 in human years. If you sit on a bunch of songs for 2 years by the time you're ready to record them they've grown stale. So, hoping to avoid that we rolled the dice hoping a portion of our fan base would be interested in being Jr.Record Producers. And they were! It's amazing.
Bryan: How has the recording sessions been going?
Ryan: They actually begin next week. We'll record 2 songs, completely, in a 24 hour period, once a month, through out the winter and spring.
Bryan: Can you give us any hints of what we can expect from III?
Ryan: Back to our roots! A return to form! A concept album about what we'll sound like 50 years from now! And other awful conceits!
OK, that was rude. I apologize. 9 songs. 35 minutes. I really think people talking about their next work is probably the source of some of the most unreliable, way-off comments in all of interview history. There's no perspective. I might as well be a meteorologist (been trying to get a good public fight going with a TV weatherman for years now).
Bryan: On Tuesday Hallelujah The Hills play their first show of the new year with The Capstan Shafts at Great Scott, can we expect to hear any of the new material that you've been working on in the studio?
Ryan: Yes, at least 3 songs that will be on the next album are on the set list. I'm looking at the set list right now. Is it a bad idea to write out my in-between song banter on the set list? After song 2 I wrote, "Insult someone in front row, make them feel small, then mention the merch table."
Bryan: How did the pairing with The Capstan Shafts come about?
Ryan: I forget how I first heard the Capstan Shafts but I liked them immediately. I wrote Dean and he started sending me these albums. Lots of them. It was like The Jam Of The Month Club. I've tried to get him to play live here for years. He's been on bills before but then fate intervened. 3rd times a charm.
Bryan: Back in October you suffered the untimely departure of your drummer, documented in a youtube video, how has the band soldiered on with that absence?
Ryan: To be honest, it was fairly painless. It was a shocking night and a tremendous pain in the ass in the moment. I'm glad that we finished the set. I hope it was at least entertaining for the crowd that night.
Bryan: Last fall the Boston music scene lost one of its most ardent supporters and local music champions, Billy Ruane. Can you tell us how you first encountered him?
Ryan: I was sitting at an outdoor patio in the front of a venue in Knoxville, TN. An employee of the club came out with the land-line phone and said, "There's someone on the phone looking for Ryan Walsh." I said, "That's me" ready to hear some awful news from back home or something. A voice said, "Hi this is Billy Ruane and I'd like to book you for the Middle East anniversary concert I'm putting together." That was the beginning of the rocket ship ride. I knew him very briefly, relatively, but every encounter was memorable.
Bryan: What did it mean for you to able to perform at Billy's memorial birthday bash last November?
Ryan: A whole lot, truly.
Bryan : For the forthcoming album, did you have the songs written before bringing them into the studio, or did you take a more collaborative approach to writing, involving the other members of the band.
Ryan: I'm writing as we record, as we go. Now I'm noticing I'm starting to write about writing as you go. One new song called "Get Me In A Room" is sorta about that and how people develop relationships with songs. I think some people open up more to their favorite songs than they do their family, ya know?
The band, as always, is an arranging juggernaut. I bring in a bare bones demos and then we really have a lot of fun shaping it all together. It's a true collaboration.
Bryan: You recently shared Nightingale Lightning, a song slated to appear on the new album for free download at your official website as well as your newly launched Bandcamp site, that track was culled from a show you played this summer in Toronto, are there any plans to release that show for a future HTH Live album?
Ryan: Maybe as a downloadable free extra for something. It was one of our favorite performances, even from the moment we first got off stage, but the recording isn't perfect. There's some Chatty Cathys near the microphone that becomes kinda bothersome during the quieter songs. So, "Live From Toronto On Woody Guthrie's Birthday" might see the light of day but probably nothing too official.
Tonight Hallelujah The Hills play T.T. The Bears with The Capstan Shafts and Nowhere Lights. A line up not to be missed.