Ryan Allen – Song Snacks Vol. 1 (Q&A)

“Song Snacks Vol.1” is a collection of 20 2-minute and under songs, written in a flurry by Ryan Allen while living life on lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Ryan about the new record, Bandcamp, how ‘less is more’, and more … .

I think I heard a zillion valid reasons why artists don’t release new music right now. You decided differently!?

Really? I feel like right now is the BEST time to release music. Sure, if you’re a huge band like Foo Fighters or Weezer and you were planning massive tours around records I guess I get it, but I feel like people really need music right now to survive through these insane times. At least I know I do. I’ve listened to a TON of music over the last 5 months, bought new records from bands on Bandcamp, and patched some holes in my record collection (mostly Guided by Voices stuff). People are stuck at home for the most part and are focusing their attention on things they may have forgotten about or not given as much time to when they’re caught up in the rat race of life. So yeah, I think now is the perfect time, if you have the means and motivation to do it. Thank god for Bandcamp and how easy they have made it to release records – especially with their Bandcamp Friday events that have been having. Such a cool idea and it’s really keeping the flame alive for a lot of active bands.

The whole writing, recording process must have been different though? Truth Surgery, for example, is quite different from the songs on the last couple of Extra Arms records. You took the opportunity to let creativity move in ‘all’ directions?

Yeah, I mean, I’m always writing songs. Some of them are just short little weird fragments that never get finished, others are fully fleshed out and demoed with me playing all the instruments. Given that I don’t foresee Extra Arms playing any shows or even being able to work on new music right now, I decided to focus my nervous, creative energy on a project that I thought I could execute on my own. So I took sort of an “anything goes” approach. If I had an idea, I completed it. Ideas just kept coming, and I kept riding the wave. Some are still more fragmented than others, but even the short acoustic songs feel important and meaningful to me. I basically just threw out the rule book on this one.

Not exactly sure why but I like the sudden ending of Here Comes The Rain a lot. Like most songs on the record, it would have been ‘easy’ to add an extra 2 minutes to that song but you didn’t?

I guess knowing that you are “done” with something is just a feeling that you get. Sure, I could have fleshed some of these songs out with extra parts, bridges, more vocals, blah blah blah, but whenever I felt like something illustrated a complete thought, I decided it was done. I feel like more people should take the “less is more” approach with music, and I get why they don’t. Recording on a computer basically creates a situation where the possibilities are endless, and you can just keep messing with stuff, adding stuff, forever. But I guess I have a short attention span, and I’m pretty much done with a song after 2 and a half minutes. It’s got to be really engaging for me to want to stay in it longer than that. My dad said something to me when I was a kid starting to play shows…he said “leave them wanting more.” That’s why I’m always keen on playing 8 or 9 song sets. Half an hour and you’re done. That way people don’t feel like it’s dragging, and if they dig it, they’ll come to see you again. The same goes for this record – it’s short, to the point, and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome (even though there are 20 songs). It’s like a really succinct mixtape that you hopefully want to listen to over and over.

Besides producing a new record, how did you survive the last couple of months?

Just trying to stay busy and positive. Listening to a ton of music, working on a bunch of different projects (I released an EP with another band called Soft Wires, made a hardcore record called Quaranteen Idles, released a few digital singles collaborating with friends, and am working on the next couple of Extra Arms releases right now), watching movies and TV, watching basketball, reading, working a ton, hanging out with my girlfriend and my son, skateboarding a lot, trying to get good at NBA2K. Just trying to live life while staying safe and listening to scientists and not puffy, illiterate presidents who don’t know what the fuck they are talking about. Ya know, the usual!

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