Ryan Allen – I’m Not Mean (Q&A)

I’m not afraid to try new things, tweak old things, or do whatever I want in order to keep making new art.”, says Ryan Allen.

Being productive and not becoming predictable at the same time is not given to everyone. Ryan Allen manages to do exactly that, and he surprises with four wonderful jangle pop songs. “I’m Not Mean” is the first Pop-must-hear of 2022.

Did you start with the idea of ​​writing some jangle pop songs, or did it just happen?

I’ve been toying with writing something with a little more lightness to it, but wasn’t exactly sure how to approach it. Then I stumbled upon a podcast (shoutout The Vinyl Detroit Podcast) that had an interview with one of the founders of Sarah Records. That kind of kickstarted me going down a Sarah rabbit hole, which also led to listening to a lot of similar bands like Black Tamborine, Aislers Set, the Pale Saints…stuff like that. Even some newer bands like Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Crystal Stilts.

So yeah, I was just kind of drawn to wanting to make some very breezy, jangle-y, reverb-drenched simple pop songs. As usual, once I had the inspiration, the songs came fast and basically wrote themselves.

Where or How did you find the story for ‘To Be A Journalist’? The guitar sounds so SO beautiful here.

I majored in journalism in college and worked for a free arts & entertainment magazine in my 20s, so I’ve always had an interest in the practice. Now, however, journalists are basically replaced by “media personalities” who push the agenda of whatever network they are affiliated with, seemingly with little oversight.

This song kind of digs into that concept a bit, essentially saying that it’s easy for anybody with an opinion to just start blathering on about whatever they want in a pretty public forum, and how there are some pretty clear consequences when these media personalities decide to lie or stretch the truth for what boils down to monetary gain. Then I set all that depressing drivel to a cheery pop song. Haha!

It looks like it is easy for you the switch between genres?

I mean, no matter what type of sound I decide to tackle, it’s always going to have a focus on lyrics and melody. So to me, it’s all the same at the end of the day. Sometimes it’s going to be more punk-influenced, sometimes I’ll lean more pop, sometimes it’s got a shoegaze angle, or other times it’s hearkening to something super aggressive.

I think the most interesting creative people are ones that aren’t held back by people’s expectations of what they are “supposed” to do, and instead follow whatever their next muse is to the end. I’m not afraid to try new things, tweak old things, or do whatever I want in order to keep making new art.

The title song sounds intense and close?

I wouldn’t say it’s “intense” as much as it acts as more of a reminder. I’m pretty introverted and don’t get my energy from being around a lot of people…so social distancing works for me (haha).

But in all seriousness, sometimes I probably come off like a jerk or “mean” when I don’t intend to. It’s just that I get very quickly drained by social interaction, to the point where I sort of check out or say/do things that may seem insensitive….when, in fact, I’m very sensitive and compassionate. It just doesn’t always come off that way. So this song is sort of my plea to those around me to just be patient and understand the often-misleading plight of the introvert.

For every four songs you release, how many do you reject? Or is that not the way you write songs?

I knew I wanted to do something very short and concise for this project and didn’t want to go too overboard with it, so I just wrote these four songs and capped it. But I’m constantly writing.

We have a new Extra Arms album in the can that will come out this year, and I’ve got another 30, or so songs demoed that I’m just waiting to unleash on the rest of the band members for whenever we feel like working on new stuff. Obviously, some of those will get rejected, and in fact, there are a lot of songs that don’t see official release (which you can listen to via my “Rchives” release from 2020 here.

You are very productive. I can imagine some more music is in the making?

Always. As I said, we have a new Extra Arms album coming out in 2022 – most likely in late spring/early summer – that I’m extremely excited about. I think it’s the best record we’ve ever done as a band. The songs are really joyful, upbeat, and super catchy for the most part. I wanted to make a really fun and powerful rock record that was easy to listen to, and I think we achieved that. So look out for that one soon!

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