Sydney, Australia’s The Black Ryder are a fantastic duo consisting of Aimee Nash and Scott Von Ryper, both former members of the highly regarded Aussie pysch-rock outfit The Morning After Girls. Though formed in 2007, The Black Ryder didn’t release their excellent debut album, Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride, until the tail end of 2009 (the US release of which only saw the light of day last September on Mexican Summer Records). Von Ryper explains that “the genesis of the band came really quickly after Morning After Girls, since Aimee and I had played in a band together before.” However, he adds, “We had some ideas, but felt no sense of urgency getting the record out. You hear stories of people knocking out albums in 10 days, but in our case it was the complete opposite. It was very much a studio project.”
The album ended up taking 18 months to complete, but the process was quite unique. Immediately after leaving Morning After Girls, Nash and Von Ryper set up a MySpace page and started posting songs in various states of completion. “Unlike other bands who only post finished product, we would put up unfinished songs and add more as the album progressed,” Von Ryper reports. “It’s pretty amazing: we could post a song at two in the afternoon and three hours later someone from Paris could email and tell us how much they love it.”
In addition to gaining a large Internet fan base, as more and more people tuned in to listen to the works in progress, taking their time recording enabled The Black Ryder to draw a virtual who’s who of contemporary psych rock and shoegaze artists into their studio, as bands came to Australia for tours. Some of the celebrated guests who contributed to Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride include Rick Maymi from Brian Jonestown Massacre, Peter Hayes of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and Graham Bonnar from the reunited Swervedriver. Von Ryper downplays this as a case of “happy luck,” since they had already known BJM and BRMC from playing shows with each group as members of Morning After Girls. That latter band, in fact, was somewhat responsible for kick starting the live version of The Black Ryder. “BRMC was in Australia and asked us to play some dates with them on their tour, and so we had to throw a band together really quickly,” Von Ryper says.
That tour led to further Australian dates with BJM, The Raveonettes, and The Charlatans, all without a record deal. When it was time to strike a deal with EMI Australia, the stakes were in The Black Ryder’s favor. With the album virtually finished, Nash and Von Ryper were able to iron out a situation in which they were able to record for their own imprint, The Anti-Music Machine, which was set up as a subsidiary to EMI Australia. This deal garners them greater independence and more royalties. As someone who grew up falling in love with visionary indie labels such as Creation, 4AD, and Rough Trade, where owners loved the music they put out, it’s interesting to hear Von Ryper comment on today’s record industry as an almost strict business relationship. “Labels were always used as banks, because bands couldn’t afford to record in studios,” he begins. “Now bands can buy their own equipment and record so cheaply, the situation has changed. We still need a label to help with distribution and publicity, which are hard things to do on our own.”
As for the album itself, Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride is a mesmerizing cocktail of psych rock, shoegaze, and dark country. Highlights include “Let It Go,” which cruises like a lost cousin of Ride with its druggy yet infectious vibe. The opener “To Never Know You” is reminiscent of BJM’s best work, while “Grass” displays some potent Led Zeppelin-like riffs not unlike “The Immigrant Song.” Nash handles the lion’s share of lead vocals on the record and displays a much wider range of talents than other female-fronted groups of the genre, who have tended to be cutesy and peppy (Lush) or ethereal (Slowdive). Nash has the ability to belt out the blues with the best of them, as well as soothe you to sleep. Her talents are especially evident on the much-too-short “Sweet Come Down,” a beautiful duet with Von Ryper. The song’s video was directed by Michael Spiccia, who has worked with the likes of Jet. It is striking as one watches Nash walk through the desert in cowboy boots (the imagery is very No Country For Old Men), past the dead bodies of her band mates, whom she has presumably killed. Getting “Sweet Come Down” was one thing, but the video almost didn’t happen. “Michael Spiccia was a fan of the band and wanted to work with us, but we just couldn’t afford him and had to say no. Michael came back to us and we ended up working it out,” Von Ryper remembers. More happy luck.
Along the way, Von Ryper professes a love for old country and blues records, which one can easily hear on the album. “I think the best description of the band we have ever had was when someone dubbed our sound ‘Rhinestone Drone,’” Von Ryper proudly exclaims. “’Sweet Come Down’ was a really important track for us. While it’s nice to get compared to some of our favorite bands, like My Bloody Valentine and Jonestown, it’s important to strike our own identity. We really want to appeal to fans outside of our genre.” They would get that chance on two tours supporting hard-rock juggernauts The Cult – of all bands – first in Australia and, most recently, in America. “Touring with The Cult in Australia was one thing because we know a lot of people and we were playing to friends,” Von Ryper posits, “but we had low expectations for America. However, I can honestly say we didn’t have any bad experiences there. So many people would come up to us and tell us that they checked out our music beforehand and made sure to come early to see us play. It’s eye opening when a 350-pound guy in overalls sees your band and tells you how much he loved you and that he had never seen a band with girls in it before.”Visit: The Black Ryder | Mexican Summer
Purchase: Insound | eMusic