10 Questions With Ryan Strain

Ryan Strain is a vocalist who specializes in distorted, screaming vocals — though he has a killer singing voice, too. Raised in Garner, North Carolina bustraint currently residing in Portland, Oregon, Strain’s 8+ years of vocal experience is clear: his YouTube covers range from the guttural screams of Job For A Cowboy to the southern swoon of Elvis Presley. Not only does his YouTube channel have over 19,500 subscribers and 1.7 million views, but multiple bands have shared his covers via social media due to their professionalism and accuracy. I follow Ryan’s work and wanted to reach out to him to ask about vocals, music, and the YouTube community as a whole.

1. What band, or vocalist, influenced you to start practicing vocals?
Honestly, from the time I was a child singing gospel music in my bedroom, I knew I wanted to be a singer. When I got older, Linkin Park and AFI were the first bands I ever heard that used screaming vocals. I had never heard them before, and it interested me. Then someone showed me The Devil Wears Prada. I instantly fell in love with the power and the intensity screaming could expel. It was at that moment that I knew what I wanted to do. So, I’d have to thank Mike Hranica, really, for initially inspiring me to learn screaming. Obviously though, my musical tastes and my vocal styles have changed, so I’d have to really credit the vocalists who shaped me to be who I am now – Amazing frontmen like Anders Friden, Bjorn Strid, Christian Alvestam, and Roy Khan.
2. As a vocalist who also sings and screams in multiple styles, I’m always interested to know the answer to these two questions: Why did you learn how to scream, and what was the learning process like?
Well, like I said, I fell in love with the passion of it. I loved the raw emotion that could be channeled through it, not to mention I just loved the way it sounded. I’ve always been the guy who mimicked other people and did voices, so learning to scream was a lot like just doing impressions of other vocalists I heard. That’s really how I learned over the years. I would listen to a new band, and if I liked the vocals, I would practice until I could do what they did. Eventually, I had enough sounds and voices under my belt to truly develop my own style.
3. With the digital age allowing for anyone to release any content they want, there are numerous options for DIY musicians. What equipment (physical and digital) do you use to record and process your material?
Well, my setup isn’t anything special. I didn’t pick this equipment. They’re items that were given to me. So obviously, if I had the money, I would invest in a better setup. But for those interested, I use a Shure SM58 microphone plugged into a Europower PMP2000 mixer, which hooks directly into my computer and records into Reaper.
4. Obviously, you’re a vocalist who puts up both covers and originals on Youtube. What drew you to start putting up covers on Youtube, and when you started, did you find support from the community, or pushback?
It’s funny actually. My first cover that made it to Youtube wasn’t really meant to be a showcase of my vocals. I made the video as kind of a demonstration of what I thought people on Youtube SHOULD do when they do vocal covers. I used to watch a lot of covers, and I saw a lot of kids just sitting there looking bored, not taking any pride in what they were doing, and I thought “Who would want this kid as their frontman?”. So I made a video for my original cover of Born of Osiris’ “Brace Legs”. I did everything I wanted to see. I used the best recording quality I could use at the time, and actually acted like a front-man on camera. I jumped around, headbanged, and did exactly what I would do on stage. I kept doing it because it was a huge learning experience for me. Initially, the support from the community was great. It pushed me to keep doing more and more. I can say, I’ve never felt any pushback from the community and the love and support from my ever-growing fanbase has been increasingly incredible. There’s always the occasional jerk, but their comments aren’t based off of true hate or dislike; just misunderstanding. I appreciate every listener!
5. How do you see Youtube influencing the music community, specifically the metal scene as a whole?
Youtube has definitely become a great place to seek out aspiring musicians. In the old days, bands had to put up ads and posters and hold auditions to find other musicians. Nowadays, you can just make a quick search on Youtube and find tons of talented people just waiting for their opportunity to break through.
6. As someone who is interested in vocal science, nothing bothers me more than seeing “How To Scream” videos on Youtube that are entirely wrong (ironically, your tutorial is one of the few good ones I’ve seen, which is how I found out about your channel); what is your biggest music pet peeve?
I think just what you said. Most of the “how to scream” videos out there are videos that were made by a kid who just learned how to scream yesterday. That’s not really my biggest pet peeve though. My biggest pet peeve is people who can’t differentiate between “talent” and “genre that I like”. Fans of mine will listen to a Whitechapel cover of mine and say “YEAH THIS IS SO GOOD YOU’RE AMAZING”, then I do a song in which I do the best singing I’ve ever done and use my real talents, and the same guy will say “This sucks. This style is shit”. It’s like, are you a fan of me or just some of the songs I cover? True music lovers can recognize all musical talent regardless of the genre.
7. Is music something you want to do for a living, or is it just a hobby?
Well, obviously I would WANT to do it as a living, but just like any other art, it’s hard to translate it into real money. It’s going to have to remain a hobby for a long time until it can somehow pay my bills.
8. You have an interesting variety of covers on your Youtube channel, ranging from Job For A Cowboy’s “Constitutional Masturbation” to Aladdin’s “A Whole New World.” When you’re not listening to metal, what’s on your playlist?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Tech N9ne lately and 50’s music like Elvis, Bobby Darin, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra. I’ve also been listening to the classical station a lot lately.
9. What is one song you wish you could’ve written, and why?
Oh man, that’s an interesting question. I would have to say Devin Townsend’s “Kingdom” because I think that’s one of the greatest songs of all time.
10. Do you have any tips for aspiring musicians?
Don’t make what others want, because you’ll never please everyone. Don’t do what others are doing just to steal their fanbase. Do what you want to do and don’t be afraid of what others will say or how popular it will be. It’s not about the fame and glory, but about your own satisfaction as a musician. The day you start making music you don’t like just to be popular is the day you cease to be a real musician at all.

 


 

Ryan Strain’s YouTube channel can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/YamiRyan4509 and is currently involved with the following projects:

Sea of Trees: http://www.facebook.com/SeaOfTreesMusic

Digilis: https://www.facebook.com/DiligisBand

 

Haze – The American Scene Album Review by Jonathan Hammer

Though I respect all music, it’s sometimes difficult for me to branch out of screaming vocals and heavily distorted guitars – as a metal head, indie pop-rock music that all sounds the same usually just doesn’t do anything for me.

Then there’s The American Scene.

The American Scene’s latest work, Haze, comes out September 9 via Pure Noise Records, but an advanced promo copy has gotten me sucked into some relaxing indie that has memorable hooks and a simple-but-fun sounding song construction.

The album opens with its title track and sets the mood well: crunch guitars that have the clarity of a gorgeous clean tone, upbeat drums that follow pop rhythms but aren’t generic, bass lines that create an infrastructure of low end to make sure the mix isn’t too thin, and catchy vocals with just enough reverb and delay to make them stand out, all allow for The American Scene’s work to hold its own against other acts in the genre.

Darker, mellow songs like “Nails of Love” aren’t too common on the album, but offer a good break from the more upbeat songs that abound. As “Nails of Love” ends and transitions into “4th and Broadway”, an upbeat piece with more guitar presence, listeners can understand that the band has a whimsical play of dynamics with their instruments, as well as a writing process that leads to diverse works.

The album is also filled with lyrics that college students can relate to, such as the extremely catchy chorus of “Nails Of Love”, which is guaranteed to remind you of at least one person you’ve met before: “She doesn’t want to be in love/Doesn’t think it’s any fun/All her friends are getting high on the weekends/He doesn’t dance unless he’s drinking/But he’s been breaking it down”

With no song clocking in at over 4 minutes, and most of the 10 songs on the album being less than 3 and a half minutes, Haze offers listeners music that can stay on repeat because of how short and catchy each song is. Whether you’re looking for something to go for a run to, trying to find new study music, or simply just want to listen to a new band, watch out for Haze in the near future; The American Scene made a mark on my music listening habits, and I’m sure it will for you, too.

 

“Royal Blue”, the band’s single for the album, can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JQDKVHIxdY

“Through Struggle Comes Strength” – The Involuntary, EP Review

“You live your life so aimlessly, without a purpose I can see.”

From the beginning, this five song EP hits hard and doesn’t look back. With lead singer, Dan John’s powerful opening statements, its evident this New Jersey five-piece means business. Forming from the ruins of several renowned post-hardcore acts all over Jersey, John (Cry the Beloved City, By Defect) is supported by guitarists Ryan Robb (The Red Effect) and Rahul Chitale (Fairfield) as well as bassist Peter D’elia (Elodie) and drummer Vince Rifino (Gold, The Red Effect). Though a few years removed from their previous acts, The Involuntary are making a splash in a stagnant New Jersey hardcore scene with their debut EP, “Through Struggle Comes Strength”.

Showing off their arsenal of talents, The Involuntary seem to have no weak spots in their power lineup. If you were around 5 or 6 years ago in the New Jersey music scene, you would know that these guys were all over the Garden State playing shows together, just for different groups. Now together, they’re creating buzz in a scene that’s been struggling for some time now.

 

Showcasing their wide range of influences from old-school Thrice, math rock studs Minus the Bear, and techni-core giants August Burns Red, The Involuntary are proving that there is plenty of originality left to be explored in hardcore music. While the casual hardcore listener can access this EP without a struggle, the deep listener will appreciate the little things the band has made an effort to display. They tracked the record in Montville, New Jersey, with Mike Lisa, a former bandmate of Rifino’s as well as a popular local producer. From there the tracks went to Rifino’s older brother Matt, where he mastered the EP at NBC studios. While the production value on the EP is outstanding, it is not over-produced, a medium that many hardcore bands struggle to achieve with all of the temptations of studio help.

John fully embraced the roll of the frontman, something he has yet to do in his musical career. Previously he was a guitarist/singer, but now he is displaying his talents in both singing and screaming, and doing both in outstanding quality. Robb and Chitale’s guitars compliment each other, and while neither of them is considered the “lead” they dual parts and make sure the listener is never bored. D’elia, a former guitarist in his last stint with Elodie, proves he can write and perform basslines that will entice fans and rumble their bones. Rifino is drumming at another level throughout the record, continuously challenging himself and his bandmates, while also making sure the listener keeps their heads bobbing through the entire 16 minutes of chaos.

The Involuntary are proving that there is some excitement left in this genre that New Jersey has been quick to abandon. This work has been in production for about a year and a half now, the band is aiming to keep fans and listeners coming back for more. They do just that with these five tracks, and their exciting live performances. The EP is available June 21 on the band’s Soundcloud and Bandcamp, as well as streaming on their YouTube page. You can like The Involuntary on Facebook for updates.

Concert Review – Manchester Orchestra, Balance and Composure, and Kevin Devine at Terminal 5, NYC

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Photo by:  Ashley Silva

 

Terminal 5 was packed to its 3,000 person capacity Thursday, May 22 as Manchester Orchestra came to town, bringing along friends Balance and Composure and Kevin Devine and the Godamn Band. All three of the acts have released albums within the past two years that were made to played live. Manchester Orchestra’s Cope is a raw, punch you in the mouth, sort of rock and roll album, full of huge distorted guitars accompanied by Andy Hull’s soaring voice. Balance and Composure’s The Things We Think We’re Missing is an emo-grunge album that hones Nirvana’s Nevermind but also poses aggression and melody in a way similar to Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary. Kevin Devine has released two albums in the past year, entitled Bulldozer and Bubblegum respectively, that transcend his usual acoustic power pop as well as his love for loud pop punk.

Kevin Devine and the Godamn Band started the show off, coming out to a cheesy country song that was apparently chosen by their sound guy. They got right into it, playing their spastic form of pop punk that is undoubtedly influenced by early 2000 Brand New and blink-182. Kevin Devine hopped around stage doing his best impression of Peter Cottontail. At one point, Devine started to sing the overplayed Nickelback song “How You Remind Me”, but thankfully retracted from the chorus into one of his own jams. One exciting part of Devine’s set was when he went into his ballad “Cotton Crush” and the road crew quickly set up a second drum set on stage, as a guest drummer came out to join them. While the second drummer didn’t do much to differentiate himself from the other drummer, it was pretty rock and roll. Kevin Devine and the Godamn Band got the crowd moving and prepared them for the night of excitement that was to come.

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Photo by: Ashley Silva

On comes Balance and Composure after about a 20 minute intermission. Behind them hung a large white banner displaying their name in a simple, lower-cased font. By the sound board in the back of the room was an oil-wheel projector that spun tie-dye colored blobs around on their banner. While the background was mesmerizing, it didn’t take away from the epic set that was about to happen. Balance went into their hit single from their debut album “Quake”. As the guitars lulled the crowd into a trance, lead singer Jon Simmons casually wandered over to the microphone, just to announce to the crowd, “Bang your fucking head”, just before the song dropped. The energy in Terminal 5 was electric and the crowd came alive in full force from that point on. Balance mixed in a variation of songs from both of their albums, feeding off the crowds energy. Fans were crowd surfing and opening up push-pits everywhere possible inside the venue, mimicking scenes of past years’ Warped Tours. Balance and Composure, on their largest tour to date, playing alongside a band in Manchester Orchestra that has influenced their music in various ways, showed no nerves, and won the crowd over with their loud, emotional songs.

Now for the main course, the beautifully chaotic, Manchester Orchestra. Opening the stage up to its full capacity and displaying a large banner, simply reading COPE behind them, the men from Atlanta took the city stage, opening up with their single from their second album “Shake it Out”. It was almost like they knew that they crowd would freak out once they heard those opening notes and the tambourine hits because the place literally erupted. Not one person in the venue was not singing along to the words, “Shake it out, shake it out. God I need another round, another round, another round, another I can feel it now.” Manchester went through a set which suprisingly only included four songs from Cope. The set was very heavy in songs from their second album Mean Everything to Nothing. It also included a Bad Books cover which included Kevin Devine joined them on stage to end their set. Of course once they left the stage the fans began the “one more song” chant. To the fans excitement, they came out with a vengeance, with their first single from Cope, “Top Notch”. The crowd seemed to have its own pulse and moved along with every song throughout the encore, until Manchester finally closed the night with “Only One”, where Hull proclaims, “I am the only one who thinks I’m going crazy, and I don’t know what to do”, while the entire crowd seemed to feel his emotion and sing along.

The show was loud, fun, exciting, and inspiring all in one package. Every band knew how to work the crowd and feed off of their energy and emotion. Each band also nearly replicated their sound from their albums, from every note hit, to each bit of guitar feedback. These three groups worked perfectly together and it would be surprising to not see some of them on tour together sometime in the near future.

“Loom” Frameworks (by Chase Montani)

With the recent surge of melodic post-hardcore, thanks to releases from Touché Amoré, Deafheaven, La Dispute, and Pianos Become the Teeth in the past two years, it’s been a breath of fresh air to see this new era of unmatched creativity and willingness to experiment. Frameworks clearly wanted to get in on the action. While Frameworks is definitely the most spastic of the bunch, they are also the most dynamic. Their debut album “Loom” shows off the potential that has been building around them since their first EP “Every Day is the Same” was presented to the scene in 2011. Frameworks caught the attention of Alternative Press and were featured in their “AP&R” section, as an upcoming unsigned act that revealed their formation was driven by the fact that they “really wanted to find an efficient way to waste a lot of money, quit our jobs and drop out of school.” Hailing from the musical hotbed that is Gainesville, Florida, which has produced acts such as Less Than Jake, Against Me!, and Hot Water Music, the “tropical screamo” five-piece are making their case that they should be mentioned in the conversation when talking about the southern city.

Frameworks enlisted Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Joyce Manor) to produce “Loom” which proved to be a perfect fit for both parties. Shirley’s presence is immediately felt on the opening track “Disquiet”, clocking in at just 23 seconds, with an acoustic guitar strumming among the opening of doors and background whistles. The album shows off a raw, yet superb quality, with guitars full of depth and drums that are felt strongly with every hit. Vocalist Luke Pate flails his voice across the remaining ten songs with such sentiment, that it doesn’t even matter that you can barely understand what’s coming out of his mouth; much in the way George Clark’s vocals are felt on Deafheaven’s “Sunbather”. Yet Pate’s angst and despair are felt, whether you can understand him or not.

Frameworks display their love for trialing in every track. The title track breaks down into a convulsive period of confusion, where the listener cannot be even sure that a guitar could sound such a way. “True Wealth” finishes with a guitar lick played in reverse that instantly lulls you in, with a methodical drum pattern guiding you right to the end. “Rosie” contains some of the most intensive drumming in the album, layered over distorted bass that grabs you and doesn’t want to let go. “Bright and New” begins with a beat that will have you bopping your head back and forth, then takes you through a series of chaotic verses, only to let you down gently with a shoegaze inspired ending that will have you saying “how the hell did this end up here?”

The instrumentals conveyed by Frameworks aren’t the only imaginative aspect of the album. Pate has stated that “Loom” is largely a concept album, debating the idea that he himself will look out of his window and realize that he won’t be able to have the chance to interact with most of the people that pass, and how this idea looms over him. However, the concept isn’t solely felt in the lyrics, as the songs themselves go from upbeat and energetic to a heavier and darker section, only to come back full circle to a more uplifting tone with the album closer, “Agreeable Thoughts”, which begins with what appears to be the sound of rain underneath some of the nicest sounding, reverb immersed guitar and builds up until the album perfectly comes to a close.

“Loom” seems to have what it takes to become an instant classic for screamo and post-hardcore fans of all types. It has tracks that appeal to the fans of heavy, dark hardcore, while also appealing to fans of melodic chaos. Frameworks may be rookies in the scene as far as full-length albums go, but are by no means rookies to making well thought out, imaginative music.

“Loom” is available on April 29 and comes courtesy of Topshelf Records. You can catch them on tour through May alongside Gates and Tiny Moving Parts.