Few musicians take the time to master their instrument in the way that Oklahoma City singer-songwriter Dustin Prinz has; he’s a guitar virtuoso in every sense of the word, and Eleven gives him the chance to show just how far he can push that skill.
Listening to Horse Thief’s previous release — the haphazardly melodramatic Grow Deep, Grow Wild— felt like a chore. Whatever potential the Oklahoma City folk-pop act demonstrated on the EP was obscured behind a formulaic, contrived and ultimately hollow cloud. But it at least offered a glimmer of promise for a band consisting of, frankly, five pretty talented dudes. Critics saw it; the band’s management saw it; its current label, Bella Union, saw it; and its increasingly fervid fan base saw it.
There’s always a sense of danger when debuting songs in a live setting and playing them well. Without having heard the studio versions, expectations are set according to the live incarnations. But capturing the breadth of free-flowing atmosphere and sheer volume on a disc, vinyl or digital file isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially for a band as vociferous as Colourmusic.
As titles go, Churches into Theatersis an apt descriptor for the debut album from Oklahoma City rockers Em and the MotherSuperiors. It’s a reverential record, one that shares the gospel of classic rock, blues and soul but embraces the need to refashion it for modern times, channeling The Dead Weather, Grace Potter and Cage the Elephant along the way.
Either way, I love me some Broncho. So picking Ryan Lindsey’s brain over beers and chicken nachos a couple weeks ago was a lot of fun, both because he’s an energetic musician and very humorous and endearing in person. The following interview should be read while imagining my super-nerdy, overly inquisitive voice and Ryan’s casual, self-deprecating demeanor:
OKS: Do you feel like Broncho is an outlet for you and your bandmates’ songwriting aggression?
Lindsey: Yeah. It’s definitely helped me with my solo stuff. There’s a certain amount of energy that was getting confusing on my solo record that I’m still finishing. Broncho came up in the middle of that, and it took away that half that wasn’t making sense. It opened up that record to make sense.
OKS: Speaking of filters, what did you guys do to capture the vintage punk sound that comes out of this record? Because fewer and fewer punk albums sound gritty these days. They feel more polished, like pop-punk.
Lindsey: After we recorded the whole thing — well, we also used a lot of old gear — we mixed it down to a cassette tape, and that was the secret filter. After we did that it made a ton of sense to me. It felt good for a punk record because it broke up really well. I like the way it turned out.
Jarod [Evans, Blackwatch Studios] and Chad [Copelin, also Blackwatch] engineered it at Church [Studios, in Tulsa]. Then we came back and did “Social,” “Get Off My Reservations” and one other song maybe after that here [in Norman]. We added “Social” and “Reservations,” and there were a couple songs that were demos. We liked the way those sounded.
Some of the vocal takes are, like, scratch vocals. There was, like, the idea for the lyrics. Some of them I wrote out lyrics, some of them we tried to write them out together. It was either right before I’d walk in to sing, or while I was singing.
OKS: That’s funny, I wouldn’t have expected that to be the case, you guys writing lyrics on-the-fly like that. I feel like, for a punk record, they’re actually really well-developed.
Lindsey: You mean, as opposed to writing the lyrics first?
Lindsey: That’s kinda the opposite way I feel comfortable writing songs, so [Broncho’s] been pushing me to try doing that.. I’ve always been a melody-first guy. I’ll maybe have an idea for the song lyrically, but it’ll usually come out of writing this melody. Some word will come out and I’ll build it off of that.
OKS: Listening to the album, one of the reasons I liked it so much was that you guys seemed to stick to these classic punk tropes. There’s the mental breakdown song, the “I don’t wanna do this” song and so on. Were you guys intentionally trying to write like that?
Lindsey: It just happened. We’re as much kids as anybody who ever started a punk band when they were 16. I still feel like a little kid. I have a lot of the same frustrations, but I also don’t have as much. So I’m not really as frustrated as the character in the songs. It’s more like a funny way of looking at it. We never sat down and mapped it out like, “OK, we’ve gotta have a song about a psychiatrist that’s really about smoking pot” — it just happened.
OKS: After you guys played that crazy Norman Music Festival 4 show, did you just walk offstage and well, what was that like playing that thing?
Lindsey: Steven [Battles, of Chrome Pony] was yelling at me to get the fuck offstage: “Get the fuck offstage now!” [Laughs.] No, that was a fun show. It was one of those shows where all those people were really looking for a party after the festival. So it didn’t matter necessarily who was there, but whoever was there had to put on a great show. And we just tried to capitalize on the fact that there was, y’know, a thousand people behind Coach’s, in an alley. It was fun.
OKS:And when you guys played The Soundpony in Tulsa this summer…
Lindsey: You were at that show?
OKS: Yeah, I was in Tulsa for a buddy’s wedding … and wound up there. The energy level inside that place, to me felt like the NMF show condensed into a smaller venue.
Lindsey: Where people could push the band, or hand them a bottle of whiskey.
OKS: Yeah. How do you guys like performing like that? In all that chaos?
Lindsey: In the small environments? I think it’s probably the best. It’s either that or on a stage with a really good P.A., like at Norman Music Festival. But on a stage with a real shitty P.A. is just a bummer. Cause you’re not involved with the crowd, and it sounds shitty. Man, Norman Music Festival’s probably the best of both worlds.
OKS: Yeah cause you guys had people climbing onstage during that one.
Lindsey: At Norman Music Festival? Yeah. People were climbing on rooftops. And someone slapped my ass. I was trying to lay down a solo.
OKS: When spontaneous stuff like that happens, do you kinda not realize it until afterward?
Lindsey: I didn’t even really think about it until maybe a couple days later because everybody was just kinda drinking all weekend and pretty fucked-up. I didn’t understand what happened the whole weekend until afterward. It’s like when you meet up later and talk about the fun stuff that happened at the party the night before.
There are two great moments of a party: It’s during the party, and the morning after. It’s when everybody’s hanging out after … that’s when you realize that anything that made you mad the night before is actually really funny. Anything that was funny then is even funnier. And anything you felt pretty good about is now usually really dumb.
OKS: So what part of the party process does Broncho come from?
Lindsey: It’s all the day before the party. Thursday night. Dealing with shit, trying to get your life together. Maybe this next record will be the evening after. When you’re worn out. You tried to sleep all day but you couldn’t. You’re just tired.
OKS:What’s in you guys’ future?
Lindsey: We’ve got a lot of songs together for a new record. We’ve talked about starting to record it in the near future, but we definitely want to get out and play some shows. That’s our first priority: to start playing some, at least small, tours.
We actually wanted to go on tour this summer, but the Unwed Sailor tour happened (Broncho bassist Jonathon Ford plays for Unwed Sailor), which actually was good for Broncho because Larry [White, the band’s manager] was on the road networking. So hopefully some stuff will come out of that.
OKS: You mentioned recording “Can’t Get Past the Lips” with old equipment. What’d you use?
Lindsey: We used this old RCA pre-amp — I don’t remember the number — and we used this vintage 47, this old, old mic. Supposedly this mic we used — this guy who owns all the equipment that’s in Church [Studios, in Tulsa] right now — he has this friend who owns a studio in Chicago, this really old studio where they recorded Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” There’s a ton of shit that was recorded on this mic, and this guy has it. He kinda acts like it’s not a big deal, “Oh, people have shit like this all the time; it’s not that big a deal,” and I’m like, “No, this should be in a museum. I shouldn’t be touching this mic.”
And he’s naming all this other stuff from other places and people he knows who have this and that, and he says, “It’s supposed to be used.” But I’m just like, “Yeah, that mic shouldn’t be in Oklahoma.” “Respect” is a huge song. It’s a whole fucking ton, and it means a lot to a whole bunch of people. And, I shouldn’t be singing into it.