Saturday, January 21, 2012

Driving Force: Kevin Ryan & Phillip Holman (Lariats)

By: Walter Kovacs

In this edition of Driving Force we have a double shot of rock for you. Representing the Tucson band Lariats we have Kevin Ryan and Phil Holman.

LARIATS consists of an indestructible line-up of rock and roll veterans. They are not afraid of defying odds and fighting the good fight, all in the name of kicking ass, breaking hearts and drinking beer. They have a great sound that I think is somewhere in-between Defeater and AC-DC. It is fun, passionate and sincere. I had to steal the following description directly from them to accurately describe them, because it is so great:

“LARIATS is comprised of rock and roll's redshirts. They've taken bumps and bruises in pursuit of their passion. Constantly coming back for more. In previous lives, the members of LARIATS have cut their teeth playing everything from house party's and basements to warped tour and world tours. They've seen trends and band-mates come and go. They've been stabbed in the back, heckled, weathered the storm of bad press and even worse reviews. In spite of time and distance, obligation and responsibility, the LARIATS boys have come together to write heartfelt, earnest rock and roll. They have stuck it out to write their swansong. The band is forged by fire and friendship. LARIATS are unstoppable. They are carefree and in love. LARIATS is made up of Kevin, Cody, Steve, William, and Philip Patrick. They've been in other bands. They've probably played with your band at some point in the past 15 years. LARIATS will soon be your favorite band.” 

Check out the two songs they just finished recording at:

First off is Kevin. He plays guitar. In the past he has been in other bands, including Versus the Mirror and Youinseries. 

What would you say gives you inspiration when you are writing music?

For me, inspiration for writing songs comes from a lot of places. I can be listening to a Billy Joel song and some idea will spark and make me want to sit down with my guitar. I like getting ideas from really unlikely sources. I've always played in aggressive punk/hardcore bands, but my musical tastes are quite broad and I’m not afraid to show that.

Are there any films/books/paintings that have proved to be a recurring influence the way that you look at your art?

The best example of a book influencing art is when my former band Versus the Mirror was writing our full length for Equal Vision. Our vocalist David Siebold used a lot of themes and imagery from the book House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. I didn't read the book until after the album was recorded, but it helped me understand the songs a lot more. Even our music video for Birthed by Architecture had some references to the book, which may not have been intentional.

Are there any habits/rituals that you and/or your band mates have when writing music?

One word. Beer. When my current band LARIATS do any collaborative writing, beer is the common denominator. 4/5 of us are married and we all work full time so when we get together it is a creative outlet but also it’s a time to hang with the dudes.

Have you ever written music while on tour? If so, how did you arrange songs while being away from you studio and in a different environment?

I toured North America for a year and a half collectively. I don't recall an instance where any of us could set aside time to write. There is a lot of down time for sure, but you're looking for a place to shower, eat, sleep, do your laundry etc. Without the conveniences of home, the process is a bit more difficult.

What sort of influence does the music and writings of your peers influence what you create?

I haven't derived a lot of creative influence from the bands in Tucson as much as I've been motivated by them. Seeing my friends put out records and tour helped me realize it was a possibility in my own band. I hope that the cycle continues.

How long have you been into music? What are your earliest memories of hearing something that really moved you? Were your parents musicians? What albums changed your outlook about what music is/could be?

1994 was the year for me. I picked up cassettes from Nirvana, Green Day, Weezer, and Smashing Pumpkins. Those were my "Big Four". I saw music videos of Green Day and Nirvana and that flipped a switch in my head and I thought "I want to do that". Nirvana unplugged really hit me because my first guitar was acoustic and this loud rock band played a full acoustic set and it sounded great. It was something attainable for me. My dad and his brothers are all musicians to some degree. Before I cared about playing guitar my dad would take me with him on trips to the Chicago Store. He took me to buy my first electric guitar there too. I mowed about a thousand lawns to get that Squier Stratocaster. I should have just purchased the skull-tar that was there for years.

Thanks, Kevin! Next I spoke with Phil. A super-dynamic and energetic front-man who always knows how to get the crowd into the show. In the past Phil has been in The American Black Lung. Phil is a very endearing guy who loves music and all of the positive aspects that it can bring into life. His passion and energy is contagious, both on and off of stage. This is Phil's first band since ABL. The American Black Lung, they were amazing and left a huge imprint in the world of punk rock. 

I asked Phil the same questions that I asked of Kevin, and here is what Phil had to say about his craft:

I'm an incredibly lucky dude. I was raised by a father who, in retrospect, was a sort of weird, proto-hipster, music snob. My dad was pretty vocal about his hatred towards the syrupy, nostalgia of the "golden oldies" that some of the other parents used to loudly play out of beat up pick up trucks at my little league baseball games.

My old man, called the monsters of arena rock, "out of touch dinosaurs" when they were still selling out arenas. And of course there was hair metal. Hair metal was the worst. My dad saw hair metal as the pale horse of the rock and roll apocalypse. It was the beginning of the end.

As a result, my childhood home was filled with the sounds of Chicago, Mississippi, Bakersfield, Nashville and Detroit. I don't even think we had a proper F.M. radio. It was mostly records and an occasional cassette tape. I would sit next to my dad and listen in awe to incredible tales set to raw, primitive, dangerous sounding music. Tales about hellhounds, card cheats, loose women, heartbreak, love and redemption. I was fascinated and even a little afraid of some of the songs.

To top it off, my dad was a prolific, self-taught musician. He'd replay parts of songs over and over. It was as if he was communicating with the songs themselves. They were speaking in code and I wanted to find out what they were saying. 

As I got older, I'd fall asleep to a lot of the same records my dad would play all day long. I'd follow along to the musical narratives. In my head, I'd be the protagonist (or antagonist it really just depended on the song). When I'd wake up, I would try my best to write my own rendition of the story that had enthralled me the night before. If I couldn't write it with words, I'd try my best to draw it.

By the age of 13, the inside of my little head had become a cocktail of comic books, three-chord rock songs, and every line that made me giggle in every Bill Murray movie made up to that point. I found like-minded knuckleheads while in middle school. The inevitable happened, we tried our hands at starting a band. I insisted on singing. I was ecstatic. I could finally be the narrator of my own stories. Needless, to say, most were horrible, clichéd and dripping with youthful angst, but they were all mine. 

I'm 30 years old now. I still fall asleep to the sound of all sorts of spectacular stories written and sung by equally spectacular storytellers. I also still try my hand at writing my own. Before I do, I ask myself, would this story give 9 year-old Philip butterflies? Would this story get 13 year old Philip's fist pumping? Would 17 year-old Philip sing along to this story at a house show? Lastly, I always make sure to ask myself, could 30-year-old Philip sit beside his dad and share this story with him?

That is a great way to end this interview! Be proud of who you are, embrace your roots, and never compromise who you are for the sake of others.

Lariats is playing on Wednesday January 25th at Hotel Congress, and February 1 at Skrappy’s. 

Just for fun, here's a video of American Black Lung! 

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