Since delivering their debut album ‘Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride’ in 2009, The Black Ryder have survived a number of tough years. The Australian duo (Aimée Nash & Scott Von Ryper) have relocated to Los Angeles, dealt with divorce, lost friends and juggled their own label The Anti-Machine Machine. In February, their self-produced second album ‘The Door Behind The Door’ was released. After talking to Aimée about it, it’s amazing that it even exists! But here we are, with nine new songs that make up one of the strongest albums I’ve heard all year. The Black Ryder are fresh from a run of headline shows and are about to head on tour with The Jesus And Mary Chain, but Aimée has made time to give us an in-depth (and honest) take on life, music and her future plans. It’s been five years since the release of your debut album ‘Buy The Ticket, Take the Ride’. How has your mindset changed going into album number two? Moving from Sydney to Los Angeles brought its fair share of challenges. Relocating your life, band, and business to another country is no easy task. We didn’t know too many people when we first arrived so it took time to find our feet. There are so many different ways you can release music now, there was a lot to consider. Our first record was released on our own imprint The Anti-Machine Machine through EMI Music Australia and we assembled our own team who helped set up the release, we then later released on Mexican Summer (USA) & Vinyl Junkie (Japan). There were challenges with this staggered release (as our record came out at different times). They were each different release scenarios and our music was not available in other territories, so from that experience we really felt that with this new record we needed to find a way to release our music internationally, and on our own imprint, because ultimately we wanted to be as involved as possible with releasing our music. We had mutual friends who were connected with The Orchard (our distributor) who helped facilitate an introduction & we’re grateful that they were interested in distributing our label as they have been very supportive and fantastic to work with. What’s the concept of ‘The Door Behind The Door’? Is it about placing conflicting ideas, sounds and moods together? More than anything this album was an unpredictable journey that encompasses a lot of different moods and themes that we were exploring and experiencing throughout the making of the record. It’s about taking the good with the bad, from feelings of disconnection and chaos to wanting to make something that felt soothing and cathartic. We didn’t sit down and say “we want a song”, or “our album to sound like this or that”, we let the mood and how we were feeling take us there. It was an emotional investment in time and in ourselves that I hope will provide the listener with a positive listening experience, because that was what we were searching for ourselves. The lead single ‘Santaria’ sounds like shoegaze meets country to me, Scott delivers his vocals with a twang! How did the song come together? ‘Santaria’ was the first song that really came together for this record and it made sense to go with that as the first song we would release. Scott led the charge on this one. I believe that twang is just a natural part of his style and voice, nothing that we write or record feels forced or unnatural, it’s more of an honest extension of ourselves. Scott had the chords and basic structure of the song together before we left Australia but it took time to flesh out the bones. There’s a heaviness and weight to ‘Santaria’ that hits you right in the heart, perhaps the further along the journey we were the more sense it made to develop it into the song that it is now. Was self-producing the album a challenge? It seems the “hands off” approach just isn’t what The Black Ryder is about. Of course, it was challenging in many ways. We’re fairly insular people who consider what we’re doing as a long-term project. We knew we wanted to interpret the music in our own way and that took time to develop. We have very particular tastes but we also trust and respect each other so we don’t feel as much of a need to have an outsider on the production team. We like to be hands on in all areas of making and releasing our music, so we wanted to retain as much control of the production of the music as we could. Which again took some time as Scott engineered the album and it was very much a learning process, given we wanted to raise the bar higher than our debut album. We were very fortunate to have had some assistance from friend and engineer Wesley Seidman, (who works at internationally renowned Ocean Way Studios in LA), which is where we mostly recorded the drums for the record. Wesley brought his expert knowledge and wisdom to this record, which was a wonderful asset to have, and without question contributed to the quality of the end result. Because of this, do you need to be more music industry savvy? I’m guessing you’ve learnt loads in the past few years (having your music placed in TV shows/soundtracks etc)? I think if you’re going to invest your time, energy and money into something you really care about then it’s worth learning as much as you can about the business. In addition to learning to play music from an early age (violin first, then piano and guitar), I also developed an interest in the industry behind it. I read ‘Wonderland Avenue’ by Danny Sugarman when I was 14 or so, amongst other music biographies and autobiographies, which was an inspiring story given that Danny started working with The Doors when he was 12 and would later go on to manage them, as well as Iggy Pop for a time. Sadly his tale was a tragic one but it left an impression on me and I wanted to learn more about the business and the mechanics of making, and releasing music. At 15 I took an artist management course, for work experience in high school I chose to work at an independent record store (Red Eye Records in Sydney). When I left high school I wasn’t interested in going to college or studying, as much as I was in starting work straight away. I didn’t really have the confidence to believe that I could make a living as a musician until much later. When I left high school I started work at Warner Music and worked my way up through various roles, starting as an office assistant to working in marketing and sales, to publicity and promotions. From there I went on to work at EMI Music in the press department, I also worked for independent Artist Management, press and radio promotion companies. So I certainly gained some insight and experience from all of that. Which no doubt has helped give me some direction and ideas about setting up our own label. I’m still in a place of learning, that never stops. The industry will continue to change and evolve. I’d like to develop The Anti-Machine Machine into not just a label but also a Creative Agency that covers graphic design, music production, soundtrack and film scoring. Was the decision to relocate from Australia to Los Angeles a musical one? Are you enjoying life in L.A.? For the kind of music we were making it felt like we needed to get out of our comfort zones and travel abroad because it didn’t feel like there was much of a future for us if we didn’t. In Sydney there were only a handful of live music venues and even those were being shut down. Although we had a strong show of support from Australian press and community radio we knew that our music wasn’t the kind of music that was likely to get much radio support. Our songs are mostly too long and not what you’d consider radio format. In order to connect with a broader audience we knew we’d have to take our music on the road. As for living in Los Angeles, I love living here, although I do get homesick and miss my family and friends. I’ve connected with some wonderful and inspiring people here. I love being close to the desert and ocean. I love seeing the mountains when I drive. I must admit I’ve been in a state of creative hibernation since we moved here, I don’t really go out much. I like staying home and working on whatever projects I’m working on. Aside from finishing our album and setting up our label, I also completed a course in Graphic Design last year, so all of those things keep me busy. Do you think the band could have achieved the same success if you were still based in Australia? No, not for the kind of music we make. In Australia there are only a few cities you could afford to play in at the level we were at before we left. We wanted to make atmospheric and cinematic music and not have any rules or formulas in mind when we were making it. We didn’t care as much about fitting on radio formats as much as we did about making a body of work that we could be proud of. I don’t want to fit into any mould, I want to make my own, but when you’re taking that approach you need to consider the limitations of your environment, and if it’s not going to be sustainable where you are then you need keep moving and keep working until you connect with your audience. ‘Seventh Moon’ sounds amazing, it’s beautifully produced. Did the layers come together piece by piece? Or did you know going in that you were going to add big, choir like backing vocals? Thank you *smiles*. The layers always come together piece by piece, which is why some songs can take longer than others, especially when it’s just the two of us putting everything in place. With our songs it will start with an idea and then we have to construct each piece, each part, and the further along the road you get the more clarity you have about how you want to approach it. But sometimes you need some time and space to get that perspective. We didn’t have a producer working with us to tell us how to arrange things, we did that ourselves. As some of the songs developed we knew we wanted to have additional singers because we wanted a level of impact that we wouldn’t have been able to achieve on our own. What song do you like best on the album? That’s a tough question to answer because it keeps changing. ‘Let Me Be Your Light’ feels very special to me because at the time we were working on it I was feeling quite lost. The amount of obstacles we faced with moving countries and getting through making this album had piled up. At times it felt quite impossible to finish because, when you’re trying to figure out how to do something and you don’t have the answers, it can feel incredibly frustrating. My health had failed me in different ways, I’d been in hospital, we lost some loved ones along the way. I was feeling disconnected living in LA, I was homesick but the home I was missing didn’t even exist anymore. So that made me feel even more lost. But there was something that was telling me to stay the course, that it wasn’t time to throw in the towel just yet, and that’s mostly the sentiment behind that song. I wanted to hear something reassuring and soothing, and in the end I had to be that for myself. It would have been a lot easier to give up and believe that we couldn’t do this, but we didn’t, and here we are. Since we released the record we’ve had some really positive messages from people about that song in particular so that makes me feel good, that we’ve created something meaningful. How do you and Scott work together creatively? Is it a 50/50 song writing partnership? We share the load. We have an interesting and unique partnership (having been married and divorced). There is a level of intimacy and trust that I couldn’t have with just anyone. Some songs are more one of us than the other, but it’s always a collaborative effort. Have you ever considered becoming a trio? I can play a mean tambourine! *grin* Three is my lucky number! We’re actually a four piece when we play live though, we’ve been playing with Graham Roby on drums from the past 4+ years, and Nicole Emery on Bass, guitar and additional vocals for the past 2+ years. What are pros and cons of releasing your music independently? Do you plan on releasing any other acts through the label? Let’s start by saying it’s a lot of work and requires some serious commitment. At times I’ve found myself wishing that someone else would come in with all the answers. But then you realize that no one really has all the answers. I’m proud that we did it this way because it shows we are dedicated to the cause, and we’re invested in what we’re doing, at the end of the day we know we’ve done our best to make this work. I would love to release other acts on our label, although we still need to continue working this record. I wouldn’t want to take on anyone else’s music unless I knew I could do the right thing by them, and it’s still very early days for us, it’s on the cards though. If you could pick any singer (alive or dead) to guest on the album who would it be? Pete Kember (Spectrum / Sonic Boom / Spacemen 3) has always been someone I’ve admired and respected. I love his work so I’d love to work on something with him one day. What albums are you listening to at the moment? Any tips for SBWR readers? I really love The Vacant Lots album ‘Departure’. We played with them at our first NYC show about four years ago now, and just recently again in London. They did a fantastic job with their debut, I love those guys. The new Tamaryn album is also going to be a special release this year, it’s not out yet (I think due out in the US Summer), but I believe there will be some new music being shared very soon. You’ll be heading back on tour shortly, playing Austin Psych Fest with Primal Scream and touring with The Jesus and Mary Chain – excited much!? How do you prepare? Honestly these days it’s about taking rest where you can get it, because it can be quite hectic on the road. Lugging around gear, racing to the next city on little to no food or sleep, you can get run down pretty quickly. There’s a lot of pressure and it’s a very unpredictable road, taking care of yourself is important if you’re in it for the long haul. I’ve seen enough people who burn out quickly and there are plenty of casualties along the way. For me the most important thing is playing the best show we can play. Rehearsing as much as you can is of course the best kind of preparation too. And yes, of course I am very excited and grateful for the opportunity to play with The Jesus & Mary Chain. They were a band that had such a huge impact on me so it’s a huge honor to say the least. Levitation (Austin Psych Fest) is an incredible line up, the best I think I’ve seen, and those guys really know how to put on a great festival. this is our third time there so I’m really looking forward to being apart of that. What are your plans after the tour? More recording, album three perhaps? *wink wink* We’ve already started working on new songs and recordings. We had quite a lot of material that didn’t make it onto ‘The Door Behind The Door’, for one reason or another, so I really want to get back to working on music. I’d like to spend more time working on visual art and design too, and I’m also talking about some film collaborations. There will be more dates throughout the year no doubt, and I really hope we can get back to Australia. Thanks so much for taking the time out to chat, and all the best on tour. **THE BLACK RYDER’S ‘THE DOOR BEHIND THE DOOR IS AVAILABLE NOW VIA THE ANTI-MACHINE MACHINE** Visit The Black Ryder online @ The Anti-Machine Machine @ Facebook.