Longtime readers understand the admiration expressed for the home recorded artist who set out to achieve the concept album dream via the most DIY of means. From the clandestine hills of coastal Northern California emerges the phenomenon that is Self Care, lead by Ryan Michael Keller who premieres a first listen to “Sorry” featured off the forthcoming self-titled available October 20 through the prestigious Velvet Blue Music. This is the album for anyone that has seeked out something to revive the vintage radio years via the most holistic of recording means.
The Self Care self-titled itself runs a wild gamut that streaks with a strong & intrinsic understanding of record store library & archival personal collections that makes the entire record such an engaging experience. The trip starts with “Untitled 1” that sets the stage for the truth battle botanicals of “No Promise” that then abound brilliantly in may classic psych colors & tones on “Pretend to Care”, that bask in the heavy-lidded beauty of “Juliard Park”, the sleepy dazed consciousness of “As it Turns Out”, with another interlude offered on “Untitled 2” that segues into “Stay True” that rattles the lo-fi fields that intimately steps into the rhythmic night rider “I Think Its Time”. The dramatic curtain call of the album arrives with the emotion strings & heart-wrenching delivery heard on “Reincarnation” that reaches well beyond the life & death polemics, that coasts outward to the great Pacific wide open blue on “Throwing Rocks at Yourself” that infinitely alludes to the back & forth strife that illustrates through synth tones that emotive tissues of that internal struggle.
“Sorry” marches forth like an old school Ronettes/Crystals ballad where old 8-track tape spins freely with an entire wall of sound blazing forward in marching big-band steps. Self Care exhibits the inner-struggle of sentiments as if it were the golden era of 7″ single pop from the land before album was the echelon of which to achieve. And even though the Self Care album unto itself is a masterful & mesmerizing experiencing from beginning to close, “Sorry” offers a microcosm of the full-length’s power with an illustration of colloquial argumentative discourse that is exhibited like a grandiose lo-fi opus. The all apologies emotive gestures make for a ballad that breaks the solitary introspection for a marvel that extends a level of heart that is on such a frequency that sends out super-ego pop bouquets of sound to the intended recipient.
Describe how Self Care first came into being for you & tell us too about the year-plus long process in recording the debut Self Care album & how you were able to channel so many vintage twentieth century era influences & inspirations into the mix.
Well. Both of the first 2 questions can be answered in one I suppose. A couple summers back I was on tour with my friend Jess’ band Marinero and I met this band from Idaho called Hi Hazel. We were all in Seattle for something called the Northwest Psych fest. They just had this really rad, laid back psych sound. I found out that they lived really close to my family in the area. So I asked them if they would like to learn some of my songs and play a show together when I went to visit. It has always been a sort of dream of mine to tour and have bands in different towns that just know the songs. So this was an experiment in seeing if that was possible. It went really well and at the end of the night we had a big jam where we were just playing e minor and a minor. Just mellow and a nice groove. People playing tambourine and there was a 12 string electric guitar in there, and I was like “man! I need to write new stuff! So I went home and had this e minor, a minor jam in my head, bought a 12 string and started writing. The first song I wrote was a song called reincarnation. It’s one of the last songs on side b. It’s more like what I was doing before, kinda modern and sad. I feel like I had to flush out whet was left of my previous style. After that I started focusing on trying to get in the vibe of old Phil Spector recordings, and early 60’s psych pop. Most of the album sits in that area. But at the end I feel like the last song I wrote called “I think it’s time” was moving in a new direction. So I’ll probably explore that more with the next album. But you never know.
Interested in hearing about how you arrived at the moniker of Self Care and how that notion applies to both your personal & creative worlds.
Well when the album was done, I was thinking of what I should call it. Because I played everything on the album, I thought about putting it out under my own name. But in the end I figured I’ll save that for another time. This kinda felt like a band when listening back, so I figured I should come up with a band name. Also that would open it up to where it could be a band in the future. I was just coming out of one of my recording trances if you will and thinking about how therapeutic it is just being in there, blocking out the world and focusing on something singular. I usually feel really refreshed when I have completed something in the studio. So it just kinda popped out at me. Self Care is what music is for me. And for most of my friends that play music. It’s the thread that holds every other part of our lives together. So at that point it was kind of a no brainer after doing the whole Google test of course.
Describe how your coastal NorCal environments have also informed your creative insights & musical cues.
I live about 30 minutes from the coast and I go as often as I can. I pretty much go there every year on my birthday by myself to commune with the ocean. It’s so healing just to be there. It’s just a part of life for people who live here. Also please don’t say NorCal. Haha! We have a really cool music scene here in Santa Rosa. Lots of different styles and scenes. House shows all the time. I just grew up around really talented musicians, so it pushes you to take it seriously and try to either fit in or do something original.
What are the keys to crafting the sound you want to create via the freedom of home recording?
Well. I think it’s pretty obvious. If you’re a person that plays several instruments, recording is just another tool to learn. Almost like another instrument. Growing up and writing songs it was always kinda rough for me to bring songs to a band and not have them come out the way I wanted them to due to other people’s style of playing, ideas, and being rushed through the recording process because you are poor and can’t afford a lot of time in a proper studio.
What sorts of methodologies do you employ to achieve the cadences, tones & resonances that you’re listening/looking for?
I have my workflow that’s pretty simple. Just get in and start recording. I kinda just let the songs tell me how they want to sound. Sometimes it will be saturated in reverb and tremolo. But other times everything is super clean and clear. Sometimes the song needs quite a bit of compression and others it sounds better loose and kinda lo-fi sounding.
The Self Care self-titled is a super transforming & transportive album….it’s an album you can get lost in. What’s the trick in making music that moves the audience to new places internally & externally?
Thank you! Well like I said earlier. It’s all about getting lost in the process. I’ll go into my studio without even an idea and a couple hours later I’ll have a fully formed song. I just try to stay open to the process and let the song come. I feel like when it works it translates pretty well back to the listener. These days also I’m trying to be more topical with my words. Little stories, or at times several little bits of moments in one song. I think this way it leaves things more open to interpretation, and people can make it their own.
Current artists that are speaking to your heart?
There’s this guy around here named Clark. He calls his project Big Kitty. I bought his latest album a while ago and I just keep listening to it repeatedly. It’s so good! I’ve been digging the new Chad Vangaalen record. I always love his stuff. The new Beach Fossils is really good and a nice change in direction. I am in love with Chris Cohen’s records. I recently got to watch him play under the refined trees at sunset in this festival I played this summer called death stock. Some of my friends from San Francisco put it on. They have this rad label called death records and there is a lot good artists on there.
2018 hopes & meditations?
Well I just pulled a band together with some really great friends of mine and are gonna start playing shows. I’m exited and hopeful that that will turn out well. I would like to do some tours and start working on the next record soon.
Aside from all that my wish is just that people will start being nicer to each other. That we can just start to look at the similarities in other people as opposed to the differences. After all we are really just one human race.
So many terrible things keep happening and it’s really easy to get frustrated and feel helpless. I don’t have the answers to life’s big problems. I just know that it never hurts to show people love, respect and empathy.
Self Care’s self-titled will be available October 20 via Velvet Blue Music.