Last month I had the opportunity to meet with Audrye Session’s lead-singer and guitarist, Ryan Karazija’s, before their show at Spaceland in Silverlake. The Bay Area quartet has been stirring up the music scene from their hometown of San Francisco to New York and everywhere in between. The band made their full-length recording debut in 2007 with “Braille”, an independent release that led to a major-label recording contract with the RCA Records subsidiary Black Seal [Albert Hammond Jr.]. This past summer they completed their self-titled debut, which will be released in early 2009. The album was recorded with Andrew Scheps (U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash) and Matt Radosevich (The Hives, Two Gallants). They also released a 4-track EP a couple weeks ago.
We covered a lot of ground from aliens to Thom Yorke, to crashing with fans on the road.
R&G: How did you come up with the band’s name?
Ryan: I was performing solo and had booked myself at a coffee shop close to where I was living [Livermore, California], and they wanted to know if I wanted to be booked under my own name or if I had another name. The TV was on in the background while I was on the phone, and a Sony commercial was on with a blue alien making a mix CD called the Audrye Sessions. So I said, “Just put me down as the Audrye Sessions.” It stuck forever.
R&G: How long have you guys been together?
Ryan: We’ve been together roughly five or six years, but the line-up has gone through some changes. Alicia [Campbell], Mike [Knox] and I have been together for a good five years, though.
R&G: You and Alicia dated at one time. How did you guys manage to keep the band together?
Ryan: I think for the most part people were amazed that we were able to make it work. Both of us are really stubborn. After we broke up it was like, “Well, I’m not going to leave the band,” and she said, “I’m not going to leave the band. Screw you.” Somehow everything worked out, and now we have a great relationship.
R&G: How many songs from “Braille” [self-released] made it onto the new album?
Ryan: There are five of them, I think. I’m not sure. I don’t even know the order of the songs. I haven’t heard the final mastering of it. Everybody else has. I don’t really want to listen to it.
R&G: Why don’t you want to listen to it?
Ryan: It’s just weird for me to listen to my work.
R&G: When do you expect to release the album?
Ryan: January is what they are saying, but it’s been done since June. It’s good touring on it, but I think any time off that we have we’re going to be back in the studio trying to squeeze in new songs just to keep it interesting for ourselves. Otherwise, we’re not going to perform well. We have to be excited, too. I think the excitement comes from being in different places, having people there that are excited to see us. If we were just practicing the songs over and over in the studio and had to do it every night, that would be hell, like having to watch the same movie over and over.
R&G: Are you the primary songwriter?
Ryan: I was the primary songwriter. The group is a pretty funny combination. Alicia had never played bass before and Mike had never played in a band. He had only been playing guitar for about three years when he joined us. I was the only person who had ever actually done any writing, so that’s kind of how it worked for a while. Though, Mike and I have been coming up with a lot of stuff together recently. But for this album, yes, I’m the primary songwriter. That will probably change in the future.
R&G: Does having other songwriters take the pressure off of you?
Ryan: We’ll try anything. I have no problem with anyone bringing something in and being like, “Hey, let’s try doing this,” even if I don’t think it’s going to work. Sometimes I’m wrong, sometimes I’m right. We’re all pretty open-minded. I feel like it only takes ten seconds to try it out, but you can spend the rest of your life regretting not trying something.
R&G: What’s the primary difference between working with a label and going at it alone?
Ryan: We’re still doing exactly what we were doing before. It’s just like we have a little help now. Before, when we did a few trips on the road we didn’t make any money. Everything was coming out of our own pockets, so we’d come back and we’d be broke. We are lucky to have a good support team at the label. They’ll help us with gas and hotels. But one of the exciting parts about touring is asking the audience while you’re on stage, “Hey, does anybody have a place to stay?” We don’t really do that anymore because we know we’re comfortable and we know we can go get a motel.
R&G: I imagine it’s kind of cool to see who’s going to say “yes.”
Ryan: Yeah, sometimes it’s interesting where you wind up staying. It’s like, great, and they’ll have a party. And sometimes it can be weird.
R&G: I’ve read several publications that say your vocals sound like Thom Yorke’s during the “Pablo Honey” and “The Bends” years. I have to agree there are similarities on some of your songs. Have you heard this before?
Ryan: Yeah. I think about that a lot. And I don’t know what I think because it’s fucking Thom Yorke. That’s great. Cool. He’s fucking amazing. But there’s also a thing that stresses me out about it. He‘s so different and that’s why they are who they are. I know there have been comparisons of our songs, that we have the same kind of style, very songy-versus-chorus hooks. It concerns me because you can never get to a bigger level if you’re just “like it.” I also think that I change from song to song depending on what the songs are like. I don’t do it intentionally – kind of subconsciously. My voice caters to how I think the song should feel. I’m not like, “This song kind of sounds folky. I’m going to sing like a folk singer.” It just happens. I actually haven’t been listening to Radiohead very much lately because that stuff kind of went to my head. At the end of the day I would never compare us to them. If somebody says I sound like Thom Yorke, well then, Thank You.