After a six year hiatus, alternative rock duo Envy On The Coast returned to the fold in 2016 and have put out their first material since ‘Lowcountry’ in the form of the soulful ‘Ritual’. Ryan Hunter and Brian Byrne have teamed up once again to deliver their new EP full of everything from delicate and melodic moments to angry and aggressive heights. We grabbed the guys for a chat about what they have been up to, the sound of ‘Ritual’ and what they think of their classic album ‘Lucy Gray’ 10 years after the release.
DEAD PRESS!: Envy On The Coast are back – is this now a full time thing again? Can we expect Envy On The Coast to be around for the foreseeable future?
Ryan: If by being a full time thing you mean playing shows and making music as Envy on the Coast, yes. At the same time, we both have other creative endeavours that have become important to us over the last 5-6 years, so it’ll be a balance.
Brian: I think it’ll be a balance for sure. Doing Envy is a great creative outlet and a passion for both of us but we’re both older and have other priorities to tend to.
DP!: How did the 2 of you get back together and start playing shows again?
Ryan: I think it was born out of a few conversations over the course of a few years. Iʼd come back to NY and itʼd come up and weʼd be like “yeah that was fun. We should do that. I think a lot of people would really be into that.” Enough of those conversations transpired before we eventually pulled it together.
Brian: We just got tired of getting to this certain point where it was like “yeah that’d be cool” and then having it not go farther so one day we just said “fuck it” and pulled the trigger.
DP!: Was there always a plan to return to making albums as a band when you split, or is ‘Ritual’ just a natural extension of getting together and playing some shows?
Ryan: I feel like Iʼve seen Brian say in interviews that it wasnʼt premeditated and that they came about naturally. In that case, Iʼm guilty of scheming because I donʼt think Iʼd have been excited about just purely being a nostalgic entity. A large part of my motivation to do this again was missing making music with Bri. Maybe the majority of it, actually. And the decision to move forward without the past members was an easy one to make once the potential of that happening became closer to a reality.
Brian: I don’t think either of us wanted to be part of the state-fair nostalgia circuit by any means. We’re not Guns N’ Roses going out and making millions a show to play the hits. It takes a lot of work to put together a show we feel proud of and if we’re gonna go out and play and present this band, I think it was always an unspoken
thing that we were eventually going to have something new to bring to the table.
DP!: Are there any particular moments you’ve missed during the seven year hiatus that made you want to get back to playing shows as a band? Perhaps a certain festival offered you a slot or there was a band you wanted to play with?
Ryan: Yes, actually. My friend Rob Hitt did a reunion with his band, Midtown, a few years ago and he hit me up and was like “hey, can you guitar tech?” The answer was “not really, but sure.” I was weeks away from moving to California and it felt like a nice send off. I think it might have been Skate & Surf. Circa Survive and Saosin were there, and I hadnʼt seen any of those guys in years. It was really, really good to see them all again. Iʼve had my hands in so many different things and have delved into so much music over the last few years and for a while, I was sort of embarrassed by the scene I was born out of. Hanging with guys who came up on jazz or hip hop or whatever…being like “yeahhhhh I was an emo kid” just wasnʼt doing anything for me. But in that moment I had an immense sense of pride of what EOTC meant to people and what our little scene meant to people and I wanted to get back to it.
Brian: To be honest, after Envy ended, I sort of wrote off ever being in a real band again. I really wanted to find my voice as a writer and a songwriter without subjecting myself to other people’s input and creative opinion. The only thing that ever made me want to be in a band again was if it was going to be with Ryan and it was going to be Envy, in any capacity.
DP!: ‘Ritual’ was released through Equal Vision Records, how did this come about?
Ryan: Bri and I recorded the EP and had planned on self-releasing it. Before setting those plans in motion, we decided to send it to the few labels who we maybe would considering partnering with, and EVR was one of those labels. Weʼve known Francesca, our A&R over there, pretty much for as long as weʼve been a band. Sheʼs a great person and is at that point in her career where she doesnʼt take shit and just wants to work with good people and make great stuff. So it was a no brainer.
Brian: Francesca is the queen. Ryan and I are super sceptical of what labels can offer in 2017 besides being shady banks with shitty returns on investments, and she made us feel like we had a home with like-minded people who wanted to do something cool with us.
DP!: Mike Sapone co-produced the EP along with Ryan, was it important to work with Mike again after his work on ‘Lowcountry’? What insight does Mike bring to the whole process?
Ryan: My reasons for wanting to go back to Mike had more to do with ‘Nothing to be Gained Here’, the NK record I worked on with him. My favourite thing about Mike is his ability to take a whole bunch of layers that youʼre pretty positive donʼt work with one another, and watching him make them work. I knew it was going to be important to us to take pieces of the demos and keep them on the final recordings. You sit on demos for 7 years and you can get really attached to them. So we would do stuff like hand him the drums from the demo and tell him weʼd want them underneath the drums that Billy just played…crazy shit like that where anyone else would say, “Thatʼs ridiculous. Theyʼre going to flam against one another and itʼs gonna sound sloppy.” Mikeʼs a knob tweaker though. He always makes it work.
Brian: Mike was really the only choice for us getting a dog back in the race. His creative process is super loose, he’s a great hang, and he understands the importance of getting the tone right, which is apparent on all of his recordings.
DP!: Your new video for ‘Virginia Girls’ has just been released and, just like ‘Manic State Park’ has a soulful tone throughout – How do you think the sound of the song compares to Envy On The Coast before the split?
Ryan: The whole EP feels to me as though it would have been the next chapter in our book. It feels really natural in that sense. I think if you date when this stuff was made and then listen to the stuff Bri and I did with North Korea/NK, you can hear that progression. This was a missing piece of the puzzle that never saw the light of day. I feel as though we can now close that book and start the new book. Because I can confidently say the NEW new stuff will feel like a new book rather than a new chapter.
Brian: There are a few obvious similarities especially guitar-wise. I think I’ll always put some version that dusty western guitar feel on things we do because it’s a lot of fun to play.
DP!: The band wrote, directed, cast, shot and edited the video. How important was it to be fully involved with converting the song into a visual form? How did the DIY approach compare to your other videos?
Ryan: Weʼve honestly had a lot of bad luck working with directors throughout the years. Things just never seemed to click. We always found ourselves in some stupid costume or wearing makeup and asking ourselves what the hell we were doing there. Brianʼs been delving into the technical side of photography and film making the past few years, so he was very confident that we could execute on our own. My approach to making videos is pretty similar to how I work on music. I chase a big idea and then I spend hours tinkering and moving things around until I get there. Except in this case, instead of chopping drums and guitars up, I was editing all the footage Bri shot.
Brian: Mark Romanek we are not, but we really do appreciate and love the art form of the music video. We’re pretty stubborn when it comes to our creative vision and a lot of times directors will talk to you and look at you like “okay band guy, put on the tuxedo and let me embarrass you.” This was us reacting to that and using all the resources available to us to make our vision happen. DIY videos=DIY problems and I think we ran into a few in the editing process but it ended up being really rad and we got a lot of compliments about the video!
DP!: ‘Virginia Girls’ touches on a boredom that creates mischief within young people who are trapped in a suburban upbringing, what made you want to write about this topic?
Ryan: It was how we grew up. I think itʼs something a lot of people have experienced. You canʼt drive yet, so youʼve got your bike or your skateboard and your whole world exists in this sort of 5 mile radius. A lot of my memories of that boredom were before I found music. Once I found that, I spent all my time in basements and garages playing. But if I didnʼt have that Iʼd probably have gotten myself into a lot of shit.
Brian: The suburban landscape shaped who we are, for better or worse. It creates these very intense bonds from that shared boredom and you find yourself sorta trapped in this suspended reality with the people you like to get in trouble with, do drugs with. We wanted to present that reality sort of literally with the way we portrayed the actors and then with us performing against a backdrop of home movies.
DP!: Billy Rymer of The Dillinger Escape Plan played drums on ‘Ritual’, how did you
Ryan: We met Billy through our friend Mike, who played bass in North Korea/NK. Theyʼve been playing music together as long as Bri and I have been playing together.
Brian: I don’t think I know who you’re talking about…
DP!: 2017 means that it’s ten years since your first full length record ‘Lucy Gray’ was released – how does it feel to hit the big milestone?
Ryan: I was just rehearsing a few of those songs for these holiday shows we have and I found myself trying to wrap my head around people having this deep connection to this thing we made 10 years ago. It still amazes me.
Brian: It’s cool to say you did something ’10 years ago’ that wasn’t like shitting your pants or something. It’s amazing that people still have a super close relationship with that record and have a real visceral reaction when we play those tunes live.
DP!: What has surprised you most about the record in the last decade? Perhaps the most popular tracks weren’t the songs you thought they’d be?
Ryan: I think the evolution of my personal relationships with the songs surprises me most. I think I speak for Bri as well in saying that we both still have these periods where weʼre like, “no, Iʼm not playing that song. I do not want to play that goddamn song again” and then that very same song takes on a new life on the next tour and becomes our favourite. Itʼs weird.
Brian: When I play some of the parts I wrote 10 years ago I’m like “what the fuck was I thinking!?”. Some of it is so far outside of my style now that it’s crazy. It’s a cool physical reminder of that youthful ambition that I think is all over that record.
DP!: If you could make any changes to the album now, what would you do?
Ryan: I donʼt think any sentences has stressed me out more in the past year than you entertaining the idea of me having to go in and put in more work on that record. No thank you.
Brian: Sell more of them?
DP!: When can we next expect to see Envy On The Coast back in the UK?
Ryan: Tough to say, but weʼd love to get back. If any of the people from the UK are reading this, we see your Facebook messages and comments. We want to get back soon. I saw a few girls are coming to NY to see Dillingerʼs final shows and theyʼre super bummed that the holiday shows are happening just before their trip. Weʼre gonna do our best to get back there and make it up to you all.
Brian: Man, nothing would make me happier. Some of my fondest memories were from
tours we did over there back in the day.
The band’s new album, ‘Ritual’, is out now through Equal Vision Records.
Interview by Mike Heath (@MikeBeef)