Seven Questions with Ryan and Pony: Musical foundations, the Melismatics, famous friends, and more

Ryan and Pony
Ryan and Pony

Seven Questions features deep dive interviews with local bands, songwriters, and personalities. Their music, their influences, what makes them tick, their earliest memories, what books they’re reading, what movies they love, and any other random ol’ thing is on the table. It’s a great way to get inside the head of Minnesota’s most important music personalities.

Whether fronting the Melismatics, playing with an all-star list of local musicians, or recording their own music, Ryan and Pony are a force on the Twin Cities music scene.

Their music has explored indie rock, power pop, EDM, and more with equal power and interestingness. “Fast as I Can” is their most recent release.

Ryan and Pony were kind enough to take part in Music in Minnesota’s Seven Questions interview series.

Question 1: Name three musicians/bands that meant a lot to you in high school. What made them so appealing? Do you still love them?

Pony: 1) Marilyn Manson. I am not into it anymore. I was a fan because of the lifestyle and imagery.  I still like a few songs. 2) Steve Miller Band. I still like him, but I listened to his music so much I don’t need to anymore. I always liked the pop sensibilities mixed with psychedelic overtones. 3) Metallica. I loved “Master Of Puppets.” I was drawn to heavy music, and I hadn’t discovered garage rock and underground music yet. I still like them.

Ryan: 1) Husker Du. I listened to them nonstop for years.  I loved their DIY ethic, their high energy performances, and the brilliant songs. I will always love that band. 2) Radiohead. Even though Pablo Honey gets written off by a lot of people, it really blew my mind as did The Bends and OK Computer. Those were all teenage staples for me. I still love them. 3) Soul Asylum. I loved Dave’s voice and songwriting. I still do.    

Question 2: You’ve led popular indie rock band the Melismatics for many years. What Melismatics albums would you suggest as a good introduction to their music?

Ryan: I’d start with The Acid Test. This is the most representative of the band mid-career and the peak of the guitar-based indie rock that we developed through years of touring. Then I’d move on to MANIA! which is my personal favorite. At this time we started experimenting with more electronic sounds and complex sonic textures. Then I’d move on to both our last full-length to date, Rising Tide, and our debut Postmodern Rock. You should hear where we started and left off.

Pony: My first introduction to The Melismatics before I joined the band was New Infection.  I loved that album and would recommend it. But they are all solid albums.

Ryan and Pony
Ryan and Pony

Question 3: Describe these people that you know/have collaborated with in one sentence:

1) Mark Mallman

Pony: He is intelligent and funny.

Ryan: A genius with a heart of gold and he loves his friends.

2) Ed Ackerson

Pony: He was the rock and roll Godfather of Minneapolis.

Ryan: A mentor, friend, and collaborator who changed my life.

3) Dan Wilson

Ryan: A brilliant and thoughtful writer with a gentle soul.

Pony: A man with great insight into songwriting and pleasant to be around.

4) Jon Auer

Ryan: Jon Auer is THE MAN.

Pony: Jon is like family to us.

5) Jeremy Ylvisaker

Ryan: Jeremy is a complex and brilliant human who I have the utmost respect for and value every chance I have to work with him.

Pony: He is an amazing and accomplished musician who I have looked up to.  

Question 4: What are your favorite book, favorite movie, and favorite TV show?

Pony: “Brave New World” is my favorite book. “Breaking Bad” is my favorite TV show. ET might be my favorite movie. 

Ryan: TV: “Documentary Now”  Book: “A Brief History Of Time” Movie: Spinal Tap.

Question 5: In addition to the Melismatics, you also have another band, Ryan and Pony. How does the sound and approach to Ryan and Pony material differ? What songs are a good introduction to the band?

Ryan: We have tried to not record songs that sound like they should or could be Melismatics tracks.  There are influences with Ryan And Pony like Madchester, shoegaze, dream pop, and more that don’t often make their way into The Melismatics sound. It’s important for each project to have its own identity. 

So far, Ryan And Pony only has two singles out: “Fast As I Can” and “Low.”  We have also released four Facebook-exclusive tracks you can hear on our profile. 

The debut album Moshi Moshi comes out this Fall with some singles dropping this summer. I’d recommend checking it all out LOL.

Pony: I think our singing is prettier in this project.  There is less aggression and more harmony.

Ryan and Pony
Ryan and Pony

Question 6: What is your very favorite Twin Cities venue to play and why? What is your favorite Twin Cities venue to see a show at?

Pony: My favorite venue to play is First Avenue. It has a big stage, it sounds good, and it had always been a dream of mine to play there. 

My favorite venue to watch a show at is The Turf Club because they always have parking and the bartenders are friendly. The Clown Lounge is a plus.  

Ryan: The answer to both is First Avenue for me. It’s legendary for a reason.

Question 7: Coffee, tea, both, or neither? What are your favorites if you like any of them?

Ryan: A pot of coffee (Peace Coffee and Peet’s are my go-to’s at home) followed by a cup of Good Earth Sweet & Spicy Tea. 

Pony: Tea.  Pique brand green tea is my favorite. It’s free of chemicals and mold.

Bonus question 8: how are you holding out in these trying times? Are you and yours doing alright? How are you and your musician friends coping with the loss of work?

Ryan: As an introvert, I am finding the time to be revitalizing although I really miss touring. Creativity flows when I have my own space, and I rarely had that when life was moving a thousand miles per minute. 

Having said that, the whole situation is absolutely tragic. I feel for anyone struggling with the effects of the virus. I hate thinking that I have relatives who live only a few miles away that I may never see again in person. Not to be dire, but it’s a real possibility. 

I have spent the last month reinventing what I do. I teach lessons online to anyone in the world which is kind of incredible. Dave Pirner and I have been regularly live streaming events. I’ve been writing and recording a ton and collaborating with people I may not have under normal circumstances.  

The effect of this pandemic on the music business is powerful and devastating. So many people rely on live music for their livelihoods.  The silver lining is that it has made things like the Wild West. If there was ever a time where there are no rules it is NOW. People are finding new ways to connect.  Life always finds its way through the cracks. Innovators thrive in times like this.

Pony: At first I enjoyed the time at home. It helped restore my energy. I feel fortunate that prior to this I had a healthy amount of shows. The hardest thing right now for me is seeing the polarization on social media. You see people being really mean to each other online when we should be listening to each other. It’s healthy to agree to disagree.

Written by Erik Ritland

Erik Ritland is a songwriter, musician, journalist, and podcaster based in Nashville, Tennessee. He’s released over a dozen albums since 2002, most recently Old Dog Almost Gone (2021), the first-ever multimedia album, and his latest collection of all original material, A Scientific Search (2020). During his 15+ years as a music journalist, Erik has written hundreds of articles for Music in Minnesota, Something Else Reviews, his own blog Rambling On, and more. In addition to continuing his music career, Erik currently runs The Cosmic American, a music journalism website, and is the editor of Music in Minnesota.


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