Interview: Ryan Allen of Destroy This Place
Michigan’s Destroy This Place, which is comprised of dual singing guitarists Ryan Allen (formerly of Thunderbirds Are Now!), John Nelson (of indie-pop faves New Grenada), bassist Monday Busque, and drummer Sean Sommer (who pounded the skins in Friendly Foes), channel equal parts of your 7″ collection from the ‘90s. Then they mix them with elements of early thrash, ‘70s power-pop, effects-pedal hopping UK shoegaze, and SST-affiliated punk. The result is an amalgamous blend of volume, hooks, and intensity.
For their new album, simply, fittingly, titled Destroy This Place, the band sought to refine their assets, while adding even more heaviness to their already pulverizing jams. Captured expertly by Mike Bridavsky (BLK JKS, Rogue Wave, Good Luck, Murder By Death, Magnolia Electric Co., etc) at Russian Recordings in Bloomington, IN, and mastered in Chicago by Bob Weston, Destroy This Place leave little doubt that they can deliver muscular, pop anthems that deserve to be cranked.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Ryan Allen, discussing his previous output, being a grown up, and the record they’ll drop in May via Bellyache Records. This is what he told us…
Since we’ve known each other you’ve been in no less than four bands…
Yeah, I get around dude.
There’s not a lot of problem for you finding people to play with, but do you find it is difficult to find dudes who want to put in the time and effort to make the longevity of a band work?
No, I just think some things run their course. I love some bands who’ve been around forever and there is something to say for a band that doesn’t overstay its welcome, does what it should do, and then gets out before things get stale. I don’t think I’ve ever intended for any band that I was in to end, but at the same time I’m proud to look back at everything those bands have done and say, “None of this got shitty.” At least I don’t think it did. None of the breakups I’ve been involved in has necessarily been personal. It’s been more like, “Eh.” Something life related just usually takes precedence over touring all the time. So most of the time it’s like, “We did what we wanted to do and it’s good.”
How have your priorities changed over the last ten years?
I’m a dad now, so that’s huge. I have a 19-month-old son and that’s been a huge change for the better. It grounds me. It makes that time spent making music, playing shows, and doing things creatively hold more weight. I’m still as passionate as I was about it ten years ago and still get excited to play a show. I get psyched to go to practice. I still feel really accomplished when I book a show out of state. Anything that you put work into and try hard at is rewarding. With the right balance anything that you want to do is still possible.
Being a father is the primary change. Being more aware of how nice it is to have some money in the bank and be able to buy your wife something for Christmas is cool…I still love music as much as I did ten years ago, but I’m less likely to say, “Hey, let’s get in the van and leave for two months.” That’s fine. I’m totally fine with that.
All of your bands have sounded a little different. Is there a diversity to your particular style or do you take the same book of tricks to each band and get influenced by the people you’re playing with?
I think it is a mixture of both for sure. With Red Shirt Brigade, going back many lifetimes ago, I was a drummer. So that’s a big difference. I haven’t been the drummer in any other band. I was the conductor in a sense.
With Thunderbirds Are Now it was a mixture of everybody’s influences. I think the band, of any band I’ve ever been in in my life, was the product of a timeframe in my life and very much a combination of the people playing. I was wanting to make sure the people in the band were interested and playing to their tastes as well. If I was left to my own devices, the music would have been a little more pop. At the time the bands that we were excited about were a little more angular and spastic and we definitely fell into that.
With the bands that I’ve been in after that, the bands have been more interested in writing pop rock songs. That’s where I feel most comfortable. I really love rock music and Destroy This Place…I’m not the only songwriter. I write some of the songs. We write a lot as a band and it is definitely a band, not someone pushing an agenda by any means. The place where we converge is informed by the shit we were into in high school. And we’re all still into that. For a couple of the guys in the band it is early Metallica and thrash stuff. For me it is Superdrag and Superchunk. Alternately, when I approach songwriting, I like to do it as economically as possible. I don’t like to overindulge. And Red Shirt Brigade aside, who I think was super indulgent, most other bands I’ve been in have been direct. It has been fuckin’ in your face rock music with melodies and there is something about the songs that is catchy. Whether you like it or not, hopefully it ends up eliciting some kind of emotion in you. That’s what I’ve always tried to do.
How was being in Bloomington for the recording of the album?
Bloomington is rad man. We holed up in the studio mostly when we were there. Mike who recorded both of our records for us is an awesome guy. He’s funny and he has this famous cat now, which is totally weird. His cat is an internet sensation. He’s super good at his job, and he’s very similar to us, which is huge. He’s right around our age, he likes the same kind of music we like, he approaches it like we do. He’s just an awesome dude, and Bloomington is equally awesome. If we get a chance this Summer we’re going to try to go down there and play a show. The studio is really nice and comfortable and you kind of just live there. That was fun for us. It was like being on vacation, but also working. There are a couple cool places there like Bishop, which is a cool bar. It is a good time down there. It is a culturally informed place. I really like it down there.
How does it feel going from sort of a heavier indie to being more grass roots again?
It is cool. I loved being on Frenchkiss with Thunderbirds and I thank the guys from Frenchkiss for giving me and my brother and the other guys in the band to see the world and play with tons of really awesome bands, and get our music heard by so many people. I’m super appreciative of it and couldn’t thank them enough for taking a chance on us. At the same time, any label wants to make money, and that’s not a criticism at all. But if they’re putting money into you, they want to at least make it back. So there was the pressure of knowing that someone was banking on us. There is less pressure when you’re doing it on your own and are more accountable to yourself for those kinds of things. If things work or they don’t it is your fault.
We have a label. The guy who is putting our record out is a really good friend of ours and he’s put several records out in Detroit. He knows what’s going on. With the internet now, it almost doesn’t matter anyway. You can get your music heard by posting songs in the right spot and getting lucky. We have a publicist helping us get the music in the right hands. Hopefully, regardless of label association or what bands anyone was in, somebody will hear it and think, “This is fucking good.” Or it’s not good. That’s what we are hoping for. We’ll push whatever angle we can to get people to hear the songs, hear our music and get into it if they can. That’s all we can ask for.
Do you collaborate with Scott (Allen, his brother and TAN! collaborator) at all these days?
He’s actually working on a video for a song from our record. We collaborated on that, which was super fun. That should be coming out sometime within the next month. Being in a band with Scott was awesome. It is something that we’ll be able to tell our kids about. It brought us really close…closer than a lot of people get to their siblings. I feel very fortunate for that.
Right now our tastes are different enough to merit not being in a band together, but perhaps we’ll play together in the future. I miss being in a band with Scott, but I’m very excited about this band. The collaboration level and the respect we have for one another as musicians is super easy and exciting for me.
I was looking at your press picture and you’re looking slim! Are you on a diet or exercise plan?
Yeah, the last three and a half years or so I’ve been taking my physical health more seriously. I work out often and watch what I eat. My wife’s a great cook and makes wonderful food. I’m a creature of habit so I eat the same thing for lunch every day. It has really helped my confidence. I want to be healthy for my kid too.
When are you taking the band on the road?
We’re doing some dates in July and our hope is to do New York, Cleveland, Dayton and Bloomington. I’ve been meaning to hit up Ian Kaplan from Motel Beds to see if he can help us out with a show in your area.