The idea that blues can’t influence interesting music anymore has been proven wrong by so many artists, Reignwolf, Black Pistol Fire and Rival Sons for example. There is still so much music being released with its roots in bluesy music. Closer to home (the Netherlands) for example, there are bands like Money & The Man, Tricklebolt, and DeWolff. These bands use old influences to create new and fresh music that doesn’t sound dusty at all. Another wonderful example is Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown (TBSD). This band used the lockdown period to write and record a brand-new album 2020-style: at home. NMTH-editor Pieter had a Zoom call with frontman and guitarist Tyler to talk about the lockdown album.
By Pieter Sloot
TBSD already has a nice rock-‘n-roll resumé so far: three albums, an ep and touring the world as support for the likes of Guns ‘N Roses, AC/DC, The Who and Aerosmith. The new album is called Pressure and it starts with the song Crazy Days, which sparked the inspiration for many others songs. “It was just a matter of wanting to make music. We weren’t really planning to make another record because our previous album, Truth and Lies, was still relatively young”, Tyler tells from his Nashville home. In the background I can see amplifiers and guitars hanging on the wall. Eyecatchers are Tyler’s pink guitars. “With all the tour dates cancelled we didn’t want to stop making music for a year. The jams were good and we talked to our label and they told us to make an ep. Next thing you know we have a 13-song album, hahaha! Personally I am just an album guy, I couldn’t imagine Wildflowers by Tom Petty being a 6-song ep. Also, writing music never stops for us. Honestly, if anything the lockdown enhanced our writing.”
Pressure is a versatile record, the songs go from loud to soft, from happy to dark and from bluesy to modern. Tyler: “We started the process with 37 songs, fully finished demos. From there it is really nice to pick songs. You ask yourself what songs represent the bluesy side or with what song you wanna start a show with. We approached the album as if it were a movie; after the car chase, there is this scene where the guy is at a bar and then a girl walks in and blues starts playing or something… The album is a story and it’s not just action or only sadness all the time.”
The album kicks off with Tyler yelling ‘I feel the pressure!’. Tyler: “The album is called Pressure because that is what everyone seems to be feeling right now. The goal with this album is to take the pressure that we felt, and make something good out of it, so that’s why the album starts with that one line.” In the song Holdin’ My Breath, Tyler sings:
This ain’t the way they said it would go
Worry won’t you give it a rest
Second guessing everything I know
But I’m still holdin’ my breath for better days
With these sentences he seems to capture a feeling that loads of people have these days. “The crazy thing is this song was written before the pandemic. I don’t know if we’re fortune tellers or rubbing the crystal ball the right way, it’s strange”, Tyler tells while softly noodling around on his guitar. “That song wasn’t gonna be on the album originally but my bandmembers Caleb and Graham noted that the lyrics would be perfect, considering what is going on these days. So we worked on the song, and the emotion that we performed it with was way different than the emotion that came with the song when it first was written.”
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Even though TBSD is very inspired by blues music, they still manage to create a sound that is modern and refreshing. “Personally, I get bored if I find myself doing something that has been done a million times before. Of course I really like it when people play blues, I love it so much. But my favourite guitarist is Jeff Beck and I always feel like he is trying to push it forward. Whether I succeed at that or not, I always keep it in mind; whenever I record and write I want to push it forward as well.”
The band recorded this album entirely at Tyler’s home, without all the luxury a studio has to offer. “There were definitely some frustrating moments, like struggling with technical difficulties. We also really realized how much gear and extra furniture we actually needed to make a decent workspace, we were setting up for days. It was a lot of fun and it never felt like work. It was never about anything else than having a good time and escaping the world for a little while. Most obstacles ended up being an inspiration. Our coproducer Roger Alan Nichols was a huge help engineering most of the record. If we had to play, sing or write and also engineer we wouldn’t have been able to focus enough. Luckily, my wife was pretty cool with us recording loud guitars and drums for three weeks in our house. She was very supportive, at times it probably made her want to hit her head against the wall… We both make music and we are supportive of that…” With a grinning smile he concludes: “We’re just louder.”
On the new record, you can hear that it’s actually just a few guys standing in a room making loud noise. For example, in the intro of the song Fever, you can hear Tyler’s guitar through the drum microphones. “Actually, a lot of what you are hearing is our ‘bathroom mic’. There was a microphone in my shower and that is a big part of the drum sound of the record, as well as the guitar sound. When we start recording a song we record drums and guitars simultaneously, the result of that is that you can’t fix anything because the guitar microphones recorded some drum sounds and the drum microphones recorded some guitars”, Tyler explains. “At that moment you are capturing a moment rather than perfection. This album had to sound like it was made in our basement, to give fans a look into our creative space.”
Perfection is something that is always a dangerous concept for artists. “What often happens to us is that the demos sound cooler than the album version, because we start to refine it. A lot of the recordings are us playing the actual songs for the first time ever which adds some danger and excitement, so you don’t get too comfortable. We don’t wanna make it sound right, we like it a little more jagged and dangerous. For example, Caleb didn’t know the song Coastin’ until we started recording it! That’s why at the end you hear me say “Good work, C-Cross”. While recording Loner we kind of hit a wall and I asked him to play some blues with me before he went home.”
Pressure includes some amazing guitar solos, for example on the tracks Loner and on Holdin’ My Breath. “My approach to solos is first to sing them in my head, and then I verbalize and after that I grab a guitar. The solo to Loner only took a few takes but Holdin’ My Breath kicked my ass”, says Tyler while having a guitar on his lap. “I did more than a hundred takes. I went through some footage of the recordings and I found so many takes that were just as good as the one that ended up being the one on the record. I could have stopped way earlier, hahaha!”
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The album features some really positive songs like Wildside and Crazy Days. “It’s a product of having so much doom and gloom in the world right now. You kind of have to create your own world where you can escape for a couple of minutes. As the world got more negative, the songs got more positive”, Tyler explains. On the contrary, in few other tracks Tyler dwells into a more bluesy darkness. Take a song like Misery for example. “That song is a result of listening to a lot of country and western songs, I love how they tell stories. I’m a sucker for a good, heart-breaking drinking song and I wanted a song like that, but in a bluesy way. It’s like a guy going: ‘I think there is a problem, and there is about to be a bigger one’… Could be metaphor for the world right now.”
The Old Me is also a very emotional song. “That song was written and when I made a demo of it I added a lot of extra guitar parts, it was pretty produced. Roger, our co-producer, asked if could play the song for him right there and then, so I did. He said: “That’s how we’re gonna do it.” It was one of those things where I played the song alone a few times. Roger said that one of the takes brought him to tears and that’s what ended up being on the album. After that Graham, our other guitarist, added his part and that brought me to tears, honestly.”
The band will do an online release show to celebrate the album, on October 16th. “It is a pre-recorded show which was recorded very well, it’s as good as livestream can be. Between the songs there are videos of the recordings of the album and interviews with the band. It’s our first and only show of 2020.”
Pressure is out today (October 16th) on Snakefarm/Spinefarm Records. Check it out below via Spotify:
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