Continuing the string of interviews with local musicians and bands about how they go about writing their songs Matt Moss recently got the chance to interview Ryan Wyatt, bass player with the multi instrumentalist Liverpool Folk-Rock band Dead Cities.
So in the beginning, what made you want to write songs?
Nothing really, Martin had a few tunes and hadn’t played for a while so me and Oli started playing on top of them and they sounded pretty good so we carried on for 3 months or thereabouts before we realised we were a band.
Who influenced you as you began writing?
Probably Martin without sounding cheesy, just because he had these songs lying about and me and Oli just threw anything over them we thought we could add. After a while when we started doing songs from scratch with each other, I think it was obvious that people like Neil Young has an influence on us as a band and Led Zeppelin for me are always going to influence ideas I come up with. The Beatles too and anything more contemporary we listen to as a whole together – Wild Beasts, Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes – there’s a lot of stuff in there.
So how did you all come together as a band?
I already knew both Oli and Martin, and they had played together in The Alterkicks. I had been playing in a few different bands around the same time, as well as my flat being in the same building as Oli’s, so it just kind of happened by accident really. Me and Oli had played in a few bands together already before Dead Cities, and as we lived in the same building as each other, and with Oli’s bedroom becoming a kind of local rehearsal room for bands we played in it, seemed the obvious choice for Martin to use me and Oli as the rhythm section.
Where did the name “Dead Cities” come from?
Martin had come up with a joke name which we would refer to ourselves as but when we realised we were turning into a band we just chose the name “Dead Cities” from a song title we had. We managed to cut out all of the stresses involved in naming a band which is usually the biggest pain in the arse when starting a new project.
What would you say inspires you when you all write?
Wouldn’t be able to say to be honest as it can come from a film, book, concert you have been to, a noise you hear. For me I don’t really write as much as I usually help arrange or come up with melodies on top of existing chord structures so it is usually just something you think will add to a song for me.
You all play various instruments (live) but what’s you’re individual instrument of choice?
It would definitely be the bass as that is what I have played for 10 years in different bands and when people ask me to play with them it is usually to play bass. It’s the one instrument I feel completely comfortable on and never feel out of my depth on it. Since staring Dead Cities I have taken a real shine to the ukulele and find myself playing it everyday.
When you come to write a song do you find you always approach it in a similar way? Or do you have a formula as a band? (Do you write the songs as a band or do you write the lyrics and then approach the music as a band?)
It can work in different ways really. Most of the time Martin will come in with a chord sequence and a melody and me and Oli will add what we think suits the song. It can result in me changing around different instruments to see what fits and Oli doing the same, then if we feel a song needs a change in direction or needs added sections one of us will usually come up with the idea of where to take it and it usually works without anyone thinking differently. Sometimes we will literarily just write a song on the spot or in the studio and just take it there and then.
You grew from an acoustic band but have been branching out introducing other instruments, where do you see your musical direction going next?
Don’t have a clue and I would think that none of us do. We work on songs together and if they sound right they are in and if they don’t they will be put aside and we will work on something different. We might have 3 that we are working on all with different instrumentation that will sound like us but don’t sound alike so I think the sound always changes but can so easily come back to what it was we were doing at the start. It’s all about how the song we are working on at the time feels. If it needs to be big it will end up big but if it needs to be soft it will be soft so I don’t think we ever have an idea of what the next track we work on will sound like.
What music are you all into at the moment?
I am into blues and have been for years and that is mostly what I listen to but I find I end up listening to a lot of music I hear friends playing or even listening to friends’ bands that I really look up to. At this very moment though it is The Movie Soundtrack to The Last Waltz by The Band which I just managed to get hold of at a record fair so that will probably be on my record player for the next month.
How would you describe your music, genre wise?
I wouldn’t know how to describe it really. If you say Folk people will expect Folk if you say Indie people will expect Indie and if you say Pop people will expect Pop I just say it’s a bunch of songs where we pass instruments about and try and create different sounding songs with just the three of us.
What’s coming up? Recording? Gigs?
Were supporting John Smith at St George’s Hall on 26th November (tickets here) and hope to release an album later this year but in the mean time I suppose we will still just be writing, recording and drinking all of Oli’s tea and eating all of his digestive’s he tries to hide from us.
You can find Dead Cities online at myspace.com/deadcitiesband
Liverpool Acoustic is the only website of its kind in the UK. It was founded by Graham Holland in April 2008 as a central resource for the vibrant and exciting acoustic music scene in Liverpool and the Greater Merseyside area. The website publishes news from the local acoustic music scene, previews of upcoming events, reviews of music releases and gigs, and the Liverpool Acoustic Spotlight podcast. This content is available for free via email subscription. The diary lists acoustic events including festivals, theatre concerts, folk clubs, showcases and open mic nights.
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