Ryan Auffenberg and the burnished glimmer of Marigolds
There's a desolate ache to the brand of dusty Americana that Ryan Auffenberg creates from his outpost in the busy heart of San Francisco. As the SF Weekly wrote, "sweet, rough, singer-songwriter kids like Ryan Auffenberg have a powerful animating force — they like to fuck around with folk, and they've got love songs to sing."
I called Ryan an artist to watch a few years ago after first hearing the gorgeously melancholy harmonies of "Under All The Bright Lights" and seeing him perform at Noise Pop 2007. Now signed to independent San Francisco label Evangeline Records (home of Chuck Prophet), Ryan is releasing his newest album Marigolds today. It was produced and mixed by former American Music Clubber Tim Mooney, and mastered by Matt Pence of Centro-matic.
There's a bittersweet molasses smoothness to Ryan's voice as it crests and burrows through his songs with a streak of the romantic west gleaming through. Whether plumbing the cold depths of loneliness in songs like "Deep Water" or driving a highway with the windows down amidst the bright Midwest jangle on the closing track "Alright, Okay," he urges us all to have some faith.
Alright, Okay - Ryan Auffenberg
Lay off the novocaine
'cause you've been asleep for days
it hurts but it'll go away
Almost the first of May
the San Francisco Bay's
all swollen up from last night's rain
So if you just come down
we'll get out of town
take a breath and drive all day . . .
Ryan took a few minutes to answer some questions for Fuel/Friends, since this is one artist whom I tend to get a lot of questions about, and who's been flying under the radar lately.
INTERVIEW / UPDATE
If you sit down to play some music and it's foggy outside, that's going to have an effect on what type of music you play. "Missouri in the Morning" is actually a song I wrote on a particularly foggy day when I was missing home and the blazing heat of the summer time. There's something really sensual about that kind of weather. I miss that out here.
What I find really fascinating about this process is that when I'm nearing completion of a song and take a step back, I often find that what I'd thought was simply some sort of free-association exercise has really turned into a means of expressing emotions or ideas that had been percolating for a while, but I hadn't quite figured out how to articulate them. Many of what I feel to be my most emotionally honest songs have come out of this process. Also, the writing always happens at different rates of speed. For instance, I wrote "Deep Water" and "Under All the Bright Lights" in about a half hour each respectively, whereas the song "Marigolds" took me six months to finish.
When I was eventually approached by Evangeline, their original intention in making an album with me was to go back in a re-record those songs with a slightly different production approach. However, by that point in time I had already written a new album and expressed to them that I'd much rather make a new album than go back and revisit material I'd emotionally and creatively moved on from. I sent them demos for the songs on Marigolds and they signed off on the idea of making an album of all new material.
I am proud of Golden Gate Park though, and I would eventually like all of those songs to see the light of day, but for now it's currently locked in the vault ("the vault" being my bedroom closet).
Other newer stuff: Spoon's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is a badass album. Britt Daniel crafts these incredibly lean and mean pop songs, and then they'll do these wild production things like making one tune sound like The Supremes, which seems like a pretty unique choice for a rock band to be making these days. Another thing about Britt that I love is his solo-ing style. Often times during solos, he intentionally plays all these wrong chords or notes and creates this really messy, dissonant, incredible sounding noise.
There's a moment at the end of "Interstate" (on Marigolds) that's sort of a mini-musical nod to Britt. I was overdubbing piano on the song and in the outro I just started banging on the piano, playing wrong notes while Tim messed with that fucked-up signal generator noise. Good fun indeed.
Auffenberg's record release party is tonight at San Francisco's Cafe Du Nord. Head on out to support this talented artist; Willow Willow and Robert Francis open. Ryan also heads out on the road in July & August.
Marigolds is available today.
[portrait of Ryan credit Peter Ellenby]