INTERVIEW: Joey Ryan of The Milk Carton Kids

LA folksters The Milk Carton Kids have have spent the past year touring the country in support of 2011's Prologue (which you can get for free directly from the band here), and tonight that tour is making a stop at Vienna's own Jammin Java (get your tickets here)

There's lots of reasons why you should join us there tonight, but the main one is that The Milk Carton Kids are just plain GOOD. Much like The Wooden Sky, (see our review from last week) Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale aren't trying to push boundaries as much as they are trying to simply excel at their particular style of music. And the payoff is, well, you'll just have to come see/hear for yourself.

We had the opportunity to ask Milk Carton Kid Joey Ryan a few questions over the weekend and this is what he had to say about the groups influences, free music and where they're headed from here.

Besides the obvious influence (David Rawlings and Gillian Welch) who are some of the musicians, old or new that you pull inspiration  from?
Obvious as it may seem, Gill and Dave are not the most common comparison we get, but it is the most flattering one to us. While they are indeed heroes to us and many of our contemporaries, unfortunately their reach isn't quite far enough to outweigh the invocation of Simon & Garfunkel which comes more readily. Suffice it to say we're honored by that one too, being as paradigmatic as they are to the genre, and to be mentioned in the same sentence as either duo suits us just fine.

Sort of continuing on from that question, are there any other styles or genres of music that you enjoy playing/any side projects outside of The Milk Carton Kids?
Speaking for myself, no. We've employed the dynamic between us to compose the score for a feature film, and hope for more applications of it in sculpting other artists' recordings, but the dedication to, in particular, the live performance career of The Milk Carton Kids is all-consuming.

Can you tell us a little about how The Milk Carton Kids came together?
The Milk Carton Kids came together in a long, slow untangling of the collision between the two of us almost two years ago. It is still coming together. We like to think it coalesces each night we take the stage, then begs for its boundaries to be pushed and redefined the following night.

What has been your favorite performance over the course of the past year?
Our homecoming performance at Largo in Los Angeles this winter was a unique and memorable one. The gravity of the night, the size and enthusiasm of the crowd, and the storied floorboards of the stage conspired to prevent any settling in, any rote-ness, from taking hold. The comfort we should have been afforded by the experience of 130 shows leading up to that night was replaced by an intentionality and presentness we won't soon forget. 

You give away your music for free on your website. What is your logic behind that and how has it paid off for you in the "long run"? Also is that going to continue for future releases?
Our philosophy here, if you can call it ours, is that we're a live band and everything we do has to be in service of our show. Our job is not, in fact, to sell song files. Instead, it is to stand on a stage in front of a crowd and convey something which will prove meaningful, entertaining, and lasting. With that as the focus, the answer to your question becomes obvious. But it is also important for us to add here that our pride in the recorded versions of our songs takes no back seat either. We're not making records in our basement. We called upon the best people around to take the finest picture of our performance as it happened in the studio and commit it to tape. A deep respect for the art form of recorded music and the lofty goal of compelling the listener not just to click a button on a 99 cent impulse, but to buy a concert ticket, get in their car and make a night of it, require that we compromise nothing and make the best sounding records we can. The whole thing would fall apart without them.

Are you guys working a new album? Can you tell us a little about it?
We always are, and when we finish it we'll look back at it and be able to say what it is. For now, we're committed to the instrumentation we've employed so far as there are limits to what we can do in this space which we've not yet exhausted.

Last question - Hall or Oates?
That was a rough time period, if you ask me.


You can see The Milk Carton Kids performing with Trevor Menear TONIGHT at Jammin Java!

Show starts at 7:30 sharp so don't be late!

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