Toronto, Canada - In the early 1980s, a music genre emerged from the late 1970s punk explosion. The 1980s saw the birth of New Wave, and a sub-genre of Post-Punk/Dark Wave, led by such bands as Siouxsie and The Banshees, and Depeche Mode. As the music became more popular, you would hear songs on movie soundtracks like The Lost Boys, and Donnie Darko.
In 2017, a band called Fotocrime emerged out of Louisville by founder Ryan Patterson. With a number of albums under their belt, they are ready for their next offering to hit the streets on September 8. The new full length is entitle Accelerated, and LOUDTO had the distinct pleasure of chatting with Ryan Patterson about the new release.
LOUDTO: Hey, it's Jay again from LOUDTO! Today, we're chatting with Ryan Patterson of the transcendent dark wave post punk band, Fotocrime. How's it going with you today, Ryan?
Ryan Patterson: It's very well. Things are pretty good for me.
LOUDTO: Awesome. Um so Ryan in six years, Fotocrime has released two EPs, 3 full lengths a covers collection and now a new full length entitled Accelerated is due to hit the streets on September 8th. You've been pretty busy.
RP: I guess so. It sounds like a lot when you say it that way (laughs). Uh it, it seems all very natural to me. But yeah, it, I realized that others aren’t quite as prolific as me.
LOUDTO: Yeah, I mean, it certainly appears that the pandemic has kind of had little to no effect on you and maybe quite the opposite, with South of Heaven and Heart of Crime being released during that time. But how do you manage to get those two full recordings in, in such a kind of stressful time in all our lives?
RP: Well, yeah. In South of Heaven, our second album, it came out on Friday, March 13th, 2020 which was the last show I played. I played San Diego, California and then canceled all shows and flew home the next day. And so that, that record was ready to go in the can, you know, and that was the timing and it felt like forever right? Everybody was home and, and sad and freaked out and scared and you know, it felt like everything was collapsing for so, for maybe six months, I didn't work on any music during those early pandemic days and it felt like forever. I was really hard on myself because I thought I wasn't being creative enough. And so then I started writing and, and set up a little studio in my house and that's what Heart of Crime became. Because I felt like uh South of Heaven had been kind of stolen away like it kind of felt like it disappeared. So I was anxious to get another record out and hopefully have it out, you know, when things were ending and, and opening up and even though it did come out near the end of 20, it came out in August 2021 we started touring. It was still touch and go at that time as well. Um so it was, I didn't want it to be a pandemic record. I didn't like it being advertised as that, but it, it really was, in hindsight. Heart of Crime is absolutely a home pandemic record.
LOUDTO: I mean, it's, it's great that you were able to get out a little bit. Here in Canada, I mean, we, we were locked down for pretty much three years. Like, our government was, was pretty stringent during that time. So it's good that you at least were able to get out a little bit on the road to support that.
RP: Yeah, we did. And we were safe and nobody caught it during that time. And um you know, we would just navigate things as they came. Sometimes we’d have to cancel a show, some tours got canceled. But then last year, we finally, things felt like it was pretty much back to normal. We came to Canada last year, we went to back to Europe. So, um but yeah, it's still, still touch and go sometimes.
LOUDTO: Yeah, that's true. Um, so the new album kind of brings the band into a bit new territory. You know, obviously, there's still the same distinct moody darkness, but there's some, some added elements. Some rock undertones, um I think with “Match Factory Girl”, you know. Some electronic fusion and I really think there's some great poetic tracks that to me are kind of reminiscent of Leonard Cohen. You can see him in my background there (at this time, I point out my Zoom background which is a street photo of a mailbox advertising a new Leonard Cohen stamp that was created here in Canada) and that's totally not for this interview (laughs). That's my typical zoom background. Can you share the genesis of the new record.
RP: Well, first off, thank you for saying all that. That's much appreciated. And we, you know, Leonard Cohen is one of those handful of people that's a big vocal influence on me and somebody I can look to when I feel, um… sometimes I feel uh stymied by my own vocal range and I have to look to people like him to kind of remind me that, that this deep voice that might not be able to bust into high notes is still really wonderful and beautiful. And so many singers I love sing like that. But I think sometimes when it's your own, your own thing, your own instrument, you're wanting to do things you can't do. So, yeah, he's a big influence but the record, um it's always hard to kind of wrap it all into one idea. Uh, I think in general and specifically with a lot of the songs on Accelerated, I try to write songs that could be love songs but are also very large themes and the song “Accelerated” is a song about a relationship gone awry because it's moving too fast. But that's just an allegory for the world we're living in and the time we're living in. You know, to me, it's a song about, it's also a song about… things just speeding beyond control is, humanity going too far, too fast, you know. Um, so there's a lot of those kind of things where there's, there's a bit of duality with the lyrical subject matter where it could just be a pop song, could just be a love song or you could dig deeper into these other territories. And musically, uh, you know, I brought Nick Thieneman who's been our longtime guitar player live and has played on a few songs and past releases and Will Allard on bass. When I had them come in the band as full time members and play on every song and be more involved in arrangement and backing vocals and things like that. So, for me, that's a huge part of the record is that it's not a solo album with a bunch of friends. It's really mainly just the three of us, and I tried to look to their strengths and think about them a lot when I was writing songs. Um I, I'd say Nick plays 70% of the guitar on the record. This is probably the record of anything I've done where I play the least guitar, which is, which is different and interesting. And, you know, so even if I wrote the song, I would give it to him to put his slant on it. And I do think there is a, there was a, maybe an attempt to have the album be a little more hookie and immediate. A little more, um I wouldn't say enjoyable because I think all the records are enjoyable but that kind of thing where maybe it's just gonna catch in your ear a little more, a little, a little more pop, a little more melodicism, you know, where I think maybe Heart of Crime, there was a lot more experimentation and a lot more like stripped down minimal synth kind of stuff. With this one overall, it's more of like a straight ahead album.
LOUDTO: First of all I wanna get back to one of your first comments about your vocal range. I think we're our own worst critics for sure. Um, and you know, like you said, it works perfectly for a number of artists. So, um I think your voice is great personally. I love it. And I do love that baritone voice. So it's, it's great. Um, with you adding Nick and Will um do they feel, or did they feel comfortable enough with you to, to challenge you on anything or?
RP: (laughs) That's a good, that's a good uh question actually. It's a very good question. I'm, we're extremely close. Um I mean, Nick and I have been doing bands and he's been in bands with my brother. He's the bass player of a band called Young Widows that my brother sings and plays guitar for. So, Nick was in bands with my brother first, but he and I have been touring and, and playing music together for 20 years. And Will, um, he's about 10 years... God, he's more than 10 years younger than me. He's, he's quite a bit younger than me. But since he was a teenager, he and I have been in bands together and he's been, I've pretty much been trying to bring him into anything I've done since I met him. He's just such a kindred spirit. Um, so I think we can be very honest with each other and there's not, uh there's not any antagonism. There's not much, um, of like setting anybody straight because I think we're, we're all very open, emotionally and supportive of each other and all in touch a lot. But it is interesting, like today we were practicing and we were talking about the set list and I realized that despite anything, they said it kind of came back to my, my decision in the end (laughs). You know, there's like an idea to cut a song and I was like, “Oh no”. We kind of talked in a circle and then we went back to what my original point was. Certainly, it's my band and I want them to be fully involved and I feel like they are fully involved, but they will never, or at least not yet, they don't feel as deeply connected to it as I do because they aren't writing the songs. They aren't writing the lyrics. You know, I think they’re as invested in it as anybody is with any band, but ultimately, it is my band. But that said, I want their input. They're both amazing musicians and songwriters on their own accord. We all work on, they have other bands that they're in and we all work on those things together. And I love getting the perspective because I get into my own head, in my own routines and I am a very harsh critic. I love what I do and I'm very confident in what I do, but I am very hard on myself. So getting that perspective from them is really wonderful. And that's one of the reasons I wanted this. I just wanted the camaraderie. I wanted that friendship. I didn't want to feel alone because, you know, there's plenty of times for people to be alone. It's like, you know, I, if I make it to 80 years old, I might be alone entirely, you know, or whatever. And so with music and art, I think it's very, very valuable to share that with people and, and especially people you really love. So that, that's what I wanted more than anything. Less than the checks and balances, but just more of a, just a, a gang, you know, just friends.
LOUDTO: I mean, it sounds like there's a ton of respect there that they have for you and they understand that this is your baby. So, you know, they're happy to follow your lead and, and I think that's great.
RP: Yeah. It is beautiful. I mean, you saying that is like, I think with people that you, you were so close with, you don't think about that in those terms, but I do feel respected by them and appreciated by them and they, then they do by me and I make sure that I'm very vocal with that, uh, because I've been in situations with, with other bandmates or bands I've been in or personal relationships where you just don't know where you stand and I don't, I really don't like that. I like affirmation. I think that's very important and that's something we share with each other. And so it's very, very mutual and I, and I think, I think the world of them, I'm their biggest fan and, uh, it's, it's great to have them here and, yeah, maybe they're mine too. I don't, you know, I know that. I know that I am appreciated and respected so by that, it's really great.
LOUDTO: Yeah, it definitely sounds like a great relationship. When you go into, when you get ready to record an album, do you have all the music, like, pretty much perfected it's just go into the studio and record it or are you, you know, changing things up once you get in there. How does that work for you guys?
RP: Well, it used to be very different. Um The first two Fotocrime albums, uh Principal Pain and South of Heaven were all demoed on my own. And because there's a lot of drum machine programs, programming and because there's a lot of synthesizers and various electronic things that maybe I don't, don't travel well or I wouldn't necessarily load up all my drum machines and synthesizers and take those to the studio. Usually that element was recorded first and then taken to the studio and then we then, I would do guitar, bass, vocals, various overdubs. And that was the process with the first two albums. But with Heart of Crime, I started recording myself and I built a small, not built but kind of assembled, the small home studio setup and just took that demo process and extended that into the full album process. So instead of taking the basic elements of the song to a studio, I just kept building there. And that was really interesting and, and kind of scary. Um I'd never fully recorded and mixed an album myself before Heart of Crime. But it was something that I wanted to see if I could accomplish it. I recorded vocals in my closet. You know, I just like pushed the clothes to the side and that was my isolation booth. And um yeah, I recorded saxophone in the closet (chuckles). You know, so that was very much a home record. And then with Accelerated, I built this studio that I'm in now and it's a very small two room space and this is where everything was done for Accelerated. So the songs are, are built over time. There might be a chord progression and there might be this, this nugget of a song that you can still hear when the song's done, but all the elements are, are assembled. I see it kind of like a puzzle in a way. I see all these different elements come together to make this cohesive piece. I'm a collage artist and designer and I see that in the same way. I, I just, I have something I want to accomplish, and I just find all these little elements until they come together, and they create the image that I want to create and I see the music being the same way. Um so, yeah, it's, I don't know if I'll do it another way. I'm recording some other friends bands here and um it's hard for me to imagine doing it the old way because this way is so comfortable and so creatively fulfilling. There's no clock, there's no bill racking up. So it, it's really, really nice to do it myself.
LOUDTO: Cool. I, you've really touched on a lot of this. This is gonna be a broad question probably, and I get the gist of it. I can feel your passion. But what does this new album mean to you?
RP: Hmm. Yeah, I mean, it's so broad but I, I think, if there is an overall theme, it's kind of summed up by the record cover which is a photo I took and, you know, the person on the cover is looking at this big brutalist, abstract, concrete sculpture that's on the edge of this, you know, the shoreline, that's all rocks. And after I took the photo and looked at it, it just immediately made me feel like it was a person gazing into the void. You know, there's something, there's this manmade ominous structure that's not clearly defined. And then beyond that is just this vast expanse of nature which, you know, I find scary (laughs). You know what I mean? It's like, I love the water and the ocean, but imagining the vastness of it is overwhelming. And even though we know where the shoreline ends, you know, that that shoreline is in France and, and I know that, you know, way over on the other side of the Atlantic where it ends, but that's impossible to reach as just one human, you know? And so that's the idea and this feeling, particularly last few years of things just spinning out of control and the way that we view art, like the way that we listen to music, is immediate and the way we accept and watch film and, you know, reading novels on our fucking phone and those kind of things, it's just, it's moving so fast that our brains can't comprehend it. And, and I had that feeling of just this rushing toward the void and you're that solitary figure kind of looking out into it and there's this man-made obstruction, you know, this almost Kubrickian monolith in front of you. So that's kind of what the album feels like to me. And there's, there's, um, you know, not everything touches on that directly, but there is, there's a lot of love in the album and I want the songs to be songs about love and about yearning and about finding even if they’re songs about loss, they come back to a beautiful place. But there's a lot of feeling of realizing how much you need people. People going away and you know, me or the character in the song begging them to stay. You know, you mentioned “Match Factory Girl” that's inspired by a Finish short film about a woman who kind of takes revenge on all these people that wronged her. And, and so my character in the story is basically committing class warfare. You know, she's breaking down the gates of the palace to destroy the people in power. And once again, it's like that kind of, that feeling of overwhelming power being around us too. I think that's another thing we're in this world of billionaires and, and democracies run amok and all this kind of stuff that's just completely overwhelming. Climate change! And I just feel like that is a pressure on every human that is just insurmountable, and you just push yourself through that fog in order to survive on a daily basis. And so these are a lot of the themes, like one person being solitary against this mass of reality, you know?
LOUDTO: It's truly scary. It's near impossible to even imagine what, how things are gonna look in 20 years from now. I mean hell, even 10 years from now probably. I love your explanation here and what that means to you. I think it's so cool.
RP: Thank you. Thank you.
LOUDTO: Is there a track or two that you can tell the fans to be on the lookout for on the new album? One or two songs that you just, you know, that….
RP: Yeah, you know, there are a few. Like there's a few that haven't been released. We've released a bunch of singles throughout the summer and a lot of those are very, very important to me, but there's a few that won't be singles that I would see as kind of sleeper songs that mean a lot to me. Um, one would be “Pulsar 99” which is the second to last song on the record. And it's, uh, it's probably our poppiest song. There's usually a song or two on each album that I see as kind of syrupy bubble gum, you know, and it kind of harkens back to Wire or Ramones or something like that. Um, but “Pulsar 99” is one that I would, I'm really loving, I'm loving playing and it's, again, it's, the idea is the character of the song is pleading with this person to not leave the world. And this person that they're wanting to stay is taking a trip into the stars. And it comes from that idea of obviously these, these rich people doing these stupid, you know, atmospheric space launches (laughs). And then, and then that idea, I've heard, you know, if you've heard too, but like they say, “Oh, if you had the opportunity to go to Mars, would you take it?” You know, and some people are like, yes, of course, I'd go for seven fucking years or whatever.
RP: And, and I see that and I'm just like, that sounds like prison, you know, to me, I'm like, because I think daily life is so beautiful. And so I wrote the song as if somebody I loved was going to jump on the back of a rocket ship and go to Mars and I want them to stay. And, uh so that's one, and there's another song called “Servant Of Your Soul” that is, uh it might be, the first song that was written for the record. It was around for a long time. And I, it was funny, it was one that I would send to people when I was talking about the new album or we were, you know, pitching something to somebody for something or other and I never got any feedback on it. It was like one of those songs that was so special to me and, you know? You'd send a couple songs to somebody. “Hey, we're doing this and this is our next thing.” And, and it's one of those songs that, that really hits. Something I've wanted to do is I really love, you know, I love soul music and I love that kind of blue eyed soul. You know, I love some classic Van Morrison and, and obviously things like, um Ricky Nelson and, and uh Roy Orbison are huge influences on Fotocrime in general. But that, and kind of that, that eighties thing where like Phil Collins and all these guys were tapping into their Motown roots. You know, Phil Collins is bringing like the Earth Wind and Fire guys into his songs. And so that song is just kind of like my idea of an electro soul song and I'm really happy with the vocals and, and it's very stripped down and probably like those kind of sleeper songs you put on a record that are really important to you. They're in there. Maybe somebody loves them. But it's not the thing that you hear about because if there's not a video for it or, you know, might not play it live or whatever. But that one is really important to me and I kind of, you know, imagine myself as like a lone singer on a big empty stage singing that song. It was really meaningful to me to achieve what I kind of dreamed of achieving with that song. “Servant of Your Soul”.
LOUDTO: Awesome. I got a copy of the album on Friday and um I, I've been listening to it since I got it and it's, um it's great. I love the album. We'll actually be providing a written review on the website for the album as well. Just sitting here listening to you talk about it, for me just kind of brings it to a whole new level. I think it's really cool.
RP: That's cool. That's great to hear. I debate, obviously, when someone's asking you questions, you elaborate. Yes, I know a lot of artists like to not talk about the subject of songs and let people interpret them in their own way. But I still think that can be done. And obviously only a, you know, I could say these, I could say what every song is about till I'm blue in the face. But there's still gonna be other people that never read the interview, see it or whatever. But yeah, I mean, they're all meaningful and important to me and it's good to hear because, yeah, there is a lot of heart behind it. I don't do it for any other reason other than just like the absolute driven passion to make this. So it's good to hear that it connects. I appreciate that.
LOUDTO: Yeah, for sure. You guys are hitting the road. I think you got a 15 date run starting August 31st in Detroit. You're going be here in Toronto on September 1st at the Garrison. Um, silly question, but how exciting is that for you to get out again to support the album?
RP: Yeah, it's awesome. I'm very, very excited to play these songs. You know, this is our first record on Artifacts. You know, we recently signed to them and it does feel like a bit of a, I don't know if rebirth is too strong a word, but it feels like a reemergence for us after, you know, the rocky past few years. And yeah, I'm really excited and we love, I mean, it might sound hyperbole, but we love Canada. We love, we have so many friends in Toronto and, and Ottawa and, and we've had like really wonderful experiences with days off there and like just, just so much great time, so much great history and, and great music we love and um so yeah, Toronto in particular is like really, really special for us.
LOUDTO: Awesome. That's so cool to hear. Um So, I guess that's about it. Um Thanks so much, man for taking the time to chat with us.
RP: Yeah, thank you!
LOUDTO: I know you guys are busy for sure. Like I said, I'm loving the album, so we'll get a review online. I wish you all the best with the new release and I hope you have a great tour. I'm actually traveling that weekend. I'm going to the east coast of Canada for my mother's 80th birthday. So I would absolutely love to be at that show at the Garrison on September 1st, but not gonna happen this time around. So hopefully we'll pick you up next time.
(NOTE: A few days after this interview, my mother passed away suddenly. I had to change my travel plans and head to Newfoundland right away, resulting in this article being posted a little late, and thus not getting it out in time for the band's Toronto gig on September 1)
RP: Yeah, I hope so. Well, thank you. Thanks for taking the time and for listening to the record and everything. I appreciate it!
LOUDTO: Appreciate it, man. Thank you so much!