As singer and guitarist of the Demon Funkies, Ryan Chrys clearly knows his way around a groove, but he's also well-versed in other genres, as evidenced by his new solo album, The Ambivalent Justice Of... With some help from Seth and Josh Larson of Something Underground, Brent Loveday from Reno Divorce, Aubrey Collins and former Boulder Acoustic Society violinist Kailin Yong, Chrys delves into rock and modern rock, country and even a bit of folk.
Made of tunes he's been kicking around for years, along with some newer cuts, The Ambivalent Justice Of... is being celebrated tonight with a CD release party at the Walnut Room. We caught up with Chrys and talked about the new album.
Westword: Would you say your new album is different than stuff you've done in the past with the Demon Funkies?
Ryan Chrys: It's definitely different. Quite a bit different, in fact. I just had a group of songs that didn't quite fit into Demon Funkies repertoire, and I wanted to have some guests and some friends and stuff be a big part of it anyway. So I just decided to go that route.
Is this stuff you've been writing over the years on the side?
Yeah. Many musicians have a collection of songs that don't seem to make it to the live show or don't seem to fit in a showcase set or one thing or the other. I just had these songs, and some of them I'd written a while ago, and some of them are new. When I started putting them together, I thought, "Well, I'll just make a full album." So I wrote some new ones and dug out some old ones, and just kind of modified them all.
How would you say it differs from the Demon Funkies material?
It's just a lot broader spectrum. It's got some rock to almost country to almost folky to even to modern rock.
There's definitely a lot of variety on there. What's cool is that it shows what your scope is a songwriter.
That's another thing is that I've got all these songs and I realized, "Well, they're not really cohesive to one specific sound and what am I going to do with them?" This also gave me an outlet to put a bunch of songs out even if they weren't necessarily the same sound, like what a cohesive album might be.
Was part of it showing what you're capable of in different settings?
That, and also just picking good songs. I wanted to show a little bit of variety, but I also wanted to put some of the songs that I thought were better. It just so happened that I thought were best were also of different styles.
The vocal harmonies on the first few cuts kind of reminded me of Alice in Chains. Was that sort of intentional?
Yeah. I've always loved Alice in Chains harmonies and big vocals. And I just love big chorus-y vocals and stuff like that to begin with. There's definitely some of that in there.
I really dig "Right on Time" too with Brent Loveday from Reno Divorce on vocals. That definitely seemed like the most rocking cut on the records.
He's a good friend. I like that song, and I could have sang it. We've played acoustic together and done some things together, but I've just always just wanted to record with him. So I was like, "I'm just going to call Brent and have him sing this one." It's pretty much right up his alley.
Why did you decide you to sing on most of the tracks instead of having all guest vocalists?
Well, I started laying them down, and as I did for all of them, I just laid a scratch vocal down, so that I could pass it off and say, "Hey could you sing this? There's a scratch vocal on there of my idea." So I started doing that and I picked the obvious choices on some of them. And then it started to sound not so bad for number one. And two, it started taking a long time, and I needed to kind of wrap it up. It just somehow came out, I guess.
You've got a lot of guests on the record. What made you want to choose those particular musicians and singers?
Either they were in some of my favorite bands in Denver, like Something Underground and Reno Divorce or former bandmates like Azma Holiday -- we were in US Pipe. I was in Aubrey Collins's band for a while. She's always been a great talent. We've been great friends, so it's easy to call her and say, "Hey, come sing on my track." So it's always easier when you're extra good friends or ex-bandmates or whatever.
Kailin from Boulder Acoustic Society is just amazing. We weren't super great friends, but I asked him to come lay down a track. Brent and I have been friends for a long time. Reno Divorce is one my favorite Denver bands. And Something Underground: Their talent never ceases to amaze me. They've been great friends forever so that's just an easy one.
What's the story behind the name of the album, or is there a story?
It's kind of a personal story in that my two cousins who I play music with... just drinking beers and playing music. One night we just got on this topic of ambivalent justice and just laughing it about it all night. It always just kind of stuck in my mind. It's just basically named after a funny experience that my cousins and I had playing music and getting drunk and making up lyrics and words. We devised a theme of ambivalent justice. Not super exciting. It was originally a lyric in one of our songs. It grew out of that.
How long ago was that?
The song that has the ambivalence in it was a song that my cousins wrote maybe six years ago. We still sing it when we get together. It's a jam. It's just something that reminds of the good times that we had. And I've always just liked that word for some reason. I decided that this was my own personal ambivalent justice.