Interview: Speak Low If You Speak Love
Eind 2014 tekende Speak Low If You Speak Love, het side-project van State Champs-gitarist Ryan Scott Graham, een platencontract bij Pure Noise Records. In samenwerking met het label bracht de muzikant een heruitgave van zijn debuutalbum Everything But What You Need uit.
Onlangs vloog Speak Low over naar het Verenigd Koninkrijk voor zijn eerste eigen overzeese tour. DutchScene sprak met Graham over het soloproject, State Champs en zijn plannen voor de toekomst.
Who’s Speak Low If You Speak Love?
Speak Low If You Speak Love is Ryan Scott Graham and friends. Sometimes it’s a solo effort, sometimes collaborative, but always introspective and challenging. Some people listen because they want to relax, others enjoy because it tends to make them reflect. Speak Low is an attempt at being all encompassing.
You’ve started signing and performing acoustically way before State Champs. How did you end up joining a “heavier” band, whilst maintaining a very different project which is SLIYSL?
I released my solo record independently about a month before I joined State Champs. I’ve always been in “heavier” bands, but drawn to the subtle side of acoustic music. It wasn’t necessarily a massive jump to be in a fun, energetic band, although they are certainly different. Perhaps juggling two bands on the opposite ends of the spectrum is what keeps me sane. It keeps things interesting and different and fun. If I wasn’t keeping myself busy, I’m not really sure what I’d be doing.
What do you enjoy the most: you and a guitar or a full set gig?
It’s hard to choose which kind of set I prefer. When it comes to Speak Low, both the acoustic vibe and the full band set have their certain charms. I recruited an all-star cast of my best friends to play in the Speak Low band, so each show is fun and memorable because there is an undeniable energy on stage. Each member brings their distinct spice to the live show, some parts differing from the record, which also adds to the fun and charisma of a full band set. But I can’t deny, playing solo gives me a huge sense of purpose. It may be the most intimate thing in my life, and for that reason, it’s special. The raw element speaks to a lot of people, and I think if you can pull it off, those people will come back.
You’re in the UK for the 4th time, but this time it’s just you and your fans. How does that feel?
This time in the UK was special because it was for a completely different reason. A lot of State Champs fans came out, as you can imagine, I have a decent amount of fan overlap. Some of them wanted a chance to get to know me and talk to me away from a busy State Champs gig, and some of them had been waiting to see me show my softer side. I heard a lot of, “It feels so strange to see you up there all by yourself,” or “I barely recognized you not head banging,” Whatever the comments were, it was an entirely positive experience. I hope next time I can come back with the full band and give them a bit of a rock show.
What was the main inspiration behind your album Everything But What You Need?
Everything But What You Need is about a lot of things, but my favorite part about it is that it’s vague enough to where you have to develop the ideas and construct the comments yourself. Sure it’s about relationships, but it’s also about getting to know oneself and learning to live with what you create for yourself. It’s about life and love and hair. It’s about those momentary snapshots that you can’t forget even if you wanted to. Sometimes you don’t want to forget them. I write about it all.
When it comes to writing a song, do you ever think of what it would sound like with more instruments?
I try to hear the end product in my head whilst writing, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Usually when I’ve got a decent chunk of the song done, I can kind of decipher whether it’s gonna be a full on jammer, or if it’s gonna be a bit reserved. But for the most part, I tend to bring unfinished songs into the studio and craft them to completion there. It’s more fun that way, I think. Plus, you get extra ears and outside opinions that sometimes help guide the song in a way you may not have expected it go.
Being a songwriter, do you have a major role when writing a records for State Champs?
When we were writing Around The World and Back, I contributed whenever I had an idea I thought fit the State Champs mindset. A lot of my riffs were too slow and sad and have a distinct “Speak Low sound” to them, and I understood that. So I never tried to push my agenda, but if I brought something to the table that I thought made sense, we tried to incorporate it. I actually wrote a riff on Warped Tour 2014 that was intended to be a Speak Low song, and ended up becoming All You Are Is History, so it’s cool to see the evolution. It was my first time writing and recording a good chunk of bass ideas, so that was fun and exciting and new. Other than that, I just tried to be complementary. If there was a melody idea or a lyric change I felt suited the song, I’d raise my voice. Sometimes it stuck, sometimes it didn’t. That’s how it goes for most bands, I think. It’s always a discussion!
You’ve recently performed as Speak Low If You Speak Love in Japan, then got on stage with State Champs just a few minutes after. How was this experience?
The show in Shibuya, Tokyo was the first time I had ever opened up for State Champs as Speak Low If You Speak Love. It was awesome! I think a lot of fans were confused by me being up there with just an acoustic guitar and my voice, because I don’t think a lot of them had realized I have a side project. So it was fun to see some of that confusion, but for the most part it was a super positive experience. There was a bit of singing, and an abundance of hugs after the show. Playing two sets in one night isn’t something that I could do every night, but every once in a while, I’m more than down for it.
Is there any song you’ve written you particularly love and can’t stop singing?
I think “Adjacent” is one of my favorite Speak Low tunes I’ve written. It’s simple, but catchy and it’s usually the one my tourmates will continue singing after the show is over. Knots is the ‘hit’ I guess, but “Adjacent” is my personal favorite.
What can we expect from SLIYSL next?
Expect another full length record in the near future. I’ve been working on it for a while, but I’ve been so busy that it’s been an excruciatingly slow process. Nevertheless, it’s coming! Other than that, whenever I’m not touring with State Champs, I’ll be doing Speak Low stuff – so expect some tours, and hopefully some festival appearances. If I can fit some basement/living room shows in there somewhere, I’d like to do that as well.