In the music world, many groups and artists have gotten their names from strange and interesting places. Some names seem to make no sense at all, while others completely fit the act. The latter could not be truer for Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms.
Just hearing the name sends images of a man with several extra appendages floating through the mind. And that is pretty accurate considering that Allen’s latest solo project was completed almost entirely on his own. He played the majority of the instruments on the album as well as contributing the vocals. Though he did have some very talented friends that stopped by to lend a few elements to the mix (a sax, violin and some extra guitar) most of the sound you hear comes from Allen himself. He humorously describes the circumstances in which he met “his band” (ie. himself) 32 years ago when he was born in Livonia.
Growing up in Livonia, Michigan Allen always enjoyed music. However, it wasn’t until he was a teenager that he realized that what he truly loved most about life was making music and playing it for other people. After that revelation, he started creating and performing music and has not stopped. Though he has played in a number of bands over the years, it is his latest solo work that is getting a lot of attention.
“I love writing songs, playing them in front of people, and connecting in a way that you can’t really do with any other kind of art” Allen said. And though the majority of his work has had a “big picture” kind of aspect, such as social issues, politics, etc., this new album is definitely of a more personal nature. “For these particular songs, I noticed a lyrical trend that that most of the songs were about me and my life… so there are songs on there about my wife, about maturing, about my adolescence, and about my own personal journey as a musician that’s played in a ton of bands over the years. I felt that because of that, it was appropriate to make a record and put my own name on it for the first time ever, and I’m really proud of it.”
Recreating the sound live that Allen lay out on his solo album has not been an issue. Allen teamed up with fellow musicians Gjon Gavelini, who plays bass, and Sean Sommer, on the drums, and this power trio has brought great life to the songs in live settings. In addition, Allen and Sommer plus band mates, John Nelson and Monday Busque, also play together in an indie rock band called Destroy This Place.
The sound that you will hear from Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms is what Allen describes as “homage to my intense love for power pop – a genre I’d describe as the sort of Rodney Dangerfield of music (cuz it gets little to no respect)”. Though his catchy music may not get all the respect it should, it is gathering plenty of attention. Recently, Allen was featured in the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers, In The D campaign. He also has caught the attention of many true fans of the power pop genre.
Allen takes pride in the songs he writes and what they represent. He takes inspiration from his life and family and is not one to get caught up in the commercial side of music. In his words, “Really, nothing else – musically speaking – beats a well written, concise song. To me, it’s not about the computer program you use to record the music and how perfect everything needs to sound, it’s not about how many “likes” you have on Facebook, it’s not even about how many people are able to come out to the show… the most important thing to me is to continue to write catchy, melodic, thought out and honest music that has a quality to it to where it can stand on it’s own, and become timeless in the process.” Allen has set out to achieve this in every song he creates.
While the challenge of creating an album entirely on his own was not without its difficult moments, no one to bounce ideas off and the creativity left entirely up to him, Allen was confident in his song writing abilities and created an album that is direct and to the point. His songs are short but sweet and he is self admittedly the “anti jam-band”.
As a huge fan of music, its history and the legacy it creates, Allen hopes to continue to play for years to come. As long as people want to listen, he will be performing. And right now, listening they are! You can find Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms at www.ryanallenmusic.com.