When he pressed record on “Eek It’s Halloween,” the sweetly nostalgic tune that sits at the centre of Irrational Anthems, Ryan Dahle had only the vaguest idea of where the song would go. He had a jumble of lyrics, the skeleton of a melody, an acoustic guitar and, most importantly, Greenhouse Studios, the Vancouver recording studio that he calls home. When you listen to the album, you still hear that first take — from the laugh when Dahle sings “I’ve been a trash bag, I’ve been a tree” to the artfully hidden crack in his falsetto.
To Dahle, capturing that kind of creative spark is one of the main benefits of life in a studio. The other benefit, naturally, is that it allows Dahle the time to perfect his creations. Spontaneous gems like “Eek It’s Halloween” share space on Irrational Anthems with the meticulously minimal rocker “Shutdown” and the tastefully orchestrated “Lion Piano,” while lead-off track “Chop Chop” has been honed to radio-rock perfection over the course of seven versions. Each track is both fully developed and fully distinct.
Dahle’s ear for pop-friendly idiosyncrasy is everywhere on Irrational Anthems. So is his unmistakable voice, a pinched blend of sweetness and grit that somehow makes lines like “Roll up your ‘On Guard’ or I’m inclined to use the trap door” make their own inevitable kind of sense. From the songwriting and performances to the production and mixing, every second of the album is the product of Dahle’s creativity.
That kind of hands-on commitment is only natural. Dahle has always been adept at crafting obliquely hook-laden melodies and fractured lyrics, first as songwriter for The Age of Electric and then as frontman for Limblifter, collecting 7 top 11 radio hits, 4 Juno nominations and a Casby award between the two bands. Since then, he’s practically (and now literally) lived in the studio, collecting gear, experimenting with production techniques, searching for new sounds and working with well-known Canadian musicians like The Manvils and Hot Hot Heat.
Despite the fact that Irrational Anthems is the first album Dahle has released under his own name, it’s not strictly a solo affair. Megan Bradfield (The Salteens, A.C. Newman) contributes bass, double-bass, cello, clarinet and vocals, and Dahle’s brother Kurt is back, bringing both his experience in indie-pop sensations The New Pornographers and the type of intuition that only brothers can share. One of the biggest inspirations isn’t even musical — a collaboration with renowned Canadian visual artist Steven Shearer led to both a strong friendship and a huge influence on the album art and the music itself.
Instantly satisfying and deeply inventive all at once, Irrational Anthems contains a blend of spontaneous creativity and meticulous artistry that can only come from experience. It’s not a redefinition or a statement of purpose — it’s the album Dahle’s career has been leading to.
Ryan Dahle - singer, songwriter, guitar, banjo, keyboards, drums
Megan Bradfield - singer, songwriter, electric bass, double bass, cello, clarinet, keyboards
Brent Follett - drum trap live!
Ian Somers - guitar, keyboards live!
Also appearing on the record...
Kurt Dahle - drums
Kim Koch/Lara Kroeker - violins
Shaun Brodie - trumpet
Ryan Dahle - Irrational Anthems
August 25 2009
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An elephant in the room needs to be addressed right off the bat: Ryan Dahle spent the mid-'90s playi...An elephant in the room needs to be addressed right off the bat: Ryan Dahle spent the mid-'90s playing with gold-selling CanCon radio darlings the Age of Electric, along with offshoot Limblifter. For many a fickle hipster, that past is going to lead to the instant dismissal of Dahle's first solo effort, Irrational Anthems, but sadly, it's that same audience that should champion what's destined to become one of the year's most underrated slabs of intellectually minded indie rock. With help from Megan Bradfield (A.C. Newman) and Dahle's drummer brother Kurt (the New Pornographers), the BC native repeatedly strikes that perfect balance between hook-laden pop and off-kilter musical weirdness, bringing cerebral pop tones, straight-up rock theatrics and a hefty dose of restrained subtlety, often within a single track. And while Dahle's songwriting has definitely levelled up, it's his emergence as a true studio head that makes Irrational Anthems, with the album's production sounding entirely slaved over yet never over-the-top. Quite simply, it's enough to forget that past — "Ugly" or not — and live in Dahle's present. (Sandbag)
Ryan Dahle Does it All with a Little bit of help
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When the Straight calls up former Age of Electric and Limblifter member Ryan Dahle to chat about his...When the Straight calls up former Age of Electric and Limblifter member Ryan Dahle to chat about his debut solo album, Irrational Anthems, the musical jack-of-all-trades (singer, songwriter, guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, banjo player, producer, mixer, mastering engineer) is hanging at his buddy Steven Shearer’s Vancouver studio. Shearer’s the visual artist who created the seven-foot-by-seven-foot cube sculpture made of PVC piping that graces the cover of Dahle’s new CD, and is currently on display at the National Gallery of Canada. He rigged the device with bass shakers and high-end drivers, and asked Dahle to help him figure out a way to make music with it—or at least get it to rumble and shake.
“He’s made all this crazy music with these vintage synths that I have and made this thing come alive,” explains Dahle, who’s pictured climbing the monkey bar–like structure with his girlfriend and musical associate Megan Bradfield (the Salteens, A.C. Newman). The two have been making music together, on and off, for eight years now, and on Dahle’s latest she cowrote three tracks and handles bass, double bass, vocals, cello, and clarinet.
The other main contributor to Irrational Anthems is Dahle’s brother Kurt, who played in both of his previous bands before taking on the drumming role for local indie idols the New Pornographers. It’s the first time the Dahles have recorded together since Limblifter’s Bellaclava album of 2000, as Vancouver drum great Pat Steward assumed the kit for Limblifter’s last release, 2004’s I/O.
“Both of those drummers could fill in for the best people in the world,” raves Dahle, whose sibling’s potent skin-bashing enlivens power-pop standouts like the exhilarating opener “Chop Chop” and the Dahle/Bradfield-penned “Awfulizing”. The latter tune spun from a word concocted by Dahle’s friend Sarah Lapsley, leader of local act Vancouver Nights. “Solve your sunshine problem,” croons Dahle in the uplifting ditty, “mute the awfulizing.”
“Usually I make the titles up myself,” he says, “but I just thought that ‘awfulizing’ was so brilliant. It’s basically just the idea that you make anything horrible come to fruition if you think about the worst possible scenario. So writing that song was kind of a reminder to me to try to be positive.”
For the cello-driven “Agoraphobe”, which was inspired by the anxiety disorder an ex-girlfriend battled with, Dahle hooked up with Matthew Good, who himself suffers from bipolar disorder. The two had previously collaborated on “The Devil’s in Your Details”, a single off Good’s 2007 CD Hospital Music.
“We’ve probably written a couple of albums worth of material together,” reports Dahle. “Some of it we’ve put on the Internet, and some of it just kinda ends up on our records here and there. I think we’re both people who can go to each other if we ever have writer’s block and need a kick start.”
When he’s not composing music for himself or others, Dahle can often be found mixing and mastering at the RecRoom, the recording facility he built in the 12-studio Song City complex, which includes the fabled Greenhouse Studios. The RecRoom came in handy when Steve Bays and Paul Hawley of Vancouver-based indie-rock sensations Hot Hot Heat, after hearing advance music from Irrational Anthems, asked him to mix their next CD.
“Considering that they’ve only worked with the best people in the world,” says Dahle, “I was pretty blown away that they chose somebody local, and that the person they chose was me.”
Dahle describes the finished Hot Hot Heat album—which is currently being shopped around to labels by the same L.A. management team that handles No Doubt and Nine Inch Nails—as a “classic”. He’s also chipper about the recently released, self-titled disc by local guitar-rockers the Manvils, which he produced, recorded, and mixed.
“Having all those roles is a bit stressful,” says Dahle, “but I really wanted to make a rock record, and they’re just wonderful guys in that band. They really wanted to work hard to make something amazing, so I was happy.”
While the roles of producer, mixer, and mastering engineer keep him busy these days, the launch of his solo career is Dahle’s top priority right now. With the encouragement of those closest to him, he decided it was time to move beyond Limblifter.
“I could have easily called this [project] Limblifter,” he points out, “but by getting away from the Limblifter name I felt like I was kinda limitless as to what I could do. And Megan really promoted the idea of it being a Ryan Dahle record. She said, ‘If you’re ever gonna put your name on a record, then now’s the time.’
“Putting my name on a record is just something I’ve never imagined,” he adds. “But I always feel most comfortable doing things that I feel uncomfortable doing.”
Remember Ryan Dahle?
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Remember the Age of Electric? We sure do. With five albums in the nineties, and songs like "Remote...
Remember the Age of Electric? We sure do. With five albums in the nineties, and songs like "Remote Control," "Ugly," and "Untitled" burned into the collective memories of people who went to rock clubs in Canada in the nineties, they're pretty hard to forget.
It's also hard to forget that Age of Electric was made up of two pairs of brothers: Ryan and Kurt Dahle and Todd and John Kerns. And perhaps even harder to forget that the Dahles spin-off band, Limblifter, was itself a pretty memorable act, releasing two albums between 1996 and 2000 (including 1996's S/T debut, recorded after the band practiced but ten times, which against the odds spawned hits like "Tinfoil" and "Vicious") and a third, I/O, in 2004 with a revamped lineup. In all, Limblifter received 4 Juno nominations and even scored a CASBY award.
Of course, this is all biographical information that may or may not even be relevant. The question was "Do you remember Ryan Dahle?" We'd suppose that now you do.
The next question would naturally be: "What's he been up to?"
Well, as the story goes, since Limblifter broke up (around 2004 or 2005), Dahle's been a studio rat, doing work for bands like Billy Talent, the Manvils, and Hot Hot Heat. But that doesn't mean that he hasn't followed through on his own musical ideas and such. Irrational Anthems, to be released on August 25, is the first album Dahle will release under his own name. His brother, Kurt, is back in the fold after some time playing in The New Pornographers, and the project also includes contributions from Megan Bradfield (A.C. Newman).
Ryan Dahle goes Solo
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By Laura Melvin Vancouver alt-rock mainstay, Ryan Dahle, played to a crowded Biltmore Cabaret Thu...By Laura Melvin
Vancouver alt-rock mainstay, Ryan Dahle, played to a crowded Biltmore Cabaret Thursday night at the release party for his first solo album, Irrational Anthems. Most people associate Dahle, and his brother Kurt, with the bands Age of Electric and Limblifter, both of which had massive success in the 90s. After Age of Electric disbanded and his brother moved on to the New Pornographers, Dahle recruited new Limblifter members—including Meegee Bradfield who joins him on his solo disc—to keep the band alive. These days, Dahle takes his talent and creativity and channels it into producing albums for fellow Canadians and Vancouverites Hot Hot Heat and The Manvils. Looks like Ryan has talent and creativity to spare, however, with a solo album that has all the energy of Age of Electric or Limblifter—and unique, thought provoking song titles and lyrics.
To help celebrate his solo debut, Dahle had Canadian artists Debra-Jean and Prairie Cat start the party. Opener Debra-Jean enchanted the audience with a simple three-guitar arrangement and impressively powerful and emotive vocals. Prairie Cat followed with a fun, crowd-pleasing set, with a lot of songs about ex-girlfriends, which effectively warmed up the Biltmore and filled the dance floor. By the time Dahle began his set, the crowd had crammed in front of the stage: Neck-craning and standing on tip-toe became the dominant dance moves of the night.
Irrational Anthems is an intriguing and infectious album, complete with an eye-catching album cover that looks a lot like a jungle gym made of PVC tubing. With an album like this, the CD release party was bound to be a success. Dahle’s years of experience showed in his performance—excellent vocals, stage presence, and a venue perfectly suited to an intimate album launch. Though there were more guest-list patrons than cover-payers at the Biltmore Thursday night, I’m sure that the entire crowd would have happily paid the ten dollars to celebrate Ryan Dahle’s first solo release.
Ryan Dahle Breaks Away from His Age of Electric Past for First Solo Album, Plans Select Canadian Dates
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Most of us remember Vancouver singer-songwriter Ryan Dahle from his time in ‘90s alt-rock band Limbl...Most of us remember Vancouver singer-songwriter Ryan Dahle from his time in ‘90s alt-rock band Limblifter and his previous outfit the Age of Electric. But within the Western Canadian music circle, Dahle has made quite the name for himself as a recording engineer and mixer in recent years. And now he’s putting all that to good use for his first ever solo album, Irrational Anthems.
Released on Burnaby, BC-based Sandbag Records on Tuesday (August 25), Dahle’s 12-track album is chock full of eccentric, left-of-centre indie pop rock, adding a newfound retrain and subtlety that makes this record a far cry from his bombastic, chart-topping AOE work. However, Dahle didn’t go it alone, with notable guest contributors including Dahle’s brother, Kurt, who also played drums with him in his two ‘90s bands and now in the New Pornographers, and Megan Bradfield (the Salteens, A.C. Newman), who adds bass, double-bass, cello, clarinet and vocals.
While Dahle began his career penning alt-rock radio hits such as “Remote Control,” “Tinfoil” and “Ugly,” his solo album is in many ways a more artistic and ambitious effort than those of his previous bands. It seems his production work with acts like Billy Talent, the Manvils and, most recently, mixing work on the soon-to-be-released Hot Hot Heat album has allowed him to step back from the mainstream rock/pop world a bit and indulge in his own musical experiments.
Irrational Anthems also benefits from Dahle’s ongoing collaboration with Vancouver visual artist Steven Shearer, who, according to a press release, was a huge influence on the album’s artwork and the music itself.
To check out the record — which we recommend you to do
Canadian rocker back on the shelves after years behind the scenes
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Chances are you've heard Ryan Dahle's songs even though you might not recognize his name right off t...Chances are you've heard Ryan Dahle's songs even though you might not recognize his name right off the bat. That is all about to change with his new record, Irrational Anthems.
Dahle was one of the guitarists/vocalists in the Canadian rock band Age Of Electric and also fronted the group Limblifter. During the mid to late 90's, Dahle was on a roll, earning seven radio hits and four Juno nominations between the two bands for songs like Limblifter's 'Tinfoil' and 'Remote Control' by Age of Electric.
Age of Electric went their separate ways in 1998 after more than a decade of slugging it out and striving to achieve a level of notoriety that only really came their way during their final few years together. When asked for the reasons behind their split, Dahle hesitates for a moment and then explains.
"That's a tough question," he admits down the line from British Columbia. "We had worked so hard for a long time and I guess it just started to wear on all of us within the band."
The end of Age Of Electric wasn't an explosive or controversial thing by any means, according to Dahle.
"We ended up playing two really big shows with Our Lady Peace and broke up amicably between those two dates. We have a lot of great memories and truly had a great time while we were together."
Limblifter would become Dahle's primary musical outlet and would go on to make two other great records (2000's Bellaclava and 2004's I/O) before Dahle would somewhat voluntarily fade into the background of the Canadian music scene.
Dahle remained entrenched in helping music be created, just not in the performing sense. He became a self-professed "studio rat," amassing recording equipment and building his own studio, the RecRoom, in Vancouver's Song City Complex which is also home to Greenhouse Studios.
Dahle has had the opportunity to work on many projects and in many different facets including recording, mixing and mastering. Not only did Dahle know his way around a mixing board, he would also help artists find the exact sound that best suited the songs being recorded. Even though the process of finding the perfect match of guitars and amplifiers could be an arduous process, Dahle recognizes the importance of the music sounding just right for the final product.
One of the most impressive credits on his resume is having mixed the upcoming Hot Hot Heat record.
"I've concentrated on making great sounding records with good equipment. Having the opportunity to have mixed the Hot Hot Heat record was a huge privilege and one I am very proud of, considering a band of their stature chose to work with me.
"I initially fell into the studio work by accident but welcomed it as it was a break from performing," Dahle says. "After awhile though, everything goes full circle and I came back around to song-writing. I realized that writing songs is kind of a luxury."
The renewed interest in song-writing would ultimately produce the 12 tracks on Dahle's new record Irrational Anthems. Recorded over the course of a year, Dahle admits the record has been completed for a year and a half. Dahle has been taking great care in the advance setup of his new record. He wanted to ensure all the right people were in all the right places and lending their support to his record prior to the album's release.
But rather than returning to the relative safety blanket of the Limblifter name, Dahle opted to release the record under his own name instead.
"I was actually torn between using the Limblifter name and releasing the record under my own name," Dahle explains. "I wanted to make and sell my new record without any kind of history being attached to it and received a lot of encouragement to go this route from my band mate Megan."
In this writer's opinion, selling his new record will not be a problem for Dahle. Irrational Anthems will be the catalyst to return him to the forefront of the Canadian music conscious. The 12 tracks on the record show a definite maturity in Dahle's song-writing, incorporating strings on songs like "Target Practice" while keeping the pop and power-pop edge that he is known for on tracks like "Chop Chop" and "Sixes and Sevens."
Shows in the Maritimes aren't currently on Dahle's tour schedule, but admits he would love to make it out to this part of the country before long.
"I think it's realistic that it will take some time for people to find out about this new record so we are thinking this might be more of a possibility in the spring."
Irrational Anthems is in stores and available online now.
Ken Kelley is a music reporter for [here] magazine. In Conversation With ... is an ongoing feature that spotlights some of North America's most relevant artists.
– Interview with Ken Kelley
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