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The best kept secret in music

Press


"Ryan Horns and The Last Hotel chronicle everyday life through ambitious, melodic pop"

Ryan Horns and The Last Hotel chronicle everyday life through ambitious, melodic pop

by Chip Midnight

After nearly a year in the making, and featuring the sixth rotation of musicians to make up the band, the Last Hotel is gearing up for the release of its self-titled six-song EP. If the quality and musicianship featured on the CD is any indication, this is one release that’s worth the wait.

Filled with ambitious songs chronicling everyday life as seen through the eyes of a small-town newspaper reporter, the EP does not fall into one specific genre but, rather, spans multiple ones. From the punchy Brit-pop styling of “I’ll Never Mind” to the bittersweet passion of “Buried” which, during its soaring chorus, is reminiscent of Jeff Buckley’s finer work, this is a well-calculated effort on the part of singer/songwriter Ryan Horns. It’s his vision that is understood and effectively communicated by the other members of the Last Hotel, all of whom have years of experience playing in other well-known area bands.

The dream that would eventually become the Last Hotel began more than 10 years ago, when a young Horns picked up his first acoustic guitar. With a desire to learn from hands-on experience, Horns never took a guitar lesson. Instead, he learned to play by mimicking the style of his favorite players: Bob Dylan, Ritchie Havens, Muddy Waters, Woody Guthrie. To this day, Horns claims to have a lack of technical knowledge, though his playing would indicate otherwise.

In addition to learning to play guitar as a teenager, Horns spent much of his free time ingesting ’50s literature by scribes like Jack Kerouac, whose poem “The Last Hotel and Some of Dharma” would inspire the band name. This love of literature led Horns to begin writing; when he entered college he took as many creative writing classes as he could.

Through his self-discovery on guitar and his outpouring of ideas into dog-eared notebooks, Horns eventually found the courage to begin composing folk-style songs, which he’d play for a very select few. After enough encouragement from his love interest, roommates and friends, Horns made the move from the dorm room to the open mic and, in 1999, the Last Hotel dream became a reality.

“I always wanted a band but the problem was that I’d get people in the band because I knew them but not necessarily because they shared the same musical tastes as I did,” Horns recalls of the earliest incarnations of the Last Hotel. “I’d want it to sound one way and then you’d get three people who wanted it to sound like [British band] Muse. That stuff would happen all the time. I wanted it to sound like the John Lennon Plastic Ono band and everybody was like, ‘We have to have technology incorporated. We’ve got to get keyboard sounds.’”

By this point, Horns had shifted his focus from creative writing to journalism, a move that would alter the way he wrote songs.

“I used to be of the John Lennon school where you write about yourself because you only know yourself,” Horns says. “Two years ago I just got tired of writing about myself. That’s when I started doing journalism.” Readers of Alive may recognize his name as a past contributor to the paper; Horns also served as the local stringer for MTV.com, covering national and local acts.

These days Horns works as a city reporter for the Marysville Journal-Tribune, an experience that’s provided more inspiration than Horns could have imagined.

“There are a lot of weird stories going on and they are sort of complete stories in themselves because of the way I have to cover them from beginning to end,” he says. “I like to take a little scene of something that happened and put it into a song so you can read into it.”

With the songs and lyrical ideas in place, Horns recruited guitarist Bill Learned of the band Gigawatt to join him in the Last Hotel. Learned brought his then next-door neighbor, Jess Faller, into the band to add keyboards and accordion; shortly thereafter, bassist Adam Dowell and drummer Dan Bell (formerly of Stone Velvet and currently also in Templeton) joined the band and work began in earnest to produce songs worthy of recording.

After shuffling through a steady stream of drummers, guitar players, bassists and even a 45-year-old keyboard player with a mullet, the Last Hotel finally seemed to have found a steady lineup. They booked session time with Jon Fintel at Relay Recording and slowly started to commit songs to tape in the summer of 2002.

“When we got into the studio and tracked everything, we realized that half the guitar stuff wasn’t very good. We also wanted to add a bunch of things—banjo, trumpet and accordion,” Bell says. “And then Bill quit.”

In December 2002, Learned announced he was leaving the band to move to Arizona. Fintel assumed guitar duties on a temporary basis to help keep the recording process moving. Keith Jenkins, lead singer for the Stepford Five, had been a fan and friend of the Last Hotel, so in March 2003, when Horns and company decided they needed a full-time replacement for Learned, Jenkins seemed an obvious choice.

Jenkins entered the studio and rerecorded many of the guitar tracks Learned and Fintel had laid down. By the end of March the Last Hotel put the finishing touches on the EP. “Adding Keith was the last thing that put it all together,” Bell says.

With the EP ready to be unleashed on Columbus, the band has also started looking outside of I-270. They just returned from Nashville, where they played as part of the Nashville Music Conference. And, like most bands out there, the band dreams of signing with a record label.

As Bell jokes, the Last Hotel is really interested in signing with any label that “will let us tour with Muse.”

Whether this lineup will be intact to fulfill these goals is uncertain, though Horns hopes it will be, as he’s finally found a collection of like-minded musicians.

Faller sums up why the band works so well together: “We realize that this is Ryan’s vision,” she says. “They are his songs and we just add our parts to them.” To the band’s credit, they’ve given life to a stunning collection of melodic pop songs that mark the first stop of many for the Last Hotel.



The Last Hotel will celebrate their new EP’s release on Friday, September 19, at Little Brother’s, with Miranda Sound and Orchestraville. Click to thelasthotel.com for info.

September 18, 2003

Copyright © 2003 Columbus Alive, Inc. All rights reserved. - Columbus, ALive


Discography

Last Hotel, Eclipsed by Planet 12

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

After the recent line up of The Last Hotel disbanded in March, songwriter Ryan Horns had already started another band as a side project outlet for a large load of his tunes Hotel would never get to. Hotel had been Horns' songwriting outlet since 1998, and it had several different line ups in that time. Instead of keeping The Last Hotel name as usual, a new name was chosen in order to start from scratch and also to reflect the new focus of the music. It's been a relatively short amount of time since the group came together. Since then the band has done a few shows to get ready and have solidified its setlist of music

We are set apart by our cohesiveness and ability to put the right hook in at the wrong time, kidding. Also we are amazing in our ability to put together a press kit in a hour and a half before the deadline. Thanks for the heads up last night.