Ryan Monahan
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Ryan Monahan

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There are times you hear music and you know, that if the right break doesn’t come along, there is no hope.
When I put this CD in my player, I heard a sonic birage of sophisticated aurally excited sound waves. That made me wonder how old these guys were. I thought to myself (which I always do) this has some serious jazzy progressions and changes. I also thought that if this band tries to say they’re modern rock, “I’m going to start throwing every modern rock press kit away!” But that didn’t happen. Although they say they’re rock mixing progressive jam-band and emo, diggin a little deeper into the kit comes the singers emphassis on jazz. Then, “It all made sense” they actually might know what they’re doing! Listen, I’m no “jazz” freak actually I’m a hardrock freak, but you gotta give it to someone who got it already. This bands GOT IT!!! This is one of the best group of actual musicians I’ve heard in a while. Sure!, great powerchords sound great in a modern rock or metal band and great acoustic sounds good in a great folk outfit! Great depth also sounds good in a great technically orientend style that I can’t really put a label on. The only problem is, I don’t think there’s a market for this music. I really feel this band is doing it for themselves which is great!!!

- www.rockhousemethod.com


What a voice! It's funny how Connecticut transplant Ryan Monahan opens his mouth to sing, but it's the jaws of the audience members that drop. Fans of any Buckley-inspired crooner will find much to love in his rich, powerful, yet delicately sad, vocals - think Jimmy Gnecco of Ours without all the overbearing darkness. Says Monahan of his songwriting, it's "music overcome by doubt; doubt overcome by music."

If you have no use for the sophomoric jingle-jangle of most indie rockers, here is a band offering finely crafted beauty and depth. The rotating cast of backing musicians weave smart melodies and hooks augmented by an eclectic array of instruments and lush arrangements. Since settling in Athens in February, Monahan has continued to reach out to new collaborators and is currently recording with David Barbe. - Flagpole


The three members of Shadowgraphs stand around their Branford rehearsal space listening to the finished version of "The Sound that Never Dies," the first tune the band's officially completed. Ryan Monahan, John Limone and Neal Spencer bob their heads accordingly to the experimental folk ditty, an eight-minute foray with hushed guitars, loud and off-kilter drums and a droning, trance-like conclusion that spills into an acoustic outro.

Surrounded by gangster-movie posters — and a "The Big Lebowski" one — the guys perform half their live set, a mix of startlingly well-thought-out epics with multiple parts and shifting time signatures. As just a trio, Shawdowgraphs can't augment its sound with background voices, cellos, keyboards and laptop beats while rehearsing, saving those elements for a studio. Instead the songs sound aggressive yet soft, delicate yet rock-solid.

The trio came to life through the death of local favorite Eschellon. Monahan fronted that Death Cab For Cutie-like band until late April of 2005. While riding high on the release of its record "The History of Fire" and receiving plenty of local and national attention, Eschellon abruptly called it a day due to inner conflicts.

"Toward the end of Eschellon, like when things started going badly," recalls Monahan after the rehearsal, while snacking on a Reese's Big Cup, "we were auditioning guitar players. We were a three piece, and we wanted someone to fill in the holes, especially in the live show. We went through about 10 players and none worked out. One day, I was like, 'What about John Limone?' I'd known him since freshman year of high school (at Branford High). We auditioned John and he was solid and everything we were looking for. Then, it was hard to break the news to him that we appreciated him helping out, but this isn't going to work out, the band and all." But after Eschellon's demise, Monahan continued writing songs, and he and Limone began working them out on acoustic guitars, never exactly knowing what they'd end up doing with them. In August, Monahan responded to an ad on Myspace.com for an apartment. "I attended Eschellon's last show and I didn't even know them at all," explains drummer Spencer. "I went to see Piebald. But while they were playing, I looked over at this girl I was with and said, 'Wow, this guy has a great voice.' Ryan responded to the ad a few months later and I kind of figured out who he was."

The three started slowly, just trying to figure out if Shadowgraphs would work. "I spent four years with Eschellon and that was exhausting," says Monahan, "and I went into this casually. I didn't want to give up, but if this didn't feel like it would work out, I wasn't going to keep going." Soon songs started forming and the guys found they meshed together well. "A lot of the songs start out as a part," explains Limone, who uses his Telecaster and his large array of pedals to craft very different sounds during each song. "But others we'll just jam for a while and come up with, and some Ryan writes and brings to us." "There are two sides to the songs," says Monahan. "We have a lot of very deliberate songs, ones planned out from the top down. Others are a whole idea that will spin out from one little riff or chord." Spencer adds, "We try a lot of things, a dozen different things. We're very nitpicky."

The trio's propensity to fiddle with the songs and attempt to add nuance remains evident in the band's songs: Only one is officially complete, although the guys have an arsenal of about 10 tunes. "The Sound that Never Dies" brings to mind "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"-era Wilco with its folk base, atonal drums long ending.

"The songs do have an extended epic quality," admits Monahan. "It's a reflection of the music we listen to. There's some Travis, DJ Shadow, hip hop, that kind of influence in the longer epics, but still they all have like three chords and can be stripped down to something that can be played on an acoustic guitar. And that's what we set out to do from the beginning. "We want the band to sound like one unified organ of sound, not a bunch of musicians. Sigur Ros is a big influence on that. They are always playing together."

Because of their focus on finding this sound, this togetherness, Shadowgraphs does not plan to play out much in the near future. The band's only official performance came a couple months ago and the trio was asked to play. Another request came for tonight's show at The Space, and the band is looking forward to displaying how the songs have evolved over time.

"We're way tighter than I thought we would be at this point," says Limone. Monahan adds, "Our main concern is the quality of the music. We strive for something unique. If the sound isn't right, then what's the point?" Patrick Ferrucci can be reached at pferrucci@nhregister.com or (203) 789-5678. - New Haven Register


Formed from the ashes of New Haven-based indie trio Eschellon´s remains, Shadowgraphs is the current brainchild of Eschellon founding member Ryan Monahan. Also featuring John Limone (interim guitarist for the same band) and Neal Spencer, ex-drummer of Not for Scholars, the band´s music naturally retains the flavor of Eschellon´s songwriting, but the overall sound is a mixture of layered soundscapes, peppered with a subtle instrumentation revealing the band to be musically mature beyond their years. Shadowgraphs have consciously remained outside the spotlight until now to focus on perfecting the kind of sound they want to be known for, but are ready to unleash their brand of emotionally charged indie-rock on the world, just ... about ... wait for it ... now. - Hartford Advocate


I’m not a pretty girl. Right now, you’ve probably taken a second look at my picture and, yes, I’m a guy. Because I’m a guy and not a pretty girl, I was lucky to get a free copy of Eschellon’s recently released five-song sampler.

You see, I was walking out of the Rufus Wainwright, Ben Folds and Guster show Saturday at the Oakdale and members of Eschellon, based in Wallingford, were waiting outside, giving away copies of the sampler. But, the smart guys that they must be, they were targeting pretty women. Now normally I would have just kept walking, but one member repeatedly yelled, "Eschellon, the best band in Connecticut." Well, with that kind of claim, I wanted to hear it.

I made my way over to the shouter, and even though I wasn’t of the fairer sex, he still gave me a disc. I brought it back to my apartment and it sat on my kitchen table for a couple days. I didn’t think much of it when I saw it every morning while eating my Total Raisin Bran. But then one night, I decided to give it a listen and I’m glad I did.

For a young band, the playing is remarkably proficient, guitars ring, time signatures change, the bass bounces and doesn’t blindly follow the guitar line and the drums relentlessly pound. The obvious comparison is "The Bends"-era Radiohead, without the pretension.

I’m not saying Eschellon’s music is as good as what’s on "The Bends"; it’s definitely not. But what I am saying is that this is a band to be reckoned with, and it just well could be the best band in the state. The songs are experimental, but still based in traditional songwriting and who knows how good future tunes will be as the band matures.

The disc’s lead-off track, "Cage in a Bottle," combines a vicious guitar line, soulful vocals and multiple parts to create a multi-textured suite that could be emo, but it’s a little too arty for that classification. Each song has its own aura, a sonic element that’s just amazing for a relatively under-produced recording.
- New Haven Register


"Ryan Monahan and his bandmates in Eschellon have moved beyond their roots.

You can call Eschellon a lot of names, but whatever you do, do not call them a jam band. If you do, then you'll get each member of the band vociferously denying this claim, even if ironically enough, they started out as one.

It's not that they have any disdain for the jam band scene, it's just that the band feels that they have moved beyond their roots and embraced a more structured approach to songwriting that incorporates subtle melodies and hooks. But they are also quick to emphasize that they still leave spaces in the songs for improvisation. So maybe that's where the jam band comparison comes in.

After watching their performance at the Main Pub in Manchester last Friday, I really don't see how anybody in their right mind can come even close to calling them a jam band. Maybe those people were out of their minds, or maybe they let the fact that the band improvises from time to time cloud their judgement. Either way, it's not a fair judgement, so I can see why the band would get a little irked when they are labeled a jam band.

The band has more in common with alternative acts such as Radiohead and Sigur Ros, than they do with Phish or the String Cheese Incident.

Eschellon's sound is spaced-out and ambient, with touches of psychedelia and screeches of feedback thrown in. There are understated melodies and even a few vocal harmonies interspersed among the space-age noise the band lays down. It's as if the band is seeing how far they can twist traditional song structures before they snap and turn into free-form jams. It's a high wire act, one that they manage to navigate with grace and fluidity.

They opened with the hypnotic strains of "Static" where the airy vocals of Ryan Monahan floated on top of the drone laid down by guitarists Scott Aiken and Bob Nuzzello. "Desensitized" was an ace mixture of tribal drums, angular riffs and a ripping solo from Aiken. While "Technaphobia's" jazz-reggae vibe gave way to a massive psychedelic jam session. But, the absolute highlight of the evening had to be "Alien Nation" a breathtaking combination of unearthly blues licks, psychedelia and robo-funk rhythms, that just kept building in tension until finally the song erupted in a squall of feedback signifying the end.

Eschellon was damn good, regardless of what you call them. I prefer the tag disaffected space music, but then again you just might choose something else -- it's a free country, and you all know what not to call them.. - Hartford Advocate


"...The Blockade, CD EP, <www.eschellon.com>. Weren't these guys a "jam band" at one time? There's still a pinch of that here, but these cats have expanded ... for the better. The sound is arty and prog-y and indie at the same time. Think Radiohead or Coldplay. Intricate beat moments and tight, high-necked guitar tweaking back a real Thom-the-wall-eyed-front-guy-from-Radiohead vocal style. When they go off on an instro tangent, as on the third track, the hint of jam comes in. But it's not enough to make you do spinny finger twirls ... which is a good thing. Tight, well-recorded; and since Eschellon appears to be fairly young, the band should get better with age...."
- New Haven Advocate


 
Got four young, handsome fellers playing guitars and keys and drums and such. Got a couple reggae feels, beginning with opening cut “Anything Goes” but then we get a bit more poppy with “Nuclear Love Song.” That one’s got a slower intro with a lovely melody moving into a medium tempoed section after a dramatic pause. We get James Brown in 5/8 on “Fit the Mold", I’m loving the drummer’s groove throughout but particularly on that one. “Desensitized” has some cool guitar-echo FX and a fairly complex interleave of a rhythm track until we hit the chorus. Last song “Apprehensive” has more of their smooth-jazz guitar twiddlings, then we move into a watery FX part and finally onto the vocal section; more of those fine melodies fairly well sung. This band has a style off the beaten path and I’m liking the risk.
-L.A. Joe - Sound Check Magazine


“[Singer Ryan Monahan’s] vocals are a cross between Rufus Wainwright and Jeff Buckley.”
- Steve Lurie, Music Without Borders

“The best band in Connecticut right now.”
- Southern Connecticut State University Radio Music Director

- Various


Discography

Numb LP - 2002
The Blockade EP - 2003
The History of Fire LP - 2004
Shadowgraphs EP - 2006

National Radioplay:

"Nuclear Love Song" - 99.1 WPLR CT
"Anything Goes" - 96.1 Atlanta, GA
"Desensitized" - 104.1 WMRQ CT
"Cage in a Bottle" - 99.1 WPLR CT, XM Radio 52
"Static" - XM Radio 52
"Sick of It Sing Along"- XM Radio 52
"It's Just Me" - XM Radio 52

College Radio

"Desensitized" - 91.3 WWUH, 105.3 WSAM
"Technhaphobia" - 91.3 WWUH, 105.3 WSAM
"Anything Goes" - 88.7 WNHU

Internet Radio

"Cage in a Bottle", "Sick-of-it Sing-a-Long" - CTUltraRadio

Photos

Bio

LATEST NEWS UPDATE: In Nov of 2008, Monahan’s cinematic folk-tune, “The Sound That Never Dies” (Shadowgraphs EP), appeared on the season finale of Lifetime’s Army Wives, to be followed by an additional musical cameo in the upcoming film release, Crossing Over (2009), which will feature “I Know You’re Tired” (History of Fire) alongside A-listers Harrison Ford, Sean Penn, and Ashley Judd.

Watch the full episode of Army Wives Here:

http://www.mylifetime.com/on-tv/full-episodes/army-wives/video/season-2/ep-19/season-2-ep-19-part-1/1886195724/1883505302

“Ryan Monahan opens his mouth to sing, but it's the jaws of the audience members that drop,” says Flagpole since his short residency in Athens, GA, “think Jimmy Gnecco of Ours without all the overbearing darkness…”

Determined to forge a path that was both lyrically and sonically challenging, singer-songwriter/producer Ryan Monahan’s path through the indie-rock landscape has taken on several different names and aliases, but don’t let names deceive you. Throughout the years of constant change, one thing has remained the same - a dedicated effort to create honest music. And while the resulting effort may present itself in different ways, the sound is always familiar. It’s as though Monahan were intent on destroying the architecture while keeping the pop framework in tact, but that’s not to say that the whole building weren’t incapable of a sudden musical collapse…

Monahan began touring and recording at the age of sixteen fronting ambient prog-rock group Eschellon, which saw itself through three releases culminating in 2004’s The History of Fire. With influences ranging from Bends-era Radiohead to The Flaming Lips, The History of Fire was a naive album of fractured ideas from a young band with big ambitions, while also being the band’s edgiest and most sincere record - earning them a wealth of nationwide exposure as a result of a steady stream of XM and college radio rotation.

Picking up on previous momentum, Monahan formed Shadowgraphs out of the ashes of Eschellon only to produce a self-titled EP of even greater ambition. Described as a “passive aggressive” sound, the press would describe the album as a “mixture of layered soundscapes, peppered with a subtle instrumentation revealing the band to be musically mature beyond their years,” (Hartford Advocate) while characterizing Monahan as a Jeff Buckley-esque figure with the swagger of a young Elvis Costello. It’s an unlikely combination, but appropriate from an artist that revels in paradox. “It’s music overcome by doubt; doubt overcome by music,” Monahan says about his own music, “There’s a definite theme of triumph over conflict”.

After a short-lived time with Shadowgraphs ending in a packed; albeit, bittersweet farewell show with The Lemonheads, the early seeds of labor would soon find their way back to the mainstream. In Nov of 2008, Monahan’s cinematic folk-tune, “The Sound That Never Dies” (Shadowgraphs EP), appeared on the season finale of Lifetime’s Army Wives, to be followed by a musical cameo in the upcoming film release, Crossing Over (2009), which will feature Eschellon’s “I Know You’re Tired” (History of Fire) alongside A-listers Harrison Ford, Sean Penn, and Ashley Judd.

Armed with a wealth of material from over the years, Monahan packed up his successes and failures and set his sights for small-town music Mecca, Athens, GA to begin working on his solo debut. Monahan's current lineup (which has included members of Athens’ Great Society, Venice is Sinking, and Misfortune 500) trades in the effects for wistful melodies - combining thoughtful folk, dark jazz, and subtle grooves along the lines of pop underdogs Travis, Beck and Andrew Bird.

Monahan is currently working on his next album. He does not live alone, or in a trailer, but does enjoy eating cereal while standing up. To hear demos of Monahan’s forthcoming release visit www.ryanmonahan.com

Influences (in no particular order):

Sigur Rós
Radiohead
Andrew Bird
Jenny Lewis
Damien Rice
Leonard Cohen
Elvis Costello
Arcade Fire
The National
Travis
Chopin
Mahler
DJ Shadow
Bjork
Atticus Finch
Mahavishnu Orchestra
Cliff Martinez
Gram Parsons
Flaming Lips
Jeff Buckley
Weezer
The Beatles
Pink Floyd
Grandaddy
U2
Aphex Twin
Gorillaz