Exclusive Interview: ROECO

Meet ROECO, the indie alt/pop duo from Kansas City. Formed by brothers Josh Ryan (20 years old) and Noah Ryan (22 years old), the duo is firmly establishing themselves as a powerhouse indie act. With sounds similar to The Band Camino, joan, and Nightly you will be mesmerized by their catchy and easy going music.

Read through their interview below where they talk a bit about the formation of the band, working together as brothers, their experience being independent, and what they hope for the future.

Stream their latest EP, Next to Mine

Can you walk me through the process of becoming a band back in 2016? 

Josh Ryan: Growing up, we had never thought about starting a band. We always considered ourselves as “hired guns”, and spent most all of our time playing for other artists. Whenever Noah turned 18, he decided he wanted to move to LA and become a producer. He approached me and our original bassist and said “I don’t have much more time in KC, but I want to spend what time I have left making songs that I care about”. And thus Roeco was born.

How organic is the process to make music together as brothers? How has the band’s dynamic and sound changed since the formation in 2016?

Josh Ryan: I’d say that it’s pretty organic, although a lot of it happens separately. Often times we produce a concept by ourselves, and then let the other person take a whack at it to see if they can make it better. Sonically, we haven’t changed too drastically, but with us maturing as producers our sound has gotten a bit more defined over time.

What’s your favorite part about working together?

Josh Ryan: Being brothers, we’re constantly trying to “out-do” each other, which definitely helps to keep the ball rolling. We’re both good at very different things, so learning from each other and pushing each other into different directions is probably the best part. We’re both incredibly passionate and incredibly opinionated about what we do. Add the “brother” element in to the mix, and you can imagine that it can get super hairy at times. There have honestly been times where we’ve gotten into fist fights over delays or reverb tails… Although that’s pretty rare these days. In the beginning it was much more difficult to work together, but I’d say that at this point we pretty much have a grasp on how to work together. When we’re on the same page, it’s magic. But those times that we aren’t… making music almost becomes more of a full contact sport. 

What does the band’s name mean?

Josh Ryan: The funny thing is, it actually means nothing. It was the mispronunciation of a character in a meme named “Rocco”. Our bassist at the time pronounced it as “Roeco” and we thought “hey, that’s a pretty cool band name”. Here’s to hoping that it doesn’t end up like how Dave Ghrol feels about “Foo Fighters”.

How did you both get into music? 

Josh Ryan: We’ve both been in music pretty much as long as we can remember. Our dad was a life long musician, and he got us started playing with him at church when I was 7 and Noah was 9, me on bass and Noah on drums. From there we just dove in full force, learning everything that we could. Our dad raised us on incredible music, lot’s of 70’s prog like YES, Rush and Queen, and tons of 80’s pop like The Police, Tears For Fears, Peter Gabriel, Phill Collins, Bruce Hornsby, you name it. We never spent much time listening to modern pop growing up.

What artists have influenced you growing up and most recent influences? 

Josh Ryan: Growing up I would have to say Tears For Fears and The Police had the biggest impact. Our modern influences are all over the place though, consisting of things like Paramore, The Night Game, The 1975, but also things like Travis Scott, Jacob Collier, The Jonas Brothers, Drake, the list goes on and on. One of the reasons that I think Noah and I work well together is that we listen to very different things, and elements of all those things find their way into our music.

What’s a song that has changed your life? 

Josh Ryan: For me, I’d have to say You And I by Jacob Collier. For Noah, it would have to be Walking On The Moon by The Police. Both of those tunes have definitely changed our lives for the better. 

What’s it like creating and releasing music from your own studio in Kansas City? 

Josh Ryan: For a while it was great! One of the reasons that we became producers and engineers is because we couldn’t afford to record in a proper studio, especially given how many hours we put into every track. Also, we’re possibly two of the biggest gear nerds you’ll ever meet, so one of our favorite things is to continue to add to our studio. Now we work out of our studio in Nashville TN that we recently moved into, and the process is every bit and fun as it was back home.

What is it like/what is your experience being independent artists?

Josh Ryan: It’s definitely got its challenges, but I absolutely love the freedom in it. We get to do things exactly how we want without anybody else trying to get their hand in it. Obviously the long term plan is to end up on a label, because there are tons of benefits that they have to offer, mostly in the realm of distribution, funding, booking, etc. But thankfully we’ve had enough incredibly accomplished people in our lives to help us with strategies and what thing to look out for. But being independent is the best way to go in the realm of creativity.

How would you describe your visual aesthetic?

Josh Ryan: Our visual aesthetic is complicated, because we’re still trying to figure it out ourselves. What we’re aiming to capture with our new music and visuals is a sense of “Modernized Mid-Mod”. Content with that vibe will be out soon hopefully!

How did the creation of your last EP, Next To Mine, come about? What inspired this body of work? 

Josh Ryan: Next To Mine was essentially a culmination of all that we had put into Roeco these last few years. Basically, we released a couple singles very early on, got lots of interest from people in LA, got absolutely snuffed and had to battle to get all of our rights back on quite a few of our songs, which put everything on hold for about a year. Next To Mine was essentially us getting back on our feet and making a body of music that we’re really proud of, start to finish. Even the mix and master, was all by ourselves, with some help from our guitarist Zach Burch. [It was] kind of as a big middle finger to the people who screwed us in LA who basically told us that we have no chops or future in this business.

How did you come up with the album artwork? What’s the story behind it?

Josh Ryan: My friend Caleb Haskins and I collaborated for the artwork. I wanted to capture a sense of that mid-mod feel, but also not give it any specific identity. We took some elements from different 50’s advertisements, and built around them. 

What song was the most fun to make on the Next To Mine EP?

Josh Ryan: For me it would definitely be Next To Mine. We had released that song over a year prior to the EP, but we felt that the original production didn’t do the song the justice that it deserved. So for me, getting to listen to the maturity in production after just a year and some months was super encouraging. For Noah, it’s Impossible Girl. That song came together incredibly fast, with almost all of the original production being finished in about 2 days.

Can you walk me through your writing process? Who writes and does the production? or is it combined?

Josh Ryan: It’s kind of interesting, because for the most part we don’t write together in the same room. One of us will work up a concept on our own, then show it to the other, see if it’s something we want to put energy into, and go from there. Noah definitely does a majority of the production and the musical arrangements, but once it’s time to produce a track out we work very closely together. I don’t touch lyrics or melodies until the instrumental is almost totally finished. And from there I write my melody, basically doing a “be bop scoodly boop” scat, and then I’ll start working on words. I usually come up with a specific idea of what I want to write about, and I kind of use the syllables and rhythms from my scat to help me find words and phrases. Excluding Impossible Girl, which came to me at 4 am after having an incredibly vivid dream and the whole thing pieced together in about 30 minutes, which is definitely super rare for me.

If you could perform your music anywhere tomorrow, what venue do you dream of playing?

Josh Ryan: Probably the Midland Theater in KC. It’s a beautiful theater, and we grew up going to shows there. I think it would be a huge nostalgia bomb for us. 

What can fans expect from you in the future? What’s next for your guys?

Josh Ryan: More music, more shows, and just more Roeco in general. It’s been difficult to get the ball rolling given the fact that we still do work with other artists (for instance, I just got back from being on the road for two months), but now the rest of the year is strictly Roeco. We plan to release our second EP this summer, followed by more music shortly after. We’ll likely just do EP’s until we have enough of a following to justify a debut, so hopefully that falls into places sooner rather than later.

Are you going to be doing live shows this summer?

Josh Ryan: We have a few! We’ve been in the process of booking, along with recording this second EP. A majority of our efforts have definitely gone into the studio, but shows will be happening soon for sure.

What do you hope that people get out of your music? 

Josh Ryan: We hope that people get whatever they need to out of our music. Some of our songs are fun “drive around with your windows down on your way home from school” tunes, others are “cry in your bedroom and embrace your inner emo kid” tunes. But we always hope that people get a sense of quality, and that they’re able to hear the effort and passion that we put into what we do.

What are you most proud of?

Josh Ryan: Our ability to make music by ourselves. The fact that we’ve earned the respect of grammy winning top 40 producers, just after a couple years of working out of our basement in KC, with no one to teach us how to do it. Almost everything that we’ve learned, we’ve had to learn by ourselves. And we’re both really proud that we’re able to bring joy (and sometimes sadness) to people with something that we made by ourselves.

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