Friday, March 8, 2024

Ryan Van Dordrecht

Anderson School - Thorndike Room

7 - 10 pm


All Ages Welcome

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About Ryan Van Dordrecht

Ryan Van Dordrecht

A series of free-wheeling studio sessions for Ryan Van Dordrecht's sophomore record, Undone-out digitally and on vinyl January 2024-made for a happy accident album he didn't envision. The 10-song collection is a finely-crafted, 1970s-style singer-songwriter album with a modern, alt-country flair. It finds Ryan, a talented multi-instrumentalist, supported by a carefully-curated collection of Wrecking Crew-level musicians.

"Undone is the kind of thing that happens in your personal and creative lives when you stop trying to control everything," the Portland, Oregon-based artist details. "I had to come to a new level of maturity to make this record. It is a combination of sounds and people that I love, and it is meant to be a celebration of the idea of coming undone and letting go of control. "

Undone is a milestone entry in Ryan's four studio-album oeuvre. Its breezy, 1970s AOR sensibility harkens back to formative influences such as Bruce Springsteen, Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, and Bonnie Raitt. "In the past, I got away from the sounds I grew up on, and I sometimes tried to do what I thought people wanted to hear," Ryan shares. Undone's modern vintage aesthetic recalls artists such as War On Drugs, Jenny Lewis, Father John Misty, Neal Francis, and Phoebe Bridgers.

Previously, Ryan played in the pop-Americana band Sidestar which earned opening spots with Cake, Death Cab for Cutie, and played the Northwest college circuit. Next, he played in the emo alt-rock band Castella which amassed over 10 million streams on Spotify, and earned opening spots with Gin Blossoms, Jude, and Storm Large. In 2014, Ryan released his solo debut, Beast Of Love. That album's feature track, "Great American Life," has accumulated 20K streams without any marketing support. Along the way, Ryan has worked with Joe Chiccarelli (The Shins, Beck), two-time Grammy nominated producer Rian Lewis (Doja Cat), Rob Stroup (Storm Large), and Rob Daiker (Katy Perry).

The genesis of Undone can be traced back to an international trip Ryan took to recharge his creative batteries. He came out of the experience with two tracks which he then decided to record. The low-key sessions opened him up to the suggestion of using outside musicians.
Ryan found tracking with different musicians inspiring, and continued to do so when he began working on the album with producer Raymond Richards (Local Natives, LCD Soundsystem, and Blitzen Trapper). Select musicians involved in the sessions included Ryan's childhood choir buddy Eric Early (Blitzen Trapper); Haley Johnsen; Nathan Trueb (Tango Alpha Tango); Camp Crush; and Megan Diana, plus a group of Portland musicians known as The Phasers who moonlight as a tight and telepathic backing band for top songwriters in the Portland area.

Undone is a thoughtfully-sequenced album themed around a romance narrative where a cataclysmic love interest becomes a life reset. The breezy, aptly-titled opener, "All In Your Mind," features Haley Johnsen on background vocals, and lead vocals during the bridge. With a soupçon of Steely Dan-sophistication, this track addresses the onslaught of negative self-talk we battle that can erode our self-esteem. It's an imaginatively-arranged song that dramatically climaxes with a "Day In The Life"-like bridge. The 1960s garage-rock rave-up, "Will You Be My Girl," replete with Farfisa organ, introduces the love interest and lightens the mood. A fateful moment of love transformation is portrayed by the stately ballad, "Back to Life," which features Megan Diana on lead and lush three-part harmony vocals. Here, Ryan's lyrics are frenetic and poetic. One standout passage is: Walk these streets of New York city/So much energy will make you crazy/But there's nowhere else I'd rather be/Sunset night in Barcelona/I say I hardly even know you/Then we go dancing till the morning light.

"Don't Hide Your Love" features one of the album's most meaningful guest appearances, Eric Early of Blitzen Trapper. Eric plays the song's classical guitar instrumental introduction, and harmonizes on the track alongside Ryan. Back in their school days, Eric and Ryan used to harmonize literally together, sitting side by side in choir. The balmy "Don't Hide Your Love" speaks to the perils of holding back emotions. "I want this song to encourage people to wear their feelings proudly. No matter what, don't hold back," Ryan says.

In the end, the album's love relationship unravels. The final track, "Undone," featuring Haley Johnsen, is a slinky, 1970s pop-rock track that offers a sweet, grateful-for-the-time resolution to the romantic rupture. Ryan sings: You justify/But it never makes you happy/When you want me/I'll be by your side/I just want you to be happy.

Undone was recorded and mixed at Red Rockets Glare Recording Studios by Raymond Richards. It was mastered by Greg Calbi (David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith) and Grammy-winner Steve Fallone (Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, The Beatles) at Sterling Sound.

The fleeting but life-changing romance thematically threaded through Undone is a beautiful metaphor of how Ryan feels on the other side of making the album. "When life feels stale or tired, it's important to be open to something that ruffles your feathers and makes you think and do things differently," Ryan says. "There's magic in that."