NYC Glam Rock band The Ritualists have been peaking the interest of fans and critics alike with the recent release of their debut album The Painted People, an album filled with melodic, hook-laden choruses. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits frontman Christian Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The band has been compared to Suede, Placebo and Echo & The Bunnymen, among others. Dryden is the chief songwriter for the band and his writing and playing style are heavily influenced by the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 80s, David Bowie, Brian Ferry, Marc Bolan and Simon Le Bon. “Being inspired by larger-than-life characters such as David Bowie, Simon Le Bon, Bryan Ferry and Marc Bolan was a blessing and a curse. It was magical and transformative to imagine these people as your sort of musical soul mates, but also seemed to engender feelings of loneliness, as there didn’t appear to be anyone else who shared this vision where I was… that is, until I started to frequent the venues and clubs of the Lower East Side.” It was here that Dryden found some kindred spirits. And it was here that he found the comfort to fully realize and express his creative vision. “Every time we do that song in NYC, I dedicate it to my audience and I truly mean every word of it.” After paying their dues as a band over the past few years, finding their voices and gaining traction in the underground community, the band’s album showcases their blend of post punk ethos, arena rock choruses and psychedelic freak outs. They released their debut single “Ice Flower” ahead of the album along with a video that features professional wrestlers pushing papers before standing up to fight each other to the death. The video theatrically visualizes the degrading, dehumanizing, and violent tendencies of corporate life, while also putting an emphasis on the ridiculous and rehearsed nature of it all. With plan to release a new music video and embarking on a tour of cities they have not yet visited, the band has plenty of momentum to fuel the coming months. You can follow The Ritualists and stay up-to-date on all upcoming band, music and tour news, as well as stream and purchase their album, via the following links. Photo credit: Sam Keeler.
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You recently released your debut album ‘Painted People’. What has the your journey been like up to this point and gaining traction as a band in the NYC music scene? What have some of your biggest challenges and accomplishments been so far?
The NYC music scene is quite challenging, but it also can yield great rewards. Clubs come and go, often to our chagrin, but I think the general spirit of freedom and creativity remains. I believe one of our greatest accomplishments has been gaining the respect of/and sharing the stage with some of our underground heroes (The NY Dolls, Walter Lure, Richard Lloyd & Lenny Kaye) and being a part of a burgeoning scene of new bands that have a good sense of this history, while still trying to do something new.
Your sound has been called a hybrid of gothic/glam/post-punk sounds. What can you tell me about the band’s sound and what influences led you to develop that sound? What inspired you to specifically create anthemic songs?
So, I think the early goth & post punk bands had a lot in common and often identified with both genres, whether by choice or by audience. Both of these scenes sort of took their cues from early 70’s Glam Rock. With The Ritualists, I wanted to take the theatricality of glam and merge it with the moodiness of post punk. As you can probably hear, we like reverb and psychedelic effects. But again, I think all of this stuff only works if it supports a well-crafted song with some sort of hook, whether that hook be vocal or instrumental. I think the only way to cut through the countless music options provided by the internet, as well as the reverb in my own band, is to be brash and anthemic.
What can you tell me about the idea/inspiration behind your album artwork? Did you create the design?
The artwork was done by a fantastic local artist, Brianna Rose Difelice. You should check out her work. She is fantastic! She initially showed me a few pieces and I was drawn to the design (which became our cover), as I think it touched on themes and elements present in our music, tribalism, ritualism and mystery.
Your band mate Ignacio is also involved in the engineering and recording side of the industry. How involved was he in the recording of the album?
Ignacio is a fantastic engineer and a great bassist. He joined after the album was already completed, but we will be working with him on the next one.
What were some highlights from your album release show at Berlin in NYC and how did you go about selecting the opening bands on the line up?
The album release was such a thrill. We were lucky enough to have a lot of supporters come out and party with us! I was particularly touched by the presence of a few original
fans/supporters/collaborators who I hadn’t seen in a few years. The opening bands were some of my favorite Painted People. They were bands we’ve shared the stage with on past occasion and I thought would work well in creating the right vibe for the night. We had some acoustic-dreamy stuff and some raunchy hard rock, but everything had a common, wonderful thread.
You’ve said that artists such as David Bowie, Simon Le Bon, Bryon Ferry and Mark Bolan are your musical inspirations but that you felt a loneliness surrounded by people who didn’t share the vision of where you were. What can you tell me about your creative vision and finding people who shared that vision in the clubs and venues of the Lower East Side? What do you feel it is about that area that encapsulates the magic and inspiration you were seeking?
I think people often times assume that music is such a creative, open-minded and progressive field. However, I believe there is a degree of prejudice and narrow-mindedness amongst this brotherhood of aspiring Guitar Center acolytes. I think among these types, anything too flamboyant, image-conscious or outside the norm of a popular movement or scene, is dismissed as too artsy, not aggressive enough, not jammy enough or even, too European. I think there is actually a relatively recent issue with English bands that is truly unfortunate. We are missing out on so much great, new music. Obviously, this doesn’t hold true for this city. The Stone Roses sold out MSG! I don’t think they could get arrested in Idaho. Anyway, with this in mind, it was extremely difficult to find players who understood my background and vision.
You started out playing the drums and transitioned into singing. Was it a pretty natural transition for you? I also read that when you started fronting the band, you wanted to write songs. Had you done much songwriting before becoming a singer?
Well, I was always singing, for as long as I can remember. As far as being in bands, I started out as a drummer and would add backing vocals. I tried to write from behind the drum kit, but the singing/writing drummer thing wasn’t really working. People don’t seem to respond all that well to a singing drummer! Since everyone played guitar, I grabbed a bass and started writing with the bass and fronting bands as a singing bassist. After-all, bass guitar is still part of the “rhythm section.” My background with drums is still helpful though, as I’ve composed many of our songs with an initial drum groove in mind.
You’ve been very involved in the glam-rock scene in NYC, performing with various tribute bands such as Retromantics and Starbolt 9 and performed many times at Glamdammit. What drew you to start performing with tribute bands and doing guest vocals for other tribute performances in NYC? Do you feel there is a good glam rock /power pop scene in NYC right now and what role do you feel Glamdamnit has played in nurturing that scene? With Glamdammit being one of the first parties you attended in NYC, what was it like to have The Ritualists perform at their 14th Anniversary party last year?
I love Glamdammit and I love its founder, Twig the Wonderkid. I think Glamdammit has been instrumental in creating a place where like-minded individuals can perform and meet-up. I’ve made so many friends through that party. It was an absolute honor and thrill to perform at the anniversary party. I think there are a fair number of Glam fans still out there. I recently performed a Bowie party in Brooklyn and it was packed and the audience knew every word to every song! And I think the tribute performances are a blast! The demographic for those things is the widest I’ve ever seen at a music event in NYC. So, in a way, we get to celebrate our roots & educate new audience members. I’ve been turned on to so much music just by being involved in the tributes.
You performed recently with Greko at the inaugural World Trade Center 2019 Music Festival. What was the experience like for you and what can you tell me about the festival?
Greko, fronted by my friend, Mike Greko on lead vox & keys, is a fantastic group. They combine disco, glam rock and new wave stuff. Unfortunately, that festival was rained out. It was cancelled as we were actually walking to the stage to perform!
What are your views on the current state of the music industry? You have said that we as music fans have created this environment of crap being churned out. Do you feel it is hard right now to get people to seek out and support new artists and their music? Do you feel that things are changing for the better and that people are seeking out genuine artists again?
The industry is currently like the Wild West. No one is quite sure of the rules for success. Again, I think there is some issue with certain styles of music being shunned by big marketing machines. However, I think it is still possible to carve your own niche. My understanding is that in the days of MTV playing music videos, radio playing rock songs & mono-culture in general, there was a solid blueprint to break a band and people seemed eager to discover and welcome the next new thing. I’m not sure that people have changed, instead I think that the medium has just splintered in so many different directions, it is hard to get a new movement happening. At the end of the day, I’m confident that live music will always have a strong voice and as long as you can move people through live performance, you have a shot at breaking through the white noise.
What’s next for the band?
We are working on our next video, which will be for our song, “I’m with the Painted People.” We are also planning a bunch of tour dates to cities we’ve never been!