Being in a rock band is hard work. Everyone tells you about the parties, the booze, and the groupies (in addition to the assortment of other sinful delights available), but never about the grind of being on the road. You never hear people talk about how glorious it is spending your off days washing clothes in a smelly hotel basement, brushing your teeth in a truck stop bathroom, or all the Skype calls to family and friends, who you miss dearly. You don’t hear about the fans who loved your first few albums, but feel the need to remind you that your first album was the best, even though you’re coming through their town to promote your latest album (which you happen to be really, really proud of). Sometimes, they won’t even give your new music a chance, dismissing it as “radio-friendly” or saying you sold-out. It can be frustrating, tedious, and downright exhausting. Every now and then, you have to step back, appreciate the journey, reaffirm your commitment to your craft, and keep on truckin’. It takes a mature, talented group to do that… a group like Dallas’ ADAKAIN.
I chopped it up with the one and only Ryan Ray, lead singer of Adakain, and we got into some deep stuff, like artistic integrity, being true to oneself, and taking the next step forward. Check it out down below, or click here to listen to the full, uncut interview!
Rob Gomez- Hey! This is Rob Gomez from South Texas Sound Project. We’re talking to Ryan Ray, lead singer of the band Adakain. Ryan, how are you doing today?
Ryan Ray- I’m doing good man. Thanks for settin’ it up.
RG- Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. How has 2018 been for Adakain? What’s been going on?
RR- It’s been a slower year, this year. We are signing a management deal with Dave Chavarri from Ill Niño and it’s been kind of slow-going. Getting things set up, and we have some new stuff he’s shopping. We decided to not rush into a bunch of touring that didn’t make sense this year, so we’ve played some shows and been writing and just kinda taking a little bit of time to get readjusted.
RG- Songs like “Hey Girl” seem like a mix of modern rock and metal with a more old school, classic rock vibe. Do you consciously write songs that way, or is it just the mix of influences in the band?
RR- I would say it’s more just a mix of influences, because we don’t really have a writing formula, per se. Sometimes it can be a melody or a lyric idea, or something like that, that gets us started. Sometimes it can be a guitar riff, and then it gets started that way. There’s no formula, you know what I mean? Recently, all of the writing is going heavier.
RG– So you’re gearing up to go in a different direction, I guess?
RR– Not really in a different direction, because if you listen to the rest of the album, “Hey Girl” is probably the lightest song on there.
RG– That’s true. There are some heavy songs, but are you talking about heavier than this album, or just heavier in general?
RR– Yeah. Yeah, just in general. Kind of taking songs like “Once is Enough” and “Resistance” off of that album, if you listen to those, (it’s) that direction and heavier.
RG-What are some of those influences that the band always goes back to?
RR- The guitar player and I are the main writers, and we grew up with Pantera, Metallica, Sevendust, Lamb of God, Killswitch (Engage), and that kind of stuff. Those kind of influences will probably always be woven in. There’s some bands now that we’re listening to that are influencing quite a bit, like Wage War and Fit for a King.
RG– Ok, so ya’ll grew up on the heavy, huh? It was already there.
RR– Yeah, the classic heavy stuff, always!
RG-What’s the mindset of the guys in Adakain when they go in to record new music?
RR- Just to make an album that’s true to who we are, and to write music that’s true to who we are as a band and as people, and just be honest with it.
RG– That’s the measure of a true artist, my friend.
RR– (laughs) It’s tougher than it sounds, I think. You get in your head about it sometimes. “Is this going to accurately reflect where we want to be as a band?” and this and that. You just got to just get in there and write music that you love and that you’d want to hear, too. People are either going to like it or they’re not, and you just kinda have to go with that.
RG– That’s the scary part about being an artist. It’s what drives people like Van Gogh crazy, and people like Kurt Cobain crazy. Getting on that level of vulnerability is scary
RR– You write something and you’re like “This is my heart!”, and then if somebody doesn’t like it and you have a weak disposition, then you just get crushed! We’ve all been there. I was like that early on when I was doing bands and stuff, because you want everybody to like what you’re putting out, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to, and you have to be ok with that.
RG– Definitely! Now, that’s one thing I tell a lot of bands that I talk to. Not everybody is going to get what you’re doing, but that doesn’t mean you should stop or get discouraged. Push through it!
RR– Yeah, it doesn’t mean you suck. It doesn’t mean anything. Music is subjective, so if people don’t like it, that’s ok. That’s the whole thing, isn’t it? Is the world ready to hear what you got to put out there? (laughs)
RG- What do you feel you guys bring to the Texas Rock scene that nobody else is doing?
RR- I would say just that. Honesty. There’s a lot of bands that just get consumed (even us, early on) with writing a hit and being on the radio, and just being a rock star. It sound glorious and everything like that, but if you’re not true to who you are, it’ll eventually get sniffed out. So I think that’s what we bring. Then our live show… we throw down pretty hard!
RG- Excellent. What are some of the best shows you’ve ever played?
RR- We’ve had some really good shows at Trees in Dallas, which is like our hometown spot. When we were on tour with Trapt. We did some tours with them. They’re kind of a rock band, and obviously people (know) them for “Headstrong” and stuff like that. When we were on tour with them, we were clicking really hard. You’re out there, playing every day. So we had some really good shows on those tours, because we did a couple with them.
RG- Do you remember your first show?
RR- I was 17, and I was in a really ridiculously heavy band, and it was like, all screaming. Yeah, I remember. (laughs) That’s the first one I count, because the band before that, I was like 15 and it was a house party or something, you know? That was a long time ago, man! (laughs)
RG- What do fans mean to Adakain?
RR– Well, if you don’t have them, you don’t get to play shows! So they kind of mean everything. Anybody that’s into our music, that means a lot to us, because we can’t keep going without them. They’re very important.
RG- What bands are you guys listening to these days?
RR- I’m pretty obsessed with the Wage War album, Deadweight. My guitar player is into a lot of newer bands that sometimes I won’t know about, so he’ll tell me about it, and I’ll get it on Apple Music or something. Yeah, I’m pretty obsessed with that album. It’s really heavy. It’s a little bit heavier than we are and we want to be, but I like what they’re doing and I like to draw from what they’re doing. Have you listened to it?
RG– No, but that’s the first thing I’m going to do when we get done here! (laughs)
RR– Dude, it’s ridiculously heavy, but it’s also really good. They have some really catchy chorus’ and stuff like that in the midst of being super heavy. That album did really well for them. Also, I listen to a lot of Alice in Chains, Soundgarden… anything Chris Cornell.
RG- What’s next for Adakain? What’s the next step?
RR- Really, man, we need to get some sort of… I hate to say “deal”, but… We’ve been putting money and time into this thing for a long time, and we really need somebody to kick it up a notch for us. We have fans in the US, we have fans in different parts of the world. I’ve shipped CD’s all over the place. I’ve probably shipped CD’s to 15 to 20 different countries, and I’m not making that up. I’m not saying by any means that we’re a big band. We’re not. We’re still a baby band, in the grand scheme of things, but we need to be touring with bigger bands. Be on bigger packages, do the summer festivals. But in order to do that, we need someone to help us out a little bit. That’s really what’s next for us, because we’re going to keep playing and doing our thing. (We’ll) keep writing, and we need put out some new music. We haven’t put out any new music since 2015, and the reason for that is that we’d gone through some lineup changes, (and) gone through some stylistic changes (a little bit). I think we’re locked on the direction that we’re going. That’s what’s next- new music, new management, new things like that.
RG– Sometimes that kind of growth is painful, but taking the next step is meant to elevate you, so the only way to go is up, buddy.
RR– That’s well said. Well said.
RG- Before we go, we like to do a few fun little questions at the end of our interviews. This is a little game called “Would You Rather”… are you ready?
RR– (laughs) Ok!
RG– Alright… Would you rather have the rest of the band cut your hair any way they wanted for 1 year -or- have them dress you however they wanted for 1 year?
RR- Oh, my God! Umm… probably the dress part.
RG- Would you rather go home at the end of the night with one 10 -or- five 2’s
RR– Awww, man… I, uh… I don’t want to answer that one. I love my girlfriend.
RG- There you go, that’s a good answer! Would you rather have your voice crack all night, but get through the set -or- have to pee the entire show but hit every note?
RR– Oh, definitely have to pee. Definitely choice B.
RG- Last one! Would you rather sing a Nickelback cover in a Tiny Tim Falsetto for the first song at a gig -or- Perform a Justin Bieber tune as an encore dressed like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz?
RR- Oh, the Nickelback one!
RG- Oh, that was easier than I thought!
RR- Easy! Dude, I like Nickelback, I don’t give a shit!
RG- Well, thank you very much, Ryan, this has been fun! Ryan Ray from Adakain… they’re movin’ on up, they’re getting new stuff done, and we’ll be hearing from them soon. Thanks so much.
RR- You’re welcome! Thanks for having me, man!