Milwaukee ex-pat Ryan Weber (best known for his current collaboration in Eric & Magill and former time spent in Decibully) has just released a solo flight of songs, culled from the downtime during his diverse travels while working with the Peace Corps and his time spent simply traveling, directly after. The project, entitled simply, ‘REW’, was “recorded in hotel rooms and train compartments” and although grown in small spaces, the songs branch out to envelop their worldly inspiration. Weber recently took the time to go over the details on the self-dubbed Departeures with WMSE. Listen over at REW’s Bandcamp page here, or by clicking the cover image.
What is Departeueres about, primarily?
It is about uncertainty of movement and / or direction in life, overall or just at the moment. This was what I was feeling as I was writing while I was traveling and heading back to the States, trying to figure out where I’ll end up and what I’ll do. It’s something everyone feels most of the time I imagine, but it was heightened for me during this period.
You often incorporate tapes in the background — do you take a lot of field recordings to incorporate into your music, or do you find these sounds another way?
Everything I used I recorded by myself and there is always significance to the tracks. On Departeures the noise field recordings all came from inside airplanes and trains. The end of the record is the recording from inside the airplane as I landed back in the US after being gone for a couple of years.
Kenya, India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia…how did you come to travel to all of these places and in what way did your travels inspire these particular songs?
It had been my plan to travel for leisure after leaving the Peace Corps in Kenya to kind of get my head screwed on straight before going back the States. I started the record as I was leaving the village I had lived in for two years. I took mostly trains and buses and a couple planes around. It was a fairly well-traveled route, but still certain places are traveled to for a reason and thus, inspirational.
I think the most literal parallels between place and lyric are found in the song “In Waves”. I wrote this in Varanasi, India which at the time was experiencing the worst flooding it has seen in twenty some years. It felt like the whole city was underwater. You couldn’t see the famous ghats because the water was so high and was pouring into all parts of the city. In addition to all this water, people were also flooding the city for spiritual purposes like cremations or ritual bathing to cleanse the sin. I arrived to the convergence of these two floods on the Ganges. So the song is actually written from the perspective of the river being flooded by humanity (myself included) and water.
What kind of mic do you use for vocals and what effects do you use in production? There’s always a nice vaporous quality to them.
I had this zoom H4N. It is used a lot for field recording and concert bootlegs primarily, but makes for a great travel studio. Hooks right into the computer via USB and has built-in stereo condensers and runs off of double A batteries. I could and do use anything to record though. For me, it’s all in the mix, and people that are hung up on equipment waste a lot of time that could be used to actually make music, but I’m probably the weirdo.
How does this project differ from Eric & Magill for you as a songwriter? Do you approach writing the songs differently without your songwriting partner?
It was a “departure” for sure. Though occasionally I’ll work a song with less track/musical input from Eric he is always heavily involved in the shaping the songs through discussions and feedback. With REW<< I didn’t have a soul to run things by or bounce ideas off of, but that was kind of the idea. I was looking to make something a bit different, more personal and capture a moment that no one else could experience, impressionism in indie rock if you’d like. I think capturing that kind of vibe by committee would’ve been much more challenging.