Jeff Ryan lets his instruments do the talking when he's myopic

Dallas-based drummer and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Ryan releases his second collection of myopic music.
BY GENE TRIPLETT etriplett@opubco.com Modified: March 12, 2013 at 5:05 pm •  Published: March 13, 2013
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When he's myopic, Jeff Ryan speaks volumes musically without singing a word.

“I'm not the kind of person that's gonna sit down and write a song like on a guitar and write lyrics,” says the Dallas-based drummer and multi-instrumentalist.

Myopic is Ryan's ambient instrumental project, and “we were here” is his just-released seven-song EP follow-up to 2009's “plays in pieces.” It's shadowy electronic space-dream music that could match up well with such moody, Twilight Zone-ish cinematic fare as Steven Soderbergh's “Solaris” or Duncan Jones' “Moon” as a perfect atmospheric soundtrack.

“I'm not Will Johnson, you know, and I love Will, he's a very good friend of mine, but that's his vehicle,” Ryan says, using the Denton, Texas-based frontman of Centro-Matic as an example of the kind of singer-songwriter that he, Ryan, cannot be.

“I just can't do that,” he said in a recent phone interview. “What makes sense to me is just a collage of sounds. If it makes sense, great, if not I don't know, but that's how I hear things first. More just rhythm and melody and mixing the organic with the electronic, and that's always been something what's very close to my heart. Bands like Mark Linkous and Sparklehorse and the way that he would interpret the organic and the electronic into something pretty heartfelt is hard to do.”

Not that Ryan is averse to accompanying others who do sing. He first came to prominence in the early 2000s drumming for Dallas-based alternative country-rock band Pleasant Grove, which featured frontmen Marcus Striplin and Bret Egner on vocals.

He also was hired by Grammy-nominated engineer John Congleton and Grammy-winning engineer Stuart Sikes (“Van Lear Rose” by Loretta Lynn) to play and record with Sarah Jaffe, The War on Drugs, The New Year, The Baptist Generals and St. Vincent, aka Tulsa-born Annie Erin Clark.

“It was a very, very quick session for ‘Actor,'” Ryan said of the St. Vincent gig. “John Congleton was recording her and just said, ‘Hey, I need you to come play some drums and things,' and luckily I did the title track, ‘Actor Out of Work,' and another track, I think it was called ‘Black Rainbow' ... she and I have remained friends. We did a one-off show together in — of all places — Anchorage, Alaska, last year. That was fun.”

Work with others — and alone

Meanwhile, Ryan has been a regular member of Denton-based lo-fi acoustic indie-rock band The Baptist Generals for 10 years, replacing original drummer Steven Hill shortly after that band released its first full-length album, “No Silver/No Gold,” in 2003. The Generals are finally poised to release their sophomore album, “Jackleg Devotional to the Heart,” May 21 on Sub Pop.