Christian Dryden says he “aims to capture grandiose sentiments and imagery” with the music he makes as leader of The Ritualists. At the same time, he appreciates a producer who knows how to, as he puts it, “trim the fat.”
So when the New York-based, glam-inspired band entered a Times Square facility to track its second album, Baroque & Bleeding, Dryden and company hired Ed Buller, whose studio credits include essential efforts by Suede and Pulp.
Speaking about Baroque & Bleeding around the time of its Dec. 3 release via Suite 484 Music, singer-bassist Dryden said of the 10-song album’s themes: “One we seem to keep referring back to is a dissection of certain archetypes. While I know the suffering or ‘bleeding’ artist isn’t necessarily at the top of any Jungian list, I think it has relevance for many of us in our particular scene and of our particular ilk.”
Dryden recently checked in to discuss a few of the songs on Baroque & Bleeding, his experience working with Buller and more.
Medleyville.us: Political correctness is everywhere, and so is cancel culture — yet The Ritualists want to bring danger and glamour back to rock ’n’ roll. Are there limits in your mind as to how far you want to push things? Or will you be taking it one action/decision at a time?
Christian Dryden: “I try to pay as little attention to such concerns as possible. To quote a hero of mine, Oscar Wilde: ‘No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.’ Additionally, to sort of paraphrase him further, I feel that once the artist starts taking the audience too much into account, he ceases truly making art. The public should rather be more artistic. I’m confident that my sensibilities will push most reasonable-minded people. However, I don’t feel I’m such a jerk that they’ll tune me out completely. But that possibility always exists, and that’s what makes things more exciting, I guess.”
When and where did you record the Baroque & Bleeding album, and how did the lockdown and other pandemic restrictions affect the process?
Dryden: “We recorded most of the album during the pandemic at a studio in Times Square. We were fortunate enough to have a label, Suite 484, that provided us with relatively unfettered access. The pandemic was difficult in that it put limitations on the availability of certain band members. I ended up tracking the drums on both the demos and final tracks for the album.
“Of Anonymity” begins with the memorable line “Don’t swear off the gutter that made you.” What inspired that line and the song as a whole?
Dryden: “I try to write music that aims to capture grandiose sentiments and imagery. But at the heart and base of everything are the streets and yes, even gutters, that have served as our birthing grounds. With the potential inherent in the idea of a record contract, the possibility of a new kind of notoriety arises, and this song further analyzes the positives and negatives of such a scenario. The pressures that come with people relying on you to create something, and even the possible comfort of simply staying put. It is also about me sort of making a pact with myself to never forget what inspired this journey and what truly fuels my inner artistic flame.”
In “Everybody Is on the Radio,” there’s the lyric “smothering my musical dream.” Who or what have been the biggest obstacles so far for The Ritualists? For one thing, the New York club scene is never easy for emerging bands.
Dryden: “As far as obstacles, I personally try to keep improving as a songwriter, singer and musician, focusing on the things over which I have control. We’ve had some incidents in the past where we were courted by a few major labels, getting deep into the contract stage, and then had various A&R shakeups and firings that essentially ended those negotiations. In each of those cases, the company line was that less industry-wide focus on signing new ‘rock’ talent and instead repackaging older catalogs.
“The New York club scene, like our beloved city itself, requires some navigational skills! There are many dead ends, but then there are some venues, some parties, some promoters and some DJs that really care and want to and actually have created a nice scene of like-minded misfits.”
You’ve credited producer Ed Buller for knowing how to “trim the fat.” Talk about how he went about guiding you and the rest of the band to a less-is-more approach for this album.
Dryden: “Ed has produced some of my favorite records of all time. So we very much welcomed his input throughout the process. He definitely emphasized the importance of song, well over any individual parts or pyrotechnics we personally favored. I think this is important because when you are performing on the record, you are in the eye of the storm and you don’t always see the big picture. Ed’s input was very much to emphasize the big picture, as well as making a point of getting those vocals and lyrics to sizzle with great clarity.”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
Photo by Aramis Lupão