February 6, 2017

Q&A with Ryan Pickop of Fayetteville band, Nature & Madness

The Fayetteville music scene got a big lift when songwriter Ryan Pickop moved to town a couple years ago.

The guitarist and singer originally came to town as a solo artist, singing with just his guitar at brunches at Greenhouse Grille, popping up on the bill of the Fayetteville Roots Festival that year, and quickly making an impression in the local folk/Americana scene.

Nature & Madness

Nature & Madness

Recently, Pickop and some friends have formed a full band called Nature & Madness, and the new group is also quickly making waves around town.

The band released their debut album, Where Will We Go back in September on Bandcamp. This Saturday, they’ll celebrate the release of a new track titled On & On, and they were nice enough to let the fine readers of the Fayetteville Flyer get an early listen to the new song (below).

We talked to Ryan about the new track, the new project, and the band’s proclivity for turning their shows into intimate potluck-dinner-meet-and-greet gatherings below.

Here’s what he had to say.

What have you been listening to lately?

That’s one of my favorite interview questions because in reality the question means to me “Who are you stealing from these days?” I love the idea that everything we do as artists is interpreting what we experience day to day, and in turn also what we’re listening to.

So… I have my usual suspects I ‘steal’ from. A lot of the nineties slow core stuff like LOW, Sun Kil Moon, Slint and some stoner/drone metal like Sleep and Earth. Bill Callahan and Jason Molina for sure. Then I will always have one of the old Texas songwriters in rotation like Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. One of my good friends Hannah Read has a project out of Austin called Lomelda that I’m listening to a lot these days.

I don’t know. Just everything.

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I try and not get too wrapped up in the political game these days, but that’s nearly impossible and it definitely impacts my writing. On a more esoteric level, I’ve been trying to listen more to the natural world. In spite of the utter mess our world is in, the rivers and trees surely know something we don’t. They’ve been around way longer than us.

I’m just stealing it all. Re-creationally, so to speak.

Tell us a bit about Nature and Madness. How’d you guys get started playing together?
I guess I was playing a solo show Grant D’Aubin (bass) and Eric Witthans (slide) were also playing. And after my set they came up and said in so many words, “You should probably get a band, and maybe we should be in it.” And we got together and played some jams. Meredith Kimbrough (drums) had never played kit before and I showed her some basic drum patterns and then we played our first show together three weeks later.

I’ve been writing songs under my own name for almost 15 years now. I picked up the band and the name about six months ago. It has been interesting trying to navigate the dynamic of solo singer-songwriter and band. I kind of love that the music can be translated intimately when I perform solo, and then it picks up all the amazing and subtle nuances the band brings. As I said before, about stealing, when the band plays together we get to unload everything we’ve all been ‘acquiring’ for years and input them into something entirely new.

What can you guys tell us about the new track, “On and On?”
So this was a little bit of an experiment. I had kind of chord progression I had been digging on. We maybe had jammed through it twice ever with little to no organization. I wrote a couple lines with every intention to write more and then just stopped. I got the band together, taught them the lyrics, vaguely drew a dynamic map of where we wanted to take it, (or rather where it would take us) and hit record. We played through it twice I believe and picked one of them.

Do you guys have much experience with writing and spontaneously recording in that way?
It’s not something I have ever done before. You know, when I write a song I often save a version in a voice memo on my phone. But in general I would never dream of releasing those. I am lucky and very grateful that Eric owns and operates a recording studio (Homestead Recording) with a tape machine where the band practices. So the technology was really begging for it.

Obviously, when you work in this way, there’s not a lot of time to develop your parts. Do you think, though, that a lot of times as a musician, your first instinct is right?
Actually I think it’s about half and half. And that is the real beauty. Instincts are such that you just do them no matter the outcome. There’s a humanity in instinctual live playing that I can not get enough of. When I was working on a previous release my engineer buddy Tim Jenkins was always saying “We’re just capturing a moment.” In other words don’t be so hard on yourself to get the perfect take. And this experiment was that sentiment to the max. When the band is playing in this way, we have to both listen and watch each other closely or it all falls apart. It’s like a small example of what we are all doing everyday in real life.

Really this song is all about this. Life is marching on and on and on in every direction at unbelievable speeds. All we can do is settle in to this moment we’re given. A breath in the chaos. And the real power is taking the good and bad as art.

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Fayetteville Flyer - Dustin Bartholomew

Dustin Bartholomew is the co-founder of Fayetteville Flyer, an online publication covering all things news, art and life in Fayetteville, Arkansas since 2007. A graduate of the Department of English at the University of Arkansas and a lifelong resident of the area, he still lives in west Fayetteville with his son Hudson, his wife Brandy, and his three dogs Lily, Steve, and Percy. On occasion, he tickles the ivories in a local band called The Good Fear.

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