Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
There are things that you just don't ask of a man that you've only met twice, though you've listened to the songs he's written dozens and dozens of times and you've heard stories about his personality and stage mannerisms that are peculiarly at best. Ryland Bouchard is the man that you don't ask these things of. It's not really that you don't feel like you can ask these questions that are burning a car-sized hole in your temples. Well, there's some of that or, oddly enough, you'd like some of that uncomfortable intrigue to continue floating up near the surface, never to go away completely, just to keep staring you awkwardly in the eyes with its darks. Mostly, the reason you don't want to ask these questions about his songs or about his life is because (and this is a personal preference, maybe you're more of a body who can't stand mysteries and can't just wait to see what sex of child you're going to have until the day it's born) you want it all to be so fucking true, all of it. You want him to be the antagonist as gorgeously articulate and unassuming protagonist. You want him to be a confliction worth listening to over and over again, not only for the ability to crack into him on your own, personally and without any sort of freebie assistance, but because it seems not to make any sense at all - that the life and its occurrences are his own. Over the short, 10 minutes of this session that Bouchard taped with the help of tourmates Emperor X and I Need Sleep, the new Portland resident sings what are actually very lovely songs about his schizophrenic mother getting raped and beaten in a mental hospital a few years ago, his devout Christian brother beating him silly on Christmas day for taking the lord's name in vain somehow in some context, how he found his girlfriend lying naked on a living room floor with another man that let to a fist sopping with that dude's blood and a night in jail and lastly, being in Wyoming and watching a kingdom of jackrabbits running into the burning carcass of an antique Ford pickup truck. Oh, that's a crock of shit. Isn't that the impulse that typically gets taken when confronted by supposed whoppers like that? But here we are and I'm buying it, for no other reason than this is what I want. It allows you - by fully trusting these words and their back story - to take this plunge into one of the most creative and potentially scary (though you'd never know it) minds of our generation. Big words, sure, but any of the scenarios that that Bouchard has built any of these songs out of would be the pride of any great novelist and he's got them queued up for miles. He breaks them off and presents them as these tales of near-Americana, where the body's been exhausted and turned into a pulp, but the mind's learning something from all of it, slowly tying little, fractured insights and black logic (a family member of black ice) together and deciding to instruct the hands and fingers to pick up a needle and some sterile string and start stitching up the open wounds wherever they can be found by looking down. Everything's somewhat painful in Bouchard's world, but it somehow always feels as if those pains are the kinds of disarming and cleansing sunrises that are celebrated greatly. He sings, "The harmless seeds grow dangerous weeds" on "Golden You" and this is when the chills up their magnitude, when you shiver like a scared dog and quietly, very quietly to yourself hope that this is all for real, all the while hoping you're wrong.
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