Envy on the Coast gained notoriety in the “Post-Hardcore” genre, playing alongside The Receiving End of Sirens, Anberlin, Taking Back Sunday, Circa Survive, etc. and their first full length album, Lucy Gray, was an instant classic among fans. But as the band grew older, so did their fan base. Their album was so well received among High School & College kids, that they expected their second full-length album to be a continuation of their first; because we all love nostalgia, and reminiscing about the feelings we had in “the best years of our life.” Lucy Gray was an amazing record, both lyrically and musically, and it is a treasure in the past when our biggest worry was picking who should be where in our Myspace Top 8. But Low Country was an evolution. Adopting Southern Rock, and even a hint of Hip-Hop influence, EotC made sure their tones crept into your head, laid in the fetal position, and never left. It may take a few listens to really “get it”…but it’s there. Some fans took it, and some didn’t. We all grow older though and our tastes often change, as does ones ideas for music. And if you think the 3 years is a long enough time to make such a transformation from Lucy Gray to Low Country, well…try 7 years later and 3 band members less.
Envy on the Coast faded away in 2010, and a handful of side projects were born. But Ryan Hunter and Brian Byrne stayed friends, and even band mates. While demoing songs for one of their projects, they sat on a batch of songs that they felt didn’t fit. It was later realized that those songs were written in the same way they wrote back when Envy was still a band. They decided to “Reincarnate” Envy on the Coast. Their upcoming Ritual EP is a fraction of those songs. I got the opportunity of a lifetime, as this is one of my favorite bands, to speak to Ryan Hunter, with a couple words (literally…a couple) from Brian in the background about it all.
You stated that there were a batch of songs that weren’t really fitting NK or your solo projects, and that you later realized that they were Envy on the Coast songs from the way they were written. Is the upcoming EP, Ritual, completely that batch of songs or is there anything newly written on there?
Ryan: No, they are all from that bigger batch of songs. Every song was reproduced and reworked for the EP. We felt that we couldn’t move on and go fully in whatever direction we’re going to head in until this stuff saw the light of day.
You both keep maturing in sound, constantly evolving and learning new sound styles and techniques. From what your original ideas were for those demos, would you say that, completed are entirely different than what you originally had planned for those songs?
Ryan: Yeah, there was obviously the core that got us excited about it that remained the same. When we went back to listen to them last year, there were 30-something songs and the 6 that we chose, there was obviously something there that excited us about it to honor and keep the DNA, and mess with everything else. There was also stuff that we weren’t able to execute 7 years ago, that we started doing back then and in the past 7 years, amassed the skills to be able to properly execute that stuff. There was just recording techniques, and the way we were treating the drums, and just different approaches altogether. When we listened back to our demos, we were like, “Oh, yeah, we did that very poorly and now we actually know how to do that the right way, so let’s do that.” So there were a lot of moments like that as well.
Your first single Manic State Park is my go to warm up song on my gym playlist. It starts out pretty mellow, then just explodes towards the end. With Mike Sapone co-producing the song, how involved was he and how did he affect the outcome of the song?
Ryan: I would say Mike was really helpful in, well, he’s a knob turner. He’s really good at helping you chase certain sounds. Particularly, the guitar tone on it. Brian worked really hard to execute what he wanted to, tonally. Mike helped a lot with that. He also helped a lot with taking my demos and making sure that all those little elements that were there stayed. Particularly, the intro. He was really helpful in that sense, in us kind of vocalizing things, he’ll help bring those ideas in a tangible way.
Did he produce any other songs on the EP?
Ryan: Yeah, he co-produced the entire album with us. This is the first time that we had a pre-conceived idea in mind and wanted to steer the ship a lot. So we were very heavily involved in the production process. There were even elements in our demos that I sort-of salvaged and was like, “this needs to stay on there”. Even though it was poorly recorded, or whatever. It didn’t matter, because it had the vibe. So Mike was there for most of the process. We did about 10 days with Mike, then we took the files and went back to our respective studios and did additional work on them. There were also times where I tracked vocals with Mike, and then Brian called me and was like, “Yo, you don’t have enough fire in you on this tape. I just think you have to re-do it.” So I was re-doing vocals back here in LA, as per Brian’s request, and him just pushing me further to get better tapes. So, yeah. It started up 7 years ago, then Mike got involved, then we also took it further in our own studios.
So you both recorded on opposite sides of the country?
Ryan: Yeah, we did those 10 days with Mike, all 3 of us, in his studio. Then Brian did his work in his studio on Long Island. Then I did a bunch of work in my studio here in LA. Then the stuff that remained from the demos which was recorded in Long Island 7 years ago.
I seen you play live as openers back in 2007 and 2009, and saw you guys a few months ago in Atlanta. Out of all the shows I’ve been to, not many bands nail every tone from the records like you guys do. Do you guys use the same gear live as you do in recording?
Ryan: No, actually. I would say a lot of the times it’s very different. A lot of the times it’s its own process of re-creating stuff. A lot of times you can’t. Ya know, you’ll have a series of pedals that go to stereo to two amps that you mic up, or whatever. Situations like that aren’t practical to actually tour with that stuff, especially if the sound itself only appears for 45 seconds in a song. I know Brian, in the guitar world alone, is super proud of what he has going and what he’s built his board up to be, as far as executing tones that he’s had in all of our releases. He’s got an arsenal of pedals that he calls upon to, sort of, recreate all those sounds. It’s pretty crazy. Just for example, I use a Gibson 335 on stage, and have for awhile. But in the studio, in Low Country, I use my Custom First Act guitar because it cut through a little bit more and live it just doesn’t seem to have the same effect. We use Strat and we use things that you wouldn’t normally think would be in our sound, ya know? There are songs where we switch guitars 4 times for a recording. And we obviously can’t do that live. The same goes for drums. When I played drums on Low Country, I think I played a 26” kick, which is massive. It was a vintage Gtretsch kit, I believe, and live, we obviously don’t tour with that. So yeah, it’s very different. It’s its own process of sorta dialing things in in rehearsing, and getting it as close as you can.
Did you get to experiment with a lot of new effects for the new EP?
Ryan: Definitely! One thing I’m really proud of is on ‘Virginia Girls’, the organ sound. I played organ on it but I’m not very proficient at it. So I did it with a plug-in I usually used. Like a Kontakt organ plugin, I don’t even remember what it’s called. It’s really nice, it’s a really great plugin. But obviously not a real B3, which is what it’s emulating. But if I’m using a real B3, then I can’t edit the MIDI for when I fuck things up. I usually play things for 10-15 minutes then I go in with a mouse and move things around that I want or maybe even take things out, or whatever. I had moments where I was like, “Shit, maybe we should hire someone, have them really play the B3 on this.” Instead, we kept the organ and ran it through Brian’s Deco pedal, his Strymon Deco pedal, which is a stereo pedal. And that blitzed the signal out to two guitar amps. Supros?
Brian: Uh, yeah we used both Supro Thunderbolt Pluses
Ryan: Yeah, two Supro Thunderbolt Pluses. We mic’ed those up. And we also had a mic in the room, and a mic at the top of the stairwell for another room sound. I believe we pushed the gain on one of them too. There was gain coming from somewhere. I don’t even remember how we got gain out of it. So that was kind of like the proudest, uh, well proudest for all three of us. Cause we all sort of went in on that. Brian brought the Deco into the mix, Sapone had the idea to go out to the amps, and yeah, it was just really cool. So there was that. There were a few moments where we brought out guitars, um..I don’t even know if I’m allowed to, I don’t know if he’d be mad that I let out the secret…
Brian: Don’t tell him! Can’t tell anyone!
Ryan: Haha, so yeah we had a few secret weapons too that we pulled out of the closet, where I was like “oh my god, that piece of shit?” then you plug it in and it’s like, “this is perfect!” I don’t think we ever made a record without going wild experimenting. That’s the best part. This is also the first record where, in the past 7 years I have become obsessed with analog synths, and have amassed a little mini collection of toys, in that world. And this is the first Envy on the Coast record where I got to implement some of that stuff. Cause in the past, it’s always been a struggle for how to implement keys. Cause it’s sort of difficult to find a place for piano within the context of rock music. I used a lot of Oberheim OB8 on Manic State Park, which was super fun for me. As well as a few other songs, I think there’s some on Sift, with some Yamaha DX7 as well, and some Critter & Guitari Organelle. So, yeah, we used a lot of toys.
From your first EP, to Lucy Gray, to Low Country, you guys have definitely strayed away from staying the same. Do you think it’s important for you both to have a diverse sound in each of your tracks and each of your albums?
Ryan: I don’t think it’s something we do consciously. I think it’s something that just happens that way. Cause I know, if anything, we’ve had more difficulty creating cohesion than anything else. So, yeah, it’s sort of something that just happens on its own. We’ve never wanted to do the same thing twice, and we’ve never been the type of band where we’re like, “Oh, we always want to be able to tour with these guys, be part of this scene or that world.” We never really gave a shit about that. So, we’ve always just chased whatever we felt and that sort of guides us.
Getting back on stage as Envy on the Coast and playing old songs, and some new songs, would you say that it feels more like home or does it kind of feel more like a side project?
Ryan: I would say a little bit of both. It’s a different feeling when you’re not 17, with everyone all in and it’s your whole universe. I think we all prefer this, because it gives you the opportunity to do things on your own terms. It’s definitely a different emotion than when we were kids. But Brian and I definitely had more of an opportunity to soak things in and appreciate the value of it all in a way that I don’t think we were able to when we were younger.
I know you update your Spotify artist playlists monthly, have been releasing a little web series on youtube, as well as updating your Instagram story with news. How important would you say Social Media is today for artists vs. how important it was 10 years ago?
Ryan: I think it’s really important. I think we are still developing our own relationship with it all. Our manager is constantly telling us, “You guys have to post something. You haven’t done shit!” and I understand that. We don’t blame her when she tells us. It’s a weird thing. We’re not of the generation that’s growing up with a phone in their hand. It was something that we didn’t have when we were 16-17, or the phones that we had didn’t do what these phones do. You could text your girlfriend or your mom when you’re on tour but that’s really all it did. I think the Spotify thing is a really good example. When we were asked to do that, it was cool cause we’re listening to new music every single day, every week, whatever. That’s easy. That’s just sharing what we’re listening to with people. If they don’t like it, that’s cool. Our web series is a prime example of what we love to do. Unfortunately, I think a lot of social media is instantaneous stuff. Like, here’s me eating a fucking churro or something. I don’t care who’s eating churros and we don’t care to show anyone we’re eating churros. The web series, we put a lot of time into. We wanted to tell the story of our reincarnation. There were a lot of late nights, where Brian and I were getting footage and editing footage. And that’s the stuff we like to do. Unfortunately, it takes more time to put that stuff together. It’s a longer process. I think the people get that about us. I don’t think there’s a sense of people wanting bullshit from us. I think if you stay true to yourself, and if we do that in the realm of social media, it’ll avoid going insane. And that’s what we’re trying to do.
Envy on the Coast’s Ritual EP is out now!
Be sure to catch Ryan and Brian eating churros below: