Allan Rayman prefers not to do many interviews. With the marketing of music that makes an emphasis on visibility, Rayman chooses mysticism. In some ways, being a mystery can be a gimmick in itself, but for the Canadian-based singer/songwriter, there’s a real authenticity in pulling back the curtain and leading with his art. No marketing ploy, just artistry.
Rayman’s show at Warsaw had a sign emblazoned “The Allan Rayman Show” in the background. Like his music, the performance was more of a way to tailor it as he saw fit. When he performed “Graceland,” a song off his first album, 2016’s Hotel Allan, there was a performance skit in the beginning. Rayman was at a small table with two wine glasses, one preferably for a lost lover. While Rayman does not explain the meanings of his songs, as a fan of film, he leaves that up to the audience. A scene could touch a different part of someone’s psyche.
As the latter part of the song with the spoken word of a women played through the speakers, Rayman was bathed in strobe lights and did ad libs almost like a call back. There’s a lyric in that part that stuck out to me after our interview concluded: Why is it so hard for you to find balance between love and music?
I briefly met Rayman before the show in a little room in The Warsaw in Brooklyn to do our interview. We put two seats right in the middle of the room and the main takeaway I got from our conversation was how confident Rayman was in himself in doing this his way. Even as the music industry can inundate an artist with demands, Rayman may speak few words, but those words mean something.
Towards the end of the night, Rayman performed “25.22,” a single from his second album, Roadhouse 01. He’s bathed in a combination of purple and blue. Almost hidden, so you can really feel the soulfulness of his voice. A concurrent theme throughout his releases is that in order to gain something, you have to lose something else. As to what you lose or gain, he leaves that up to you to decide. With our conversation, you’ll find that there’s much more to Rayman’s story to render it as just mysterious.
I saw one of your first shows at NeueHouse in New York back when you released Roadhouse 01 and you showed a short film called ‘Veronica’s Obsession,’ which was a pretty unique experience. It was a small, acoustic set and with playing the Warsaw in Brooklyn tonight, how does it feel playing your songs in a smaller setting vs a larger theater?
I think it’s more intimate when it’s bigger. It makes me feel more like I’m in a zoo. I have everyone’s attention when it’s smaller. People are more uncomfortable and get crazy because they think people are watching when the room is smaller. When there’s more people in it, they can blend in and get crazy. I feel it’s more intimate when it’s a bigger room, if that makes sense.
You reference a lot of movie characters like Philip Seymour Hoffman in Almost Famous to Pump Up The Volume where the inspiration for Hard-Hat Harry is from. With ‘Veronica’s Obsession’ and your short film style, does it feel essential to pair your music with a movie medium? There’s definitely a visual component to your music.
Everything is really inspired from film. I listen to music, but it’s a lot of older stuff. I don’t listen to a lot of new stuff, really. Unless it’s something that I really need to check out. There’s an artist named Ruby Waters out of Toronto. She’s great.
So what are some of your older influences?
I grew up on film, so Stanley Kubrick’s great. Especially from suspense and character development. Keeping people on the edge of their seats and I think that’s the way that I approach music.
In some of the few interviews you’ve done, there’s a lot of reference to “cool.” There’s a lot of emphasis on image in the music industry today. Your approach to musicianship is refreshing because you make sure the focus is much more on what you’re saying. I know you don’t listen to a lot of newer music, but when you make music, do you crave to not have things rooted based on image?
Absolutely. If you have something to say and you’re good at getting that across, that should be where the focus is. I’m a lyric guy and if I do listen to some new stuff and the lyrics don’t catch me, it just goes over my head. It’s gotta be real. By not focusing so much on image, you can focus on the more fun aspects of the job which is creating new ideas and constantly trying to develop different ways you can push this thing.
Maybe people aren’t doing it so much because why try to pull success out of thin air when you know if you do this, it’s going to be successful, right? The reason people do that is because they’re probably pressured by labels, management, and shit like that. You just kinda have to keep your head down in everything and find the fun. Some people have fun being loud, I guess.
With Harry Hard-On, you turned to the woods when making that record, kind of like when you did Roadhouse 01. It’s interesting that isolationism brings out creativity that way. How do you feel with your creative process does that scenery bring out of you?
Well, it’s isolationism right? A lot of this job is isolating yourself from everything else. That’s the shittiest part about the whole thing. It’s the disconnect that comes with it. The not being there all the time for people. I guess in some ways, it’s what I’m trying to expose about this. A lot of kids are chasing after this because it’s so obtainable.
It’s not good for you. Go do it if you want, but nobody should fucking tour. Nobody should go be surrounded by people worshiping them. It’s not good for the head or the ego.
I’m kind of like a guinea pig. I’m going through it. My friends and I are just navigating it like an experiment to see what happens to someone as they go through it. The best way to look at is if it’s like a joke. You know what I’m saying?
I definitely see where you’re coming from.
Don’t take it too seriously so that we don’t lose ourselves in all this because we got into it to see how fucked up it may actually be. Then, if we learn the ins and out of it, we can start lighting little fires and burn it all down.
So, going off from that. You’ve seen a lot from your first project to this point. Do you feel like this has changed you at all?
I’ve changed. I wanted to just make music that I wanted to make that the time. I’ll take stabs at different types of albums. Different things that inspire me. Maybe a little bit of grunge. Maybe a little bit of country. A little folk. Some poetry one day. Acting. I take on the whole entertainment thing. It’s fresh and it introduces a little chaos from someone whose chaotic.
You’ve said that you were drawn to figures like Amy Winehouse and Jim Morrison, but you didn’t necessary take the sadness away. Some artists may channel that heaviness from their type of music, but you were able to draw from it and not embody that part. Can you explain a little more about that?
I don’t know. I might have some more vinegar. I might be a little bit more vindictive. I think they weren’t out to get someone. Like, it was truly for them. Where as to me, it’s about 90% for me and 10% is destroying the people I don’t like. It’s like high school. That’s what Harry Hard-On is all about.
High school never ends. Especially with music. You get out of high school and you go into the music industry, it’s just like high school again. There’s the cool kids. There’s the teachers. The principal. Here I am in high school again surrounded by kids I don’t like. I gotta somehow get through the day.
What I appreciate about your albums and EPs is that each has a distinct sound from the other. It could be R&B here. Some blues and folk there. With Harry Hard-On, you worked a lot with Andrew Dawson. How was that experience versus working with your longtime collaborators, Moose and Substance?
It was pretty natural. He’d sit down with a guitar – it was all guitar-leading stuff. He’d play something on the guitar and I’d just sit and write to it. Everything was really quick. It was the same substance, but with a different zest to it. With producers, someone is bringing their flair to the table, but it’s my job to bring it all back into this world.
Going through each of these projects and the ever evolving thoughts on love, where are you at with it now? If you met someone, would you drop all this?
I fall pretty hard pretty quick. I don’t meet a lot of people anymore man. We’re in a greenroom. We’re in a bus. Boom. We’re gone. I’m like protected, I guess. Game of Thrones actually just talked on it. They put it in better words than I did. It said, “love is the death of duty. Duty could be the death of love.”
If you love something, your responsibilities are going to take a hit because you’ll be devoting yourself to that love as well. Maybe not 100%, but at least 50% less which that you could be devoting to your passion or responsibilities. It’s a shitty trait, but it’s a great trait for an artist. Your shortcomings are your strong suits in this business. If you fall quick, you probably got a good song in you.