The Romany Invasion
Published March 9, 2011
THE ROMANY RYE. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS SUNDAY
The Romany Rye’s songs—which trade in heartbreak and love, adventures on the road, and hanging out with friends—trigger universal themes, with a style and sound reminiscent of classic American folk and rock-and-roll. Think lyrical influences of Townes Van Zandt and Bob Dylan, and melodies and emotions with Neil Young’s intensity, and you’ll begin to get The Romany Rye. Songwriter and frontman Luke MacMaster’s sincere lyrics tell the kind of stories that you find yourself not only listening to, but also empathizing with.
Last year, the band toured the United States twice (with Dawes and Delta Spirit, respectively) in support of their debut EP, and they just wrapped up their first full-length album, Quicksilver Sunbeam, due out in July. They count Kings of Leon as their friends and longtime supporters, and are about to play a gig with Mumford and Sons in New York on March 13. The band is finalists in the Rolling Stone competition for a cover, and is just beginning of a lineup of nonstop shows this year (South by Southwest in the nearest future).
We spoke with Luke on his last night in LA; the next day he was headed for Arkansas, for practice with his band, and then on to New York.
VERA NEYKOV: You are from Los Angeles by way of Big Bear, California, and your band mates are from Arkansas, correct? How did you meet?
LUKE MACMASTER: We met through the band Dawes, who lives here in LA. Dawes was out on tour and met all the boys, who at the time had just lost their singer, or I should say their singer lost his band. And when Taylor [Goldsmith] heard them play, he called me and said, “You have to come to Arkansas now!” So I went. We jammed for the week and decided it was a good fit.NEYKOV: Where did the name The Romany Rye come from?
MACMASTER: The Romany Rye is the title of a 19th-century novel written by George Borrow, about an adventurous young lad who gets thrown with gypsies and learns some valuable growing lessons along the way. I read it about four years ago and was really inspired by it. I identified with the character and decided it would be a good name for my musical project—much in the same way Steppenwolf named their band after the Hermann Hesse novel.
NEYKOV: You just finished recording your first album as a band, where did you record it? What was that like?
MACMASTER: We recorded it here in California at [the former pro skater, now musician] Matt Costa’s studio. It was an exciting experience; it went by so swiftly I can hardly remember. All I know is that it was genuinely easy. We all had pretty firm ideas of what we wanted to do, and how we wanted to do it. All in all, it was terrific.
NEYKOV: What influences you, the songs that you write?
MACMASTER: Just breathing, really. My songs are a documentation of my experiences. I hardly ever write fiction, so having said that, I guess it just depends on the day. Some days it is Pablo Picasso, other days Shuggy Otis. Guess it all depends on where my mind wonders or how others treat me.
NEYKOV: Currently, you are living out of suitcase, right? How has that changed the way you write music?
MACMASTER: It has only allowed me to concentrate more on my music. We have been on and off the road for the better part of a year, and within that time I have been able to write all the new material for the second record. It seems that traveling has been inspiring for me, at least at this point in my life. Although a “home” sounds pretty good right now.
NEYKOV: What has been your favorite moment yet? Dream gig?
MACMASTER: Best moment was my mom’s reaction to our picture in Rolling Stone. My dream gig would be us selling out the El Rey. If we ever do that, then I will get a bigger “dream gig.” I am trying to have realistic goals.