Ryan Dahle has spent the better part of this decade behind the scenes in the studio, working with bands like Billy Talent, The Manvils and Hot Hot Heat, but he’s finally stepping back into the spotlight with Irrational Anthems.
The album is the first to be released under Dahle’s own name, but the longtime Age Of Electric and Limblifter member/creative force hasn’t given up his collaborative spirit.
Megan Bradfield of The Salteens and A.C. Newman fame is all over the disc, playing a slew of instruments and contributing vocals. Brother, New Pornographers member, and longtime partner in musical arms, Kurt Dahle, is also back for drums this time.
Dahle talked to CHARTattack about the album, made-up words and the scariest part of his new project, while taking a break at his cabin in Saskatchewan before gearing up for Irrational Anthem’s Aug. 25 release.
CHARTattack: It’s been five years since the last Limblifter release. Did circumstances keep you from releasing more music before then, or was it a personal choice?
Ryan Dahle: I’ll choose A: circumstances. I think that if there was somebody ready and willing to release my records, I would probably make one once a year. But it’s the process of releasing it that’s the challenging part for me.
Do you have a backlog of material?
Yeah, I have tons and tons of junk laying around. Some of it doesn’t fit what I could pull off, and some of it is crap, probably. But I’ve been learning to give away stuff or start to work with other people when I find something’s appropriate for someone else.
I wrote a song with K-OS recently, which is awesome. I’ve written a bunch of songs with Matt Good and I’ve been working a lot and writing with Steve Bays from Hot Hot Heat. It’s just a matter of finding the right people to partner with.
There’s a song called "Awfulizing" on Irrational Anthems, and the word also appears in other songs on the album. What is "awfulizing" and why does it keep popping up in your music?
I love made up words. Awfulizing is negative thinking, really, when you take the worst case scenario and bring it out and then it comes to fruition because you’ve made it so.
I think that writing a song like that is a good reminder to myself that that’s what happens when you think the worst things: they come true.
So you have a bit of an awfulizing streak in you, then?
I think everyone does. I think I’m a lot less so than most folks. Lots of people say that I’m really positive and I don’t think I used to be, though. I think it’s just a natural human thing. Like, "What’s the worst thing that can happen? Oh, let’s talk about it and make it come true." So that’s what it is to me, anyway.
Is there an overarching concept for the lyrics on this album beyond the repetition of awfulizing?
I don’t know. There’s this artist that I really love named Gillian Welch and she has an album called Revelator [It's actually called Time (The Revelator) - Ed] and throughout the album, she keeps on repeating ideas and lyrics and things, like literally just swapping them out into other songs. So that influenced me a bit.
Being able to take ideas and repeating them or extrapolating on them throughout different songs to bring common themes together. I mean, that’s what a record should be, bringing common themes together within different songs. You might be talking about a completely different scenario, but the themes that are on your mind kind of run through them. At first, I wanted certain words to be in every song, but it couldn’t work. I tried to do it, but maybe next time.
What is the status of Limblifter these days?
I don’t know. It’s just my band. I guess I could make another record any time. And my brother’s on this record, so I suppose I could have called it Limblifter.
Megan was very adamant about it being called Ryan Dahle. She thinks that if I was ever going to release a record that was a solo record, this should be it and this would be the time to do it. And I just don’t feel like anybody was really interested in LImblifter anymore.
And since then, there seems to be this groundswell of people being very interested in it. I’ve got people calling me from all over the country saying, "They’re playing Limblifter non-stop here!" so go fucking figure.
I don’t know. Nobody bought the last record, so I’m not going to give them another one. That’s kind of how I felt. I guess I needed some kind of change and my mind was blank as far as a new band name.
I thought, "Well, I’ll just put my name on it." I thought that was the ballsiest thing I could do. Putting your name on something is something beyond anything I’ve ever thought about. So I did it because I was frightened.