Please list all of your band members and their roles in the band.
I am currently a one man band! I have however had a lot of collaboration with other musicians. I have worked pretty extensively with Scott Fairclough, a songwriter/producer form Nashville. I also had the privilege of working with Brian Joseph in Wisconsin. Brian won a Grammy for Mixing Bon Iver’s eponymous record from 2011. I will also be working with Dan Needham in the upcoming month to incorporate some organic drums.
For starters, what bands were you part of prior to Combray? How long has the band been around?
I was originally part of a band named “Evergreen” for about 5 years. We were based out of Tacoma Washington. My best friend Matt Sweet and I started this when we were in high school. We played around Washington for a number of years—frequenting local pubs and coffee shops. These were some of the best memories and experiences of my life. That band is no longer together. We called it quits in our mid-twenties as a few guys moved away and others started families. I moved on to do some solo work under the moniker “Ryan Wesley.” To date, I have one recorded one full-length album.
What’s the origin of that name and have you changed the band’s name before?
There has been no name change to date and hopefully there never will be. I love the name Combray--it is very significant to me. Combray is named after the fictitious town in Marcel Proust seminal work “In Search of Lost Time”—which has been critically acclaimed as one of the best works of literature ever written.
It’s main theme revolves around the idea of “involuntary memory”--the idea that many of our most rich and rewarding experiences in life can be activated through unexpected moments i.e. Smelling or tasting something that brings you back to a specific moment in time when you were a kid—where all the feelings return as if you were right there again reliving the moment for the first time. Combray is the setting in which Marcel and all his characters come to life in extravagant detail.
What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs and do you think these topics will change over time?
The main topics are: Loss, suffering, avoidance, addiction, control, surrender and rebirth. The album title “awakening” and the album content all suggest that to really live we must be awakened--Awakened from the numbness that an intense focus on the material world often creates--awakened from addictions and the things we often use to control life, to escape from life and avoid reality. That real life is found in the moment, in the ordinary, in the mundane…and that to seek it elsewhere only leads to disillusionment and misery.
Awakening suggest that death and suffering precede life and true happiness. Awakening must happen in individuals if they are to avoid what Carl Jung describes as neuroticism—that we suffer more when we, through self-medicating and mood altering, avoid legitimate suffering. The way to the fulfilled life, to a life of meaning, is through acceptance of life on it’s own terms. Awakening starts with accepting and appreciating life as it is not as we desire it to be. Awakening starts by stopping to look at and smell a flower that otherwise would have gone unnoticed by a more neurotic self.
What bands are currently inspiring the music that you’re making?
I really like Dua Lipa’s 2017 release. I particularly like her song “new rules’ I’m also into James Vincent Mcmorrow. He has a song called “The Future” that was mixed by San Holo. My music is Indie-pop….so I love the sincerity of artists like Bon Iver but also I’m a sucker for a great hook and melody from “top 40” artists.
Was there a particular band/artist or concert that inspired you to start a band?
My biggest inspiration comes from big anthem bands like U2 and Coldplay. My all-time favorite, of course, would certainly be the Beatles…..the boundaries pushed and creativity demonstrated on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is astounding. I would not say it’s any particular concert that inspired me so much as their respective recordings. I am amazed by the recording process and how transcendent moments can be captured in time. When I think of U2’s “Joshua Tree,” it's hard to imagine any other album having so much passion and humanity captured on 2” tape.
What do you do to prepare for a show? Any flexing, exercises, etc …
I usually like to run and get my blood circulating right before a show. Leading up to the concert though I like to get as much solitude as I can. I find that being calm helps me visualize the evening and fuels the excitement and anticipation.
If you could tour with any bands, past or present, who would they be and why?
I would have loved to tour with the Beatles. The greatest strength of the Beatles to me was their creative genius. Yes, they were great performers, but their real contribution was the music they made in the second half of their career once they gave up touring. I consider myself more of a recording artist than a performer. Performance is critical, but there is something about recording music that is timeless. The dream would be to actually be in the studio when these guys and George Martin were creating music that would change the musical landscape of popular music forever.