Ryan Hamilton: Talking The Traitors, Ginger Wildheart, the ‘Fuck You Brain’ charity single, mental health and beards
23 March 2018
I had a chat with Ryan backstage at the Surya venue in Kings Cross (where The Traitors were also hanging out) before the last date of the Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors ‘Young, Dumb and Full of Rum’ UK tour. Supporting on the tour were The Main Grains featuring Wildhearts’ bassist Danny McCormack.
Me: You seem to be having a blast on this tour. How have the gigs been and what’s it been like hanging out with The Main Grains?
Ryan: The gigs have been super fun! We’ve been to two or three places we’ve never played before so those shows were a little smaller, but arguably more fun. Not that the others weren’t fun, they were amazing, but we just didn’t know what to expect; so maybe surprised at how much fun we had at the smaller shows, is a better way to say it. But the tour’s been amazing: no drama, good vibes, good times. We love hanging out with The Main Grains, they party a lot harder than us and I know not to even try to keep up.
Me: You don’t keep up with a Wildheart to be fair.
Ryan: You have to know going in not to even try.
Me: You’re lucky you weren’t touring with The Wildhearts in the 90s, I expect this tour is quite calm in comparison.
Ryan shares a lot online concerning his own battles with depression, and I’ve also had my own struggles with the black dog, so thought it would be good to have a short discussion on this often taboo subject.
Me: You alright to talk mental health?
Ryan: Yeah, yeah.
Me: I know you’ve had your battles with depression but do you think it’s brought out anything positive in your life? I know it’s made me empathetic towards other sufferers and I appreciate the good times more.
Ryan: Yeah, I think once you become aware that it’s a real problem and you deal with it in your life, you do become more conscious of other people who struggle and it becomes more of a legitimate real thing. You can’t help wanting to go to bat for those types because there are a lot of uneducated people out there who think that people are just pretending or it’s not a real issue or they’re not educated, you know what I mean. I think that there’s good to come out of it because people who suffer support each other and for songwriters who struggle there’s therapy there – so there’s good to come out of it in an artistic kinda songwriter way.
Me: You share your own mental health issues on the internet with live streams and such. Do you think the sharing has helped as far as your wellbeing is concerned?
Ryan: I think it has but I did need to learn to, not tone it down, but just be a little more cautious of how I say what I’m trying to say, because there have been one or two times when I’ve put something out into the world and maybe it didn’t go down the way I’d intended. I didn’t let it stop me from still sharing. I think it’s important to share as long as you’re kinda cautious about how you say what you’re trying to say.
Me: On the flipside you wrote the barnstorming ‘Ode to the Idiots’ as a middle finger to the internet trolls. Have the trolls scuttled back under their bridge?
Ryan: Oh god! They’re never gonna go away. As long as those kind of people have the internet to hide behind I think they’re gonna always exist. I think the trick is to learn how to deal with them and realise that they’re sad. They’re probably just projecting their sadness and their issues.
Me: I was just going to say the same thing. You really think that?
Ryan: I do! I mean, only unhappy people would do that sort of thing. A happy person is not going to sit down and go, ‘I’m going to fuckup somebody’s day today’; so those people are clearly unhappy. If you can have that kind of perspective about it you can process it a little easier. People having a terrible demeanor and being terrible to lots of people, if you don’t educate yourself in that way, to go this is an unhappy miserable person probably living in their Mother’s basement or somewhere… they don’t have the best life, that’s what I’m saying. When you can put it into perspective and process it and it doesn’t get you down… but everyone’s only human, it hurts when people are terrible like that, you can’t help but let it hurt you a little bit.
Me: And of course when it’s on the internet there’s nobody in-front of you, so you can’t say ‘hang on mate’.
Ryan: Then if you try, that’s exactly what they want. All they want is a reaction.
Me: Am I correct in saying that people can still buy the ‘Fuck You Brain’ single that was released in December 2016, with all proceeds going to The Samaritans?
Ryan: Yep, you can.
Me: How was it for you to collaborate with Ginger Wildheart on such a serious matter as depression?
Ryan: It was incredible to work with him because I look up to him as an artist, but when we did that tour together a year or two ago we bonded really quick and had some really good talks and found out that we both had some similar problems. We became a sounding board for each other, even when I got back to Texas, texting and calling. When things got really dark for a little while he was the guy I was reaching out to and he would reach out to me when he was having a bad day. That song started in a text message, with one of us saying, ‘well fuck you brain!’ Then somebody said ‘that should be a song’ and then the next thing we were recording voice memos on our phones and sending them back and forth to each other.
Me: It’s a great track! It really speaks to me.
Ryan: Thanks man, there’s noway we could do anything with that besides what we did. All we wanted to do with it was do something good, record a good rock ’n roll song and raise awareness and put that money towards the charity.
Me: I believe Ginger was introduced to your music through Kris Coverdale playing him ‘4 Letter Verb’ one evening when they were sharing musical loves. Subsequently, Ginger liked what he heard and offered you a support slot on tour in 2016. How important was that tour as far as exposure in the UK was concerned?
Ryan: It was super important because we’d tried to play to an audience that was following our former band, and the music that we play now is similar in someways but markedly different than the former band. We were starting over trying to find our audience and Ginger kinda scooped us up at the perfect time and set it all into like fast forward. He put us in front of all these people and we developed our core audience a lot faster than we would.
Me: I know a lot of people here tonight who are into Ginger’s stuff.
Ryan: I’m forever thankful to him for introducing us and kinda welcoming us into this… it’s a family is what it is.
Me: How was that tour for you, stifling I believe? Didn’t you collapse when you came offstage and they cancelled the next night due to the overwhelming heat? I didn’t go, but it was fucking hot wasn’t it?
Ryan: And I wasn’t even doing any drugs. It was terrible, Pam our tour manager had to help me and get me to snap out of it and walk me up the stairs. Ginger was really sweet in that moment, he got a fan and we turned it on and the air was blowing in my face. It was like ‘get him some water!’ I think I looked so damn pitiful in that moment that Ginger said ‘ok that’s the last straw, we’re not doing this again tomorrow’.
Me: How important is it to bring a sense of fun and creativeness into your videos such as: ‘Records and Needles’, ‘Karaoke With No Crowd’ and ‘We Should Have Moved To LA’? I really love your videos!
Ryan: The thing with the videos is we’ve really only been able to do the best with what we can afford, which hasn’t been much. It’s just us trying to be creative as possible with the resources we have, so thank you.
Me: You’ve just released the ‘I’m So Glad’ EP and I believe you have demos ready for a future Traitors record. Any idea when you’re likely to get into the studio?
Ryan: We have two studio dates in June booked and that’ll be the start of the new studio full length album.
Me: If you are allowed to say, could you tell me why you decided, as of now, to stay as an independent band after your showcase last year?
Ryan: We started those talks and those conversations with those types of people and I didn’t like it, it made me feel uncomfortable. It made me feel like, here we’re stating to do something and just for whatever reason you feel like this isn’t right. It was that and some of the stuff that I was hearing about what they wanted to do just on a business level and having the rights to our music. It wouldn’t have been a good deal… we actually squashed it before any deals were ever proposed. It was just like, you know what, no thank you. I’m super thankful that we’re in a position to feel comfortable doing that. You know what, we’re doing alright, we don’t need those people, yet! Maybe we will in the future and if it gets to the point where we need some help, I’d love to partner with the right label, but right now we don’t need ’em!
To lighten the mood I thought I’d end the interview with some light-hearted chit-chat…
Me: Obviously the new Traitors album is at the forefront of your mind and you’ve just released the country covers album ‘Grand Ole Otley’ with Tony Wright from Terrorvision, but with your varied career so far, including Smile Smile’s folk-tinged indie-pop and People on Vacation’s alternative rock vibe… is a thrash album on the cards?
Ryan: No! Never! Terrible!
At this the rest of the band burst out laughing.
Mickey: I think we should go, a little heavy.
Ryan: Mickey can go record a thrash album.
Me: Ryan, now the razor of youth has removed your beard fuzz, how’s being clean-shaven effected your life?
Ryan: My beard coming off has made me look much prettier, younger, I feel better about myself all the time.
Me: I ask because I’ve just started to grow this beard. You got any grooming tips?
Ryan: Yeah, use beard oil.
At this point Mickey starts to look put out.
Ryan: Mickey can’t grow a beard.
Mickey: I’ve got beard envy!
As the room cracks up with laughter again it becomes obvious how well the band get on and how comfortable they are in each others company – this isn’t always the case as far as bands are concerned.
Me: Ok, last question: on this Young, Dumb & Full of Rum tour who’s lived up to the dumb and full of rum part?
Ryan: Does it have to be someone in this band? I’m gonna say our tour manager Pam; she’s outta control, drunk all the time… she needs to get it together. We may have to sit her down and figure out what the hell is going on.
Me: Rum’s the issue?
Ryan: Man, every night it’s like Pam, go to bed. She’s knocking on our door trying to get in.
Me: Is she young though?
Mickey: Have you not noticed that the Young is crossed out on the poster?
Ryan: Yeah ’cause we’re not young. But yeah, Pam’s been the most out control, easy.
Me: Any last words?
Ryan: Just that we’re thankful to even get to do this. It’s such a wonderful life to get to do this, to be on our second or third chance in this fucked up business is really cool.
Me: I think the music speaks for itself mate.
Ryan: Well thank you very much. That’s why I’m in this and I know Danny’s the same – it’s for the music.
Mickey: Have a good time, all the time…
Mickey’s final words ran through my head as I watched a great performance from the lads, not fifteen minutes after saying our goodbyes.
They may not be young, but they sure ain’t dumb… I only wonder if you managed to hide the rum from Pam the party animal?
Thanks so much to Ryan and his Traitors for being: lovely, genuine, honest and up for a laugh. X