Premiere & Interview: Stephen Bailey - G.G Ryder
A day before release, stream the incredible fourth solo album of cosmic folk and alt-country from former Mt. Mountain frontman Stephen Bailey + checkout a feature interview with the man himself
Image Credit: Sam Eastcott
After a couple of impressive singles, including the enchanting The Holder that we premiered a few months ago, Boorloo-based singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, engineer and producer Stephen Bailey is ready to release his fourth and most accomplished album to date, G.G Ryder, premiering on Pilerats today ahead of tomorrow's release.
A fixture of the WA music scene for the last decade, Bailey first came to our attention as the frontman of acclaimed local psych-rock experimentalists Mt. Mountain, who recently called it quits after playing their final live show at RTRFM’s In The Pines festival this year.
Bailey’s solo output that we first heard back in 2017 with debut album Silo showed us a very different side of the artist, as he embraced some more relaxed, chilled sounds with a unique blend of indie rock, lofi pop and alt-folk. Silo was followed by 2019’s 9 and 2021’s Tunnel, an album that saw Bailey start delving into the DIY side of recording and production.
Now up to album number four, G.G Ryder sees Bailey further dive into this world, having played everything himself apart from piano on one track, as well as self recording and mixing the album that blends folk, blues and country in an alternative, cosmic manner.
Ahead of G.G Ryder’s November 25 release, we caught up with Bailey to find out all about his brilliant new album - have a listen and get to know!
Before we dive into the album, I have to ask about Mt. Mountain - you guys are on indefinite hiatus?
That’s done, it’s so done. I honestly can’t see us going back together - like, nothing bad happened, it just kind of fizzled away. I think it really was COVID. We were kind of on an arc, just before COVID hit. We’d signed to Fuzz Club and that was super exciting because the prospect of going to Europe and possibly America to tour and stuff, we’d been working on this. Then that just went with COVID, it put a pin in that and then it was kind of just like a waiting game for music to come back, and just in that time, I think we were trying to write but we were getting together less, and then when we did come together, we were just trying to remember what we’d written and it got to the point where it was just like “what are we actually doing?”. I think it was more the bass player, Brendan - he was probably the least interested by that time and that kind of made us all thinking about if was like “I’m done”, then we were like “oh, yeah, I think maybe we’re all done”.
And that’s kind of strong of him to have said that in the first place, right? I can’t help but think it’s kind of beautiful to go out on your own terms, on good terms, and we’ve got four dope albums from you guys that will live on forever! So… G.G Ryder - I want to start with the title because it jumped out to me as possibly meaning a few things…. Including a mixture of G.G. Allin and Shaun Ryder or something? *laughs*
Yeah, I love this. I love that. People will just be like, “What the hell? Who is this person?”, but honestly it’s no one. The name literally comes from the title track G.G Ryder. The song was originally Easy Rider, so that was the chorus “Easy Rider, Easy Rider”, and my partner was like “I don’t know if you can say ‘Easy Rider’, it’s been done”, so it made me think about it. Then her father said to change it to CC Rider, like, you know, motorbikes, CC Rider. Then I looked that up and I think that’s like an Elvis song so I couldn’t use that. So I changed it to G.G Ryder and turned it into a character because I’m singing about a guy who’s like on a horse and riding through old country towns. So it became the character’s name and I don’t know, for some reason that just stuck out to me.
I love it! Yeah Easy Rider like Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, I’m not too big on Elvis so I’ve never heard that but yeah, just shows the things you have to consider when you’re creating art so you’re not copying something you’re not aware of, I guess?
Yeah it’s extremely hard now, it’s literally insane like trying to come up with a band name is so hard.
Stephen Bailey works!
There’s so many Stephen Baileys but you know, it’s my name, I can get away with it *laughs* But when you’re making something up it’s so easy to copy something without even knowing.
Yeah I can only imagine. So you’re up to your fourth album now, and I’m particularly curious about the journey from your last record, Tunnel, where you started self-recording, to this new album where I guess you’re taking it to the next level in your home studio. What lessons did you learn from Tunnel that you could use on the new album?
I guess I was just playing a lot of the time. Recording stuff, getting quicker at cutting drums and learning the program and just like, how to record and play with EQs and stuff like that, thing I just have never dabbled in.
Nice one. So when it comes to writing, there’s a quote in the press release about starting with drums and then adding layers - do you want to expand on that a bit and tell us how a typical song on G.G Ryder came together?
G.G Ryder, I’ll start with that track. I just put a drum loop down to start with, so I’ll just get on the drums and play some sort of straight beat, and then I’ll just cut that and loop that. Then I’ll start writing over it, and once I’ve got that, it’s really essentially just like I’ll write the verse and then just find a change or find where a chorus could go. Then I try and get that structure down first, and lyrics and vocal melodies next. After that is like bass, your lead parts - anything that can go in between, but usually I just try to get basic chords and vocal melodies over the top of that loop.
So regarding lyrics, does that mean the music inspires the lyrics, or do you already have lyrical ideas before the music gets demoed?
No, it’s definitely the feeling of the song that will influence what I’m singing about. Yeah, I guess G.G Ryder has that sort of like rock, blues rock sound, so that just immediately makes me think “okay, it’s a cowboy type thing, we’re singing about a guy riding”. But the way I do write, I will just like, start singing, and the first thing I say, I just question whatever I’m saying, like, what am I saying here? Then the answer to that question will be next, the second part of the lyric and I can go on from there, just constantly asking the question of what it is that I’m saying. That’s it, that’s pretty much how I go with most of my lyrical writing.
I love that approach, I’ve never heard that method described like that. So with instrumentation on this record, another thing mentioned in the press material is the idea of you approaching each instrument like a different player?
Yeah, that’s something I guess I learned from Mt. Mountain, because I guess the beauty of Mt. Mountain was everyone’s part was their own, no one got to write anyone’s part and it was do what you liked. Yeah, everyone had their own particular style, which is what made it dynamically interesting. Glen was always using quite a lot of reverb, and then Derrick was quite dry, but those two together work so nicely. So I tried to do that, I tried to think of one guy in the band has a bit of reverb on his guitar, one guy plays completely dry. Yeah, more so tone-wise I tried to think about being a band.
And how far do you take that, like, do you give yourself little aliases for each instrument or something? *laughs*
*laughs* No, definitely not. But I do think it’s as simple as just having a rhythm and lead player, but the rhythm player instead of playing chords, he just plays quite a dry tone and just like plucking two string notes, like real simple stuff. It’s not these bigs chords, so a lot of the album has that, there’s just always on guitar in there that's got these two simple chords that are just literally two notes together, just in different spots.
Yeah dope, it’s layered in there so nicely. So I want to ask about the cover art now, which is so cool. I must admit I’m not familiar with the artist Pippa McManus, so tell us a bit about the artwork, what’s going on here? I’m assuming that’s the titular G.G Ryder?
The image is actually me, but it’s weird, because it doesn’t really look like me. Well, I thought it did because I know it’s actually drawn from a photo of me, but everyone I’ve spoken to is like “oh, who’s that guy?”. Everyone’s saying that.
Yeah it was flip a coin for me to be honest, I wasn’t sure if it was maybe based on you as being G.G Ryder or something.
I kind of like that, like “who’s this character, who’s this guy?”. But yeah, Pippa’s a friend of mine, and her style of art is really different to what I’m into, and I’ve seen lots of different drawings of hers and she can just do whatever, she’s just insanely good at art across the board. So I just put that cover together, taking Google images and placing all the parts, and then gave that to her and told her to change it up a bit, make it slightly different.
Oh dope, I’d love to see that original mock up… So finally Steve, I have to ask - Stephen Bailey live shows?
Yeah…. So I actually started putting a band together about two months ago, which ended up evolving into something else. I had these guys sort of come to play, but we were also writing at the same time because I was halfway through a solo record, about three months ago, so another solo record. The idea was to get the guys to come in and play and help me write the next solo record, and once we’d done that we could play some live shows. But the ideas they were bringing, like the songwriting was just way better than mine, so technically good. But vocal-wise, not so good, but I was like “I can’t really claim this as Stephen Bailey…. Let’s just do another thing”.
So I’ve got a new project, we’ve nearly finished an album. Yeah. So the band is called The Bures Band, and it’s exciting. It’s been super fun playing with these guys - one of the guitar players technically is just amazing, but his taste is very much in the realm of G.G Ryder, very Americana, folk rock, like very Crosby, Stills & Nash sounding at the moment. I think this Bures things is going to be a live thing, like everyone’s super keen to play and I just feel better doing that than, you know, getting people to play my solo music. I’d much rather do something live where everyone else is actually putting their time into the writing process, and they feel happy about doing it.
…but if The Bures Band end up playing a few Stephen Bailey solo songs in a live set?
Yeah, that’s possible, it could definitely work. But yeah, I’m just super busy with that at the moment, like just before this conversation I’ve spent the last three hours cutting drum takes for the album.
Well, on that note dude I’ll let you get back to those drum tracks. That’s so exciting to hear about the new projects and all things G.G Ryder, thanks so much for chatting, Steve!
Thank you so much.
Stephen Bailey’s new album G.G. Ryder is out November 25 via Third Eye Stimuli
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