Ryan Taito – Interview

Singer-songwriter and guitarist Ryan Taito of grunge-rock band Ember City is interviewed about his musical influences, the music he likes to create, his favorite local venues, and much more.

What first got you into music?

When I first met my step-brother he was learning guitar and drums. He showed me a few simple riffs to play and I picked it up pretty naturally. Convinced my mom to get me a cheap, partially-plastic acoustic guitar so I could learn to play myself. One determined year later I joined my first band. It was awful.

Who are some of your influences?

My influences have drastically changed over the years. I learned to play as many Metallica riffs as I could when I was a kid. As I got older, I got nostalgic for the 90s’ grunge rock; the kind of songs where no one knew how to properly annunciate anything. Eventually my interest in guitar shifted from simply playing to creating unique sounds with effects pedals and amp mods. I got more into fuzzy rock stuff like Queens of the Stone Age, Muse, and the Black Keys. And then even more effects-heavy stuff like Tame Impala.

I am trying to figure out how to make a song stand out without prominent riffs or licks

Describe the music you create …

Riff-centric. Most of the songs I write start out as a riff at first. I like songs to have a clear structure, so I take a solid song layout (verse, chorus, bridge, etc.) and build a song from there.

Of the stuff I have released with Ember City, most of it is loud, fuzzy, percussive, and not too loosely structured.

Of the songs I’m currently working on, there’s still a lot of structure there, but I want to carry songs more with the intensity of the chord progression rather than flashy riffs. I am trying to figure out how to make a song stand out without prominent riffs or licks.

What is your favorite song to perform?

Our original song, Shine, is my favorite to perform. It’s a stark departure from our others, but the nuance and weirdness of it appeal to me. I also think the lyrics Sarah wrote for the song are some of the best she’s ever produced.

How did you get your start in the Savannah music scene?

My wife Sarah was already performing when I first met her. I had already been playing guitar for some years at that point, so naturally I started playing a few songs with her. Some time after that, we had the idea to start a band: Ember City. We’ve been working with that ever since.

Name a Savannah artist who you’d love to collaborate with …

I’m good friends with Whaleboat and enjoy their sound. It’d probably be fun contributing to some project of theirs.

What is one message you’d give to your fans?

I very genuine, “Thank you.” It is very gratifying hearing someone tell you they enjoy what you do and what you create. Having someone stream our song, or wear our T-shirts, or show up to a gig singing along with our original stuff is an indescribable joy.

Maybe these unprecedented times we’re stuck in can gives us new perspective on what we want Ember City to be

What are some of your favorite local venues to play?

I have played many. I would say my bar-home is The Rail Pub since the folks there are incredibly kind and genuine. I enjoy playing big shows there. Another stand out is Barrelhouse South. Yeah, it has the great sound system, stage, and the big crowds; but even without all that, the sound engineer, Rob, is unbeatable. If I ever went on the road big-time, I would probably try hiring him to go along.

Pre-pandemic City Market was always a blast. Also the big stages on River Street during St. Patrick’s Day is a crazy experience, even if it is absolute hell getting there.

Your thoughts on the state of the Savannah music scene …

Unclear. I know quite a few artists and bands that are definitely gearing up and working on stuff, but what with the pandemic and all, I can’t say I see much beyond the nine-to-five kind of gigs currently going on. It sort of feels like everyone is taking a deep breath and waiting to release it all when things ease up. I hope that day comes soon.

What’s next for you?

There is a lot of transition in my life at the moment. Obviously this affects a lot of music I create and even consume. I am writing as often as the nerve strikes and hoping to (finally) produce a new collection of songs for Ember City with my wife, Sarah. Both of us feel like we need a new direction. Maybe these unprecedented times we’re stuck in can gives us new perspective on what we want Ember City to be.

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