We Caught Up With Ryan Grisham Of Alt-Emo Heroes Mock Orange

Having been a band for over two decades, Mock Orange are a true cult band. This year they have returned with a brand new effort, their album number eight, quite impressive, uh? Put the Kid on the Sleepy Horse is their newest venture from an ever-evolving band. We caught up with guitarist and lead vocalist Ryan Grisham, here’s the result…

How is it being back in the motions of releasing a new album after a 5 year gap between this and 2011’s Disguised As Ghosts?
It’s very familiar, and new at the same time. I forgot how fast everything moves once the ball is rolling. It’s good though. Keeps us on our toes.

Within these 5 years what did you find yourselves doing?
Working day jobs. Making that cash to pay those bills. I met an old- school guy, Mike Lankford. True genius. He built my project studio, taught me a lot about electronics, and traditions of recording. That took the better part of a year… Add an extra few months of tweaking things, and getting a workflow down. After that, we hit the writing pretty hard, and started tracking. A good way into the tracking process, the hard drive crashed. That was a huge pain in the ass. But in the end, persistence paid off. It was a crash course in creating a completed record from nothing! Now that I’ve written this, I believe it took 4 of the 5 years to complete this project.

Any plans to tour the new record?
I think we’ll give it a decent run. These days, I think we can tour smart. Before social media, you got in a van and just drove around for months with absolutely no idea what to expect. It’s much easier to communicate now, and set “pockets” of shows up. So it only makes sense to try out this theory…

You’ve amassed quite a large following in Japan, enough so to have a fair amount of Japan only releases. Do you have any idea where this has stemmed from?
We were lucky enough to be invited to Japan to play with NOFX, in 2001. It had been a little while after we were home, when we received an email from The Band Apart asking us to come back to tour with them. They saw us play one of the shows.It was obviously early internet days, so we didn’t know what to think, but after some digging, we knew it was legit. We owe all of our success in Japan to those guys. They are family.

Over two decades in the industry, please tell as much as you can/want to about how the changing tides of the music industry have affected your career.
Well, when we recorded Nines and Sixes, Pro Tools really just got going. Tape was still king (and still is in my book). That was in 1998. No iPhone, YouTube, Spotify, blah blah… So now, in my opinion, we have an oversaturation problem. And also a nano-attention span. It’s a natural evolution, I think. Totally fine, we (the old guys) have to be on top of things both musically, creatively, and technologically, to stay relevant and stand out. But stand out to ourselves first, otherwise why do it? I can only speak for myself on that one. But I feel the other guys would agree. I believe that’s why we change so radically between albums, for better or worse! From a business standpoint, we should’ve rode the Nines and Sixes train to the bank year after year. But the spark would not allow that! Ok, done with rant… Let’s just say, I’m glad vinyl is still coveted.

How has technology changed your approach and attitude to music, both your own and others?
I really like technology right now. I also dislike it. You can abuse anything great. So, it’s super to be able to use a sampler to have a couple of backing tracks, and segue’s live. But, I’m obsessed with mechanical noise. Analog boxes, distortions, effects, anything that changes or gets weirder over time. Digital is great as a recorder, for editing and mixing, and communicating/promoting yourself. Some plugins are great as well. As far as the amount of information or, music you can access… It makes my head hurt. And it makes me bored very quickly. But to be fair, I’ve also been turned on to things I would’ve never looked for. It’s really potent though, so just a sip for me…

Retrospectively, what moments in your career are standout?
Hmm. Working with J. Robbins was excellent. He’s the man. The MTV competition was true insight into the bizarre world of television. Meeting The Band Apart was one of the best things, in my opinion, that has ever happened to us. Such insanely talented guys. And our new home, Topshelf Records. We are just starting out with them, but I think Seth and Kevin are very professional, stand up guys.

On a relatively similar note, what albums have stood out to you over the past 20 years?
Man, there are so many… but: PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake, My Bloody Valentine’s MBV and Loveless, Shellac’s At Action Park, all Nirvana albums, all Radiohead albums, all Braid albums, especially during the Age of Octeen period, Pixies, all albums… I don’t really even go by albums. Any band I would mention, their whole catalog usually floors me.

How is it being signed to Topshelf Records compared to past labels?
As I said earlier, it’s still new. But even so, it’s the best label we’ve been on. They are real. It makes me want to work harder. It makes a huge difference when you feel like someone genuinely gives a shit, and has your back.

What does the future hold for Mock Orange?
It’s hard to say. I believe we will record albums as long as someone out there wants to hear them. Hell, I already have another musical shift in mind for the next one! I think we’ll go until we don’t… I try not to think about the future too much.

Words: Steven Loftin // Photo: Kristen Bickwermert – Put The Kid On The Sleepy Horse is out now via Topshelf Records.
You can also read the interview here:

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