Ryan Guanzon of Late Night Fights, has laid down his cards with the new album Jousthouse and it’s a full deck. He might be the winner of the ante, but in this hand, we all benefit. This is because Jousthouse has something for everybody. Shockwave had a one on one convo with this skilled artist and learned that behind the fun, underneath the jokes, there is a deeper reasoning and healing in comedy.
Shockwave Magazine: I’m super excited to talk to you. You have my number one album pick for the year.
Ryan Guanzon: Oh wow, awesome.
You have put a lot into this album. When did you decide you were going to take on so much for this record?
I guess I’ve always been doing all aspects of recording for a long time. At one point, I just started to have an arsenal of things built up of songs, ideas, and whatnot. There was a time, when New Medicine was slowing down, that I decided that I really wanted to focus on putting a good record together. Actually, it just started with me just going and playing acoustic shows by myself. And then, I started recording some demos. Eventually, people like my old friends, like AreJay Hale, got interested in it. Then, he wanted to play on it. It went from kind of an acoustic thing to it became a rock record basically, even though it wasn’t necessarily originally going to be that. We just decided to go, kind of like, full force. Then, I asked Dan Korneff, who mixed with New Medicine’s record, if he was available to mix it, and he was. At that point, it just kind of took a life of its own.
I absolutely love that you refer to it as basically an arsenal of skills that you’ve collected, because it seems like you are kind of going to war with all these weapons of styles. The entire album has so much variety.
Yeah, I mean, I’ve always been interested in so many different types of music and obviously you are hearing it, whether it’s intentional or not. Even New Medicine, we kind of went around different styles of music and people would always– the number one criticism of that record was that it covered too many styles. I mean, if those are the types of things that influence you, than those are the things that you create. You’ve just got to try them out, really, and see what happens. There’s a lot of trial and error making your first record as well, to just define what the band’s going to be like, and what people are really liking, and whatnot. And also, of course, just what you’re feeling at the time too. There’s all sorts of different things. Your first record, some of these songs are written three years before and some of them were written a month or two before the recording. So, there’s more time, as well, to write different styles. I think that has had a part to do with why it came across as so diverse. We’re actually in the middle of pre-pro right now, working on our second EP and I think everybody will be able to tell that this EP will be more consistent from song to song. I still want to do a full-length next year as well, cause there’s a bunch of songs that we had left over, and some other new songs as well that are more dynamic, and some are bluesy, and some are kind of like, “Incubusey,” some are more heavy, and grungy. Everything is starting to sound, and the focus, we’re starting to find our sound now. Which is kind of cool, but sometimes it takes a couple records to figure that out.
The variety is not a criticism from my point of view, as that’s theme, it’s very Late Night Fights. It lasted the whole album, it is consistent. One of the tracks I loved was “Ode to Owed.” That throwback feel was fantastic.
Totally, thank you. Yeah, that’s one of our favorite songs to play live. It’s kind of got a swing feel. It’s a really important song to me. I wrote that song when my grandfather passed away. A lot of people think it’s actually about a girl, but it can be related to that, to a girl or a relationship, but that song is really about the cornerstone of my family passing away. He was kind of the person that kept everything on lock. So, when he passed away, things started to disintegrate, I guess you could say. Relationships between my aunts and uncles, and cousins, and whatnot. All the big family gatherings we had at one time don’t happen anymore because he really made sure everybody was okay. He was just a very strong-willed and respectable person. He was like a war hero, chief of police, farmer, he would go out and help people with needs, he would deliver meals to homeless people. That was just with the community. With the family, everything was more important and drew us together. When he passed away I really felt like I needed to take on some of his responsibility to make sure that somebody was keeping the family close and having gatherings. It’s been a few years now since he passed away and I’ve been able to put our first family reunion together last year and it was really special. I actually met a bunch of family members, like extended family showed up, that I had never met before, where at one time, were really close to my mom, and my cousins, and whatnot. It was cool to just, kind of, try and live his legacy a little bit and do what I think he would be doing. He was a very huge role model in my life, so when he passed away it was a huge deal. I got a huge tattoo tribute to him, and the song, my mom that was her hero as well, that song is really special and is definitely a lot of fun to play. Of all the songs on the record, that’s one of the one’s that always comes up. I think there’s a lot of emotion in it.
Jousthouse is clever and complex. Along with such deep and meaningful stances behind your lyrics, it also comes off as fun.
Totally, I definitely try to have a comedic element for sure. Things need to be light-hearted; otherwise they just drain you, basically. A lot of these songs were written in hard times and, you know, probably the only way to get through a lot of those times was– luckily, I’ve got a lot of good friends that are hilarious. My bandmates are hilarious and I really like comedy, and standup, and sketch comedy, and all that stuff. Actually, another thing that I’m starting to get into, as far as production-wise, is writing comedy and stuff on the side. We are talking about forcing ourselves to do open mic, because it’s just like another release. Making people laugh is just a good escape. I think some of that definitely comes across in a lot of the lyrics. It’s cool that you picked up on that.
In my notes I wrote: comically-sexy. That’s how I feel about your entire record, especially in the video “Nothing to Lose.” Where did that concept come from?
It came from a few things. When the song was written, I always had an idea of wanting to do a video sort of like that. Even though it wasn’t necessarily going to be the first single on the record, the idea of the video was so appealing and became so amusing to me and John, the director, that I just had to do it basically. Then, I just asked around to some of my really close friends, and it was cool it all came together. You never know, it was a really long couple of days of shooting because there’s so many parts. I’ve never produced a music video before, so I only sort of knew what I was doing, just from having been in music videos. But, it was a huge learning experience, and luckily—well I shouldn’t say luckily, because everybody that was part of the production team was highly experienced and whatnot—so, thankfully I should say, it came out pretty much exactly as we pictured it in our minds when we were shootin’ the shit about it. It’s definitely sexy, funny, but also sort of a slam-type of song that kind of came from a bad relationship. Finding my ex-girlfriend cheating on me, then sort of having to joke about it because it was so over-the-top, and not to mention the modern dating scene where there’s so much uncertainty with people. People surprise you all the time, I think especially when dating someone, sometimes you get surprised way more than you would ever imagine. We were just trying to go for something like that for the idea of the video. There’s a lot of little subtle hints that we threw in there for our own amusement too, which I might print something out that shows the little hidden side-jokes.
Please do. I love it.
I’m glad that you like it.
I think it takes a lot to have dark humor that’s also universal.
I agree. I think it’s kind of tricky. For example, [in the music video] my base player gets pegged on the couch. He played it for his folks and his dad laughed his ass off and his mom was like, “Are you kidding me? Are you sure? Now you’re known as this. Are you sure you want to be known as that?” If you’re listening, I’m sorry Mom. Yeah, it was all in good fun and Shane [Train Peckham] took one for the team.
Well, with all of that, I got a general idea of what you’re sound was, even though it was diverse, where this album was going, and then you turned me on my head with “Darkest Memory” and “Dead Jesus.” I was just floored, it was so good.
Oh, awesome. Those ones are I’d say, especially “Dead Jesus,” that was one of the hardest times of my life. When I wrote that song it was pretty much when my mom had a surgery that went bad and she was in a coma and chances were pretty low on her being able to function. It was just really unexpected because the procedure was pretty common. It just kind of came out of nowhere. That’s pretty much how that song started. Just kind of questioning the existence of, you know, any sort of higher power, are you really there, are you actually paying attention, are you there for me, grant me one thing, how can you do this to me? Basically, I guess, that’s “Dead Jesus” in a nutshell.
With that being a song that’s incredibly difficult for you in that time period of your life, I’m wondering if that is also very difficult for you to sing. That’s an octave dropping/raising track, that’s vocal Olympics.
[Laughing]. I don’t have the highest/largest vocal range and the singing thing is still– I’ve been singing my whole life but not really in a rock band before, so it’s definitely one that I had to figure out some techniques to be able to pull it off. But, really, that song I think, more than any song, playing that song live is one that I feel the most when I’m singing. Just because it’s A) so emotional and B) because it does take a lot of energy to sing that chorus.
You found your niche.
Hopefully. I’m super diverse. I listen to so much music and make so many different styles, like: hip hop to ambient electronic stuff, and death metal and punk. Depending on what I’m doing in my day there’s different styles of music that are going to help me get through the day. When you’re touring and whatnot, to sleep I listen to a lot of ambient-electronica stuff, like Boards of Canada and Tycho, and stuff like that. Obviously, when you’re driving you want to listen to more aggressive stuff to keep you awake.
What you do is signature to your style; it’s recognizable across the board. Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans or new listeners about your message with your music?
The biggest message I think any artist can have is that songs are written because of experience and the best thing that can happen is for people to relate to those lyrics or the sounds. Even if the words themselves aren’t even relatable, but just to be able to put you into a mindset that you can grasp onto in times of pain, or happiness, or whatever you feel. Since we are such a new band, I don’t really know what people like yet, so it’s a hard question to answer, but I really appreciate what you’re telling me. That you are kind of getting the vibe and we’re in the studio right now just having a good time, just getting our rocks off, getting our release out, and hoping the next songs touch people the same way.
It does, I can take your album and pick a song that matches anybody. It’s exactly what I hope for from an album. So, with closing out on that, I’d love to thank you for Jousthouse.
Absolutely, thank you for listening to it. It means a lot, especially for someone to listen to the whole thing.
It’s on shuffle, nonstop.
Nowadays, people put out singles, and people listen to playlists, and whatnot. It’s not really a record/album world anymore. So, that actually means a lot to me, so thanks for being a fan of music and giving the whole thing a chance.
When you think you know, there’s always more. Keep it up, Late Night Fights, because there is nothing like you and we need more of it.