Interview with Patrick Ormiston (bass) of Japhy Ryder
Contributing Writer : Garret K. Woodward
Emerging from the murky musical depths of the Queen City (Burlington, VT), Japhy Ryder is the epitome of the Kerouacian dream. This group of melodic vagabonds hustle and bustle their way across the northeast, venturing from town to town in search of a receptive ear and sweet libation. Focusing more on reaching a captive audience than earning enough to buy that elusive espresso maker, the quartet puts aspiration into action with the upcoming release of two albums in 2010. Armed with a signature trumpet tone and mature sense of improvisation, these jazz-rock troubadours are staking a legitimate claim in a genre often overlooked or vastly diluted.
Garret K. Woodward: What is Japhy Ryder?
Patrick Ormiston: Well, that one depends on context. Japhy Ryder is technically a character in Jack Kerouac’s novel The Dharma Bums. But in our context, Japhy Ryder is merely a name, not a name that is a hundred percent attached to the music we make, but a name that we put on a poster six years ago and stuck with.
GKW: How would you describe the sound? Who are the influences?
PO: I would describe the sounds made as an organic instrumental hip-hop flavored groove jazz. In the beginning of this group we reached out to hit a progressive jazz vibe that we never really nailed down. Over our course as a band the music has evolved into the pocket based, hook laden tracks that we all enjoy making. As for influences, everything. We could be specific and mention artists like Miles Davis, D’Angelo, Dilla, Fela Kuti, Tortoise and the Dub Trio, but really it’s everything little thing we listen to. We have songs that incorporate very country-ish elements as well as heavy dub or rock bits.
GKW: What does improvisational music mean to you? How does it affect your approach to the band?
PO: We thrive on improvisational music. It was how the band started. Over our first few years we slowly moved away from on stage improv in favor of playing the songs, but when we changed guitarists the natural desire to just wing it and see what happens jumped right back into our lives. The best way to engage in a musical conversation with anyone is through improv[isation]. I feel that without it this band wouldn’t exist and our live shows wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.
GKW: How did this ensemble come about? When? Where? Why?
PO: Japhy Ryder started as my, and founding guitarist Jeremy Kizina’s, senior thesis in college. We were given the task of writing and arranging a group of songs and ended up working with Will [Andrews (trumpet)] and Jason [Thime (drums)] to get the job done. From there we moved onto playing campus parties and eventually made our way to downtown Burlington at venues such as Nectar’s and the Waiting Room. That started in the fall of 2003, with our first official, nonparty, gig in April of 2004. The current Japhy Ryder lineup came about when Jeremy left the band at the end of 2008. Prior to that the other three of us had been playing in an all improv[isational] side project, fronted by Will, called WEST. Those gigs sometimes featured guitarists, one of them being Mr. Zach duPont, who we brought on to fill Japhy’s guitar parts. At that point we also nailed down Joshua [Pfeil] on percussion and revamped our entire repertoire, leaving most of the songs we wrote with Jeremy on the cutting room floor in exchange for new music.
GKW: What are you thoughts on the current music industry? How do you want to be different, or contribute to the evolution?
PO: The current industry is terribly difficult to survive in. CD sales have hit a low, online sales are a crap shoot and illegal downloads are the way to go. We’ve always allowed taping and free distribution of our live shows because that is how we all found out about bands we liked growing up. In an effort to be different in this industry, we are maintaining to our roots and releasing quality instrumental music that we like, not what reviewers like or what fans want to hear, but music that we like and are proud of. If no one buys it, oh well. If one CD is sold and it ends up in 4000 people’s iPod’s then we’ve done our job. All five of us know that Japhy Ryder isn’t going to buy us big houses or fancy cars. We are in it for the joy of making music.
GKW: How receptive have audiences been to your creation onstage?
PO: That depends on the audience. We’ve played to packed attentive loving crowds as well as had beer bottles thrown at us. Some venues don’t want to hear instrumental music, let alone original instrumental music.We used to play arrangements of Beatles songs just to appease the crowds, now we’ll play covers when we want to. As much as we would all love the crowds to eat up every little note we play, Japhy Ryder on stage is playing for ourselves. If we like it, and find it spiritually fulfilling, we’re happy.
GKW: Why do you like playing in the Burlington? What’s your dream venue to play?
PO: I like playing Burlington because its home. Our friends come, our girlfriends come, our co-workers come. Yes, we all work full-time. Many of my best friends I met at a Japhy Ryder concert locally. Good music breeds good conversation, which breeds good friendships. As far as my dream venue to play, locally I love Parima [Thai Restaurant] and obviously Higher Ground. On a larger scale, ever since I was a teenager learning to play bass I’ve wanted to take my music through Europe.
GKW: What do you want the listener to ultimately witness or walk away with when they see you perform?
PO: I want people to walk away thinking that coming to our show was worth the money they spent to get there. Music was meant to make people happy. If our music makes you happy, [then] hell yeah.
GKW: What’s on the horizon for the band? One year from now?
PO: The immediate future brings the release of two new records. The first one to drop is the last record we made with Jeremy on guitar. It is a live album that we contracted with Nectar’s in the fall of 2008. It should be out very, very soon. The second is our latest studio project, which features our new lineup as well as a number of our musical friends. This studio project is the most ambitious album we’ve made, and it’s my favorite of all of our discs. A year from now, we will probably be working on the next record. Making our new one over the last few months relit the fire we have for studio work. You can do far more on tape that we can live, and I like that.
GKW: Thoughts on your next performance?
PO: Our next performance is January 2, 2010 at Nectar’s. It is our first gig at Nectar’s with this lineup. And for that, I’m excited. Since debuting Zach on guitar with us at Higher Ground in February 2009, we’ve primarily played Parima or Red Square in town, so bringing our new batch of songs to the Nectar’s stage will be a treat. That and the crew at Nectar’s is world class. Great people that make great friends. There aren’t very many venues that I can have the booking agent rally his band to open for us.