We Spoke To Ryan of Chick Quest About Life As An American In Austria And His Creative Process When Writing Music
By Kieran Webber
The best way to explain the music in which Chick Quest create is Spaghetti Western Post-Punk, essentially they make music that will have you swinging your hips and shaking your limbs.
Coming all the way from Vienna, Austria they bring a sound so unique and interesting it is hard not to pay them attention, the story attached to Chick Quest is also just as interesting and unique as their music.
Ryan will explain all to you below ranging from how they got their sound and much much more.
So your theme for your music is pretty unique how did you decide that this was the sound you were going for?
The idea—dancey post-punk mixed with Spaghetti Western music—was something I had in mind for several years, but I hadn’t been very active in music because I’d been traveling abroad a lot. I think the creation of this band, and therefore our sound, more or less came out of boredom and an itching to get back into music, while trying to sound absolutely nothing like what other bands in Vienna typically sound like.
What was the influence behind the idea of Chick Quest?
Mainly, I just want to play something energetic and dance around, so I’d say post-punk, garage rock, and rhythmic-centered bands like Talking Heads or Neu! have been big influences. We want the sound to be quirky, weird, and unpredictable while being rhythmic, instead of emotional and/or focused on typical masterbatory guitar solos and stuff like that.
So your music is not built heavily around emotions?
Not in the sense that we’re writing love songs or about our own conflicted feelings. I think our songs are more observational than emotional. And for this band, I like to try to write from a point of view that’s not mine–like a female’s–and see how close I can get to it. It’s challenging and the results can be interesting. It’s like sending a perspective through a filter that’s kind of correct but something might be slightly off.
“Our goal is to get the audience to dance so much that they start taking off their clothes”
As a band do you share similar influences or does it vary?
It’s a bit of both, but fortunately, it’s not off-putting to the other members when I bring in some weird, discordant guitar part or start shrieking lyrics about bats and things. So, I’d say we’re all on the same page.
Your music is pretty upbeat and the sort of music you dance to, so have any of your shows gotten out of control/wild?
Our goal is to get the audience to dance so much that they start taking off their clothes, but that hasn’t happened yet. I think people in Vienna are a bit shy and don’t know what to think of us. The Germans seem pretty receptive to the idea though.
Are there any particular shows that stay in your mind?
About a week before we went into the studio to record our album, we played a concert and I spontaneously ended up putting on a friend’s dress towards the end of the set. When the crowd wanted an encore, we played our entire set backwards to the very first song. That show got people dancing for sure.
Austria stereotypically is not related to Westerns and cowboys so how did you come up with the idea of a spaghetti western post-punk band?
Well I’m American, so I definitely grew up with a father who would stop everything anytime The Good, The Bad & The Ugly came on TV. But I’d say the sound of Ennio Morricone’s music is pretty ubiquitous and widely beloved, so it’s not too far fetched to me. I also think you can easily attach other genres to a “Spaghetti Western” sound and they’ll work just fine like surf rock, garage rock, or punk, etc. Consider the trumpet solo in Dick Dale’s “Miserlou”, for example.
I didn’t know you were American, what made you move to Vienna and why?
It was actually more or less by accident. To keep a long, complicated story short: I had some friends here who invited me to the city after hanging out in Barcelona for a summer, and shortly after arriving, I seemed, at the time, to have met all the right people and everything seemed to be falling into place. Shortly after, I found a job here that got me a visa and I just ended up staying.
What are your most listened to records this year?
I’m a big fan of the band Whyte Horses from Manchester, and I have been dying to hear their debut record Pop or Not but they only did a limited vinyl release for it. The songs they have on SoundCloud however… probably half of those listens are mine.
Other records off the top of my head are Northern Stories 1978/80 (Manicured Noise), Gyrate (Pylon), Le Tigre (Le Tigre), High Society (Enon), and Neu! (Neu!).
I’ve listened to a lot of music writers on Twitter talk about how great 2015’s been for new music, but frankly I’ve been kind of bored with a lot of the bands/artists they’ve hyped, so I’ve kind of had to look backwards for inspiration, even if it’s stuff I’ve heard plenty of times in the past. However, I have kept a slowly growing list of new stuff I’ve found on SoundCloud if anyone were to be interested.
When you all sat down as a band to create the album Vs. Galore was their any particular way you went about it or was it a matter of playing and seeing what happened?
Vs. Galore was quite a fast album to make. I more or less completed writing the songs by spring/summer of 2014 while we were still solidifying the lineup! Then we practiced the songs A LOT and fine-tuned them in about a four or five month timeframe before playing a string of concerts in preparation for the studio, which we went into in December.
There wasn’t too much exploration because I pretty much had the ideas and stylistic direction from the start, but some good ideas certainly showed themselves during the whole process of it all. The important thing to me at that time (and still is) was that we worked very fast. I wanted to write, rehearse, and record really quickly because, first, I didn’t want us to get bored of what I felt was a raw, refreshing energy we had in our practices, and second, because I’m in Europe on a visa that has an expiration date. And so although my band members are all Austrian, I as a foreigner in the EU don’t have the luxury of bumming around tinkering with stuff unless I want to go do it in the U.S. I think the anxiety of it all kind of came through in the recording to our advantage. So, referring to what I wrote above, perhaps that’s how we’re emotional.
If you could describe chick quest in one sentence what would it be?
Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda from 1986, except with Zelda being the one saving Link.
What is in the pipeline for Chick Quest?
This year’s been kind of bittersweet. We’ve had a lot of really amazing reception to Vs. Galore that unlocked many doors to playing really amazing concerts, so we’ve felt very grateful and have been excited about that. On the other hand, I lost my job in May (shortly after we released the album… such timing!), which threatened my visa to stay in Vienna, so I had to go off searching for new work in a foreign country. Since then it’s been a bit of a stressful up and down roller coaster of a struggle because everything hit at once, and I can never fully tell what’s in store for the near future residency-wise. This kind of threw me into a bit of a depressed writer’s block that comes and goes.
“Playing concerts is really really fun, but to me I feel happier and in my zone when I’m in the studio”
How did you go about dealing with the stress?
Well, I first took 2 months off and did absolutely nothing. I decided to take a bit of a break before winding up those annoying gears again of having to search for a job. We played some shows but the writer’s block kept me from being musically productive.
Being unemployed is depressing because, as anyone knows, you have all of this extra time on your hands, which feels so great, but you can’t use that time for anything fun because you’re worried about spending money and exhausted from job searching. You’re just stuck in this shitty Catch-22 limbo period and gutter of a mind set. That was me all summer, and it all gets more complicated when you have to not only find a job, but also find a job that values you so much more over a native citizen that they’re willing to go through the arduous process of trying to get you a visa.
So then, what’s the future of Chick Quest?
Well, with all that drama being said, we have nonetheless been preparing plenty of new songs from both new and leftover ideas, and the overall sound is a really great balance of what we started with on Vs. Galore while progressing towards something weirder. Currently, we’re finishing up some remaining concerts to end the year, and then I’d like to start recording again early next year as soon as we can get the songs finished up. Playing concerts is really really fun, but to me I feel happier and in my zone when I’m in the studio.
Would it be safe to say that a studio is your ‘safe zone’? What is it about recording music that is so attractive? Does it work as medicine if you will?
I wouldn’t necessarily call it my safe zone, but it’s definitely the most creative part of the music making process, in my opinion. Some musicians prefer the in-the-moment thrill of playing music live as a means of creating; some musicians prefer the thrill of having time to orchestrate out what they hear in their head and capture all of it for the rest of their lives. I’m definitely the latter. It’s more satisfying to me to hear the ideal version of a song, what it would sound like if you had enough hands on deck to play all the parts. Then you get to put all the songs in order and figure out your album cover, things like that that you grew up fantasizing about when you listened to your dad’s records. Recording is also a snapshot of where you were musically at that moment and something to show for yourself in the future, kind of a legacy thing I guess: a live show is amazing just for the moment but a recording is forever. You never know where recordings end up and who they could possibly influence. All of these aspects motivate me and that makes me happy. So I’m excited to see what happens next because, despite this year, I think we can capture some of that energetic anxiety again while producing something new and exciting for us, which makes me hope that maybe this has all just been an optimistic moment in disguise as something turbulent.