The first thing to remember is that there are two Ryals — RYAL the project, and Ryal the artist. The second thing to remember is that Ryal and RYAL are two sides of the same coin.
Combining the soulfulness of Solange with the dream pop of The xx, RYAL the project is an artistic vision of music with a unique style, an emotional vision, and a glittering inclusive world view. Ryal the artist is a passionate siren whose odyssey has taken her from the wilderness where desert meets disco to the city life of New York, where she currently makes her musical and creative home.
Called "angelic-voiced" by Time Out NY when she was the keyboardist of indie pop group Strip Darling, Ryal considers herself a songwriter first. "People have always commented on my voice," she says. "But the comments I really appreciate are the ones they make about my songwriting."
Those songs are catchy alternative electro-pop, jagged musical pills that feel edgy and sophisticated, mix glitter with thunder, and dive down to the intimate while they reach for the sky. Songs that are created with a combination of craft and improvisation, songs that chart a journey of discovery rather than following a map of directions.
Ryal's creative journey never locks itself into a thematic straitjacket (“I'm going to write about this!”). She simply starts writing, which makes the electricity behind her discovery of what the song is about part of the energy of the final product. It's writing as a marriage of revelation and ingenuity—and it's always committed to the truthful, the heartfelt, and the vulnerable. Like all born writers, Ryal knows that the more particular you get, the more anyone can relate to it—and the more personal the inspiration, the more communal the experience.
Whether looking up to role models like Bjork for style, Kendrick Lamar for lyrics, and Thom Yorke for DGAF attitude, or bouncing from foundational influences to current obsessions as guideposts along the creative way, Ryal has always had a deep love for electronic music, and is on a constant hunt to expand her melodic ideas.
Which is all part of RYAL the project, which spun out of Ryal’s restless creative curiosity. After a period where all she seemed to be singing about was lost love and heartache, she recognized that the next move for her to make was a dance step. It was time to pack up all that gloom and loss into a brighter lyrical suitcase, like the musical equivalent of wearing pink lipstick, using hairspray, applying just the right amount of glitter, and dancing like there’s no tomorrow.
Producer Aaron Nevezie was on the same wavelength, and saw the innovative possibilities in helping Ryal fulfill her desire to push and challenge herself into a new direction as a songwriter. He has been a part of the project since its inception, when Ryal holed up in a Music Building studio and started writing pop song after pop song. Cheerleader and sounding board, guide and fellow passenger, Nevezie is RYAL’s co-project manager, lending his considerable musical talents in the studio and on stage to help create a musical experience whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Those parts? Classic and cutting edge. Inspired by the vintage electronic textures of pulsing modular synth bass lines locked to analog drum machines and keyboards, the music blends live guitar and drum kit for an experience that combines the minimalism of Eno with the energy of the club, where the venue becomes a live wire that dances with the electricity of the songs. Songs that are the best kind of disco-pop, which can go light and dark, frivolous and deep, and sweet and wounded—and always during the same song.
“It's all part of the endless journey,” Ryal acknowledges. “Painters have blue periods, musicians have blues periods. I'm in my RYAL period, and it's talking to me just as much as I'm talking to it. I don't know what will speak to me when that dialogue is over, but until it is, I will honor the conversation.”
In a city with so many disparate music scenes, RYAL is dedicated to community over exclusion. If the scene is a room, then the community is the house, and it’s RYAL’s goal to get everybody in that house dancing together, no matter what room they’re in.
All of which illustrate Ryal’s belief that music is the most inclusive art form. Listen to it, dance to it, give in to its spell—music is a block party where everyone’s invited, and an all-are-welcome haven for the heaven that is dance.
RYAL is currently working on full-length record with plans to release in 2017.