By Gary Kohatsu and Gary Mandell
His music is hardly too familiar or passe. For Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband, who will launch Culver City’s Boulevard Music Summer Festival tonight at 7 p.m. at the Dale Jones Courtyard of City Hall, his unique sound can be described as a “mix of acoustic sounds with slightly skewed lyrics to create something out of the ordinary.”
The closest comparison might be to Fishbone or the Presidents of the United States of America; however, Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband use much cleaner lyrics.
And Shupe is roaring back with a new album with a fresh sound — even for him.
“We Rode On,” marks a striking career transition and a meaningful evolution in Shupe’s songwriting, his life, and the band’s sound. It strongly and deftly combines the rock side of their musical arsenal with the acoustic instruments and virtuosic jamming the band has become known for in their live shows. Like a mad musical scientist (and father/husband), Ryan Shupe recorded, arranged and tweaked the band’s newest creation in his personal studio.
“I wanted to create a new sound and an evolution for the band’s music,” Shupe says. “It’s the best album we’ve done and definitely the most rocking!”
The album focuses on themes like family, love, and maturity.
The epic title track, “We Rode On,” triumphantly belts out the phrase “singing songs at the top of our lungs,” while the anthemic “Sun Will Shine Again” is a mantra to Shupe’s children. The catchy, rocking “If I Stay” and “Just Say Yes,” deal with love interest dilemmas. “Dream Big,” a revamped version of their Billboard-charting Capitol Records release, is triumphant, inspirational and powerful.
Being a 5th generation fiddler, an accomplished electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and mandolin player, Shupe has been touring extensively across the U.S. since he the age of 10. He is no stranger to the national stage and the band has appeared on “Good Morning America,” “E! TV,” “Mountain Stage,” “Woodsongs,” “GAC” and “CMT.”
Shupe sat down with the Culver City News this week to lay down his plans—present and past, as well as to bring definition to his musical life.
“I started playing when I was five years old,” Shupe says. “Performing in bands when I was 10.”
He says his primary influences were artists who wrote their own music.
“I gravitate toward those artists since I fall into that songwriting category as well,” he says. “But I love all kinds of music. I also like bands that really jam on their instruments. They range all over the map, from Ed Sheehan to the Zac Brown Band.”
If he had to put a label on his brand of music, Shupe says with a grin, “Rock and Roll Bluegrass.”
But that’s taking the easy way out. His sound has much more blast, according to those familiar with his songs.
“We used to say we were PostHeeHawFunkadelicHipHopNewGrass,”
he admits. “But people looked at us with a confused look.”
Shupe and the RubberBand are based in Utah, where the music scene is young and energetic, he says.
“There are a ton of college students in the town I live in (around 60,000 population), so there are a lot of bands and some that have gone on to see some national success.”
Like most musicians, he has experienced the best and the worst of venues where his band has played
“Haha… the best gigs are probably Telluride Bluegrass Festival and the Olympic MainStage,” Shupe says. “And the worst is when we started out touring around and could drive 12 hours to a gig where there were only three people there.”
His band’s discography is growing: We have 9 albums, which includes 2 ‘Live’ albums… and the latest singles are ‘We Rode On,’ ‘Just Say Yes’ and ‘The Sun Will Shine Again.’ We are launching a new music video from that album as well this week, called ‘Feel The Same Way.’”
No stranger to Culver City, Shupe says he has performed at Boulevard Music “a handful of years ago, and it was a lot of fun.”
The RubberBand plans a stretch run across the country, and beyond.
His specific plans? “World domination of course… haha,” Shupe says.
“We are going to continue touring the country and building fans wherever we go,” he says. “We are looking to expand over to Europe and do a tour over there. We are currently launching out our new Live CD Volume 2 and gearing up for some new music videos from that and a future studio album.”
As for tonight’s performance, Ryan Shupe and the RubberBand want to engage their audience.
“Jamming, rocking, fun music on mostly acoustic instruments that is a good time and great for the whole family,” Shupe says of what to expect. “We usually get the crowd involved and have a good time entertaining as well as performing our unique brand of music.”
The Shupe sound may be unique, but the pleasure and joy his music brings seem to be right on key.