Over 25 local and regional musicians have teamed up to create a record under the moniker Gayngs, and the lineup is a who's who of indie rock fame that already has bloggers in the area salivating over the upcoming release. Conceived by producer Ryan Olson (Digitata, Mel Gibson and the Pants) and Solid Gold's Zach Coulter and Adam Hurlburt, the debut record by Gayngs features members of Bon Iver, Megafaun, and the Rosebuds, as well as locals like Lookbook, P.O.S., Dessa, and Channy Moon-Caselle of Roma di Luna.
The Gayngs project, Relayted, drops May 11 as a digital download, on CD, and as a double vinyl package, and the release will be celebrated with a pair of shows at First Avenue on May 14 (one all ages and one 21+). Though the list of musicians might suggest a collaboration of epic rock porportions, the songs on Relayted will be a surprise to fans of any of its participants -- this isn't indie rock, or hip-hop, or folk, or anything remotely current. Gayngs is a throwback smooth rock band conceived out of a shared love of adult contemporary radio and cheesy-ass pop.
"We just wanted to start playing some soft rock music," says Gayngs mastermind Ryan Olson, who oversaw the whole recording process. "I'd been listening to a shitload of 10cc, and I was just like, yeah, I want to do something like this. Zach [Coulter]'s always had just a crazy awesome voice... We came up with a band name, and then the Friday after that Zach came over to my house and wrote what would be 'The Gaudy Side of Town,' the first song."
Soon after they started writing songs, Olson knew he needed to call on a few of his friends from his hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin to help him track vocals and backing instrumentals. Olson invited Megafaun members Joe Westerlund, Brad Cook, and Phil Cook to record, and before he knew it the recording project had shifted its headquarters to the home of Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, who wanted to contribute vocals and mix the record.
Slowly, more and more musicians from Minnesota and Wisconsin became involved in the project, as friends would stop by Vernon's home to track their contributions over the course of last summer.
Adam Hurlburt of Solid Gold says that the recording process was akin to a high school reunion for the musicians, many of whom grew up in and around Eau Claire. "It was like being back in high school," he says. "None of us had been in the same room together since high school. So it was just this insane experience. The music is sort of tongue and cheek, in a way. You know how you're not supposed to slap the bass, that's not cool anymore? It's like just totally ignoring any social faux paus, slapping the bass and making it sound corny as hell. It was just this insanely fun three days, staying at Justin and Nate [Vernon]'s house and doing that record and having so much fun with it."
The songs on Relayted move along at an incredibly drawn out and measured pace, with guitars and keyboards layered so thick that it's difficult to discern which instruments are creating which notes -- instead, the songs blur together into one uniform, mesmerizing R&B odyssey. Snippets of melodies stand out briefly as recognizable voices -- a croon from P.O.S. here, Justin Vernon's icy falsetto there -- but the overall product is one of ambience, not individual performance.
"The only rule was, I just wanted every song to be 69 BPM, so it could be seamless," says Olson.
There are 19 musicians listed on the most recent press release from Jagjaguwar, which is releasing Relayted, though those involved in the project put the total above 25. Musicians listed in the release are as follows: Ryan Olson; Zach Coulter, Adam Hurlburt, and Shon Troth (Solid Gold); Joe Westerlund, Brad Cook, and Phil Cook (Megafaun); Ivan Howard (The Rosebuds); Justin Vernon and Mike Noyce (Bon Iver); P.O.S and Dessa (Doomtree); Jake Luck and Nick Ryan (Leisure Birds); Channy Moon-Casselle (Roma di Luna); Katy Morley; Michael Lewis (Happy Apple, Andrew Bird); and Maggie Morrison and Grant Cutler (Lookbook).
Olson says all of the involved musicians will appear at the CD release shows at First Ave, a feat in and of itself. "It's going to be more like a play than a regular show," he says. "There will be an incredible amount of people on stage the whole time."
There are no samples of Gayngs available for the general public yet, but to get a feel for the sound of Relayted check out this track by 10cc, which is said to be one of the biggest inspirations for the Gayngs project: