Fatherhood fuses deeper meaning into Joey Ryan & the Inks' Young Afternoon

Joey Ryan & the Inks, left to right: Matt Mitchell, Ryan Mach, Joey Ryan, Chris Mitchell, Tim Dickson

Joey Ryan & the Inks, left to right: Matt Mitchell, Ryan Mach, Joey Ryan, Chris Mitchell, Tim Dickson

“We went through a list of 300 names for this album, most of them were jokes” Joey Ryan says. “Tim [Dickson] came up with Dadlands, which is a play off of Springsteen’s song ‘Badlands.’ My wife convinced me it was a bad idea.”

Ryan and his band the Inks — brothers Matt and Chris Mitchell, Tim Dickson, and Ryan Mach — eventually settled on the title Young Afternoon. The record is bursting with hopeful, fresh energy, and its release will be celebrated Saturday at the Turf Club.

Young Afternoon had a longer gestation period than the local indie-pop band's past albums. The group set aside a weekend in the summer of 2014 to record at Dickson’s family cabin. Between pontoon rides and Manhattan cocktails — Manhattan Afternoon was a brief working title — the quintet intended to record live and churn out the record. That was not to be the case.

Matt found out he was expecting his first child, then Chris followed suit, and Ryan, too. Around the same time, Dickson got married, and Mach focused on drumming for Fort Wilson Riot and joined Holidae. On top of all that, some bass and drum tracks went missing, although that may have been a blessing in disguise, as Ryan says the rebuilt tracks are among his favorites.

While most of the songs were written before fatherhood, they did take on new meanings once the children arrived. Closing track "Weightless" is the perfect spiritual bookend to Young Afternoon, a textured, layered examination of love and life set to jangly, guitar-driven pop.

Lead single “Winter Grey” required the least amount of reworking. The song opens with Beach Boys-esque harmonies and peels off layers to reveal the warmth hidden in the winter. 

“It was written years ago,” Ryan says of "Winter Grey." “I discovered it again, and it seemed as important and meaningful to me as ever. I wrote it during the winter, and I wanted to capture the importance of being warm-blooded when things seem super bleak and mundane.”

To move the album forward, Mach and Ryan took on production roles. Ryan cut back at his day job working in advertising at City Pages, and spent hours in his basement making changes. Channeling his experience running sound boards and working with other bands, Mach pushed the experimentation to new levels.

Chris says the band considered making Young Afternoon their swan song, so they poured everything into it and pressed the results to vinyl earlier this year. 

“When we do Inks stuff, it’s not a chore," Matt adds. "We know that whatever works for the band, works for everybody, and that’s what we’ve always had.”

Though it seems long ago, that initial recording session at Dickson's cabin formed the emotional framework that defines Young Afternoon.

“A lot of the record would not have come together had it not been for that weekend of separation from obligations," Ryan says. "Maybe this was a sign that this would be our best record yet: We took our pontoon out, and the heavens opened up and the sun was shining, then we saw an eagle swoop down and grab a walleye straight out of the lake about 10 feet from us. It was one of those surreal moments.”

Joey Ryan & the Inks

With: BBGUN and Eric Mayson.

Where: Turf Club.

When: 8 p.m. Sat., May 7.

Tickets: $8; more info here.