On a map, Ryan Traster’s life moves back and forth across the country like the strings in a game of cat’s cradle.
Traster (pronounced “trace-ster") recently moved back to Minneapolis after stints in Brooklyn, L.A. and, most recently, Portland, Oregon. In the past year, he's already started a new band (Night of Joy), found a new job, and reconnected with his solo music. The singer has learned to live life with a loose hold, more so to avoid being hurt before others can hurt him, he says.
Through his solo work, Traster managers to filter his still-fresh life experiences into chords and lyrics. His latest EP, Broken Pop, finds him musing about the point and purpose of making art. He never gets any closer to the answer, but he reminds us that it’s OK to be intoxicated by the things we discover en route.
City Pages spoke with Traster ahead of his Broken Pop release show Thursday at Triple Rock.
Ryan Traster: What have you been up to since we last spoke? What brought you back to Minnesota?
City Pages: I believe I was living in Portland last time we did an interview. Not long after my ex-fiance and I moved to L.A. for a bit, ultimately ending up back in Minneapolis -- mainly for cheap living and some job opportunities.
I recently left an office job I was holding for the last year and have been rededicating myself to creative projects, mostly photography and writing. I haven't been spending much time on my solo music, which to be honest feels just fine right now.
CP: Do you think Night of Joy has influenced what you've been doing with this solo project? Did it influence this album?
RT: Yeah, I think Night of Joy has been a pretty big influence on the direction of my solo stuff, mainly it's just a sonic thing. I've always been really influenced by stuff like Sonic Youth, Spacemen 3, Dinosaur Jr., Sleater-Kinney, etc., but hadn't really had an outlet for that in quite some time. Starting NOJ forced me to go get some new gear and indulge that side of things a bit.
All the dude's in the band are really into being loud and exploring a lot of sonic territories. For my solo stuff, I'm just used to traveling around alone with an acoustic guitar. Now that I have the means to be loud again, it definitely is coming across in the more recent solo material.
CP: Where did the name Broken Pop come from?
RT: I lost my voice due to terrible allergies and over usage when I was living in Portland. It was a couple year’s of struggle to get it sounding back to anywhere near where it was before. I recorded this EP amidst the struggle, just to keep working and not let myself get too down.
When I was listening back to the recordings they just felt like these kind of broken pop songs. They're a bit looser than I would normally be comfortable with and I felt like in a way I was physically broken while recording them. Overall, I'm very pleased with the final result, though. I think oftentimes struggle or detachment can bring out a sincerity in your work that you don't necessarily expect.
CP: Tell me about the song "Like a Coma."
RT: I'm pretty sure I was just listening to way too much Morrissey and wanted to write this scathing Brit sounding anti-love song. After I started listening back to the lyrics, I realized it was more about me -- like about what someone I was casually dating during some bullshit hedonistic/self-important time in my life would think about me as our fling quickly deteriorated.
It was just this kind of turbulent thing that didn't really leave much of an impact on them. It's definitely not intended to be this self-loathing thing though, more of embracing the fact that once you get to a certain age, shit just doesn't hurt as much anymore.
CP: Any other songs that you're especially proud of in this album?
RT: Lyrically, I'm really pleased with "Wasted Hearts." It's just this kind of carefree ode to being drunk and in love.
CP: You seem to include a lot of personal stories in your writing. What thoughts and stories did you write about on this album?
RT: I feel like this EP really represents a kind of relationship arc. It kind of touches base on the whole process. There's lust, disappointment, love, bickering, domesticity, new beginnings. I dunno, it's probably all pretty cliche, but it represents a lot of what makes up the bulk of the human experience for a lot of people.
CP: What are you excited to share at your album release show?
RT: I'm really unsure of what's next for my solo work. I've had this EP done for several months now and just really wanted to get it out there. All the other bands playing are friends that I admire. I think mainly it'll just be great to get on stage with my band again and play some songs for some friends -- maybe put a little closure to the whole thing.
With: Red Daughters, the Stress of Her Regard, Savannah Smith
Where: Triple Rock Social Club
When: 8 p.m. Thu., Oct. 6
Tickets: $8; more info here