Kelley Deal has topped charts with The Breeders but her latest outing, R. Ring’s Ignite The Rest, is perhaps the most nuanced and writerly of her career. It is, at once, immediate, gutsy, clattering and beautiful, and, make no mistake about it, Deal and Ampline’s Mike Montgomery, who rounds out the duo, were aiming for that target when they hit it.
“Mike and I didn’t want to be forced to write a song with bass and drums. It influences at least 50 percent of the tempo, of the tone,” Deal told me recently. “It’s kind of easy to play that stuff live, not to be dismissive. But hearing us live will make something sound more spatial, more urgent. We get up there and it’s a moment. We’re actually there with you. We’re trying to make a connection.”
It’s easy to hear why the material begs for this context. The 12 songs on Ignite The Rest feel like diamonds in the rough: the edges aren’t all sharp or precise but the glow is unmistakable. The record wobbles between raw, two-guitar rock numbers and ballad-ish pieces that seem to knock you to your knees with their honesty and breathiness, but it is far from bipolar. There’s a kind of tonal thread running through the record, something that keeps it loose but not flimsy. Like the boozy “Elder Orphans In Heavy Chop,” it’s the music the guitarists pull out of their amps after the club is closed and the liquor’s stopped flowing.
Ignite The Rest is also an accomplishment in at least one other respect. It is Deal’s first full-length outing in a decade – the last was The Breeders’ Mountain Battles in 2008 – and that’s a detail worth noting.
“What happened with the Internet – how I listen to music, too, now – was a sea change in my mind,” Deal said. “You just want to put out this little song. ‘We’re going to put out this seven-inch, we’re going to do this thing at the merch table.’”
The trail of micro-burst releases, though, is worth noting. R. Ring put out a seven-inch in 2012 and an EP a year later, and Deal released another Montgomery collaboration – the bouncy, punk-infused Devo cover “Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA” – as an online single around the same time. She contributed to a Guided By Voices compilation. And she produced a buzz-inducing bit of acoustic Tropicalia under the moniker Kelley Deal & Her Neighbor. It’s all taken her here.
“We’re making an effort to celebrate this record [Ignite The Rest],” she said. “Instead of just flinging out a new release – ‘Hey Internet! Hey friends!’ – we are making more of a serious effort.”
A self-described “Dayton band” – no small inheritance there – R. Ring has found the right moment to flower to fruition. The band started seven years ago, when Deal was introduced to Montgomery at Candyland Studios by the Ohio band The Buffalo Killers, whose members were helping her cover the GBV tune “Scalding Creek.” Montgomery told Deal he was getting ready to play a CD release party; she asked him to invite her next time.
Montgomery made good on the invitation and the duo agreed to play a release party for Alone At 3 AM, a Cincinnati band.
“It was like, ‘What will we play?!’ and that’s how this started,” she laughed.
Deal told me she was itching to work again, as she found herself in what she called a “between-Breeders-opportunities” situation.
“I was, like, ‘Man, I need to do something,’” she said. “I’m not a gifted guitar player. I don’t go and practice scales or anything. But I was like, “I’ve gotta do something. I’ve got to have a project.’”
Since forming R. Ring, Deal has re-indoctrinated herself in the way of the mid-size-American-city supergroup and cites outfits like Quail Bones, Post Pink and Melkbelly as current listening favorites. But, sometimes, she says, she just feels like knocking down walls.
“I’ve been parking my radio to the classical station and putting it on low,” Deal said. “And Kim walked by once and was, like, ‘What are you DOING?!’ I’m trying to get blues-based rock out of my system.
“I’m trying to learn a different language.”
R.RING 2017 TOUR DATES:
April 19: Newport, KY at Southgate House Revival – w/ Split Single (Jason Narducy) and Bicentennial Bear
April 20: Columbus, OH at Rumba Café – w/ Split Single and Bicentennial Bear
April 21: Detroit, MI at Trinisophes – w/ Split Single
April 22: Chicago, IL at Schubas – w/ Split Single
April 23: Cleveland, OH at Happy Dog – w/ Split Single
April 24: Philadelphia, PA at Everybody Hits – w/ Split Single
April 25: Kingston, NY at BSP Kingston – w/ Split Single
April 26: Brooklyn, NY at Babys All Right – w/ Split Single and Isa Chandra Moskowitz
April 27: Baltimore, MD at Ottobar – w/ Split Single, Post Pink and Quatracetta
April 28: Washington, DC at Comet Ping Pong – w/ Split Single and Flasher
April 29: Chapel Hill, NC at Night Light – w/ Split Single
May 17: Yellow Springs, OH – Live on WYSO
May 18: Louisville, KY – Monnik
May 19: Murray, KY – Terrapin Station
May 20: Lexington, KY – Green Lantern