Because, really, the songs he’s written with former Panic! bassist Jon Walker were the reason he decided to leave the band in the first place. They were a departure from the glossy pop tunes Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith were working on — they looked backward as opposed to forward, focusing instead on the crackling punch of old Stax Records 45s and the jangly pop of the Kinks — and the difference in musical direction was great enough to send him packing.
That should really tell you all you need to know about Ross’ new tunes: He believes in them so much that he’s willing to stake his career on them.
“I think the songs are a lot more focused than what you might have heard on Pretty. Odd. I don’t think we’re going to do any orchestration. … They just sound like a band,” Ross said. “They’re more, uh, I wouldn’t want to say ‘heavy,’ but I guess I would have to, in the sense of, like, early garage music and Kinks and stuff. The songs are shorter and faster, and I guess they’re more rock and roll than flowery stuff.
“We were really into a lot of the Motown and Stax Records stuff when we first started. … I don’t know if you’ll really hear that, but that’s what got us into the idea of writing songs that are fun and short and have a good groove that you can dance to and mixed with the Ray Davies and the Kinks stuff,” Ross continued. “It’s a lot more groove-oriented, and we realized that maybe that was one thing we were lacking on Pretty. Odd., was that some of the stuff was really long and kind of slower — which is fine — but this time we wanted to write stuff that was gonna be fun live and sound like a band.”
If there is a hint from his Panic! past as to what the new stuff might sound like, Ross points to “It’s Almost Halloween,” the punchy, go-go garage track he wrote with his former bandmates last year. Soon, you’ll be able to judge for yourself, because Ross and Walker are preparing to release their first-ever single, a tune they’re tentatively calling “Change.”
Of course, how they’ll release it remains to be seen, because, at the moment, they are a band without a label, caught in a very special (yet not all that uncommon) sort of legal limbo.
“We’re not sure how this will all play out, because Jon never signed to Fueled by Ramen, and I am still under contract, so we’re trying to figure out whether or not they’re gonna kind of end the contract or not,” Ross said. “Because it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be the right place for this stuff, and I think everybody knows that, on both sides, [FBR President] John Janick included. It’s just been taking some time to get worked out.”
Regardless, Ross said “Change” will be heard soon. And he and Walker are hard at work on their debut album, logging time with Pretty. Odd. producer Rob Mathes and getting help from their musical friends, including Phantom Planet frontman Alex Greenwald and former Panic! touring keyboardist Eric Ronick. The goal, he said, is to have the album out this year, put together a backing band and hit the road. And while he’s confident the legal issues will be cleared up, there’s still one hurdle standing in Ross’ way: His band needs a name.
“Right now, we don’t have a name at all,” he laughed. “If you’ve got any good band names, send ‘em to me.”
Do you have a name for Ryan Ross’ new band? Let us know on the Newsroom blog!