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Whatever Will Be, Will Be

Kelley Deal and Mike Montgomery try not to make too many plans for R. Ring

By Brian Baker · August 29th, 2012 · Music
music1_r.ring_chrisglassMike Montogmery and Kelley Deal are R. Ring (Photo: Chris Glass)

Organic is a word that has suffered from a certain amount of overuse in recent years. In musical parlance, it describes a process free from self-conscious overthinking and blueprinted deliberation, resulting in a pure and unplanned outcome. 

That is exactly how Ampline/thistle guitarist Mike Montgomery (from Dayton, Ky.) and Breeders guitarist/vocalist Kelley Deal (from Dayton, Ohio) formed their powerful acoustic-based duo R. Ring.

“It was organic, but when I say that it seems so trite now,” Deal says in the backroom of Sidewinder in Northside. “But seeing what that actually means, I find it interesting.”

The connections were made three years ago when No More Fake Labels’ Misty Dawn Briggs contacted Deal about contributing to its Guided By Voices tribute, Sing for Your Meat. Deal was skeptical, but with a lull in Breeders activity due to twin sister Kim Deal’s hectic schedule with the reactivated Pixies, she accepted the offer and contacted some local friends for assistance.

“The Breeders had been asked to curate All Tomorrow’s Parties in 2009 and we invited (Cincinnati Psych Rock trio) Buffalo Killers to come over,” Deal says. “When I decided on the song, I thought Buffalo Killers would be great, because they’re southwestern Ohio, and they could make it really rocky, so to speak.”

The Buffalo Killers had Deal meet them at local studio Candyland, where Montgomery (also an esteemed studio and live sound engineer) was working. Deal and Montgomery subsequently worked together on mixing “Scalding Creek,” one of the highlights on an ultimately excellent GBV collection. Deal’s frequent visits to Candyland kibbutz with Montgomery about the mix became the basis for their friendship and collaboration.

Around that time, Montgomery played an atypical (for him) solo acoustic gig at a friend’s party and mentioned to Deal his dissatisfaction with his performance. Her offhand response led him to seek her help when Montgomery received another acoustic gig offer.

“I told him, ‘Why didn’t you ask me?’ ” says Deal, who once was part of an acoustic guitar duo with her sister. “I needed to practice open chords, like singer/songwriter chords, because I never play those. When this other thing came up, he did ask me to do that, and then I was like, ‘I was kind of kidding. What would we do?’ Then he sent me ‘You Belong to the Steam,’ and it was just a beautiful song.

Then it was like, ‘OK, we’ll play that and make up some other shit and it’ll be good.’ ”

Deriving their name from a fingerprint ID diagram — r. ring is the designation for the right ring finger — Deal and Montgomery shoehorned practice times into their schedules. Songs were figured out, including rearrangements of old Kelley Deal 6000 numbers, they booked gigs, made recordings and R. Ring morphed into an actual working entity.

“We were tossing ideas around and more and more people said, ‘Hey, would you play this show?’ ” Montgomery says. “I think we both work better with deadlines, so it’s ‘We said we would do this thing and it’s this day.’ With a band you work on stuff and everyone has a task, but when you’re playing with another person, it’s loose in a way. It was a no-pressure way to play music and have fun. There were no expectations, which was nice.”

This year has been R. Ring’s most active, with a handful of well-received appearances at the big South by Southwest fest in Austin, Tex., and Ohio’s Nelsonville Music Festival, plus jaunts throughout the Midwest and down the East Coast. 

R. Ring’s official recorded debut drops Oct. 30 with the release of the “Fall Out and Fire”/“See” 7-inch on Misra Records (home to releases by The Black Swans, Great Lake Swimmers, Destroyer, Wooden Wand and many other acclaimed acts).

Preview of new R. Ring single.

“It’s been real low pressure and they’ve been good to work with,” Montgomery says of the Dayton, Ohio-based label, which is distributed through Bloodshot Records. 

Another limited R. Ring release is on deck; the duo’s version of Devo’s “Mr. DNA,” which was recorded to soundtrack a video clip of skateboard phenom/entrepreneur Kristian Svitak. The 100-copy physical release will feature an audio track as well as a re-edited version of Svitak’s video. The disc will be attached to a customized woodblock stenciled by Dayton writer/artist Kelp! The digital version of the song is available now through Cincy’s Phratry Records.

“That was another organic thing,” says Deal. “It was the backing track to the video, that’s all it was. And then Kristian was like, ‘Uh, guys, people are asking how to download this song.’ ”

R. Ring’s organic evolution becomes even more obvious when the conversation turns to the idea of a full-length album. Neither Deal nor Montgomery seem particularly anxious to create an album’s worth of songs, both preferring the piecemeal method of compiling their infrequent compositions into an album once they notch 10 or 12 tracks.

“Doing an album, you’d probably want to work with a label for that and I have this thing about signing record contracts,” Deal says. “I thought I might have gotten over it but apparently not. I’m sure some label relationships are successful, but some are just horrible.”

In the meantime, Deal and Montgomery have booked a handful of late summer R. Ring dates with a possible European tour looming and a desire to play some shows on the West Coast. Montgomery has possible Ampline dates this fall (and a planned vacation to Burma), while Deal says The Breeders could heat up next year. 

Given the duo’s desire to let things happen in their own sweet time, it all seems perfectly, well, organic — if a bit chaotic.

“Right now, it seems like there’s no conflict, but you just never know,” Deal says. “It’s like cars in slow motion; they could go like that (pantomimes cars avoiding a crash with her hands) or they could crash.”

“We had no idea when the single was going to come out, so there was no conflict,” says Montgomery. “We should be touring when it comes out, but now it looks like I’m an ass and we’re not.”  

R. RING performs in the middle slot of Friday’s free MidPoint Indie Summer concert on Fountain Square with The Guitars and Wussy.



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