For a band that started as a “lark,” Kelley Deal and Mike Montgomery’s R. Ring is evolving nicely. The duo — whose stripped-down, Folk-inflected approach is distinguished by Deal’s “iconic” voice — heads to Europe for a brief tour in March, which follows fruitful stops at various festivals in 2012.
They’ve also confirmed that more recordings are in the works following a successful 7-inch highlighted by the atmospheric, sweetly swaying “Fallout and Fire.” And now the band has been nominated as a “New Artist of the Year” at the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, to which Montgomery says, “Kelley and I are both honored to be nominated. I think it’s really easy to be self-absorbed and get lost in your own head when you’re making music, so it’s always nice when someone outside of the band takes note.”
CityBeat recently tracked down the duo via cyberspace to answer a few questions about R. Ring’s evolution.
CityBeat: You guys have been pretty casual about the band and its expectations so far, but you’ve now been together more than a year and you’ve released multiple songs. You’ve played festivals, including South By Southwest, and now you’re going to Europe. Has your expectation for or approach to the band changed since you first formed?
Mike Montgomery: I think our expectations have changed in that we’ve realized that we really enjoy doing music together and we have done a lot of exciting things in a short time, so we sort of “expect” or look forward (depend maybe?) on the satisfaction that comes with a new song or a good show or a good trip, etc. I think we are possibly pushing each other a little harder, even if it’s subconscious most of the time. I suppose that affects our approach a bit in that we play and write more frequently and we’ve started traveling a lot more. We’re looking a little further down the road, I guess.
We both viewed the project as a lark initially but it feels very natural and settling now.
Kelley Deal: It’s that weird thing that, when you do what inspires you, it seems to resonate and people dig it. Which is awesome. Then you get busier and there are deadlines and busy-ness and you can easily move away from what inspired you in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great problem to have, but we are determined to keep doing what we find interesting sonically and to do it at a relaxed and fun pace.
CB: How did you hook up with Misra (which released the band’s 7-inch last October and is also home to such artists as Great Lake Swimmers and Destroyer)?
MM: Misra approached us after Leo, the label manager, relocated to Dayton, Ohio (where Deal resides). We hadn’t really been thinking about releasing anything “properly” when we first started talking. It just all came together in a gentle, mutually beneficial way, as all working arrangements should. They’ve been very supportive from the get-go.
CB: What do you find unique about each other as performers and collaborators?
MM: Hmmm. Well, as a performer, for one (Kelley’s) got a unique, identifiable, iconic voice that I would enjoy listening to regardless of whether or not I was in a band with her. She’s worked with a lot of seriously talented folks over the years and she brings those experiences and standards to the table. As a collaborator, she’s extremely focused and driven. It’s not uncommon to practice or write for eight hours or more. Definitely wasn’t used to that! As spontaneous as the songs can sound at times, every squiggle and squeal has been pored over meticulously. Whether we perform it exactly as intended on a given night is another story! There’s always some built-in wiggle room.
KD: (Mike) has that rare mix of a great set of ears, an amazing work ethic and a willingness to go on sonic adventures — all while being in a good mood. I feel really lucky to have met him when I did!
CB: As two performers with strong ties to current and past musical projects (Montgomery is also currently in Ampline; Deal is also in The Breeders), do you find it frustrating that people often compare R. Ring to those outfits? How conscious are you of making it different and distinct from your other projects?
MM: I don’t find it frustrating at all. People always want a reference or jumping-off point when talking about something, so if comparisons to past or current other projects help move the conversation along, then so be it. As for consciously trying to make the songs different, I think the lineup sort of dictates the arrangements. We try to find ways to keep the songs interesting and full-sounding without drum and bass parts.
KD: I agree with what Mike was saying. I think a lot of times it’s just a starting point to discussions that kinda lead to other places.
CB: Kelley, I’m curious about your vocal approach, which is marked by this girlish, slightly affected croon that has become your trademark. How did you come to this way of singing?
KD: Gross. I have an image of Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? in my mind!
For more on R. RING, visit rringband.com.