By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Around this time last year, while the metroplex's roads were iced over for a week, Mind Spiders' frontman Mark Ryan found himself stuck in his Fort Worth home. Ryan, whose day job as a behavioral specialist takes him around the area every week, was motivated and inspired to write a majority of the songs found on his band's second and latest album, Meltdown. Even though their self-titled debut had just been released, Ryan wasn't going to stop doing what he always does. "I wish I had more weeks like that," he says with a smile and a laugh.
Ryan, a soft-spoken, friendly guy, is not someone who has a backlog of unreleased songs that would make Bob Pollard jealous. "It's not easy, but I just do it all the time," he says. "I'm constantly working on stuff, regardless of what's going on. When I get something I know is good, I stick with it. I throw a lot of stuff away. If I don't think it's good, I'm not going to mess with it."
There is definitely a reason the record is called Meltdown: "It has a flow to it that I intentionally created, where it's kind of happier and continues to get darker and things fall apart," Ryan says. That's evident from pop snap of opener "You Are Dead" through the synth bleed of the closing title track.
Clocking in at 31 minutes, the home-recorded Meltdown is a continuation of Ryan's love of The Ventures and Dick Dale, combined with the energy of punk and garage rock. This record is more unified with songs he really wanted to play live, whereas the first record was not. And there is another notable difference between the two: Ryan played almost all of the instruments on Mind Spiders, but he's now in charge of a six-piece lineup. "It's kinda gotten out of hand," he jokes.
He originally asked bassist Daniel Fried and drummer Greg Rutherford from Denton's Bad Sports to back him, and they suggested guitarist Stephen Svacina join as well. Keyboardist Peter Salisbury and drummer Mike Thorneberry round out the rest of the band.
Since Ryan is a fan of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound and Brian Eno's "Needles in the Camel's Eye," it's logical to recreate a double-drumming sound with Mind Spiders. Rutherford and Thorneberry play in tandem, lending the live show even more of a charge.
If Thorneberry's name sounds familiar, it's because he and Ryan played together in the mighty Marked Men, a band that is technically broken up but still together. Fellow guitarist Jeff Burke decided to move to Japan and start another band a few years ago, so The Marked Men's active status ceased. "There's no hard feelings," Ryan insists. "There weren't any problems with anyone in the band. Jeff wanted to do something else with his life." One-off shows in Austin, Chicago and Minneapolis have happened in the past few years, but don't expect many more in the future. "It's not something we're going to get back together, write a bunch more songs, and do stuff," Ryan adds.
Thanks to his time with The Marked Men, Ryan found himself on Portland's Dirtnap Records, home to Denton's Bad Sports and High Tension Wires, and says he has an "open invitation" with owner Ken Cheppaikode when it comes to releasing albums. "We have that kind of relationship where we've done work together for so long," Ryan says. "I've worked with plenty of other labels like Rip Off and Swami and whatnot, but working with him is real easy. He's a good businessman. He takes care of his shit. I don't have to worry about labels. I just work with him on stuff and it's always good."
Ryan's priority is Mind Spiders these days, and that includes a tour at the end of March that will stretch a little over a week. After that, things are not set in stone. "I haven't really thought much past that," Ryan admits. Fried and Rutherford will be busy with Bad Sports during the summer and Ryan has plans for a new Mind Spiders 7-inch, but one thing is certain: He'll be writing and recording something.
"It has a flow to it that I intentionally created, where it's kind of happier and continues to get darker and things fall apart."