A rock show is coming to Askew in Providence on Friday, March 31, a gig that came together in a somewhat non-traditional manner. The Ritualists have never played in Rhode Island, and while that’s not necessarily out of the ordinary for a touring band, the circumstances bringing the band to town are more unique.
The show came together organically after local fan Lori Mars discovered the band on YouTube. “One cool element to us coming out there, was that this happened very organically,” said Ritualist founder Christian Dryden on a recent phone call.
“Lori commented on something on our social media and asked ‘do you ever come to Providence?’ I said that’s up to you guys. So she actually put her money where her mouth was. She messaged me the names of some club owners, ‘I will tell them about you, reach out to them and they will book you.’ That’s how this gig happened. It will be a particularly special show for us because of the way this came about.”
Dryden started out as a drummer in high school bands and eventually moved to lead vocal, where he picked up the bass. “I was also getting into songwriting, and of course, everybody plays guitar. I’m more of a rhythm-based person, rhythmic mentality, so I started playing songs on bass, and that’s how I started to get involved as a frontman,” he said.
The band’s first album Painted People (2019), featured the song Ice Flower. “That song got us signed to a record label called Out of Line Music based in Germany. They were really cool, they did a really expensive video for Ice Flower and a really nice PR campaign, and we get a ton of wonderful press that I was not expecting,” Dryden explained.
Then the pandemic hit. “We couldn’t tour to support the record, the music industry was hemorrhaging money, no one could play out.” The band spent much of the pandemic recording their second album Baroque and Bleeding which they put out on a local New York-based label. The album was produced by Ed Buller, former keyboardist in the Psychedelic Furs. “We were really excited that he agreed to do our album,” said Dryden.
So what does the band sound like? “One journalist described us as ‘gothic art-rock,’” said Dryden. “I also think the band has strong post-punk proclivities along the lines of Echo and the Bunnymen, early U2, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. But I think we definitely also have callbacks to Bowie obviously, Duran Duran, a huge influence, and some of the 90’s Brit-Pop.”
“Simon Le Bon (Duran, Duran) is a fan of our band and plays us on his Sirius/XM radio show frequently. He describes us as ‘pure new romantic psychedelia.’ For the uninitiated, the ‘new romantic’ music movement, was a movement in the late 70s and 80s that included bands like Duran Duran, Adam and the Ants, a very baroque style of music, elaborate dress, the music was really ornate with over the top lyrics that harkened back to romance poetry. I love that stuff, and I’m happy he listened closely enough to catch on to that,” he added.
With critical acclaim and satellite radio plays on repeat, you might expect The Ritualists to take off nationally, but it’s not as easy as it sounds for a rock and roll band. A punk rock attitude, high-energy shows, and brooding lyrics only take you so far these days.
“Rock and Roll is very much alive everywhere,” said Dryden, “but the marketing of the genre has been weakened in recent years. In order to get paid for music, you really need to get song placements (in movies and TV). Sadly, particularly in America, rock and roll has become almost like jazz,” no longer part of mainstream music.
“It’s really strange, we’re almost mocked in a weird way, people think they’re being clever by talking about all of these new things that are going on in music where none of them have a guitar player or physical instrumentation. That’s fine if you like that, but there’s also plenty of new rock music that does not sound exactly like what came before. There’s like a silent majority of people in America, places we’ve been to on tour where people are just craving this kind of music. We played at a club in Knoxville, TN and for these people, it was like The Rolling Stones coming to town to play a small club, they were so excited, dancing around and raging. There were people of all ages there.”
Check out The Ritualists at Askew in Providence Friday, March 31. Family Township and Dred Buffalo open the show at 8PM. Click here for details.