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New LP "Funky Town" by the Ryne Experience

“Funky Town,” the third album by Lowell rock group The Ryne Experience, was released on April 20.

Described by bandleader Ryne Clarke as “a psychedelic alt-country loose concept album about identity theft, amnesia, love, loss, murder and redemption,” this will mark the band's first release on vinyl. “Funky Town” is also available on cassette, CD and various streaming services.

Following the idiosyncratic methods established with previous Ryne Experience releases, Clarke played well over a dozen different instruments himself and enlisted the help of 13 individual collaborators. Instruments listed in the album's credits include vocals, bass, drums and guitar as you'd expect, but also electric kazoo, melodica, vibraslap, spoons, organ drums, yeti mug, fireworks, chooch rip, cries, sprinkles and simply “screeching.” That looks chaotic in print, but Clarke pulls it off - nothing on “Funky Town” seems crazy or out of place.

Clarke wears his classic rock influences on his sleeve, so you may notice noises characteristic of Wilco, the Velvet Underground and psych-era Beatles. Basically, “Funky Town” ends up sounding like if George Harrison made a record with Pavement. 

Much of “Funky Town” was recorded at Upstairs, Man Studios in downtown Lowell (a.k.a. Clarke's bedroom), but this time Clarke branched out a little and did some of it at John Wenger's Clear Sky Tech right here in Lowell and at Warren Wilson Sound Lab in Swannanoa, NC. The final product was mixed by guitarist Jerry Wenger and mastered by Don Carlisle of Knavish Audio in Grand Rapids, and the cover art was executed by Maddie Burt, Olivia St. Arnold, Jeff Armstrong and Jeremy Kargl. It was released by Under the Counter Tapes, a label based in Spring, TX.

“The first song, 'There is a Reason,' was recorded right after 'Hokey' was put out, in December 2018,” Clarke said. “Then, moving into the new year, I got the first five or six songs down by April. At first I thought I might put those out as an EP, but when I put them together in a sequence, it just didn't sound like a complete release. I sat on it for a bit, then I went to North Carolina and came back with a couple more songs. I was working on it down at the sound lab at Warren Wilson College where Corrina Wenger goes to school, and I recorded two tracks with Patrick Kargl before he went back to college. So I got those ten songs down, and laying out the track listing was where I had the idea to set it up like a story. The opening track, 'Paul Mashake,' is kind of like a story in itself, but in sort of a Shel Silverstein style. Then I got to thinking, what would happen to the character in this song if he showed up in the next song? Then it took off from there, but it's a very vague, very loose concept.”

Clarke is continuing his regularly frantic creative pace. Stuck in quarantine like everybody else, he said there is “lots and lots and lots” of songwriting happening on Monroe St. The next batch of Ryne Experience songs is nearing completion, and it's probably going to be another epic production.

“The next album is already written and half done,” Clarke said. “[It's] shaping out to be a double album with 20 tracks!”

There are various methods and platforms to obtain a copy of “Funky Town.” To purchase the vinyl LP (in an elaborate gatefold cover), the compact disc or the cassette directly from the record label, visit underthecountertapes.bandcamp.com. To buy the CD with a free autographed poster of their canceled album release show (it would have taken place April 3 at the Pyramid Scheme club in Grand Rapids), head to ryneshyne.club. If you would prefer to stream the album or purchase digital files like MP3 or FLAC, visit theryneexperience.bandcamp.com.

The whole album will eventually show up on YouTube accompanied by a different video for each song. The first of these, “Paul Mashake,” is viewable right now at youtube.com/watch?v=HjVhNzS9oYM.

“Once I had the idea to have the songs tell a story, I figured it would be fun to shoot some short films,” Clarke said. “I am the bad guy, 'Nameless Sam,' and we're just acting out the different parts of the songs, the different plot points. It's very fuzzy, though, and not meant to undergo too much scrutiny!”

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