NoiseTrade One-on-One

Interview with Ron Gallo

To help celebrate this Friday’s release of his brand new album HEAVY META, we had an engaging NoiseTrade One-on-One with Ron Gallo. During our chat, Gallo opened up about his approach to songwriting, what it’s been like to perform in a variety of different band formats, and what his experience has been like moving to Nashville from Philly.

NoiseTrade: What can you tell us about the themes, stories, and musical inspirations that went into your new album HEAVY META?

Ron Gallo: I’m going against my contract with the Society of American Magicians by divulging any of these secrets, but thematically it stems from frustration with humanity and myself that began about three years ago when most of these songs were written. For the first time, I went within and faced a lot of things. It was a dark period and I was living in Philly. The record talks about a stalker, dead love, domestication, medication of the masses, the cycle of bad parenting, the struggle of pursuing art, self-empowerment, illusion, and personal frustration with the state of culture, music, food, etc. This record is someone being rattled out of their complacency and maybe it can do the same for another.

The spirit of a lot of late ‘70s proto-punk stuff really resonated with me at the time: The Stooges, Richard Hell, Patti Smith, Velvet Underground, Modern Lovers. I’ve always been a fan of big-voiced people like Jeff Buckley and Mahalia Jackson as well.

NT: Your lyrics on HEAVY META embody an interesting dance between stark social commentary and sly tongue-in-cheek humor. Are there any specific songwriters that have inspired your approach to songwriting?

Gallo: Andy Kaufman, Krishnamurti, MF Doom, Miles Davis. I like a lot of John Lennon solo stuff. As for current wordsmiths, I think Father John Misty, Courtney Barnett, and Parquet Courts would all get along really well. They use music as a vehicle for the words and I think that’s most important. But no one directly inspires me more than everything does. It often comes out as an extension of myself, real observation. I think having good humor about everything keeps heavy topics – and really just life in general – digestible.

NT: It looks like you guys had a blast shooting the album opening “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me” video. Apart from what people say about working with child actors, what was your experience like and where’d the “kid wedding” idea originate?

Gallo: What do they say about child actors!? If they say that child actors are better and more enlightened than adults, I agree. Kids are truly free. We captured their spontaneity and it was incredible. A kid’s list of worries is never more than one thing long. It’s usually something like “I want cake,” while all the adults run around with their phones worrying about “schedules” and “budgets” and “social norms.” Our manager Chris had that idea and it came to life.

NT: Your previous band, Toy Soldiers, performed as a duo, expanded to a double digit outfit, and then went back down to a quartet, while your current iteration plays a trio. What have you learned about performance through the dynamics of these different size formations?

Gallo: Three is key. I had to learn how to actually play guitar in the trio setting because there’s nothing to hide behind. I want people to come to shows for the songs, the energy, and the message, not necessarily the orchestral arrangements or the synthesizer leads. Being able to convey something strong with the bare minimum is important. Plus, it’s economical as we travel in an SUV!

NT: With your first full year in Nashville under your belt, what have you missed most about Philly and what has been your favorite experience since moving to Nashville?

Gallo: The only thing I miss about Philly is people. The list of favorite things about Nashville is long: having a driveway to park in, space to breathe, an incredible music community, good food, general kindness. It’s great.

When writer Will Hodge (@will_hodge) isn’t down on the street, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack