StéLouse, the musical project from Denver-based musician and producer Ross Ryan, is set to release his self-titled debut album tomorrow via his home imprint, Casablanca. The LP acts as the first body of work from StéLouse since 2014 when Ryan dove head first into melodic bass and 80s-inspired synths in the four-track EP The City, and in that time, a slew of singles have defined StéLouse as a patent pop-calibre act with a natural and nondiscriminatory approach to his production.
The album represents an interesting benchmark for Ryan, as he describes it as more of “a piece of a larger puzzle” or a midpoint between his processes past and present rather than his magnum opus. In fact, Ryan is already halfway done writing the next StéLouse album — that’s just the way he works. But that said, the LP is “the most honest music” from the project thus far as he told fans this morning on Facebook, explaining that “every song was a joy to create, every song [he] truly feel[s] a part of.”
Ahead of the release of StéLouse tomorrow morning, we called up the prolific music-maker to get a better idea of where his head is at around the drop of his debut as well as plans for live performance and what’s coming up next for the project.
Read on below.
How are you feeling about your debut LP?
The album is a good representation of where I came from. And it shows where I’m headed, because there’s some pretty Soundcloud-y type stuff on there – I hate saying that – but there are a couple tracks in particular like “Tangled” and “Come Home” that are very Soundcloud-y. That’s kind of where I was about a year ago. And there’s stuff on there that’s a little more recent like “Been So Long” and “Shivers and Gold” which flex a little harder on some pop songwriting. Everything I’m about to drop next is very song-driven. It’s electronic, but it’s very pop, too.
Is that where your progression as an artist has gone? From more “Soundcloud” sounds as you put it to a more graduated approach?
Graduated is a good word, ya. I’ve always wanted to get back into more “song” songs, and I really hate using the word pop but it is the best way to describe it. But ya the ability to be on a major label, get studio time paid for, be with a publisher, get sessions booked and work with songwriters. I got the opportunity to work with Ryan Tedder on a bunch of tracks like three months ago, not my tracks but just productions for other people, and that taught me a lot. I got to see how to get at it more from that angle, so that definitely influenced where I’m headed now.
This is the debut StéLouse album, how did you approach this differently knowing you had a little more space to work with? You have the intro and “Artery” and “Into the Sea” in the middle, and my favorite song “Shock of Heart”…
Oh thanks man, that entire song was real, organic stuff. I recorded a bunch of foley around the backyard and the house and me stomping on the floor and EQing that. And the singing on that is me. There’s guitars in there that I warped to sound like pads. I thought it was a little Radiohead-type thing.
But ya [with the album format] it was great because I’ve always loved artists and albums that have an intro and interlude stuff and the last track will be very off-center and feelsy. It allowed me to have those tracks like “Artery” and “Into the Sea” and “Shock of Heart.” Those are just purely me doing movie-score, like passionate-type things that ended up being able to fill those spaces on the album, and I’m stoked people get to hear them.
How much of your background in live music and instrumentation came into this record?
I would say there’s a good amount of it happening or at least starting to happen in there. Something like “Shivers and Gold,” there’s real guitars, there’s real bass guitar on that. “Been So Long” was pretty much done with all analog stuff and real synths. And that’s where a lot of the newer stuff coming out after this album is headed, too. I kinda dropped off DJing last year and I came back and I have a band now. We’ve only done a couple shows but we’re going to go do Lightning in a Bottle, Electric Forest and Elements and a couple other festivals this summer. I have a drummer and a couple singers and I play bass, guitar, and keys. I’ve always wanted to do something that was very cross-over and would allow me to be in a band again. Because when you play instruments live on stage, it’s just hard to ever beat that. DJing is dope I love DJing too, but it’s hard to replace that live feeling with DJing. I was in a fuckin rock band for like 10 years, so…
Is the live band aspect still StéLouse or is there a new aspect to it?
Ya it’s still StéLouse and I guess we’re just trying now to make sure when we book stuff we’re just trying to make it familiar that StéLouse is a live act. And if it’s a DJ set we’ll book it as a StéLouse DJ set.
You mentioned Soundcloud as a genre earlier, and I’m sure you would agree that there’s a lot of repetition within this sphere of music these days. How do you encourage yourself and strive to be different and move away from the pack?
I think the things that work best for me…Just being myself usually allows stuff to just fall out of me creatively very quickly. I’ll do production intervals, I’ll give myself like five minutes to complete a task and sometimes really rad stuff comes out of it. I think that kind of approach, just allowing yourself to freeform make something without any expectations or what other people are doing, I think that’s clutch for any artist.
Has your experience in bands and being able to use other members as soundboards as well as gather new ideas been helpful?
I don’t work so much with the band members on a creative level, I’m pretty much producing everything, but I do have a large amount of friends and peers and I like to show them stuff and get input and different perspectives from them.
When the record comes out, how would you like to judge the success of it? What needs to be done for you to pat yourself on the back for it?
Man, just the fact that I was able to make this music and get it on a major label at all – especially with it being a bit off-center – and have it connect with people is enough for me. If three kids are like “This is awesome” then I’ll feel good about it. Outside of that, I can’t have expectations in this music industry, you know? It’s fickle and it’s fleeting, so it’s hard to place expectations on stuff before it happens. If I was Chainsmokers status I could probably have expectations of where it’s gonna go, but…
Looking ahead, you mentioned “Been So Long” and “Shivers and Gold” were some of the more recent stuff you made, should fans expect more stuff like that from your releases following the record?
No, man. I think that I’ve made a really strong effort with the singles that I’ve released from this album which were “Been So Long,” “Lovers,” “Shivers and Gold,” and another one “Let Go” which didn’t end up making the record, and they’re all drastically different from each other. They all still sound like something I’m making but I wanted to make a point of – I just hear so many artists get something that’s hot and they just repeat it, repeat it, repeat it, which is great. It’s a great tactic cause it works. But I want to challenge people and get them to expect not to know what to expect. So everything that’s coming next is unlike anything on this album.
So what’s happening for StéLouse this summer? Lots of shows and festivals off the album?
Ya doing some festival plays. We’re gonna start releasing pieces from the next part of the project starting in the summer, so a couple months after the album’s out I’m already putting stuff out again. I just make so much music and have so much that I think it’s important to keep moving, especially at the rate people consume these days. It’s hard to be an artist that puts out an album every two or three years and then tours for a year and disappears to make another one. While that is dope I’m just not at that level.
Cycles are a little bit different these days…
Totally! But ya I’ll just be grinding out songs and playing some shows, and we’re looking to put together a hard ticket run by the end of this year. And I’ve been working on a bunch of productions for some larger and more pop-oriented artists, I don’t wanna say too much about those right now. But ya fingers crossed, we got some good holds on some stuff.
Good deal! Well, congrats on the record, man, stoked you’re getting it out there and excited to hear the new stuff whenever it’s ready!
StéLouse’s self-titled LP is out May 12th via Casablanca.