To coincide with the release of their mighty new album Perfect Crimes, we sat down with the founder of Washington-state alt-rock outfit Ransom & the Subset, to find out more about the project, his musical adventure thus far, and his plans for the future. Here’s the conversation in full.
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Hey – thanks so much for the interview. Loving the new album! For those new to your music, what first prompted you to start Ransom & the Subset, and what’s the band-name all about?
I started Ransom & the Subset as a project to record a collection of songs I had written and demo’d over the years. I had been playing in a band called Subset in San Diego and Seattle with some long-time friends from where I grew up. The members were a subset of a popular band we had when we were kids.
When I started the project I wasn’t sure who would be involved, or who would be the lead singer of my songs, so I called the project Ransom and the Subset. But actually ‘Ransom’ is partially my name. I am named after two uncles “Ransom” and “LeDair” – that’s how my parents gave me “RanDair”
What does this latest project Perfect Crime represent for you?
My last album No Time to Lose was all about achieving something musically as life moves on and before it’s too late. Perfect Crimes is about accepting where you are in life both musically and in general, and being entertained by the things of life itself and the stories it presents you. Many of which involve interesting miss-steps (‘crimes’). Nothing super serious but everything interesting.
What do the songs of the album aim to explore, and which one would you say best exemplifies the topics that drove it?
The topics of the songs on Perfect Crimes are quite simple ordinary life kind of experiences I have observed in others, with the exception of Bring Him Home where every single word happened.
I want these stories to be amusing, I want the music to be likable – but don’t want the burden of saying something deep. I just want people to jump in the car, turn on Perfect Crimes and go for an enjoyable ride!
The guitar work is sensational throughout, as are many of the anthemic hooks – the live potential is clear. Do you have a tour planned, and if so, where can fans look out for you, and what can they expect from your performances?
We have live arrangements for the songs along with the songs from our first album. There is complexity to the songs so coming up with arrangements that capture the vibe takes some work and the right players and singers. We’ll get all that together and likely start in Seattle toward the end of the summer.
Are you musically trained, or have you simply honed your abilities over time?
My guitar teacher on my very first lesson as a kid taught me what makes a Major 7th chord. While no theory expert I’ve had almost a mathematical understanding of music. Other than that my training came from the highly regarded school of Casey Kasem growing up listening to AM radio.
What inspires you to create – is it other music, or films, poetry, literature, family; something else?
All of the things you mention feed into it. Observing the ordinary things life itself is inspiration. I’ve always been humming melodies in my head. I’ve been more intentional these last several years to recognize common life things around me that could match the melodies.
What do you think makes a great song, what comes to mind as one of the best songs ever written, and why?
With songs people define ‘great’ in different ways, for some, a song without a shredding guitar solo can’t be great. For me, the melody should grab you and stick. I can be entertained by performance-oriented songs with little melody – but I never find those songs stuck in my brain when trying to sleep at night.
I like a story with a great melody. Every song doesn’t have to be a serious story just something that holds together and is likable. Sometimes you get lucky and come up with a song that has a great uplifting melody and a powerful story.
Given the breadth of influence across the project, spanning throughout the past few decades, what are your thoughts on the music industry at present, and where do you expect things will head in the coming years?
Yeah, everybody is trying to figure that out. I definitely think there is a portion of popular music that doesn’t seem to require melody, harmony, or good story-telling. All the elements some people would define as what makes a good song. Perhaps there is a place for that in popular music, I try to appreciate it, but it seems to occupy too much of popular music today.
I think there are musicians creating good music and good song-writing today but it’s mixed with a lot of, eh, music that doesn’t fit closely what used to define a ‘good song’. Hopefully some of this will evolve toward something that casts a broader net of music lovers. Doesn’t seem that hard. Just throw in a B maj 7th at the end of that 24 bar monotone drone. It will be a hit!
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