Perspective and first impressions are some of the biggest assets up-and-coming musicians have at their disposal when making that initial leap into the public listening landscape, and RYDYR is one artist who is all-too-aware of this reality. Right from the very first introduction of Cole Pendery as RYDYR, music fans are being handed a touch of intimate familial background, as Pendery’s artist alias is a fundamental reference to his mother’s maiden name. Beyond that though, Pendery had considered even more details, both short and longer term when it came to RYDYR and, unlike some artists, none of it came from a place of simply trying to work around internet search engines.
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“I wasn’t too concerned with (following the trend of uncommon alias spellings),” says RYDYR. “I was more concerned with protecting myself as Cole Pendery. So that meant more to me than whatever people are going to say because people are going to talk regardless.” he says.
And, and I wanted to just create, you know, more of a brand (beyond) branding myself. So I was very confident in my decision. I also have something (else) that I never really talked about that maybe furthers my alternate spelling (decision),” RYDYR says. “I (took) odes from some of my favorite bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd – (spelled with) all Y’s. Styx (too) is one of my favorite bands of all time, spelled S-T-Y-X. So, going into it, I was like, ‘Oh that’s another kind of fun little tag in there to pull from my musical inspirations and see what they did.’ And when I was making (the name RYDYR) I was unsure if it was still gonna be my solo name or if this going to be a band, and so I wanted to give it some broad ability there.”
Meanwhile, even with all these nuanced details, Pendery’s stage name could also be viewed as a vision statement of sorts, for what RYDYR plans to do with himself in the context of his music career over time. While not a direct commentary on the sound or stylistic approach of his music, Pendery’s thought process certainly reflects a longer term mindset for his creative ambitions, which is refreshing in an age where many decisions of the music business are being steered by projections, trends, and popularity.
“When I see (the name RYDYR), you know, I’m reminded why I’m (pursuing music), what I’m doing this for, and the place that I always want to come from when I am creating in this mindset. And you know, (this) art form,” RYDYR notes. “So in days of doubt or whatever, I can be reminded every day by just that: that name, and what I’m standing for and where I want to come from.”
“It definitely, definitely means a lot to me and is a reminder every day and that’s where I feel like it could be cool,” he continues. “As (my) brand grows, I hope people can, you know, see that as well and remind them to, you know, just lead from a truthful place and, and always be as transparent and real as possible.”
Interestingly, when considering this refreshing mindset against the backdrop of Pendery’s decision to move from his small Texas hometown to the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles, an undeniable touch of intrigue rises to the surface. The gradual lead up to today’s release of RYDYR’s debut EP, These Things Always Change, introduced listeners to songs with a distinctly polished framework. RYDYR’s music, which was recorded in the company of producer Zakk Cervini, is lined with drum machine powered beats; reverb, delay, and filter effect-laden vocals; and flawlessly smooth, muted guitar string plucks and bowed violin notes.
The resulting sonic aesthetic is aurally pleasing without a doubt. However, the sonic profile leaves a fair amount of curiosity in the face of an individual who feels most motivated by the idea of transparency and being true to oneself. Given that motivation, one might expect the musical character of RYDYR’s EP to reflect a more natural sonic aesthetic.
“Definitely (the EP’s sound), was a choice. As I’m transitioning out of an old pop groove, I wanted to still give some brightness to (the music and) some familiarity of production.” RYDYR says. “But also,” he continues, “some new twists in like, the (songs’) interludes and, you know, a little bit more story to the album. This project is really just an introduction to me as an artist, to the (public.)”
“And for all my projects and songs in general,” he continues, “(they) are always going to have kind of a new thing. I’m not a kind of sole genre-focused person with this (EP). When I was making (These Things Always Change,) I was undergoing the mindset of a beautiful darkness. And even with my brand and everything, there’s duality to it all, you know? There wouldn’t be light without the darkness.”
Coincidentally enough, even though These Things Always Change doesn’t greet listeners with an immediate presentation of more natural, acoustic stylization, it’s not as though the thought of giving space to other forms of vulnerability, openness, and down to earth relatable character goes lost on RYDYR. Not only does the EP retain an overall sense of dynamic variation thanks to restraint in the use of compression but also, a few of the EPs tracks either cut back on the amount of instrumental layering or place RYDYR’s vocal parts at the very front and center of the mix with a drier, less grandiose tone and thus, a clearer presentation of his singing voice.
“Yeah, no, I definitely, definitely wanted to (pull back) on those more broken down songs, (I) wanted to describe that it’s been a crazy world.” RYDYR says.
Though these decisions – especially the former – aren’t artistically flashy or even necessarily going to be heavily noticed by the broader listening public, RYDYR goes on to explain how they almost come across as a nice way to remember the roots of his home and his occasional need for quieter calm, without steering away from the kind of sound he wants to have. The track “Fly Away” showcases this sentiment wholeheartedly.
“I wrote the song ‘Fly Away’ maybe close to three years ago. And then as this year was unfolding, I was looking at the EP I had prepared and kind of ready and I just kind of pulled (away) last minute, (saying), ‘We’re gonna have to wait a little bit here. I need to…I need to do a few things.’ ‘Fly Away’ wasn’t even supposed to be in the EP but, I just felt like lyrically, it really matched what I wanted (and) what I felt like right now.” RYDYR explains.
“And so I connected with my buddy Keith, who’s a producer I worked with (and) wrote the song with. (W)e had just a bunch of FaceTime sessions, reproduced and rerecorded ‘Fly Away’ to the version you hear now and just really, took it to that level. RYDYR says. “I really wanted to bring in a lot of, you know, real more raw elements (and) just really focus heavily on the vocal and and really try to take the listener on this journey and give this kind of visceral, visual kind of feeling when you listen to it. So, yeah, it’s definitely, all those things were little nods to, to kind of my upbringing how I feel right now.” he says.
These Things Always Change and the story behind how RYDYR came to be, sometimes seem at odds with one another. Yet, in reality, Pendery’s ability to negotiate room for each aspect of his creative identity to fruitfully coexist, speaks to the value of subtlety and interpretation in music. This isn’t just in regards to what listeners hear and subsequently feel but also, for how artists themselves decide to convey their aspirations, and in what way those choices will be observed by others. Pendery makes it clear what kind of artist he wants to be for the public. However, past that, there are more than enough reasons to make time to get to know the music of this LA transplant. After all, despite Pendery knowing what kind of journey wants listeners to join him on, unlike the clarity behind his name, he doesn’t map out exactly what his art will look or sound – neither moment to moment on These Things Always Change or record to record as he considers the future. In that way, the last track of his EP, “See You Around,” is the perfect departing remark, because listeners will have to come back and stick around to see exactly how things will go.
“I’m always learning something new from everyone around me.” RYDYR says.
“As far as the creative process goes, I’m very go with the flow,” RYDYR continues. “Then, when (music) starts to get to (the point where it’s) releasing to the world, that’s when I get a little bit more methodical and a little bit more hyper-sensitive and kind of become a control freak on that. I could probably learn to let go a little bit on that sh-t but, I think it’s a nice balance at the moment.
“What I think has been the most important thing in my recent last couple years, and just growing as an artist, has been listening to those moments and picking up on those special moments that the universe gives you – those moments of genius, those moments of creativity and expression,” he says. “At the end of the day, it’ll always be my heart, my voice, and my truth in the music, no matter what (kind of) production is around it. And at the end, that’s the artistry. That’s RYDYR.”