INTRO: Up and coming musicians commonly play in more than one band. But few are as prolific as Denton musician Ryan Williams. KERA’s Stephen Becker reports on the bass player who will perform five times at NX35:
- KERA radio feature:
- Online version:
It’s 11 a.m. on a Monday and Ryan Williams can’t stop rubbing his eyes.
He has a good reason to be sleepy. Williams didn’t get home to Denton until 2:30 in the morning. He drove back from Austin after playing a gig with his band Dust Congress. But there’s no time to be tired – in fact, it’s time for Dust Congress to practice.
[Sound clip of Dust Congress practicing]
And this is just the first rehearsal of many that Williams has this week. He’s in six bands, and five of them are getting ready to perform at the NX35 in Denton this weekend.
Today’s rehearsal, in the cramped living room of Dust Congress frontman Nick Foreman’s house, is just the first of many Williams will have in the week running up to the music festival.
Most nights, Williams’ NX35 schedule is manageable.
Friday, however, is when it gets tricky.
In the early evening, he’ll plug in to play with Hanbrake at the Hydrant. Then he’ll drop his electric bass and hightail it up the block to Sweetwater to pick up his upright bass and play a late show with the Boxcar Bandits.
It’s a routine that Taylor Sims remembers from last year at NX35, when he and Williams backed Sabra Laval.
SIMS: “He played the first four songs with us and just like put that wheel back on the bottom of his bass and shot out the door.”
Sims also plays with Williams in Dust Congress, a band made up of musicians who all perform in multiple groups.
It’s the Denton way, Foreman says.
FOREMAN: “Everyone’s friends with other people who play music for the most part, so you can usually just pick someone up. You know someone who plays this instrument and you’re already friends with him, so it’s a pretty natural thing.”
But Williams plays in six bands in all. What makes him so popular?
He says the demand partly stems from being a bass player – bands are always looking for bass players. And he has electric and upright basses, so he’s versatile.
Foreman has other theories:
FOREMAN: “Everyone in town knows Ryan, and I don’t know anyone that doesn’t like him. He’s bohemian, so he can practice on Monday’s at noon. So that’s a benefit.”
Plus, Williams says all the collaboration keeps him moving.
WILLIAMS: “In order to motivate myself, I just make commitments to people to be there for their band whenever physically possible. And by fulfilling those commitments, I keep myself involved. Otherwise, I would probably just sit around my room playing along to CDs like I did in high school.”
Williams estimates he rehearses with various acts three to four times per week on average and performs at least once or twice. He also fills in as a bass for hire with various artists recording albums.
It’s a lot of running around, for sure. And it’s Williams to day dream about a simpler way:
WILLIAMS: “I’ve had a really ill-conceived fantasy of having all the bands I play with play on the same night in the same place, which would be a whole lot of fun for me, but probably not that enjoyable for everyone else.”
Maybe next year’s NX35 will find a home for Ryanpalooza?