In the early 2000s, Merseyside band The Coral shot to success with their experimental mix of sounds, and their music has often been described as a melting pot of psychedelia, indie rock, folk and country, making them difficult to pigeonhole.
Since going solo the band’s guitarist, Bill Ryder-Jones has continued on a diverse path, showcasing his multi-instrumental and songwriting talents as well as producing work by other artists. He’s also composed film scores and sound tracks and lent a musical helping hand to the likes of the Arctic Monkeys. We caught up with Bill for a chat about his career so far, creative influences and future plans.
You started The Coral when you were 13 and the band went on to achieve success and release numerous albums. Did you have any expectations early on of what that band would go on to achieve?
We were in the second year of secondary school when we started. We were never the most ambitious of bands anyway but I think at that age it should be the last thing you’re thinking of.
I remember at that age thinking we weren’t very good at all, and we probably weren’t very good at all then. We worked really hard for a good few years but when I was 16 it was really weird as we worked and worked and then it just went bang and in the space of a week all this stuff was happening.
Since leaving The Coral you seem to have made a transition from being known as a guitarist to a multi-instrumentalist. What has that process been like?
With the band I always played the other instruments as well and I was that anyway. I think the transition was probably more about writing; I didn’t really have the confidence when I was in the band and also with James [Skelly] and Nick [Power] being such great writers there was no need for it really.
From The Coral to your solo material you’ve covered a diverse range of music, from psychedelic rock to orchestral pieces. What are your musical influences?
The psychedelic guitar thing tends to be where people start isn’t it, with bands from the 60s, and we just took a shine to more experimental things. With the filmic orchestral thing, the violin was my first instrument before I learned guitar so it was always there and in The Coral we listened to a lot of film scores and always thought of ourselves in that way a little bit. Particularly with the early records we made more soundscapey songs and that maybe fell by the wayside after songs like ‘Dreaming of You’ became popular. I guess in the last three or four years I just got a little bit bored of guitar music and started listening to Classic FM when I was doing the dishes and things and it kind of grows a bit!
You’ve worked on film scores and soundtracks and your album ‘If…’ was created as your soundtrack to a novel. Is interpreting a different story through your music something that particularly appeals to you?
Yeah any chance to make any kind of music that reaches beyond verse and chorus is always going to be interesting to me, I’m a sucker for a bit of a concept. The way I see art in general is that the expression of art is a very simple thing and it’s there for a reason as an outlet, so that would make up for the more poppy, immediate things. The other side of art that I love is the heavy, over-thought stuff. You know, I like fat books that you have to think about and heavy music that takes a lot of time. That’s two different extremes and I don’t really find anything interesting other than extremes.
You’ve worked with some high profile musicians, including the Arctic Monkeys on their latest album, ‘AM’. How did that contribution to their song ‘Fireside’ come about?
I’ve known the boys for years and Al [Alex Turner] had asked me to play on his ‘Submarine’ soundtrack, but it’s one of those things where because they are so high profile it sounds a lot more businessey than it is. It’s actually no different to when my other mates phone and asks if I can play guitar. It’s literally a phone call saying ‘do you want to do this?’ and I go ‘yeah’, and it’s that boring! Actually doing it is great though.
I was in the studio producing a record for someone else when Al phoned and said ‘we’ve got a couple of tunes, do you want to play on them?’. It was ‘I Wanna Be Yours’, ‘Fireside’ and one other but down to time really it could only be ‘Fireside’.
You’ve worked with musicians from across the Liverpool area too. What do you think of the local music scene right now?
I think it’s brilliant at the minute, it’s really exciting. I can’t think of a time when there were as many good things happening. When The Coral was out and all the bands were going round we never used to like being lumbered in with them but I quite like it now, I quite like the thought that maybe I’m helping to pull a few strings. I like working with bands like Bird and By the Sea, and it’s just a nice little community.
There seems to be a lot of good musicians about who just want to play. The thing that you get in Liverpool is that people just want to do it. I ask people to play with me and the last thing we talk about is money.
Are you working on any new material? What are your future plans?
I’m working on a record now. I’ve been in the studio with James Ford working on that.
I’ve got a couple more production jobs coming up too and I’m working with a brilliant artist called MiNNETONKA who’s based up here, she’s a female singer and I’m really loving doing that.
We’re also going to be performing ‘If…’ live in Manchester in October with the Manchester Camerata orchestra and we’re going to try, pending funding, to take it to London or Glasgow or somewhere like that too.