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Interview: Yellow Pills

9 February 2023

Yellow Pills began as a solo project by Ryan Miera that has slowly but surely formed into a 4 piece band. The genre is pretty wide-ranging. Ryan has done 99% of the instrumentation that’s on the albums and the upcoming album are with Ryan, Ben Rosales, Matt Riggen and Chris Ditton. Ryan Miera is known around Chicago as the lead songwriter for the Indie Surf band The Limbos but since the pandemic his solo project Yellow Pills has taken on a life of it’s own. One of the more prolific artists on the New Jersey label Mint 400 Records, Miera has handed in 4 albums in just a couple years. The newest ‘Death By Elvis’ released on February 10th, 2023 does not disappoint. Here’s what bandleader Ryan Miera had to say about it:

What gave you the inspiration to name the album “Death by Elvis”? Were you inspired by Elvis?

Honestly, I was headed to the recording studio where some of it was recorded and liked the idea of calling it “Death by (something)” and couldn’t think of what. I looked out the window and saw that somebody had spray painted “Elvis” on an abandoned train and ultimately thought “PERFECT!” And there you have it. None of these albums are admittedly 100% cohesive. Frankly, I get bored really fast when stuff starts to sound too similar so there’s usually a small challenge of trying to make everything sound like it belongs together. I think we’ve done ok so far though. I wasn’t even kind of inspired by Elvis. I just loved the sound of “Death by Elvis.”

Is there anything different about this album vs. the last ones?

YES. It’s certainly the most eclectic, I think. While the others are definitely eclectic, I think this one is by far the most so.

Do you have a favorite song on the album?

Hmmm. I’d say probably The Bad Intentions of Natalie Nerdlinger. It was actually written quite a long time ago with one of my oldest friends. He’s one of the best guitarists I’ve ever known and it was a much more young and free time of my life. All the while still very dark, haha. But it’s just one of the most blunt and to the point tracks on the album.

Is Yellow Pills basically a solo project?

It started as one but when I started getting show offers after things kind of started reactivating after covid, I realized I should put together a group of folks and just make it a functioning band. So yes, it was but now it’s a 4 piece band. We play what we realistically can as some of the tracks on the albums would be impossible to play with a 4 piece band consisting of keyboard, guitar, bass and drums. Plenty of our material can be played with that set up but then some of it is literally an organ with an opera singer. There’s tracks that I wrote but could only play the drums, keyboard and guitar on so I’d bring on a horn player for some of the stuff because I can’t play ANY horns. Or an opera singer because I can’t sing opera. Then there’d be some tracks that I could manage recording the drums, keys and bass for but am not strong enough of a guitarist to manage what I wanted so I’d bring on my buddy Mike Green or Jesse Raney or Matt Dark to do some of the guitar stuff. If the guitar sounds surfy, it’s me. If it’s more impressive, it’s definitely not me haha. But NOW, my buddy Ben Rosales is the official guitarist and he’s just fantastic. Matt Riggen is the bassist and Chris Ditton is the drummer and I stick to keyboards and writing. We’re in a great spot.

You’re apparently sober. Is that difficult being a musician when so many musicians typically are not?

No, it’s fine. I’m fortunate enough that when I got sober I was genuinely and completely fed up with alcohol. So quitting was easier for me than it is for most people. I feel like most people quit because they know they probably should and I quit because I was just utterly fed up with it. I also knew I would likely die if I didn’t, which is obviously a wake up call.

There’s mostly instrumental songs on this album and the small amount of vocals sounds like it’s all done by different people. Who is everyone?

Yeah, I frankly don’t like the sound of my own voice. With the last band I was in, people would always say “you have such a unique voice” and when you really just unreservedly hate your own voice, that doesn’t really help the matter. So these days, when I do write songs that have vocals, I usually reach out to friends to record them for me. With “The Potential End of You” and “Red Rover” I ended up doing the vocals for but “Crunch” and “Secretly Enemies” were not me. Crunch was a track that I wanted somebody to free style for which I’m NOT good at so I asked my buddy Jason Tolliver to record them and he NAILED it. For “Secretly Enemies”, I just didn’t want my voice on them. I even tried to lay the vocals down for it and I hated how it sounded. So I asked my friend Antoinette Vandenbroucke to do them in my stead and she nailed it.

Any plans for the next album?

Definitely. It’s practically already done. I’m just holding off on finalizing everything because I kind of want to space them out a bit. The label I’m on also is going to have all the artists that want to who are on it cover songs from the 90’s and record them for a release at some point in the future so I’m also tossing around ideas for that in my head. So far, I’ve considered “American Music” by Violent Femmes, “Getchoo” by Weezer, “Laid” by James among many other things. Fingers crossed we make a good choice.