Ciara Fitzsimmons (Problem Patterns) and Ryan King (Radio show host of ‘Fist City’ from The 343) have combined their shared love for sad country doo-wop with their love of queer storytelling to create Cryan. The duo have recently released their first single ‘Rodeo Queen’ along with a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)’ on bandcamp to a very positive reception. Ciara and Ryan had a (virtual) chat with Sam from The Jumble Magazine all about the new single, Roy Orbison, and the Queer representation within country music.
Hi guys! lets start it off at the beginning, can you two tell me about yourselves and how CRYAN came to be?
R: Well our name is what you get when you smash our two names together (Ciara and Ryan) and we’ve been friends for about 3 years , until recently we were neighbors too. We had played together once just before lock down, for a benefit with some friends, and we were asked to do a track for the charity She Sells Sanctuary. We had a lot of fun doing a cover of a country song for that and we’ve been bonding over country since. I have a country radio show too, that’s how it started with CRYAN.
C: Yeah! Before this we played together in a tribute band for The Velvet Underground, that was just before we realised we had a love of country music in common. We delved into country after covering a Roy Orbison track, and realised it was actually really fun! We both love the lofi, stripped back simplicity of our style.
That bleeds in quite nicely into my next question, I was going to ask about your love for Roy Orbison! What is it about his music you love so much?
C: Well Roy is pretty much the reason I exist…. My granny supposedly got with my granda because she thought he looked a bit like Roy, so I suppose I have to thank Roy’s strapping good looks for my birth! I have my granny to thank for getting me into his music. I remember watching him on TV with her at a really early age. I love the uniqueness and the power of his stuff, and it’s amazing that he can sing in three octaves.
R: I wonder how many people can thank Roy Orbison for their actual existence…
So ‘Rodeo Queen’ is a narrative song, telling a queer love story between two women. The under-representation of LGBTQ+ stories is a problem across all music, but some may feel that it is particularly under-represented in country, due to some of the impressions and more conservative associations that country music can have. How important is it to you two to tell queer stories through your country music?
R: Well I have a queer country radio show on The 343, and one of the reasons that I wanted to do that was to show people that country music isn’t what they may think it is. It doesn’t have to be hetero-normative, there’s a long history of queer artists in country music- Wilma Burgess in the 60’s and Patrick Haggerty from Lavender Country in the 70’s. Whilst they were very much in the minority at the time there’s been a much stronger representation of queer artists in Country music since the 1990’s, telling queer stories in this way is one of the main priorities in our band.
“And let’s face it, country music may be one of the queerest forms of music out there! The idea of a couple of lonesome cowboys out under the stars, the rhinestones and the exaggerated outfits and costumes, these people and stories have always been there…”
C: I think with ‘Rodeo Queen’ the idea was that classic idea of a woman walking into a bar and being totally blown away by another woman’s beauty, there’s plenty of songs that tell that kind of story from a man’s perspective, but we wanted to tell it from a queer point of view without making a big deal about it. It’s so simple and sweet. I wanted to let the women in this story just fall in love in a simple way, the way heterosexual people often get to do without even thinking about it.
R: Country music can be very intimidating for queer people, especially if you grew up associating it with the Confederate flag imagery and super right wing conservative American guys, you may feel that its not for you…I think opening up to country and seeing how diverse it really is, both sonically and in terms of the diversity of the artists, can really show people that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Are there any other artists you’ve been loving at the minute?
R: Something that impressed me about Orville Peck was how well considered the music was, how it was clearly all thought out before the music even came to be.
C: I think we’re both really inspired by Mashed Potato Records as well, a whole pile of our inspiration comes from their two compilation albums. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where our inspiration comes from. We both love classic country and the more modern stuff. We sort of pull from everywhere.
R: I think with the radio show I find myself coming across such a wide variety of brand new country music too, if you’re into more bittersweet romantic stuff there’s some great music on Bobby Dove’s new album ‘Hopeless Romantic‘, which came out in February this year.
How have you found making music in the odd circumstances of the past year? Has the pandemic changed how you make music?
C: To be honest I don’t really think we would exist without it. We didn’t have the time before this to take on another project, we’re both very busy people- so I’m grateful for it in that respect. I love all of my projects equally and I put my heart and soul into them all, so being able to actually focus on this one has been beautiful. We have a mutual friend: Daniel O’ Raw AKA F.R.U.I.T.Y and he’s been our producer, he’s got an amazing mind for a delicate and stripped back method of production. We love working with him.
R: The way we have been operating has been very much one thing at a time. We have some ideas that we want to do in the future, and having that extra time means we can do it that way. Hopefully we can do live shows one day but even without them the connection we have formed with our audience has been amazing! The support people have for us online is awesome and we’re so thankful for it.
You can also check out past ‘Fist City’ Radio show recordings, as well as other radio shows hosted by The 343, by clicking here.
Interview by Sam Dineen