Ryan Williams has a rich musical history. His path has led him to work with a band of brothers that have gelled in ways that Ryan never would have imagined.
Montreal Rocks spoke with Ryan about his origin story, quitting the party days, the meaning behind the new songs, and how the band are like Johnnie Walker Blue…the best versions of themselves.
Ryan’s mom was a Beatles fan, and his uncle owned a music store.
“I was always around and I loved it.”
Yet, it would be the monumental Pearl Jam Ten album, on CD that would start his own journey into music that spoke to him deeply.
Ryan had his first CD, at the age of 9 or 10, but was without a means to play it, not yet having a CD Player.
He traded it with a friend for a tape of Metallica’s epic Master of Puppets.
“I will never forget. I think I spent an entire summer, wearing that tape out in my room.”
Green Day Dookie was also a big record for Ryan.
Band Origin Story
It was back in 2015 when the beginnings of New Monarch were hatched.
Ryan’s band Red Sun Rising were on their second tour, post recording the record, not yet having released any music.
“We were just the new guys, travelling in the beat-up van in July, in the South with no A/C.”
They were touring with Nothing More and Wilson, opening for them.
James Lascu and Matt Puhy of Wilson would eventually join New Monarch.
All three bands hit the road hard.
“We were all grinding together, splitting hotel rooms to get showers. I think we were learning from them, more than anything. Those guys were road dogs.”
It was as if the touring torch was passed down and Red Sun Rising were being schooled into the rigors of being a touring band.
Those were also wild times, with an emphasis on partying.
Eventually, that lifestyle has a way of catching up to you, and you either let it win, or you win control over it.
Red Sun Rising was a party band, and Ryan knew that he was going down a dangerous path and needed to take a sharp turn.
Ryan took control and went through treatment for alcohol addiction.
“It was really something I needed to nip in the bud.”
Even his bandmates like Matt Puhy had to take similar control over this crazy part of their lives.
When you take something away, it does leave a void that needs to be replaced.
Yet, for Ryan, it wasn’t so much about what would replace that void, as “dealing with why you needed it in the first place. That filling…that needs to be delt with. I had to go deal with me.”
Eventually, with time, he replaced that void with hobbies, like his current healthy addiction with personal growth.
He is also heavily involved in fighting, video editing and even plays chess when possible.
Yet, these other interests just fuel his desire to produce amazing music.
“I’m way more passionate about the recording and the mixing aspect of music than I ever was. I used to record ideas on a cell phone, now I have a recording studio in my house.”
Dealing with these issues also were a chance to replace negative patterns with positive ones.
“The replacement, if you do it right, can be things that you find passion in, that aren’t destructive in your life.”
Meaning of Monarch
The word monarch has multiple meanings.
It can mean a butterfly, which represents this metamorphosis into something new, or a head of state that is there for life, until they get killed or overthrown.
Sebastian Duke, the lead singer, prefers the monarchy aspect of the name, news kings in the castle.
He will say in his Southern twang: “I’m not really into the butterfly thing!”
Yet, Ryan sees this as “a rebirth. How we approach doing this, how we function together, how we write together and how great I think the music is. It’s also led me down this path of new relationships and rekindling old ones that I had in my last band.”
The beauty of a name is that it is subjective and can be infused with whatever meaning one wants.
Three songs have been released: The Fray, Pearls and The Day You Left.
The Fray was one of the first things Ryan sent out, to put the band together.
When Sebastian auditioned, it was something that was given him to see if he could work with it.
“The craziest thing about that song is that the band came together, and we just gelled. We wrote Pearls that day and wrote The Fray. As far as the lyrics and the vocals, it was something Sebastian and I teamed up on.”
Then, something magical happened when Sebastian first flew in to meet with Ryan, who had only seen him on a Zoom audition because of COVID.
For the first song, the band didn’t connect, maybe due to Sebastian’s Jetlag.
Ryan was having second thoughts, having flown this stranger to his home for a week.
The next morning, after some coffee, Ryan plays The Fray, which was constructed by James and Ryan.
“In one take, he delivered the melody you hear now. From head to toe, top to bottom, I’ve never seen anybody do that.”
That initial recording was used as the building block of the song. It was also a great first song to let the fans know the direction of this new project.
Ryan can’t wait to introduce that song to a bigger fan base, as they begin this new journey.
Sebastian was heavily influenced by Soundgarden and the 90s grunge scene, which is evident upon listening to The Fray, although a clean sounding version of Soundgarden.
“We pull from them. Art imitates art.”
Ryan will pull in many influences in his parts, and Soundgarden comes up a lot.
Being compared to them is a huge compliment to the band.
Pearls has this arena rock feel to it, with its slower beat that allows the sound to fill a stadium and return to a listener’s ear.
On the first day of New Monarch being together, Sebastian came to the table with an idea for a song.
Everyone added to the song and it was the first thing they did as a new band.
“There’s not a single song from this band that didn’t come together without everybody’s feel, touch and the nuance they bring to it.”
“The song is about leaving a place that you are comfortable with to pursue your goals and dreams and maybe having to return in a manner that may not be how you want to be perceived. You deal with this idea of who you are, and how much of other’s people perception is wrapped up in all that.”
Released during Covid, it did not get the grandiose launch one would expect, but it is getting some Spotify traction.
As we get older, we start to care less about what other people think of us. We end up being better at what we do, no longer being tied to managed expectations that aren’t really ours.
All members of New Monarch are on this personal journey of growth, and as a band, meshing as one unit.
“Everybody’s life experience has led them to be in this band where we needed that atmosphere where we look each other up. We are brutally honest. We nip things in the bud. We don’t let anything marinate for too long.”
Like any family, there are the occasional fights, but “there is a lot more composed honesty in this group.”
What is refreshing for Ryan is that they have each other’s backs. Most of the songs are long written before any other members get to hear them, due to COVID.
The members are in effect writing for themselves, then sharing with the others, who will contribute their part to the project.
“OK drums…this is kind of the idea. Let’s see what you’ve got.”
After a week, it would be returned with an additional layer of creativity, each member adding a vital ingredient to complete the song
It has made the music “original to us.”
The Day You Left
The Day You left deals with loss, and all the baggage that comes with it.
Because these emotions are deeply felt, the sound reflects the emotions by amplifying the guitars to match.
“I’ve always had this weird series of dreams, whenever I lose someone important to me, that would pass away. It usually comes when I’m down anyway, or a little depressed. I will have these dreams where we connect again. It’s really beautiful, visceral and real. Then, it sort of deteriorates. It’s like that uncanny valley where they don’t look like themselves. I realize that I’m going back to a world without that person.”
This vivid experience happened back in February 2020.
“I was really depressed and down. I felt really drawn to my instrument again.”
Ryan continues that as a touring band, sometimes that feeling doesn’t come because of being wrapped up in the songs that you are performing.
So, he picked up his guitar and let the song come to life, just like his dreams.
“As far as the heavier aspect of the band, it gets heavier than that on the record.”
It was the perfect progression of their sound, as the third single, to show that heavier side.
“It showcases a three-piece version of the band with what just Sebastian’s vocals sound like.”
Although Sebastian does play a little solo, it’s his voice that is highlighted in the track.
Performances are on the horizon, but nothing that can divulged at this time.
A few singles will be released as well as some more behind the scenes stories. Start with Part I below. New episodes will be added.
If New Monarch were a bottle of Johnnie Walker, one of Matt’s favorite whiskeys in his past, which would they be?
From least to greatest, we have Red, Black, Gold, Green, Platinum and finally Blue.
“In my drinking days, I did not like Johnnie Walker unless it was Blue.”
Ryan’s Peruvian friend would hook Ryan up with the higher echelon of the Johhnie Walker family, so he had access.
“My answer is Blue because it’s smooth. You don’t have to pay a ton for it, because we have the hookup for you, it’s called the Internet.”
Yes, access to New Monarch’s music is only a click away.
When you make music and try to please everyone, then maybe you fall in the Red category, a diluted version of what you could be.
New Monarch instead chooses to create the best version of themselves, and they are Blue label Rock and Roll.
It just means that tasting their music will be a deeper experience, with no headache in the morning.
Fantasy Rock Band
When asked to create the ultimate rock band, with members alive or dead, which are not from his band, Ryan chose:
Vocals: Freddy Mercury (Queen)
Guitar: David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)
Bass: Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Drums: John Bonham (Led Zeppelin)
While Ryan’s choices reflect an appreciation for the godfathers of Rock and Roll, with Alternative pioneers, his heavier answer would simply be Tool…the whole band.
New Monarch are an exciting band of musicians who have crisscrossed in the past, but found their own path as a cohesive unit.
This path brings the spark back to the process of making music, and as they all work on being the Blue versions of themselves, they elevate the music in the process.
New Monarch will soon hit a town near you. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience Rock and Roll at its finest.
Connect with New Monarch: Linktr.ee
Writer: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music. You can follow him on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. His Podcast RockStar Today helps musicians quit their day jobs with out-of-the-box advice from Ted Talk Speakers, Best Selling Authors and other interesting Entrepreneurs and Creatives. He created the Rock Star Today Music Business Jam Session for musicians. Randal is a collector of signed vinyl, cassettes and CDs.Share this :