Interview of Cryns #3

Hey! I was just interviewed by the internationally-reknowned website, Perfect Porridge!! Read the interview below!
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The article below was written by Greg from PerfectPorridge.com and posted on that website on May 9, 2006.

Cryns #3 : …if Howard Roark could dance

Cryns #3 (pronounced Krines Number Three), the Minneapolis-based indie band, is NOT another dumb indie pop band. In fact, Toby Cryns hates verse/chorus/verse/chorus pop music, and for good reason (it sucks). So when he started fiddling around with riffs in his home studio and e-mailing them off to his brother 2,000 miles away in L.A., it was clear from the beginning they weren’t creating a radio-friendly accessible pop album for mass audiences.

And after almost a year of e-mailing sound files back and forth, Cryn’s fifth full-length album, …if Howard Roark could dance, was born.

Named after the central character in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead — whose uncompromising creative vision was rarely appreciated by the mass public because of weight placed on group think — there couldn’t be a more appropriate title.

We sat down with guitarist/vocalist and group founder Toby Cryns to talk about Catholicism, Objectivism and who exactly is that John Galt fellow. Read on…

What’s the backstory behind Cryns #3?
I’m the third child of seven to be born in my family, hence “Cryns Number 3”. My family used to be Catholic, and my mom and dad both wanted to have a good number of kids. I think they succeeded.

As far as the story behind the band goes, my brother, Noah, and I have been jamming together since I was in 8th grade. (Noah plays all the drums and most of the bass on the album.) He and my other older brother, Nate, taught me how to play guitar, drums, and bass around that time.

After I graduated from college (in 2001), I moved out to Los Angeles to play in a band with these two older brothers of mine. The band was called Spank! and we pretty much kicked ass, but we were always fighting with eachother about something or another. It was pretty ridiculous. I hate fighting. So, I moved back to Illinois, where I worked for the Democratic Party, worked as a substitute teacher in my old high school, and then worked as a sportswriter for one of the bigger daily newspapers in the area.

Three years ago, I moved to Minneapolis out of boredom. Richmond, Illinois, where I grew up and was living, is a small town that counts cows and antiques as it’s two biggest exports. I absolutely fell in love with Minneapolis. It has everything I was looking for: friends, music, Burrito Loco.

So, after playing in the piano rock duo, Arthur Dent, for about a year, I regrouped and started work on the Cryns #3 album, “…if Howard Roark could dance”. Many of the popular local acts at the time were writing songs about crashing motorbikes, paradise, dating girls and such, which is fine, except sometimes I like a little more depth in my music. And I’ve never been one to follow the heard. I’m always trying to do the opposite of whatever the majority thinks is the proper thing to do. My mom used to always say, “Societies honor their live conformists and dead troublemakers.” I aim to be a dead troublemaker at some point.

Anyway, I wanted to make this album, so I recruited my brother, Noah, who still lives in L.A., to record the drums and bass guitar. I spent a good deal of time working out the lyrics to the songs. (I write vast amounts of lyrics, then simply pare them down to what I think is necessary.) Once the lyrics were all written and the songs decided upon, I recorded all the guitars and vocals in my apartment, then sent those recorded tracks out to Noah in L.A. He then recorded drums and bass parts, and emailed me the mp3’s every night. I would comment via email, then he would re-record and re-re-record ad infinitum until we were both satisfied with the songs. It was a totally rewarding experience to work with Noah, whom I consider to be a brilliant writer.

Is your brother currently in a band in LA, or what’s he doing out there?
Noah plays in a band called, “The Dad Band”, which is actually the subject of a screenplay being shopped to some bigwigs in Hollywood. Basically, it is a cover band composed of a bunch of guys who have kids in the same second grade class where Noah’s daughter attends.

He’s also a plumber, and he owns a professional recording studio. He and my older brother, Nate, record radio spots for radio shows and movie soundtracks in their free time.

Who are your influences musically?
Is this where I answer “God”?? Just kidding! Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were the first bands I listened to a lot, so they deserve some credit for whatever my sound is now. Recently, bands such as Cake, Mason Jennings, and Joanna Newsom have been changing the way I think about music. Newsom in particular is doing some really cool stuff within what I would call the “rock” genre. I’m also kind of big into the local bluegrass scene and old school jazz stuff. Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, and Joe Pass to name a few.

What three groups do you think your music sounds like?
Cake, Ben Folds, the Meat Purveyors

What’s your favorite song on the album, why and what’s it about?
This is continually changing, but right now, my favorite song on the album is “Leaving L.A.” It is my story about moving to Los Angeles and having it destroy my relationship with my girlfriend at the time, Lori. She was a pretty amazing chic, but the physical distance between us was really difficult for her. I kept falling more and more in love and she kept falling more and more out of love. I still miss her even though we haven’t spoken in 4 years. So, this song documents how I moved to L.A., then moved back to Illinois to be closer to Lori, but it didn’t matter, because she had already checked out of the relationship.

Tell me about your relationship with the theology of Ayn Rand and how that played into your album.

This is a tricky one, Greg, because I don’t purport to know much about Ayn Rand’s philosophy. I’m not even sure I buy into the parts of her philosophy that I do know about. For example, I really dig Rand’s thoughts on individualism and freedom of thought, but I’m not sure those two things are as powerful as she purports them to be in The Fountainhead and Anthem. Certainly, on an individual level, they can have a profound impact, but I’m not sure societies can ever buy into them to the extent that she probably would have liked. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try to get societies to buy into them.

It seems to me that we, as a people, tend to do a balancing act between comfort and free thought, both in politics and in our personal lives. That is, as a people/society, we willingly make political concessions that negatively impact our freedom of thought. We know we are doing it, but we want to feel safe and comfortable rather than free. On a personal level, we give up freedom in order to have more power to consume. We dedicate our souls to our employer and expect only to be given enough to feel comfort in return. I think these kinds of thoughts transcend any political party or personal philosophy.

As for the album, Howard Roark was the ultimate free thinker. He didn’t succumb to any of the compromises discussed in the previous paragraph. And he payed the ultimate price for his free thought – exclusion from society. When I set out making this album, I wanted to apply Roark’s philosophy about creating architecture to my creation of music. Roark’s architecture was made to fit the person that lived in it. It was different. It had character. The people who lived in his houses loved them. I wrote the music on this album to fit the words rather than using the opposite, which is common in the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus template used by just about every pop song ever written.

The songs on “…if Howard Roark could dance” lack the form and postproduction found on mainstream albums. There is a deliberate ignorance of what people like to hear, which I think is beautiful.

Have you met your Dominique?
Hahah! I thought I met her twice, but I’m still lookin’!

With musicians like Neil Young and Bono spending so much time in politics, are you surprised other musicians haven’t countered their liberal-leaning views with Rand’s objectivist qualities?
Haha! Not surprised at all. Rand’s philosophy is difficult to comprehend, because it can’t be contained in soundbites. Alan Greenspan studied with her for years, and I’m pretty convinced that he doesn’t understand her view of the Universe. And if a smart guy like Greenspan can’t comprehend it, how in the hell can we expect simpleton musicians like me to communicate such a sweeping view of society? Hell, I’m still learning how to shave!

How was your CD release show at the 400 Bar last month?
Thanks for asking. The CD-Release show was fucking awesome. Pardon the use of the F-word, but the 400 bar was packed shoulder-to-shoulder, the band was tight, and the energy from the crowd was electrifying. You can view some video clips from the show here.

I am indebted to countless friends who helped to plan the event and turn it into something special. I had a team of seven guys working on that show. We met once per week for close to two months, working out communication strategy, cd sales, the website, promotion of the show, and all sorts of other odds and ends. It was really just amazing. Then, to pack the 400 Bar was completely humbling. The fact that we could get so many friends out to the show to support us in this endeavor was a testament to the quality of the people I try to surround myself with.

At times, it seemed like the entire crowd was dancing and singing along. It was magical. By far the most fun I’ve ever had onstage.

Other news/upcoming gigs, etc?
I’m playing a solo show on May 19 at J & S Bean Factory in St. Paul (on the corner of Hamline and Thomas). I’m actually headlining while a much better musician, Colin Anderson, rocks out on his banjo before I take the stage. Colin is Nitschke on the banjo. Seriously. That man rocks. He will go on at 8 p.m., and I’ll follow.

And lastly, who is John Galt?
Hahaha! This keeps getting better, Greg! I used to live near Galt airport in Illinois, which I assume was built on the spot where Dagny Taggart crash landed. He wanted to commemorate his crash landing or something. Does that answer your question? 😉