Why BRONCHO’s Ryan Lindsay Appreciates Being Uninspired

// Photo courtesy of BRONCHO

Indie rock band BRONCHO has been putting out dynamic, tender music since they formed in Norman, Oklahoma, in 2010. I got to sit on (on, not at) a picnic table with lead vocalist and guitarist Ryan Lindsey on the final day of BRONCHO’s 2022 I Know You tour, which he affectionately compared to “circus camp.” He told me about the importance of gas station chips, the key to longevity, and his new baby, Oscar.

This interview has been edited for conciseness and clarity.

Rachel Mehler: Has Oscar heard BRONCHO’s music?

Ryan Lindsey: We had my son in January and we started touring in June. So somewhere in there, I had to start listening to our music again, since that's the easiest way for me to rehearse. I don't have time to do much more — I’m like Mr. Mom over here. My girlfriend went back to work around April, so it was daddy day care after that.

Anyway, Oscar was listening to the songs with me. He liked the music, which made me really happy. I just hope he does it with me, you know? I mean, he can do anything he wants, as long as he’s not hurting anybody.

RM: So does that mean that you don't ever listen to your songs when you're not preparing for tour?

RL: Not really. I'll listen to them a bunch while we're working on a record. Sometimes I listen too much, and I have to step back to get a new perspective. When we're done with a record, I hardly listen at all. So it’s kind of nice to hear everything again and actually relearn it, because the version of us at the end of 2019 is probably way different than what we're doing now. Playing the songs over years of touring is like playing telephone with ourselves. Over time, the songs slowly change.

RM: BRONCHO’s style ranges from the energetic rock songs on Bad Behavior to those beautiful, slow tracks on Double Vanity. What’s it like to write and perform songs with such different qualities?

RL: It was tricky to go from one record to the next and to play those songs live. Before Double Vanity, I already had this specific thing that I knew how to do from our earlier album, Just Enough Hip to Be Woman, but that had to change with Double Vanity. Singing those songs with a softer register live was way different than singing them in the studio. I didn’t quite figure out how to do that until this tour — we used to just not play a lot of those slower Double Vanity songs because I was stuck on the studio version. Ultimately, though, I let go of whatever preconceived notions I had of what the songs were supposed to be. And I think they actually sound more like they're supposed to now.

I guess we’re a little bit of a roller coaster. I like roller coasters. And having a kid was definitely a roller coaster: I’m the youngest and I've always just been taken care of, so it was wild to step into taking care all of a sudden. That took a different type of energy from me because I could be cool just chilling forever. But he needs a bottle every few hours. So all of a sudden, I’ve got to be the oldest, you know?

I had a kid at the right time because I learned how to take care of myself beforehand. I was like, OK, I know how to make rice. I think I can make a bottle.

RM: What's going through your head while you perform a song?

RL: There are times when I'm thinking about playing it right, but a lot of times I'm not thinking at all. We each take turns having a good space-out moment. If I'm thinking too hard about anything, sometimes I overshoot it, or undershoot it or ... don't shoot it (laughs). But I've thought about all kinds of things. The other day, I thought about my second grade elementary school teacher — that was really random, because I was about to see my third grade teacher. My mom told me she was going to one of my shows.

RM: When you finish a song, is there a certain meaning that you want to reach its listeners? Or do you hope that listeners will interpret lyrics in their own way?

RL: There's definitely an ambiguous quality to us, and I like that, because we're a little bit more choose-your-own-adventure. Instead of saying “here's exactly the way you have to think about us,” we give people more options as to how they might perceive us. I like things being up to interpretation.

There are times where I catch a version of us and I'm like, oh, whoa, like, maybe we’re kind of weird. One time we were playing a show, and I could tell that this guy in the front row hated us. He was with his friends and he was just so bummed out — I couldn't stop looking at him. I thought it was so funny, but then all of a sudden, I saw us through him. And I was like, whoa, he's totally right. We do suck. Oh my god! He's right! We suck! I mean, I could actually see him mouthing “this sucks.” But his friends seemed like they were enjoying it. And so I was like, OK, it's cool, it's just this guy, and so I didn’t get too bummed out. It's a good way to waste time during a show. So I kind of hang out, in my head, with different people during the set.

RM: Are you ever surprised by who shows up to your show?

RL: They’re kind of all over the map for us. All the shows on this tour have been all ages. At one of our L.A. shows, there was this young kid in the very front row. She was there the whole show, with her mom, which made me really happy. I remember being young, and my mom sneaking me and my brothers into a bar to see my uncle play in his band. It's a vivid memory for me. Thinking about that happening for someone else is really magical.

RM: What impact do you hope BRONCHO’s music has on listeners?

RL: I hope people hear it, I hope people enjoy it. And I hope that it moves people. I like to be moved by music, I think it's why I do what I do. Music moves me in a way that I’ve naturally gravitated towards. And so if we’re doing that for other people, then I guess that’s what we're here for.

I like being inspired. I like being around people who are inspiring, around things that are inspiring. But I also like to not be inspired. Because then I remember how great it is to be inspired. There are parts of tour where all you have is gas station chips for a few meals. But then you have a good meal somewhere and you’re like: That's inspiring. So sometimes you have to do gas station chips to gear up for the inspiration.

RM: If you had the chance to give past Ryan or past BRONCHO some advice, what would you say?

RL: First, I would look up a game that wasn't supposed to go a certain way, and tell them to go put a lot of money on it. And maybe make a few investments. Maybe that's the dad in me ... previously, I didn’t think about money. I mean, except for when I was broke. But I would always think: It’s fine, we'll figure it out. Now with the kid, I gotta pay for stuff. So: Go back, throw a few investments in there, get the portfolio up. And then I would tell them to just keep relaxing — you guys are doing great. Everything's gonna be OK.

That kind of mindset helps on tour because you can't necessarily have a set plan for everything you do. You're dealing with different people and variables and circumstances everywhere you go, so having a loose interpretation of the whole plan is ultimately easier for my mental survival. That way, I can go in knowing what the general game plan is, but set all the other little things a little looser. And if there’s not enough room for something, you say, okay, how can we change whatever it is we do to still be us with less room? If we have more room, how do we be ourselves with more room? We just let it happen.

The secret to healing is relaxation. There’s a lot of pressure to go, go, go, and profit, profit, profit. But relaxation is the key to longevity and properly healing yourself. So I try to do as much of that as I can. My knee, for example, was feeling weird for a bit, so I had to figure that out, and it ultimately led to rest and relaxation. On tour, you’ve got to take care of your body in a way that I hadn’t thought about until I experienced it breaking down. Driving to the maximum, I thought I was falling apart ... but then my friend who's a physical therapist said, no, you just gotta take this thing, and stretch your leg like this. And rest. And ice ... What’s that whole thing?

**RM and RL, together: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (laughs).

// Rachel Mehler ’24 is a DJ and staff writer for Record Hospital.