Allan Rayman Just Wants to Make You Feel

“If you wanna hate me, like me, if I make you feel any kind of way, that’s the point.”
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Allan Rayman, 2020

Allan Rayman went into the woods to produce his newest album, CHRISTIAN. The Toronto-based, 20-something singer, who has been making waves since 2016’s Hotel Allan, returns with a tight pack of growling songs in CHRISTIAN. Across the record, Rayman growls, wails, and garbles through the most intimidating emotion: Love. As on “Pretty Please” and the opposing “Blush,” Rayman explores how love hurts and enthralls him at once. He breaks down his fears and desires, and he does it all while absconding genre in favor of heartfelt productions and some of the most textured vocal performances around.

“I often go out into the woods to write with my producer Moose,” Allan tells me over the phone. “Sometimes, it’s not always the woods, but it is isolation, which has the same kind of effect I get from writing in the woods. Sometimes, it’s a metaphor for how we actually work; there’s not always a forest for me to go to.”

On CHRISTIAN, Allan Rayman invokes texture like never before. His writing is at its most incisive, and his vocal performances are at their most untamed. According to Allan, CHRISTIAN is the first full body of work in the Roadhouse narrative.

“You know how Marvel and DC have these cinematic universes?” Allan begins, “Roadhouse 01 and Hotel Allan are explaining the characters and where they take place: Going into the woods to write music, Allan has to balance his personal responsibility with his relationships to his family and friends, and his passion for music. Ultimately, he can’t make that balance work, so he’s selfish and picks music over everything else. [He] goes to the woods to write an album, and he starts with Courtney, an EP. Can’t get a full album out. He tries a full-length with Harry Hard-On, still a little sloppy. And now, with CHRISTIAN, he thinks he’s got his first real piece of work. Then Roadhouse 02 will be the closing narrative of the story.”

A true writer and storyteller, I ask Allan how he manages to keep up inspiration having been so prolific. As it stands, Allan doesn’t see his creativity running out any time soon: “If you can create characters that are based on things in your life, you have infinite content. If you’re telling a story, you can just—like a movie or a screenplay—keep getting creative with it and pointing back to things you’ve experienced in your own life. Musicians are pretty good at this kind of thing. We can colorize our lives to make them more interesting.”

The most interesting thing about CHRISTIAN, then, is how Allan Rayman delivers minute stories tucked into a larger narrative. While Allan sings about love and heartbreak and finding himself and his manhood, coming of age in a precise way, we also get the penultimate installment in the broader narrative dedicated to breaking down the 1990 film, Pump Up The Volume. It’s creative, and nicely heady, but accessible all the same. Allan Rayman, “the guy behind the guy,” is a real artist’s artist on CHRISTIAN, and across his discography. When the Roadhouse narrative comes to a close, we’ll be excited to see what story Allan looks to tell next.

Allan Rayman, 2020

DJBooth: I read you went into the woods to make your new album, CHRISTIAN. Can you talk to me about that experience?

Allan Rayman: I often go out into the woods to write with my producer Moose. Sometimes, it’s not always the woods, but it is isolation, which has the same kind of effect I get from writing in the woods. Sometimes, it’s a metaphor for how we actually work; there’s not always a forest for me to go to.

How vital is isolation to your creative process?

My personality type, I’m not very loud or outgoing. I got a good group of friends, but for the most part, we’re pretty quiet and shy. It’s a natural thing to me. When it came to writing music, I’m not the kind of guy who brings a bunch of friends into the studio—I could get distracted that way. Isolation is me working with the producer, who is often Moose, and we try to lock in for multiple days.

Can isolation ever be damning? How do you find balance?

I actually don’t like being in the studio too much, so I’m good at balancing it. Isolation, you can get lonely, but for the most part, [as] I said, I got good friends. It’s not like I’m always alone, but when I do [isolate], and Moose does get me in the studio, just the two of us, we have this story, and it’s not quite finished yet. CHRISTIAN is part of that story.

As with your previous works, CHRISTIAN absconds genre. Why the aversion to being neatly fitted into a box?

I’ve always tried to make music I like to listen to. I don’t take into mind pleasing other people. I do this for myself. It’s gotta be true and real to me, and that’s the bottom line. CHRISTIAN has nothing to do with religion. It’s Christian Slater, and that correlates to Harry Hard-On, which stems from a movie called Pump Up The Volume. If you break [the movie] down, it’s essentially what I based my entire musical career around as Allan Rayman. It resonates with me; it’s similar to the story I’m telling.

You know how Marvel and DC have these cinematic universes? Roadhouse 01 and Hotel Allan are explaining the characters and where they take place: Going into the woods to write music, Allan has to balance his personal responsibility with his relationships to his family and friends, and his passion for music. Ultimately, he can’t make that balance work, so he’s selfish and picks music over everything else. [He] goes to the woods to write an album, and he starts with Courtney, an EP. Can’t get a full album out. He tries a full-length with Harry Hard-On, still a little sloppy. And now, with CHRISTIAN, he thinks he’s got his first real piece of work. Then, Roadhouse 02 will be the closing narrative of the story.

Backing up, what about the film Pump Up The Volume strikes you?

It’s about a kid who moves to a new town, extremely shy, eats his lunch in the stairwell. It doesn’t make a lot of new friends. When he goes home, he’s got this short-wavelength radio, and he reaches the high school and all the kids connect with the stuff he talks about. He’s not a cool kid, and no one hangs out with him, but everyone from the jocks to the nerds to the goths, they all connect and relate. I see myself as the Harry Hard-On character; I’m the guy behind the guy.

Having written so many albums—and an EP in 2017—between 2016’s Hotel Allan and now, have you ever lost your inspiration or spark? How did you get it back?

If you can create characters that are based on things in your life, you have infinite content. If you’re telling a story, you can just—like a movie or a screenplay—keep getting creative with it and pointing back to things you’ve experienced in your own life. Musicians are pretty good at this kind of thing. We can colorize our lives to make them more interesting. That’s all I’m doing—I’m not lying about anything, but something that happened to me on a given night, I can take and make a character, and have it happen to them. Give it a bit more of a backstory, and make it more interesting than it is. When you’re retelling a story, you can romanticize it a little more so people can relate or enjoy it more.

The standout for me here is “Blush,” could you break down the writing of that one?

I mean… It’s tough to break that one down. It’s pretty on-the-cheek. I don’t know if I wanna speak to that one, I might just wanna let that one live.

Do you typically just want people to experience the music for what it is?

I do. I have answers to these things; I’d rather people pick it apart themselves and make what you want of me. If you wanna hate me, like me, if I make you feel any kind of way, that’s the point: bringing emotion out. It’s just another album for myself. It’s how I’m feeling, how I was feeling, and it feels good to get it out. I’m already on to the next one.

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