Karina Rykman- I Live to Defy Convention  

August 21, 2023
Marty Halpern

Bassist Karina Rykman already has a resume most young musicians would sacrifice an appendage or two for. She’s toured the United States with high profile gigs at Bonnaroo, Sweetwater 420, and Red Rocks. She’s rocked Iceland. She played with her favorite band Phish for some magical moments during a soundcheck at Madison Square Garden. She’s sat in on multiple occasions with the house band for “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Another long shot bucket list item she never expected to cross off so quickly. Especially given her musical output has been six spread out single releases. 

For “six singles Rykman” as she jokingly calls herself, that’s no longer the case. Her supremely overdue debut album Joyride is a showcase of Rykman’s musical growth since her first single Plants was released in 2019. The album, written and recorded with longtime friend Gabe Monro is bursting with diverse flavors. A buffet of the multiple musical styles Rykman has already tasted.   

Rykman happily used the services of longtime pal and Phish frontman Trey Anastasio who let her use his Barn Studio to record the album. If that wasn’t enough, Anastasio also plays on five of the nine songs on the album. And if that wasn’t enough, Anastasio suggested Rykman work with his famed engineer/album mixer Bryce Goggin at The Barn. Which she did.  

The results speak for themselves. You get plenty of Trey in Joyride and All That You Want. Beacon is filled with the vibe she’s picked up as the bassist in Marco Benevento’s band. All of that is surrounded by “core” Rykman. There is Plants. A reworked version of Elevator. A new rocker Run of the Mill and trippy Fever Dream. 

Rykman, who has gone well out of her way multiple times giving SlideandBanjo.com inside access to her pre-debut endeavors, sat down for a thorough interview with Marty Halpern to finally discuss the release of her first album. 

Photo- Brantley Gutierre

S&B- Hey Karina! Wow. This has been a long time coming. Your debut album is here. I’m sure you’ve dreamed about the process of releasing your first album for years. Has it been everything you imagined? 

Karina- It’s a super surreal moment in my life. I gotta say. It feels like a long time coming mixed with the new. I don’t know what to think about all of it. It’s so cool to have a completed larger body of work gracing the masses. It’s fantastic. I’m happy as a clam. I’m super delighted with how it turned out. It’s surreal to think how long it’s been while also being so short. I’m happy to have it finally come out.   

S&B- Despite not having that “official debut album” you’ve been releasing and performing your original music for years. Your music caught the eye of Trey Anastasio many years ago and he was so giving to help you with the album. To have someone of his stature help out a rookie must be hard to process? 

Karina- I’m humbled to be mentored by someone I love and respect so deeply. It started at Peach Fest in 2021. Trey and I hadn’t seen each other since the pandemic. Trey ran up to me. I didn’t know he had been keeping tabs on my music. He named all my songs and how much he loved them. I was like Whoa! I didn’t realize he paid such close attention. He took a profound interest in helping with the creation of my first record. He offered me The Barn to record the album. It’s his studio since the late 90’s where he’s written and recorded many of Phish’s albums. That was a surreal moment for sure. Bryce Goggin, his engineer and producer mixed it. Trey wanted to coproduce it. It was an amazing time. Every second you spend talking to the guy you learn something. It’s special to get insight from someone who has been at it for so long with so much success. With a heart and mind as open as his. He’s an incredible human and I’m so thrilled to get to work and learn from him. 

S&B- The thing that threw me when I saw the track list for the album is most of the songs you’ve released aren’t on it. I thought City Kids, No Occasion, and all the others would be there. With the exception of Plants and Elevator it’s all new stuff. Why did you make the decision to leave out most of the songs you’ve already released? 

Karina- It was difficult to even keep Plants and Elevator. Elevator even got a facelift. Plants is exactly the same. It’s the Elevator we all know and love with a more bombastic outro and live drums. It was stuff I wish I could have done to Elevator when I wrote it. It’s a fan favorite and staple closer to my set. I think we finally got it to a place I’m really happy with. Plants, I wanted on my first record. It was my first song ever. It represents a formative special place in my heart in that regard. I felt it deserved a slot on my first record. I shied away big time from keeping my prior singles. The last thing I want is for people to listen to the album and be like, I’ve already heard these songs. I wanted a fresh slate with new music. The songs that made the record are the ones I thought sounded best together. Using the old songs is the easy way out. We don’t do the easy way out. 

S&B- Even with all the new songs on the album, there are some that didn’t make the cut. “Atom Dance” which I think is one of your best, isn’t on there. How did you pick what made the final cut? 

Karina- The goal is to have a huge repertoire. Our band is in its infancy. There’s been a lot of new tunes we’ve been working on. We’ve debuted a few to see what happens. God willing, Karina’s second album won’t come out too long after this one. I’m constantly writing and permutating. Trying to be prolific and figure out what makes sense.   

S&B- How much of the album did you have started when you met up with Trey in 2021? Was this fresh stuff you hadn’t done before because you were working on City Kids, No Occasion, etc.? Or was it freshened up and changed after you met him? 

Karina- Most was already written. All That You Wanted, Run of the Mill, Skylark/ Slowlark, and Trampoline. Joyride was not. It was written a few months later. Beacon is another that was written. I had been kicking these around for a long time. The ones I was proud of. The cream, I feel, rose to the top. What made sense revealed itself to me. Trey came in and for a lot of those tunes, like Joyride. He came in and reharmonized the chorus for the outro and added his guitar. The same for Trampoline. The song was essentially written, but he had a concept about what to do at the end. He added the end solo to Run of the Mill. He reharmonized the chorus for Fever Dreams and did an outro that was super interesting. It was cool to work with him and see his understanding of choral harmony. That’s way advanced and he was able to add embellishments I would have never thought of. It was a push and pull. Very symbiotic. He was always saying anything I do, or play don’t be afraid to throw it in the garbage can. I really appreciated that. In the end I took all his advice, and it sounds like a Karina record. We didn’t overdo it. I’m thrilled these songs are going to finally see the light of day. I’m ready to let them go and let them have life.” 

S&B- Looking at the individual songs on the album, a lot have lyrics. You still have some that are instrumental. Do you think you’re leaning 80/20 on songs with lyrics or do you think you’ll convert to all songs with lyrics? Or is it just how things worked out for this album? 

Karina- Let’s call it 80/20. I love instrumental music as well. I’m not afraid to have both. Sometimes I write a song and really feel it needs lyrics. Then it turns into an instrumental that works on its own. That’s what happened with Plants and Skylark/ Slowlark. It’s a happy medium. I live to defy convention. I’m not scared of any of this. Whatever comes out is cool. We have Atom Dance and several others that are instrumental that are great in the live set. I look forward to recording those and seeing where they fit in my recorded music catalogue. I don’t stand on ceremony on any of this stuff. What comes out, comes out.   

S&B- I’ve told you many times, I think you’re the most underrated act out there. You have this bubbly, always happy persona, but people don’t realize you’ve been slaying it on the road for a while. What’s it like to go back and create recorded versions of these songs you’ve been crushing on the road night after night? 

Karina- It’s great with the first two singles out. I’m seeing people in the crowd sing the lyrics. It is a rewarding and fantastic feeling. To give them the context of the studio versions of these songs is exciting. To me it amplifies everything. I’m so excited to have people know the tunes before they come to the show. I was just six singles Rykman for a long time. Now there’s so much more.   

S&B- Let’s talk about your band, Adam November and Chris Corsico. You met Adam at a party, started playing music together and haven’t stopped since. Chris has broken through a new level musically. Can you talk about the synergy between the three of you and how it’s shaping your vision on what you want to put out creatively? 

Karina- It’s shocking to remember my two NYU buddies where we used to jam in Adam’s bedroom. Now to playing all these crazy venues to ravenous audiences with my two dearest friends. It cannot be overstated how much I adore those two. What a joy it is to travel the world with both men. They’re so dedicated and diligent and always down for trying things out. Experimentation. Going in any direction. It’s an exciting thing. We’ve had an amazing year. I love them so much on and off the stage. We hang out all the time. We travel together. Eat dinner together. Go on vacation together. We’re super bonded. They’re spectacular players and even more spectacular gentlemen.   

S&B- The three of you are going to hit the road in support of the album. There’s one big change this time. You are going to be the headliner each night. Moving another step up the musical ladder. You must be bursting at the seams to get out and share this music with your fans.  

Karina- I can’t wait to play these shows. The fact my New York show sold out 3 months in advance is so incredible. I would have never dreamed about all that. It’s going to be a delight to play these songs, old songs, and even newer songs for the people out there. It’s a dream come true. My vision is to have the most fun possible. Play the songs I’m so damn proud of with my best friends. Enjoy every second of it. Soak it up like a sponge. I hope my stoked attitude permeates into the audience. The audience barrier breaks down and we all have an experience greater than the sum of our parts. I literally live to do this and the only thing I want is to be able to keep doing this as long as possible. I’m like a degenerate gambler who can’t leave the blackjack table.   

S&B- Another bonus for you making this album was working with your super close pal Gabe Monro. You have a long history and to be able to bring so many years of collaboration into the world must be special. 

Karina- He’s one of my best friends and a spectacular collaborator. We wrote just about all these songs together. To work with Gabe, Trey and Bryce was such a great moment. An amazing meeting of the minds. The most creative, humble industrious people that are so excited and immeasurably good at their craft. Gabe is one of the most special people I have the pleasure of knowing. All we do is write songs. It’s such a pleasure to have somebody like that to sit with and work through ideas. There’s no ego. Never feeling like I can’t come to him with an idea and be my most vulnerable self.   

S&B- Let’s discuss a couple of more songs on the album. Starting with “Beacon.” To me that has a distinct Marco Benevento sound. If Marco was on vocals it could be one of his songs.  

Karina- You think so. Which Marco song? 

S&B- It’s not a specific song as much as it is the flavor of the song. The vocals and drumbeat. Obviously, this is the first time you’ve heard that comparison.  

Karina- I’m attached to that song. I have a great love for it. It literally feels like you’re floating in water when the chorus hits with the big bass chords. It’s such a vibe. I’ve been in love with that song for so long.

Photo- Brantley Gutierre

S&B- What was the process for releasing Joyride and Beacon as the first two singles from the album? Was anything else in the running? 

Karina- Joyride, with it being the title track, has a lot of Trey on it. We thought it was a good way to announce everything. Announce the album. Everyone who worked on the album. It’s up tempo, dancy, and likeable. We wanted to put our best foot forward with that. It was the first music I’ve released since Arbitrary in 2021. The song All That You Wanted could have been the second single. That’s the focus track when the record comes out. Basically, the third single without having a third single. I thought Beacon was a darker, moody, vibey that had zero Trey involvement. I didn’t want the second single being another song Trey had a big hand in. Only because I want to show different sides of myself. This is a cool juxtaposition into a different part of my brain. That’s why I used it.  

S&B- There’s definitely no confusing a Trey-less Beacon with All That You Wanted

Karina I’m a huge fan of All That You Wanted. It’s one of the favorite songs I’ve written. The end was all Trey. He was like, Karina this hook is so good, you can’t just sing it twice. Let’s bring it back but in a different way. He has all these concepts. It was the same with the outro for Joyride. That was conceived by Trey. All That You Wanted is a special tune. It has a soaring guitar outro while feeling super bouncing and floating. 

S&B- My favorite song on the album is Run of the Mill. It’s a straightforward mainstream rocker to me and a different sound than anything you’ve released. Especially vocally.

Karina- Everyone loves that one. It’s one I’ve been sheepish about performing live because it has some of the most exposed vocals. It’s scary when you’re exposed like that as a bass player trying to sing (not a singer trying to play bass) if you know what I mean. I’m getting more comfortable vocally in a big way. We played it every night on the spring Guster tour. It has a stone cold vibe and an ethereal and driving quality to it. That’s why it made the record. The whole record has this gooey, jubilant, yet surreal quality to it. The Trey solo at the end is one of my favorites. 

S&B- Thanks Karina. I wanted to take a second to thank you for all the time you’ve given the website over the years. I know I’m speaking for a lot of people who are super excited about this milestone and wish you nothing but the best.  

Karina-Thanks. Always my pleasure.

Karina Rykman Joyride AWAL records 2023

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: