Growing up in Laval, Quebec, Genevieve Ryan Martel was born an only child into a musical family. Her parents are both classical musicians, but Martel's adolescent genre of choice was punk. Known by her artist moniker, RYAN Playground, her introspective nature and skater-punk energy shine through the sounds of her most recent album, titled 16/17. The best tracks, such as "Almost Died," have the feeling of a simple song crafted alone with a guitar, then reshaped with a sharp experimental electronic edge. RYAN's premiere album Elle, released in 2016, is driven by heavy bass and inventive electronic sounds— making the unorthodox blend of electronic and pop-punk genres on 16/17 a natural progression for her. Both projects are affiliated with the Secret Songs label, and label-founder/Canadian sweet-heart Ryan Hemsworth is a long-time mentor of hers (they call themselves "Ryan-squared").
Her new music video, released today, is a visual response to the inspiration for "Empty Pool." The track, featuring New-Zealand-based pop artist Lontalius, is about "the fear of growing up; the doubts, the failures and the break downs that will forever be a part of it." The chaotic layering clips capture life's simple moments, and show where RYAN and Lontalius find split seconds of clarity through it all. Talking today about her new music video, RYAN answered questions about her creative process, about making music with Lontalius, and about what's next for her.
Tell me what have you been up to since 16/17 came out last September!
I've been well, it was something very releasing for me to get 16/17 out. Even on a personal level, the whole release process of this album kind of helped me move on and open new chapters. I've been writing a lot since September, exploring new styles and new writing processes. The last few months have been very eye opening and productive in general.
How did you end up linking with Lontalius for the track?
Eddie [Lontalius] was in Montreal for the Red Bull Academy, so I invited him to hang out and write some music at my place. We wrote "Tokyo" together, which is also on 16/17, and I played him "Empty Pool" cause I imagined him singing when I wrote it. Happily, he liked the song and was down to write something for it. I feel like we were already connected musically so it was very easy to share ideas and make it happen.
You’ve said that “Empty Pool” in some ways is about the fear of growing up. Lontalius is also in his early twenties— did you two connect over being at a similar turning point in adulthood where you’re faced with difficult realities?
It's a little far back; it's already been around three years since we've met, wow! But yes, I remember having conversations about relationships and life in general. I guess our music speaks for itself, but we kind of naturally connected just as friends so we could easily communicate about these kind of things.
The music video feels almost like a string of visual diary entries— snapshots of life. How did the concept of the video arise, and how would you relate it to the inspiration for “Empty Pool”?
I work with Laurent on most of my videos. Of course, we discuss the meaning of the songs, we share ideas and end up doing videos that are inspired by a certain concept, but we like to leave place to the ideas that comes up on the spot and just have fun. For "Empty Pool," even if the song mostly refers to the fear and anxiety of growing up, the video shares precious moments I spent with the people I love in the past couple years. Because, when well-surrounded, growing up isn't that bad.
You have videos out for a number of your songs; is there a process that you go through when you’re translating a song into something visual?
Like I said, it's a very friendly and instinctive process. I don't like to work with ideas that are too rigid. And I prefer working with the smallest teams as possible. I feel like it always gives the most honest and fun results.
Most of the performances you’ve done prior to 16/17 have been DJ sets, but recently you’ve been playing a live show; what should people expect from your live show? Are you planning a tour anytime soon?
My live shows are way more chill that my DJ sets. I feel like people could sit down for my shows. It's very intimate and I prefer to perform 16/17 in a very minimal way; I love to play those songs with only guitar and vocals. And there's nothing clear yet for tour.
Looking at Elle, which was a very experimental electronic project, next to 16/17— both seem to be rooted in very different inspirations. Since completing 16/17 over a year ago, do you feel you’re writing has strayed away from the stripped-down pop-punk aesthetic of 16/17? What’s next?
Elle was indeed more experimental; 16/17 was inspired by my roots. Pop/punk music is the first kind of music I loved and that inspired me when I was a kid, and there will probably always be a part of this kind of aesthetic in my music. But I don't like to limit myself to anything, any styles, and what I've been working on in the past few months confirms that.