Duo R. Ring’s anticipated debut full-length, 'Ignite the Rest,' is worth the seven-year wait

Kelley Deal and Mike Montgomery have catalogued a handful of singles over the past half-dozen years, and the new album is a mix of new and old tracks, plus a few re-recordings.

Apr 12, 2017 at 10:57 am

click to enlarge For Kelley Deal and Mike Montgomery, R. Ring scratches a creative itch and is gratifying. - Photo: @bsmittydotcom
Photo: @bsmittydotcom
For Kelley Deal and Mike Montgomery, R. Ring scratches a creative itch and is gratifying.
The old saying goes, “If you want to make God smile, tell Him your plans.” If that platitude is true, the Big Man must have been paralyzed with laughter when Kelley Deal and Mike Montgomery formed R. Ring in 2010 with no defined goal of ever documenting their newly forged duo with an actual album.

To that end, Deal and Montgomery catalogued a handful of singles over the past half-dozen years, but finally concluded that they should pull the trigger and release a full-length. The result is the brief but potent Ignite the Rest, a mix of new and old tracks, plus a few re-recordings, that is being released April 28 on Dayton, Ky.-based SofaBurn Records.

“It was never our intention to make an album,” Deal says. “We’ve both done our share of studio-rat time, so I wanted to play live. The idea of doing singles came out really organically and, honestly, it wasn’t until a year and a half ago that I was ready to put these out on one record. It was just time.”

Deal and Montgomery entertained few expectations of their professional partnership. Guitarist/producer Montgomery divided time between his Post Rock band Ampline and his workload at his Candyland recording studio in Northern Kentucky, while Deal was occupied with her long-time, intermittently active Dayton, Ohio-based AltRock heroes The Breeders. They met when Deal was tapped to contribute to a Guided By Voices tribute and she asked local group Buffalo Killers to accompany her. The band suggested recording at Candyland and Montgomery helmed the session. When he and Deal mixed the track, they discovered common creative ground, creating R. Ring without considering the project’s potential longevity.

“I didn’t think I’d still be alive after this much time,” Montgomery says.

“That’s my answer, too,” says Deal. “I didn’t think Mike would still be alive after this much time.”

Since neither participant was interested in the album/tour treadmill, they contented themselves with tour dates and occasional limited-edition merch table/mail order singles. Montgomery and Deal ultimately realized their body of songs could comprise a potent album.

“They were all written for the album, it just took a long time,” Montgomery says. “We reverse engineered it. Instead of taking singles from our album, we made an album out of our singles.”

Ignite the Rest is striking in its cohesion and continuity, considering the songs were created separately over a seven-year span. Some are taken directly from the singles (“Loud Underneath,” “Singing Tower”), some were re-recorded (the gorgeous “Steam”) and others are brand new or old but never recorded (“100 Dollar Heat” and “Cutter,” respectively). They still sound as if they emerged from a single session.

“I think that has to do with the fact that they were all recorded at the same place with the same engineer and the same gear by the same people,” Deal says. “There’s something to be said for how that affected the musical conversation. And if nothing else, we definitely have a point of view.”

It’s not a cop-out for R. Ring to repackage the singles for its debut. The original 7-inch copies were produced in such limited quantities that Ignite the Rest will basically be the first wide exposure for the songs.

“Who knows who’s heard these things?” Deal says. “Unless you bought the 7-inch at our show or knew about it, they’re new.”

The bigger headline generated by Ignite the Rest is R. Ring’s place in the musical world. Although Deal and Montgomery remain actively involved in their respective bands/projects, the past seven years have solidified R. Ring and proven that it’s not a transient fling.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Deal says. “For me, the R. Ring experience and the working with Mike experience is still filling a need of mine. It’s scratching an itch; it’s something I appreciate and I get something out of it.”

“There’s nothing fleeting about it,” Montgomery says. “It’s permanent in the sense that it’s always in my mind. It’s something you take into consideration when you’re allocating time for a family vacation or a tour with your other band or a work project. It’s like, ‘What will this do to R. Ring?’ ”

As R. Ring’s live component has taken up the bulk of the musicians’ time together, their songs have evolved over the band’s seven-year existence. Simply playing together has been an education for Montgomery.

“I’ve almost always been in bands where there was just one guitar, so I’ve realized the way I play is a bit overbearing,” he says. “I’ll play something and Kelley will go, ‘Where do I play?’ It’s the idea of, ‘Oh yeah, there’s this other person, you can leave a bunch of room open and they’re going to handle that.’ I don’t have to hit every note and strum every chord.”

Even as R. Ring has become more entrenched in the pair’s schedules, they remain committed to juggling their various activities. Montgomery is still a full-fledged member of Ampline and an in-demand producer, while Deal is ready to rejoin The Breeders whenever required. She’s also working with Cole Vargas, a young artist whose recorded debut is due this summer.

It seems natural to wonder if Deal and Montgomery will continue to present R. Ring songs in the episodic manner that has worked well for them to this point, or if they’ll sit down in the future and bang out a full album’s worth of material in a compact amount of time. Their answers are indicative of R. Ring’s come-what-may philosophy.

“I’m going to say yes to all of that because I have no clue,” Deal says. “I’d like to have a bunch of songs and throw them all on an album. I also like how we’ve done the last few years, where we put things out gently and cart them around. So whatever happens, I’m open to it.”

“Whatever you call that construct — the album cycle were you tour and it runs its course — it doesn’t have to work like that,” Montgomery says. “You can do whatever you want. You play whenever you want, drive or fly anywhere you want, write and record anything you want, and put it out whenever you want.”

R. RING begins its tour behind Ignite the Rest on April 19 at Southgate House Revival. Tickets/more info: southgatehouse.com