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Ryan Young

Sometimes a band just strikes the right chords. It doesn’t happen that often, but I wanted to hear everything Off With Their Heads ever did (or will do) as soon as I heard the first song. The combination of great melodies, raw power and feeling of despair still gets to me. So after seeing them live in Amsterdam I decided to fire an email to singer/guitarist Ryan Young. A couple of mails later it turned into the conversation below.

Let’s jump in right away. Who’s Ryan Young according to you? How would you describe yourself?

I’m not sure? That’s a strange (but good) question. I think most people are constantly in the process of figuring that out. For the longest time, I was pretty focused on self destruction and drugs. Now I hang out with my blind cat. I think the person I strive to be is someone who is 100% comfortable with being the actual weirdo that I am. I remember when we toured with Alkaline Trio. It was basically the first time I was around Matt for an extended period of time. He was so unapologetically strange. I loved that about him. I would always wander up to their room after they played and just shoot the shit. Usually just he and I. He loves what he loves, acts how he acts and doesn’t appear to give a shit about anything or anyone that might stand in his way. I remember leaving that trip aspiring to get there. It’s a lot harder than it sounds! I think I’m half way to Skiba level.

Haha nice. Good to hear that man (about the doing better part that is, not so much the self destruction and drugs part). You say you’re a weirdo, in what way do you consider yourself weird?

I have fully embraced being spontaneously odd. I’ll walk down the sidewalk and just start singing about stuff I see. Shit like that. I get bursts of inspiration to do things. That might mean make art, kiss my girlfriend, have a fruity drink, dance or take a nap. Fully embracing things in the moment is not really something most people wear on their sleeves. That’s my version of being a proud weirdo.


Fully embracing things in the moment is not really something most people wear on their sleeves. That’s my version of being a proud weirdo.

Nothing wrong with that. So tell me about that blind cat? I never was into cats, until I met my girlfriend, who had a cat. And then I realized cats are awesome. And now we have two. Is it the one on that Off With Their Heads shirt, like Godzilla attacking the city?

Ha. No. That was just some cat our first drummer found. We have been selling that shirt for years. Every time I try to let it die, it comes back stronger. People love that one. I guess it will be the only one we continue forever. The story with the blind cat is crazy. Stacey from Bad Cop / Bad Cop was driving down the street in Inglewood California and saw a couple kittens in a shoe box. She got out and tried to save them. One ran away and the other one was basically dead. She said he couldn’t move, had about 1000 fleas on him and no eyeballs. She brought him home and cleaned him up. My girlfriend saw a picture of him that she put on facebook and immediately decided to take him in. Ranae brought him to a veterinarian and had him fixed up. I guess he was so sick from all the flea bites that he had a fever that was so hot he not only almost died, but his eyes literally melted. He got better, we had his eye sockets sewn shut and got him back to almost normal. He is now my best friend. When I’m home, we pretty much hang out exclusively. He is my kind of cat. Likes to fight and play a lot.

Ooh damn… Nice job. So what are you up to at the moment?

I just got home from the gym. I go there because I was told by a doctor that if I have a workout routine, I might not feel so horrible all the time. It actually works. Then I plan on printing some shirts for my store and taking my motorcycle out for a spin. Probably go fishing and work on songs before I go to bed. I’m liking my time on earth lately.

Yeah it gives you something to do, a purpose and makes you feel better physically. I need to start working out again too… But sounds like a good schedule you’ve got going on, sounds like a holiday haha. So, how are the new songs coming along? What can we expect? Happy with it so far?

I’m interested to see where all of this heads. I’ve had one of the strangest times of my life since Home came out. I think my hesitation on finishing the new record lies in the fact that I am not totally sure what I am going for yet. I want it to be pretty cohesive. We tied some of the songs together on the last record. I want every single song on the new one to be like that. We’ll see. I honestly haven’t had much time to focus on it with everything else going on.


For me, one line from a song explains my outlook: “Success is my only motherfuckin’ option.” From that 8 Mile song by Eminem. As funny as that is, its totally true. That song rules.

Take your time, can’t wait to hear what you’ll come up with. What’s the best thing that happened to you lately?

Probably finding a balance between the things that stress me out and the things that let off steam. I pretty much covered how I do that in the previous question. I tend to be a bit of a workaholic. I think you have to be when you are self employed. If you aren’t, you stand a good chance at failure. For me, one line from a song explains my outlook: “Success is my only motherfuckin’ option.” From that 8 Mile song by Eminem. As funny as that is, its totally true. That song rules.

Ha, nice pick! I also have my own company, so I gotta agree with you. You got to make it work and stress is somewhat of an enemy. Work hard, but always make sure to make time for yourself. Were there moments that you thought you couldn’t make it work?

If you hold true to that song lyric and are actually the real deal, you should never think you can’t make something work. I thought for years that my band was a complete failure. Then I took some time away from it and realized that the whole thing was exactly the opposite. I am a lucky person who came from literally nothing. I think I would have given up everything had I had a backup plan. I now realize that I am who I am. I work hard at things I love. I do things I don’t like as much between the things I love to do so I can get by or grow. For instance, I have my print shop, my band, my web store and my podcast. I also paint houses here and there. I do that because it is more money to put into the things I love. If you invest financially in what you love, it always pays off. It also pays to be stubborn and patient. I am definitely stubborn. Still learning patience.

Oh man, if you ever manage that part, let me know, could use help with that as well. So let’s see. Something completely different: What’s the first memory you have of your life?

Man. That’s a tough one. I think most people like me tend to remember the bad things in color and all the good things in a fuzzier black and white. In the spirit of a sunny day, I think I remember eating popcorn and watching Disney movies with my mom and sister. I wish we all could get back to that, but I guess that ship has sailed. I decided I wasn’t a big fan of the rapist Catholic Church at a very young age. I chose to speak up against them, and my mother chose to follow them. Things haven’t been the same since. What is it about a blatant evil cult pyramid scheme that is so alluring to some people?

Damn.. that’s heavy. I guess it’s what people know, what they’ve been brainwashed with for their entire life (by people they trust), being afraid of change. Something like that. What do you think it is?

That would make sense, but in this particular case, my mother became wildly religious well into adulthood. I think it’s normal for people to want answers to the whole “what does it all mean” question. The church literally preys on them. They sell them the idea that everything will be ok, and then charge 10% of their annual income. I don’t believe there is some giant hidden grand secret or an afterlife. I think it’s as simple as that. I don’t understand spending your whole life preparing for your death. I am of the belief that you should live your life actually making your world the best it can be. If you affect the people around you in a way that influences them to do good things as well, then they might do the same. That should spread to their lives and then the lives of others. Simply doing that will have so much more of a positive effect than being a superstitious judgemental asshole. I fully encourage people to live in the now with just enough foresight to make the next “now” as good as it can be.


What is it about a blatant evil cult pyramid scheme that is so alluring to some people?

Can you ever really prepare for your death? That stuff scares the hell out of me… How about you, are you afraid of dying?

You just have to accept that it is inevitable. Worrying about it, obsessing about it and letting that consume you is pointless. Not to mention that it could literally happen at any moment. Spending you little bit of allotted time on this planet worrying about when it will end isn’t going to help you. Of course it is scary, but I would be more scared about wasting time. I used to worry about it all the time. I’ve accepted that it is going to happen, and now I try to make the most of what I have to offer.

On a lighter note, how about the best memory of your life so far than?

It’s funny you bring that up. Ranae and I went out for drinks yesterday and just started talking about some of our travels. I brought her on a road trip to Europe because it was always a dream of hers to visit. I surprised her with plane tickets and a rough plan. We just drove around for 13 days. We walked around, ate great food, had drinks with friends and just took it all in. I think those days in Europe are my fondest adult memories. Little things turn out to be huge things. You never know what will stick with you.

Good one, good one. Traveling with loved ones is awesome. So how did you end up playing in Off With Their Heads? What got you into punkrock?

I grew up on a farm north of Minneapolis. When Epitaph kinda blew into the mainstream with The Offspring, Rancid and Bad Religion, we started to hear it on the radio. It was like a switch flipped in my head. I immediately started studying and digging deep within those label’s catalogs. I eventually discovered a local scene in Minneapolis that really helped form who I am musically today. I learned about DIY. I learned about the house show. I bought records. It’s crazy to look back at that and realize that I still do all of those things, and it is my true passion. Certain things have changed, but the core belief of going out and doing things yourself has stuck with me. We have some help these days, but we don’t do anything we don’t want to and are in direct control. That’s something I don’t think I could ever lose. As far as Off With Their Heads, I decided after playing in other people’s bands that other people aren’t reliable. They quit at the first sign of trouble. I formed Off With Their Heads to be my project. If people want to play with me, they can. I’m not going to disband if someone quits though. That was always my thing. Now that we have had the same group of guys for a while, I don’t necessarily feel as strongly about that. I love who we have going now. We get along and I consider them my family. I hope they don’t want to bail, but if they do, I don’t think it would be on bad terms and I would keep it going.

What’s it like to be on the label through which you discovered this kinda stuff? Must have been a great feeling when it happened?

It was a great feeling to know that the guy who put out the bands that influenced me thought that the songs I write were possibly good enough to be in the same company of what I looked up to as a kid. It’s a very cool feeling. I’m a completely different person than I was in 2009 though. I have gone through all of my phases of being “star struck” or caring about labels or the company my music keeps. None of that shit is important. You just have to do what you do.

How was the last tour in Europe? Saw you guys in Amsterdam (with The Real Danger) and it was great. Had a good time yourself?

It was hands down our favorite trip to Europe thus far. I think another switch flipped in my head and I just started caring less. It is a well known thing among American bands that certain places in Europe can be dicks when they talk to you. Germany, I’m looking at you. It’s not very cool to go up to a band and tell them that you used to like them, but this time they were shitty. That used to bother me to the point that I didn’t want to hang out at shows. It wasn’t that I thought what I did was good, it’s just that I think that if you feel the need to go up to someone and offer up an unsolicited opinion, I think you are an idiot. Anyway, I just had more fun with it this time. A girl did it in Austria. I called her a goblin. A kid did it in Germany and asked me to sign his record. I just wrote “Fuck You” on it and told him to get lost. That’s my new mentality, and it has worked. If you want to hang out and party with our band, you are always welcome. If you want to be a dick, we will be bigger dicks right back to you. Europe has so much cool history as well. We like to do tourist things, and we did a lot of that on that trip.


My favorite bit of writing that I did was the song “Stolen Away”. All of the lyrics in that were written at one of my lowest points in life. It’s pure honesty and sadness. It’s now become my therapy on tour to play it. It reminds me that it can’t get that bad again. I won’t let it.

Hahaha, nice. Wonder when that signed record ends up on Ebay… Those damn Germans, always the same and they still get all the shows haha. But at the same time people must come up to you telling they liked the show right? Probably more than people saying that other shit?

Not at all! Not in Germany. I think they just like to complain. I never get compliments from them. They keep quiet if they liked it. It sounds like I’m being way harsher to a general group of people than I actually am. I don’t lose sleep over it or anything. It’s just a very strange way to talk to people. When you are one of those people that is really proud of “telling it like it is” or “I’m just really honest! I have no filter”, I just don’t think you are smart. It shouldn’t be a point of pride to cut someone down. Usually people in other countries are really rad to us though.

What kinda touristy things did you do by the way? I always loved to see as much as I could of the cities we went through as well.

Europe is just so different than the USA. It’s old. It has such history to it. Everything in the US is pretty new. So something as simple as walking down the street and looking at the buildings is still really cool to us. We like to go to castles. That one in Ghent is awesome. Crazy torture stuff.

What’s the song or lyric you’re the most proud of and why?

My favorite bit of writing that I did was the song “Stolen Away”. All of the lyrics in that were written at one of my lowest points in life. It’s pure honesty and sadness. It’s now become my therapy on tour to play it. It reminds me that it can’t get that bad again. I won’t let it.

That’s a heavy song. I immediately loved that “The road that brought us together has taken me away from you” line. You’re saying it’s therapy, but I can imagine that being the case with a lot of your lyrics. They give me the chills / goosebumps now and then (not meaning that in a bad way). Is it hard to belt out those songs, those lyrics every night on tour?

It got that way for a while. It became something that changed from therapy to something that was destroying me. I have to walk a fine line now. I need to remember that all this shit lives inside of me. All the insecurity, the addictions, the anger and the crippling sadness is just below the surface. I have to work really hard to keep it all at bay. I let it get the best of me a while back. I think the bit of time off gave me the rest and perspective I need to now take those songs on the road and give people that can relate and hour of venting a couple times a year. Hopefully it is beneficial to me as well. I think it will be. Physically, the songs can be hard to sing. I can lose my voice very easily. I need to make sure I take care of myself, or we have to cancel. I don’t like canceling shows.

That’s the part I hated about touring. Losing my voice, luckily I always managed, but the tension was there. How do you take care of it?

I stopped partying super hard. I drink a lot of water and I try and get sleep. That’s literally all you can do to save the voice. That’s not to say that we still don’t have our fun though. I just try to pay attention to when my throat starts to hurt and act appropriately. Sometimes there is nothing you can do about it though.

With you feeling better like you said earlier, that probably influences your lyrics on new stuff too?

We will have to see. Like I said, all that shit is still in there. It’s always going to be a battle for me. Focusing on the pain of others has been pretty eye opening as well. Maybe that will make it into the content of what I write.


I really just want to spend time with my friends, family and fans of the band. I love being home now. I love seeing my cat and my girlfriend every day. Life is really that simple for me.

We’ll see? Maybe somewhere next year? Or what’s your personal plan / goal for a new record? If you have one that is?

I really don’t have a plan. I have a ton of ideas and I just need to sit down and see what works together. I just want to finally make a record that I personally love.

Talking about goals. Where do you want to be in a couple of years? Any things on your bucketlist?

I really just want to spend time with my friends, family and fans of the band. I love being home now. I love seeing my cat and my girlfriend every day. Life is really that simple for me. I always have some trick up my sleeve to make my money ethically and help people. That’s the way I want to be and also hopefully influence others to be as well.

I’ve seen a post of you on Facebook with a Nirvana (probably my favorite band ever) poster in the background and read somewhere that you said Nevermind was one of the best albums ever… So I just had to include a question about them. What’s so good about Nirvana according to you?

Nirvana was the bridge band for someone my age. They bridged all kinds of music to punk rock. I liked that. Being a bit of a depressed weirdo, I felt connected to it as well. The man wrote great songs and kind of showed that anything is possible. He wasn’t a particularly great guitarist. He wasn’t an incredible singer. He just had his own style. That’s something that I wish younger people forming bands would take from me. Don’t poorly mimic something else. Make sure to do your best to create your own thing that is influenced by what you love. If people talk shit, you might be onto something.

Yeah I agree. He had something in his voice though, a certain grit / fire while being able to carry a melody that I since then always look for in singers. Not many have it. You do too. Since you’re covering bands for those flexis, how about a Nirvana cover? Done your way, like they did with their covers? I could see a song like Sappy work.

Maybe. It could be cool. There is a pretty great Nirvana tribute record where the band Nothing covers “Something In The Way”. They did an amazing job. I think I would rather aim for less obvious songs to cover though. I think if my band and I sat in a practice space for a day, we could come out with a dozen rad Nirvana covers. There has been a resurgence of their popularity amongst the “hip” type folks. I wouldn’t want to jump on the bandwagon, but fuck that. Nirvana is everyone’s band.

I’ve got nothing to add to that. Seems like a great line to end the interview with. Thanks for your time Ryan!

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