Trash Boat’s Ryan Hyslop speaks to James Riding about recording in Belgium, flaming tour buses and opening a guitar shop.
Like everyone else’s, Trash Boat‘s lead guitarist Ryan Hyslop’s 2020 should have been so different. The punk band was due to play Slam Dunk Festival in England and France, then hit the road for a 30-date North American tour with Stand Atlantic. But then COVID-19 hit.
Now 25, Ryan grew up in Hertfordshire, with its thriving music scene centred around venues like St Albans’ Pioneer skatepark. Skilled enough to teach guitar lessons while still in school, he jumped at the chance to join his friends Oakley, Dann and Charlie in their band Change of Plan. The name was prophetic: Charlie left the group in 2014 and, faced with the choice of going to university or committing to music, they recruited a new frontman and were reborn as Trash Boat. They signed with Hopeless Records the following year. “The social side was wicked,” Ryan says of the early days. “We just went to shows, didn’t care about how many people were there and just had beers and hung out.”
Trash Boat emerged as part of the pop-punk revival of the last decade but their sound has always been darker and weirder than cheeky peers such as WSTR and Neck Deep. Drawing from emo and hardcore, their albums are melodramatic and multi-faceted, capable of switching from ballad to headbanger and back again in the course of a song. Their live shows are a hurricane of emotion, propelled by Ryan’s guitar and Tobi Duncan’s half-sung, half-screamed vocals. The band’s recent single, ‘He’s So Good’, is an anti-homophobic anthem that encapsulates this combination of serious subject matter and heavy guitars with soaring, catchy vocals. They’ve toured Europe and the States, played the main stage of Reading and Leeds festivals and opened for Beartooth and pop-punk titans New Found Glory and Sum 41.
Their unflinchingly earnest music doesn’t mean Trash Boat lack a sense of humour: they are named after a goofy but powerful made-up name from the cartoon Regular Show and are known for their spontaneous Oasis covers. And in conversation Ryan is great fun: candid, loquacious and optimistic despite all the upheaval. Happy enough to be locked down in his hometown, he is flanked by expensive-looking axes hanging on his wall, evidence of an online guitar shop he began work on when the touring stopped: “Obviously you should help the people that are self-employed with furlough, but I think a lot of people weren’t willing to do a job that they haven’t done before. They were like ‘Oh, I’m a musician so I should be getting money for music’, and just kind of sitting around. But I took it upon myself to try and make an income. When are we ever going to have this much time again? This is alien. So I thought I’d make the most of it.”
2020 gave Trash Boat plenty of time to make their third album, which they had been neglecting amid all the touring. They enlisted veteran producer Jason Perry (who worked on Don Broco’s last two releases) to shape their ideas and did all their pre-production over Zoom. “I wouldn’t say it was necessarily a negative because it forced us to write in a way that we’d never written before,” says Ryan.
Over the summer, the band jumped in a bus and drove to Belgium, where they recorded the songs at Brussels’ ICP Studios. “It felt like a proper ‘Foo Fighters would record there’ kind of studio. It was sick because we hadn’t seen each other in ages.”
The record is being mixed and mastered at the moment, but what will it sound like? Ryan says: “I don’t think it sounds anything like Crown Shyness [their last album, named after the way crowded trees avoid each other rather than an aversion to the Netflix series]. Your music taste evolves. With this record, it was kind of like ‘write whatever you want’, and maybe not write so much within the Trash Boat sound, with the fast feet drums and stuff. There’s a variety of guitar tones that we’ve not used before and flows we’ve used that you wouldn’t expect. Maybe all the kids listening will be like, ‘Oh, it just sounds like Trash Boat.’ But I think it sounds different. There’s definitely some tracks on there that are curveballs.”
Speaking of Brussels and buses, what about Brexit? “We want to play Europe and get bigger there, but this makes it very hard to. We’re at a level where maybe we can still get by, if we’re lucky. But bands that are smaller than us—they’ve got no hope in getting over and being able to make ends meet,” says Ryan.
Touring with the band hasn’t always been smooth going. “On Warped Tour the bus caught fire—I remember that being pretty ridiculous—in the Nevada desert,” says Ryan. “We were stranded in a lay-by for three days because the replacement just never came. That was gnarly. But other than that it’s been pretty good.”
It feels like we’ve all been stranded in a lay-by for the past twelve months.
Words by James Riding
Photo by Adam Webb
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