By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Toronto-based band Oscar Tango – the main project of lead vocalist/guitarist Ryan Farley (The Actual Goners, Maya Killtron) – recently dropped their new single “Staring Down The Night,” which explores the aesthetic of “a time to get out of town with the car tape deck on full blast in Los Angeles in 1982 at night.”
The track was recorded in Winter 2020 in Farley’s home studio with a featured guest guitar solo by Tristan Clark (Jacksoul, Esthero), meant to capture the feel of rock circa 1982.
The Music Bugle had the opportunity to chat with Farley about what they’ve been up to lately and more.
Music Bugle – How do you differentiate your mindset between The Actual Goners and Oscar Tango?
Ryan Farley – In Oscar Tango, I write all the songs, book all the gigs and worry about all those highly boring, but still essential business things. In Actual Goners, I play keyboard and sing backup, so it’s pretty much, “Show up to the venue, plug in my stuff and hangout until we go on stage.” Musically, Oscar Tango is a more guitar-focused rock and roll type of band, while the Goners have a much more subtle, rootsy, songwriter-type of catalogue, so a somewhat different energy on stage.
Music Bugle – What directly inspired your new single “Staring Down The Night”?
Ryan Farley – I was looking at pictures of mid-century motels in California online – there are some really beautiful and wacky ones out there – and started thinking about this character who is living in L.A. in the 80’s, maybe at a motel or maybe living out of their car and sort of having an existential moment, leading them to change their path. The sound of the tune is inspired by bands like Ambrosia, Mr. Mister, Squeeze, even Billy Joel.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Ryan Farley – Well, music has been very different. I’ve done a handful of live streaming shows from my basement and a few gigs in a friends’ front yard. The whole neighborhood showed up – and stood the requisite six feet apart. Otherwise, lots of writing and recording from home, but it ain’t the same as collaborating in person…
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Ryan Farley – “Only thing I knew how to do was to keep on keeping on,” from Bob Dylan, some song from the ‘Blood On The Tracks’ album.
Music Bugle – How did you guys decide the name “Oscar Tango”?
Ryan Farley – My dad is a ship’s captain and always said things like, “You working Oscar Tango these days?”, whereby Oscar Tango – OT – means overtime in the NATO Phonetic alphabet used on CB radio. I thought it sounded cool. He also says things like, “So, the old man got on the blower and said, ‘I can promise you bad weather, so we hove to, but then I looked down and they had the ropes all over the focsle, what a bunch of scurvy naves,’ but this didn’t make a catchy band name.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need an escape?
Ryan Farley – Forest, ravine, any kind of hiking trail. There are some nice ones around Toronto.
Music Bugle – Have you been working on any new music?
Ryan Farley – Totally! Lots of new stuff coming in 2021.
Music Bugle – What are your goals for 2021?
Ryan Farley – Release as much new music as possible, hopefully get back to doing regular gigs, when that is safe to do again.
Music Bugle – What’s something you wish happened more in today’s music industry?
Ryan Farley – I think the whole streaming thing needs to be sorted out. Most people are aware that streaming services pay peanuts to artists, but the only other option is the consumer pays for each digital album like iTunes was 10 years ago, which is unlikely to happen at any kind of scale, so I don’t know what the answer is at this point, but platforms that share more with the artist are great. Bandcamp is excellent at this, but Spotify, YouTube, etc., are too big and too convenient for the mass market. I could do an entire interview about this alone…
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Ryan Farley – The Beths, Pheobe Bridgers, Paul Carrack, ECM jazz like Pat Metheny, Jan Garbarek, etc..