By Alicia James
Definitions are the tricky bit, as my classical Tibetan professor used to say. The maxim applies to music as much as it does to cracking open polysemous text passages. What exactly can we call a guitar duo that skillfully combines original songwriting and multi-genre cover adaptations? Dan Ryker 2.0 isn’t entirely country, rock, folk, or pop, yet the band fluently translates all formats much to the audience’s listening pleasure.
After recording Imminent Presence, a solo Christian worship album, in 2006, Dan Ryker, acoustic guitar and lead vox, contemplated ways to connect with Corvallis’ broader artistic community. Rock and roll influenced his day gig as the on-staff lead of musical worship at Life Community Church, so he had something unplugged in mind. “[Dan Ryker 2.0] is a more stripped down kind of setting,” he said. “This kind of instrumentation allows for a more nuanced kind of performance… allows room for more creation.”
Ryker was sussing out his new iteration alone when he met Chris Rorrer, electric guitar and harmony back up. Neighbors at first, Ryker eventually asked Rorrer to join him at LCC as a cellist. Despite a bit of an age difference, the two bonded over a mutual dedication to music and Dan Ryker 2.0 was born.
“I know we’re going to respect each other as artists and human beings,” Rorrer said. “We can get really nose-to-the-grindstone, but we know there’s a grace and wanting each other to succeed.”
Although Ryker and Rorrer have been working on the band’s material for only eight months, the songwriting and arrangement exhibit maturity more often heard in long-term collaborations. Ryker’s lyrics are a collection written over time as the “seasons of life” inspired him in that moment. He also adapts other artists’ songs such as Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child.” “They aren’t intended to be an exact copy,” Ryker said. “I find something I resonate with, breathe them out of my own creative space.”
Rorrer applies his formal music training to the accompaniments. “I’ll go home [after a rehearsal] and arrange a lot of the guitar parts,” he said. “It’s fun to get into Dan’s brain a bit and try to bounce it off him.”
Ryker and Rorrer’s symbiotic relationship is apparent on stage. Ryker leads with suave vocals above rich acoustic guitar, yet dials back at a glance to accommodate Rorrer’s rhythm backing during the bridge. Similarly, Rorrer does not fall prey to the tendency of so many young men with an electric guitar to riff at the expense of his band mate. Their live energy is palpably harmonious and tuned-in to the task of sharing what they have created.
“We show up as we are,” Ryker said. “It’s like, ‘Hey! Come hear this song.’ It’s as real as I can get with this expression.”
Rorrer added, “There’s an emotional resonance that comes through each song. We haven’t really had any conversations about [how to work together] and my guess is that it hasn’t been an issue because of that.”
Dan Ryker 2.0 will perform on Wednesday, Nov. 5 at Bombs Away Café, 2527 NW Monroe Avenue. Stay tuned to www.bombsawaycafe.com/music-art for show time and cover charge. Preview music at http://danryker.com/music/20/#songs.