The first time I remember encountering Ryan Avery was at a birthday party he threw for Andy Kaufman at The Trunk Space a few years back. All the show was, was Avery dressed as Kaufman, pressing play on a record player, but it was great. He organized it so there were ushers bringing people to their seats, and there were hard-copy tickets, and he even made it so that the lights flickered when the intermission ended. He just really went the extra mile to make the odd "performance" seem like a real happening.
Phoenix music and art will definitely be a far less funny landscape having lost Avery, who earlier this week moved to Los Angeles to take care of family obligations, and honestly it almost seems poetic that the rotund performer is leaving just as his favorite venue, The Trunk Space, closes its doors. Avery is more or less welcome at any Phoenix venue he wants to play in, but he has always had a very obvious affinity for 1506 Grand Street.
Avery was a such a big part of the Phoenix scene that he even once graced the front cover of New Times, and his presence in the scene will be sorely missed. He is the sort of performer that gives hope to just about anyone that if your idea is weird enough and you bring enough energy and charisma to the performance, you don't need an angelic voice or be musically inclined to be appreciated.
Avery has already shuffled loose of Phoenix and headed west, but just after his big move he had one more conversation with New Times.
New Times: Why are you leaving Phoenix?
Ryan Avery: It's really just family stuff. We wanted to rent out the house in Phoenix and then rent in LA so that way the move would be a lot less of a permanent move, but rent in LA is insane, so the only way we could do that is if we sell our house in Phoenix and buy in LA Or rather sell our house in Phoenix and use that money as down payment and then have an okay mortgage. [My wife] Sara and I wanted to leave Phoenix to be closer to her family.
Are you still going to be performing in Phoenix and keeping up with your Phoenix projects?
I told all the boys that as soon as we are settled in a house with jobs and stuff that Fathers Day is definitely going to go on tour. We already have plans to come back to Phoenix before the year is over to visit, and Drunk N Horny will probably play then.
Will any of your Phoenix projects be done for good with this move?
None of them are done. I haven't played in Soft Shoulder in over a year now, but James Fella still refers to me as a member of the band, so there's always a possibility I could be playing in Soft Shoulder if he asks me to. Drunk N Horny has a new album coming out before the end of summer called Drunk N Horny Under The Covers. And it's not a pun for a cover album; it just has as many covers as any other Drunk N Horny album. It's mostly a sight gag, but I'll let that come out when the album drops. So none of my projects are dying.
What about Related Records?
Oh yeah, Related Records is still very much existing. It will probably exist more because I have more time to focus on that.
Are you planning on expanding your fan base in to LA?
I have no idea. I do plan on starting fresh with new projects up here in LA, like just starting over as far as what I do out here. But when I go back to Phoenix, I will go back to what's already established there.
What are some of your ideas for starting fresh?
I'd like to finish working on a musical that I wrote called Meningitis The Musical. I'd also like to start a new punk band, and I've heard from a handful of friends and fans that I have in LA that they'd like to see me perform solo again. So I think when I have time, I would like to work on that again. I'm really excited and nervous about finding new musicians to work with again and starting over in that capacity.
Any fear of losing touch with Phoenix once you're more well established in LA?
No, not at all. And I don't think I'm going to become a huge star out here. I'm not worried about that because that's not the purpose of being here, right now its just find a job, sell the house, and find a new house.
Did Trunk Space closing make it easier for you to leave?
Timing for everything just kinda happened that way. Sara and I decided in December we wanted to be living in LA by the end of the year, so we started working toward that goal toward the beginning of the year. That's when Steph [Carrico] said she didn't want to run The Trunk Space anymore; she was sick of people telling her how to do her job, and people being entitled enough to tell her who should and shouldn't be allowed in the space, and that it wasn't fun any more. I told her she doesn't owe anyone anything. Then by the first or second week of February, we had figured out what's going on with Trunk Space, like "Okay, Trunk Space will be closing or possibly moving by May," and by the last week of February Sara and I realized she and I could move right now if she wanted. But we decided to wait until after I finished this semester of school, which ended on Monday.
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How was the Trunk Space send-off?
It was awesome, man. It was everything that I wanted and needed, and I know a lot of people felt the same way. There were a lot of people crying but even more people just having a good time.
What will you miss most about Phoenix?
Probably, I mean, I know there is character everywhere ... there are so many people in Phoenix that are just bizarre characters who are straight out of a book or movie. Like Eli Kluger and Ray Reeves, like where did you come from, how do you exist? I feel so lucky and privileged to have gotten to know so many of these characters so well and to have them in my life on a regular basis. I already miss that because I didn't get to see too many of those crazies before I left. That's what I miss the most, all those crazies, not to say Eli or Ray Reeves are crazy, but just people like Mark Roberts and seeing Mark Roberts around town, and Corey Busboom. I'll miss the characters.
Do you think you'll find that artistic freedom in you've been afforded in Phoenix in LA?
I don't know. It's a lot more business minded in LA even with the DIY spaces, and they kind of have to be because everything is so expensive. Which I think is cool because it adds another layer of respect for everyone and the space, but at the same time I know that freedom might be lost. But who am I to say? What do I know, I've only toured through here like dozen times over the last 12 years.
Was it a hard decision to leave a place where you are known as such a prolific artist for a place like LA?
Sara's brother asked me that on the way up here, and I just said, "You know what man, not really." Because most of my life at this point in my life, most of my time is spent with Sara in our home either being lazy or being creative or playing with our dogs. Wherever it is that we are going to end up doing that, that's what I want to be doing, it's what makes me happiest, and I'm always going to make time to focus on all these other creative things because if I don't I feel like I'm dying, but I can do those things wherever I go.