INTERVIEW: Ryan Young of Off With Their Heads Talks Acoustic Tour, Comedy, & the Future

Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Off With Their Heads have been recording and touring the punk scene since 2002. Lead by vocalist/songwriter/guitarist Ryan Young, and a revolving door of studio and touring musicians, Off With Their Heads have released five studio albums and dozens and dozens of EP’s, singles, and splits. Their most recent release, 2016’s Won’t Be Missed, is an acoustic recording of fan favorites and new songs (check it out via SoundCloud or Bandcamp). Released through Young’s Anxious and Angry label, Won’t Be Missed takes Young out of his comfort zone and shows that not only does he have a great voice, but that the songs transfer quite well from the full electric band to the more intimate acoustic performance.

We caught up with Ryan to talk about the tour and give you a taste of what to expect from their Sunday night gig at Three Links in Deep Ellum. Seth Anderson and comedians JT Habersaat and Ben Roy also perform. Grab a ticket ($10) here. If you can’t make the Dallas gig, OWTH will be heading up the midwest through Febuary 3rd. Check the tour dates below.

This tour run started on January 12th and by the time you hit Dallas on the 28th you’ve only had one day off (Jan 15th). First, how’s the tour going so far?

Ryan Young: So far, it has been a blast! The shows have all been great. Getting to hang out with people and conquer my fear of playing acoustic guitar by myself has been great. We just met up with JT and Ben as well. They are doing some stand up comedy between Seth and I playing. It keeps the show fun, which was a main goal of this whole thing in the first place.

When you’re touring so many days in a row, do the shows run together? Or do you remember the crowd and vibe from one city to the next?

Ryan Young: Not really. Sometimes that’s the case with the full band shows, but this is totally different. I guess I’m much more aware of my surroundings when I’m up there by myself. The one thing that gets tricky is keeping them entertaining. I only say that because I can be a very moody person. If I don’t feel like doing something, I have a hard time pretending. Sometimes that’s the case with playing shows. I always try and remind myself that this is my release. I remind myself that if I don’t feel like being up there, then make it a show where you feel like being up there. I’m the one at the wheel here, so it’s really my own fault if a show goes bad.

Aside from volume, what sets an OWTH’s acoustic gig apart from a full electric band?

Ryan Young: It’s funnier. I admire stand up comedy. I try and make the crowd go from sad song to laughing at the turn of a hat. It works most of the time. Even if I say something that tanks, it’s still funny to me.

The acoustic album, “Won’t Be Missed” came out in 2016 and you’ve been touring behind it, on and off, ever since. Have you guys been rotating in new (or different) material to break up the redundancy? Or does that even matter to you?

Ryan Young: Not really. I have a certain number of songs I feel comfortable playing on an acoustic guitar. I pretty much stick with that. If I’m one thing, I’m not an actor. When I sing these songs, I go right back to the time and place when they were written. So each time is a genuine performance. Because I approach it like that, it’s not really possible for me to feel like it is redundant. Plus, the crowd hasn’t heard me do this before. So it’s new on a couple different levels.

Watch Off With Their Heads perform “Clear the Air” (Acoustic)

What musicians do you have out with you on this run? Is it a full band (with drummer)? Or just yourself plus one or two?

Ryan Young: It’s just me. Our bassist Robbie is out with because he just loves traveling. So he is helping with all the work that goes into a tour minus the show. I play a few on my own, then Seth Anderson comes up and helps out with a few. He does his own set as well. Then we have Ben Roy and JT Habersaat doing some stand up comedy between the music. It’s something I’ve been trying to do for a long time, so it’s great to get out with some comedians. Makes for a great show.

Speaking of comedy, I’ve seen a few shows over the last couple of years that have included a comedian, poet, or spoken word artist. Why are these guys out on the road with you and how do you think it works as a tour package? Would you consider bringing comedians on the road on a full band tour? Or does it work better for more intimate acoustic shows?

Ryan Young: It’s a tough thing to figure out. I personally wish we had comedy on every show. People come to our shows to blow off steam and have fun. Since I go to comedy shows for the same purpose, it really makes for a perfect night for me personally. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always translate well. Some comedians can take control of a music crowd and some can’t. I’ve seen it go both ways. I think we would definitely try it in the full band setting though.

When this tour wraps will you be headed back into the studio to record new material?

Ryan Young: Not back into the studio yet, but I’ve been working on new stuff. I will be continuing to try and hash out my ideas. Definitely putting more of a focus on that than anything else. It’s time I got some of my ideas recorded.

2013’s Home was produced by the Descendents’ Bill Stevenson. Do you plan on working with him again? Or are you still in the planning stages?

Ryan Young: I don’t think we will go back to The Blasting Room again. It was a cool experience, but I’ve become a fan of not doing the same thing twice. I don’t really have any plans as to where we are going to go. I have the option of a legitimate rock star producing or recording in my friend’s house. I honestly don’t know which one I want to do. That’s kind of a cool freedom to have. 

Tour Dates: Off With Their Heads Acoustic Tour w/ Seth Anderson, JT Habersaat, & Ben Roy (Those Who Can’t)
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Tour Dates: Off With Their Heads Acoustic Tour w/ Stacey Dee (Bad Cop/Bad Cop) & Seth Anderson
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