Get To Know: Ron Gallo
The Nashville via Philadelphia rocker Ron Gallo has had quite the year in 2017; Releasing his debut solo album called Heavy Meta, playing major festivals across the country, touring across the pond, and befriending some of our other favorite bands like White Reaper and Twin Peaks on the road. In the always evolving and ever fickle music industry, it's been a year of textbook success for someone on their first album cycle, but it's also been a year of personal growth for Gallo.
I met up with Gallo before he played Loufest in St. Louis's Forrest Park earlier this month to talk through his newfound sense of clarity and how he transcended into new musical territory. Gallo's songwriting style on Heavy Meta takes on a goofy, laidback tone while tackling serious subjects both in his personal life and with issues that affect the world. Our Loufest conversation spanned topics from Gallo's favorite author to David Lynch and the weight of social media in today's society.
If you haven't yet heard of Ron Gallo, allow us to introduce you with these eight things you need to know.
His departure into solo music involves self realization
For several years before Gallo ventured on this solo endeavor to produce the quirky, yet thought-provoking garage rock on Heavy Meta, he had been in the Philadelphia based band, Toy Soldiers. Sonically the music is quite a departure from the work he put out with Toy Soldiers, so how did that come around? "The story is I made music under the Toy Soldiers name for many, many years. I don’t even know if it really scratched the surface of what I wanted to do with music and what I view as the role of it in my life," Gallo began.
"I think it’s when I kind of started getting a little more real with myself in what I was writing about, talking about… [I] realized that music for me is really a vehicle for what I need to say to the world and to myself. It’s not like a vanity thing or it’s not even necessarily a fun thing. I mean there are elements of fun, but it’s bigger than that to me. It’s more important. When I started to realize that, I felt like it was me coming into myself a bit. I identified less and less with what my old band is doing and I felt like I wanted to be--I wanted to shed all of the hiding, and I wanted to be exposed and start a project that was just like whatever I am at any given moment. That can keep the whole thing honest and fun, and it can always reinvent itself. That’s kind of when I started making Heavy Meta," Gallo continued.
To go along with the shift in the purpose behind his music, Gallo also changed his surroundings during the time period of working on his solo debut. After recording all of Heavy Meta in Philadelphia, he packed up and moved to Nashville. Although the scene and the sound of Nashville contrasts with that of Philadelphia, Gallo says his work doesn't feel heavily influenced by either locations. "I think sonically and stylistically where I was going I was kind of just figuring that out on my own...Not necessarily influenced too much by the Philly scene or the Nashville scene, but moving to Nashville, I felt like I identify a lot more with people in the scene. There’s just so many great bands there right now. Especially in the weirdo, rock and roll, garage, psych punk rock whatever scene. It just felt very at home. When I moved there I was like I don’t even really care about going to this place to like make things happen or be a part of the scene. It was just that I liked the city, I needed change, and it all made sense. I just wanted to go somewhere and do my thing," he says.
He passes time by skateboarding and [crowd] surfing on tour
In addition to the many Summer festivals that Gallo has played, he's been on tour nearly non-stop across America, even venturing over to Europe this year. While on these many tours, Gallo often passes the time with some PG activities, like skateboarding. "We don’t really party. I don’t really drink or rage, as per say. So nothing involving that, but we skateboarded a lot when we weren’t playing," he says.
What's the best city for a touring band to skate around? "[In] Vancouver there was actually a skatepark right around the corner from the venue, so we went over there. I ended up making a really bad skate compilation video from that [White Reaper] tour," Gallo vouches.
In addition to skating, surfing also stuck out as a memory of the White Reaper tour for Gallo...crowd surfing that is. While talking about tour highlights, Gallo says, "The West Coast was great. Seattle was a really great show, and our first time really playing out there. I crowd surfed for the second time in my life to White Reaper in Seattle. So that was kind of a pinnacle moment. The first time was actually earlier this year to Fidlar in Atlanta. It’s just funny that age 29, my first two stage dives were this year. I’m just reverting back to being a kid again."
Geographically, one of Gallos favorite tour memories involved his band's run in Europe. "We got to Norway. Tromsø, Norway, where it’s sunlight 24 hours and we got in at midnight. Still light out. We stayed at this really, really nice hotel on the water. One of my favorite moments was getting to the room--we each had our own room, and looking at the view and sitting down. That was a really nice moment," he recalled. Gallo also mentions he enjoyed his time on the road with Hurray for the Riff Raff, humbly adding, "We’ve been really lucky this year to be surrounded by great bands and great people, and seeing way too many places in a small amount of time. It’s all been great...it’s a blur!"
Comedians influence his stage presence
While Gallo talked me through his transition into solo music, he mentioned that he finds certain aspects of making music fun, but his motive behind creating music is much bigger than that. Prior to Loufest, I had seen Gallo perform at Lollapalooza, where a sense of humor laced his set, and he added an element of weirdness by playing guitar with a fire extinguisher. Gallo explains that comedic undertone in his personality and stage presence stems from a few places, saying, "That kind of comes from---it makes dealing with serious topics in songs and having a certain level of intensity in what we do...it makes it way more tolerable and helps me deal with myself by letting the other side shine through. I don’t really take myself too seriously. Humor and lightness are so important. It’s all about that balance to me. So as intense or heavy as it can be, to kind of like mess with people or make people uncomfortable, or do weird stuff that’s off the cuff, make people laugh...I’ll laugh at myself, make people laugh at themselves….It’s like two forces working together. I love people that do that."
He attributes comedians with some influence on that approach, adding, "I am actually in certain ways influenced by certain comedians. Andy Kauffman….somebody that really tampered with reality and being really confrontational with the audience. No one really even know what was real and what wasn’t real. I love that and I think it’s hilarious. Louis CK and like Hannibal Buress. Steven Wright and George Carlin...there’s a fearlessness to what those guys do. There’s nothing cool about it. It’s like get up there a be real and be laughed at, be laughed with. But you have this ability to convey truth and you’re not afraid of it. I love that. There’s an element to music sometimes where there’s characters or there’s this element of trying to put a wall between audience and band members, an element of cool to it...Fuck all that. It’s about trying to do something real. Be yourself. I just love anybody that does that."
He also finds Dougie Jones Inspiring
Gallo has posted on his social media about David Lynch's cult classic Twin Peaks. While Lynch has never backed down from venturing completely into bizarre and uncomfortable territory, his work with Twin Peaks has created an entire universe within itself...One which Gallo admires and respects immensely. "I love David Lynch so much. Really everything that he’s done. His films, and in Philly he had an art gallery. Especially with like his meditation practices and how outspoken he is about that and the role that it can play in creativity. It’s amazing and I think he’s an incredible real deal artist and everything an artist should aspire to be. I mean Twin Peaks is just the greatest...everything about it is so...it’s created a world that you want to live in. As soon as I found out it was coming back I, like most people, was freaking out," Gallo says.
Talking about his favorite characters in both the reboot and original series of Twin Peaks, Gallo says, "I think Agent Cooper is an obvious lovable character. I know we only got to see him for the brief part of that one episode [in the reboot], but even when he was Dougie, I really loved that character because I think that was sort of the embodiment of a fully present, aware, enlightened being. All he ever really did was repeat the last word that somebody else would say, and it was amazing how he got people to look at themselves or he fixed situations just by inaction. I think David Lynch was going that direction with that character. It’s like he doesn’t care about the material world. He’s kind of in a different dimension, yet he thrives in it because he’s not all worried about it. Everything just kind of works out...he fixes it all. I thought that was a really cool alternative to Agent Cooper. I had a huge crush on Audrey Horne in the first season. Also, David Lynch, his character in the show...Gordon Cole is like the best!"
He believes in social responsibility on social media
Similarly to the balance of lightness and darkness that is present in Gallo's songwriting and stage presence, he uses his social media platforms to bring lightness to his followers, but he also makes sure he takes a stance on world wide issues. While some people challenge musicians or performers in the public eye taking a "political" stance, Gallo has stated it's not just a political stance, it's a human stance. "We have this opportunity now to reach mass amounts of people. There’s like a collective consciousness with the internet that’s like tangible now. You can reach people from all over the world in an instant. Whether we like it or not, we are so influenced mostly in a negative way by the internet and social media. I think everyone is very, very addicted to the thing. It’s so normalized that people aren’t willing to look at it as a problem. I guess that’s where I come in with that is that things like Charlottesville, where there’s these very open acts of hatred and ideas that you don’t like to think exist in this society and country. That we’ve evolved past it and grown to realize that thinking about human beings and the world that way is insanity and it’s sickness and you think it’s gone. Then something like that comes up and you’re like oh yeah, no it’s very, very present still," Gallo says.
Although there can be a negative side to so much social media and such a quick, global connection, Gallo elaborates, "I think if we’re using the internet to post selfies for vanity, especially for artists, to further their career or to promote their music and their shows...I think it’s their responsibility, especially when your livelihood is based on humanity and people enjoying what you do and support from human beings. The more successful you are, it’s your duty to kind of take a stance. Say something in support of humanity and in support of human beings. That’s gotta be the balance. We have access to people all the time. Don’t just use it for your own gain. Use it to create a better good. Go and put something positive out there that is universal. And nobody can say “Well I disagree with that stance”... What does that mean? It’s means you’re being lazy. Get on your fucking Twitter, even if it’s just like “I love all of you” and “We accept all of you,” you have to combat darkness with the light. I think people that get complacent and don’t use their platform are just lazy. Let’s make the world a better place, not just sit on our asses and wait for things to happen."
Eckhart Tolle Helped Shape His Way of Thinking
Throughout our conversation, Gallo's wisdom and positive way of thinking came across with a certain sense of ease in nearly every answer, and he was also kind enough to share where some of mindset stems from. Gallo shared that he would chose to be stuck with Eckhart Tolle if he got stranded in an elevator for two hours with only one other person. Gallo explains his decision saying, "He’s sort of like a spiritual teacher, and he wrote a book called The Power of Now that was super popular. He’s written a couple of books that have sincerely changed my life and the way that I view the world. I could talk to that guy forever because just reading his words has had such a major impact on my life."
There is new music on the way
In the recent weeks, Gallo has shared some photos of himself and his bandmates recording new music to follow up Heavy Meta, and he says we can expect a lot of it soon. "So we’re actually gonna put out two new things before the year is over, which is exciting. We recorded one song, a new single that was sort of a response to the whole Charlottesville thing. In early November, we’re doing a tour with Naked Giants so we’re gonna release a split EP with them. Then right before Christmas we’re gonna release an EP that we recorded. The second album should be out middle of next year," Gallo says.
His hair styling advice is...
In addition to his clever song titles, Gallo's curly mop of hair has become one of his signatures. Gallo's tips for his voluminous hairstyle? Do your thing and be proud of what you've got. "Don’t do anything, just let it be. This is what happens. This is just how it is for me. I didn’t choose this. Guys, whatever you got, just let it go. Learn to love it," he says.
As the interview wrapped up, Gallo also shared one last bit of advice, unrelated to hair styling. "I would always just encourage people to maybe question themselves, question the world a bit. Don’t be afraid to maybe think that how something is, is maybe not how it should be. And have a good time, be happy. It’s your choice," he says.
Photos of Ron Gallo at Loufest 2017