There’s not a lot of repetition with Off Road Minivan. Their sound is original. Their lyrics are original. Hell, even their name is original. Alternative Addiction recently spoke with Off Road Minivan frontman Ryan Tuck O’Leary about the band, their weird name, their latest album Swan Dive, and about how their home in Red Hook, New York has shaped the music of Off Road Minivan.
“It's a strange name,” said Tuck when asked about the band’s moniker. “Some people think we're a country band because of the name. The way the name originally formed was I was driving on the interstate with my fiancé and this minivan ripped through the grass median onto the other side of the throughway and hit it. She just goes, 'look! it's an off-road minivan. It was super random, but it fit to what I like to sing about."
The name ties into the story that O’Leary told, but it also ties in with the lyrics that he writes specifically for Off Road Minivan. One of the stories that Tuck sings about on the band’s album Swan Dive is about the tragedy of a New York mom driving intoxicated on the wrong side of the highway killing herself, her family, and three men in another vehicle who she collided with. He’s not taking the moment lightly, he’s telling that story along with some other stories of people who are from the Red Hook, New York area.
“The whole record minus a track or two are based around individuals around the Hudson Valley area where we grew up,” explained the Off Road Minivan vocalist. “The kinds of stories I like to focus are small town stories. When you grow up in a place like I grew up in like Red Hook, NY. There's only one stoplight and you know everyone and everyone's business. The only real tragedy you hear about are small town tragedies; somebody dying in a car wreck. When it happens it's the saddest shit you hear about. These are small characters in a small town that really through the length of time get forgotten about. That's the only true legacies that they get. I like to focus on these small stories of these people that I know that have been affected by murder, suicide, and tragedy and write songs about it and divulge these stories from the Hudson Valley.”
“As a songwriter it's cool to focus on characters that get forgotten about. I don't want to write the same love song or the same song as everybody else. I want to write about people who you wouldn't know about. It started from a fun place and I really went into it. Who knows what the next record will be about, it won't be about the same thing, but this concept really kind of got the band started.”
The lyrical aspect of the band makes them stand apart from other bands, but their sound does too. When you listen to Swan Dive, it’s hard not to notice how different everything sounds from basically everything else that’s being released right now.
“We have four guys who really help with songwriting, so you have a ton of contributions from people who like different music. One guy who really loves Deftones and Soundgarden - I like to write Manchester Orchestra, Third Eye Blind style stuff, the other two guys are a little more pop-orientated. When it comes together it’s got a nice blend. It reminds me of the early wave of emo, post hardcore, Third Eye Blind, Thursday - there's a lot of different stuff in there. Everyone writes different songs in the band and then we bring it to the rest of the guys, and everyone lays their pieces on it and gets to grow with it and help change it. We don't have the intention of sounding like a 90's grunge band. The thing that makes our band different is that bands who sound like us play in Drop D, we play in Drop A. We play in the same tuning as a metal band but we're playing rock songs. That adds to that bite and makes it sound grungy/like the Deftones, Alice in Chains, stuff like that. It's fun. It lets us get weird with the music. We're playing similar songs, it's just that our setup is different.”
The band produced the album with the help of John McCleary. Their songwriting and their production resulted in something unique that’s vastly different from other bands that are coming out right now. That makes Swan Dive worth listening to. When concerts come back next year the band’s music will make them worth seeing too. Speaking with Tuck on touring, as he has a unique perspective from playing in not only Off Road Minivan but in Fit for a King too, he had some interesting insight.
“My full-time job is playing bass in Fit For a King. We usually play 150 shows a year. It's going to take a while for touring to come back, but it will come back. It's going to be hard, it's a difficult wait for everyone. When touring reemerges, music is going to look a little different. New bands will come in and some older bands will probably have fallen off. It could be a good thing for music in the end, hopefully Off Road Minivan gets to be a part of it. It's still scary, I've made my primary income on the road for the past six years. I miss my band; I miss my friends. Hopefully by the end of the year it happens, but if not then we'll see everyone in 2021.”-aa