At Work: The Ries Brothers

Jake May on January 14, 2021
At Work: The Ries Brothers

“The first album we made was stylistically all over the place so, for the second one, we really just wanted to hone in [on] the feeling you get at a Ries Brothers show,” explains Charlie Ries, while describing his goals for The Ries Brothers’ new full-length album, Paint Your Emotion, which was released in September. While the group has performed headlining gigs, they’ve spent much of their career supporting groups such as Chicago, G. Love and Stick Figure.

“I’ve been a fan of Stick Figure since before we got in the reggae scene, so that was definitely a moment in our career that I’ll never forget,” says Charlie’s younger brother and bandmate, Kevin Jordan Ries. “We wanted to present 50 minutes of our best material,” adds Charlie, who plays drums, bass, keyboards and supplies vocals.

“We wanted it all to flow together because that’s what our shows have become.”

Recruiting producer John Agnello to achieve what they call a “raw, but quality sound,” The Ries Brothers hoped to refine their material while still showcasing their eclectic tastes. Both brothers draw on a variety of influences; Charlie cites The Doors—specifically keyboardist Ray Manzerak—as his motivation to explore playing both keys and drums.

“When we were starting out, being a duo, the idea that they didn’t have a bassist was fascinating to me. I was like, ‘Is there any way we can get by without a bassist?’” he recalls. Meanwhile, for his unique approach to guitar, Kevin draws on players ranging from Jack Johnson to Buckethead. “It’s kind of like a whole melting pot of genres in my playing,” he explains.

Like many up-and-coming bands, quarantine presented a new challenge in their journey. “We’re so used to being on the road all the time, and we’ve worked our whole careers to get to that point,” notes Charlie. “Finally reaching that and being told to stop—it was just weird.” The band has kept busy, though; they recorded a remote mashup of tunes by The Police with members of The Lumineers, Steve Miller Band and a number of other musicians, performed a slew of livestreams and even pulled off some socially distanced shows. But, as Charlie is quick to note, they are primed to get back out there when things finally open up: “We’re like a horse behind the starting gate; as soon as they open, we’re going to run out.”