A warning to the United States of America. A wannabe stalker is about to head to your shores. Armed with an alias and a swag of great music, this young man told us that when it comes to stalking he’d want to “do it right”.
Noodles Romanoff (real name Ryan Meeking) grew up in Kyabram in country Victoria, forever dreaming of getting out of the small town (population 7000) and conquering the world.
Six years later, with the help of ‘a few’ friends, Ryan Meeking has dropped the alias, is living large in the big smoke and has just released his debut major label EP “Night Owls”.
And he finds it refreshing that despite his mum’s best efforts to bolster her son’s profile through the local newspaper, he’s still relatively unknown in Kyabram.
“Nobody knows me – it’s weird,” he says, “It’s like a generational thing. I’m in that gap now where none of the younger people know me and none of the older people know me. It’s like being in a familiar place but everybody else is different. It’s kind of like Sliders. Remember that show? They had a remote control and they’d go into alternate realities. It’s kinda like that almost, but a little less sci-fi.”
But surely that anonymity must be fast disappearing as the Ryan Meeking and The Few star continues to rise?
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be avoiding supermarkets. I reckon Kyabram will be a safe haven, unless it’s like an Elvis thing where they bury me there, so I don’t know. I haven’t got as far as my death yet,” he says.
Ryan Meeking and The Few (that's them in the happy snap above) came about after the demise of the singer’s previous band, the curiously named “Noodles Romanoff and The Flustered Peacocks”.
“We could have been something,” he laughs, “We had a line-up that included piano and trumpet and a whole lot of odd things. For the time when everybody else was playing SKA or punk or something, we were playing whatever the hell we were playing.
“So before we even played any music we had an idea that we would be called The Flustered Peacocks. I wasn’t part of that – I don’t know how the other guys figured it out. Then we got new members and for some reason we were right into Roger Ramjet. Noodles Romanoff is the name of the bad guy and it’s Noodles Romanoff and his band of no-goods or something like that. We were very random people.”
After the untimely demise of the first band (though we tell him ‘Noodles Romanoff’ is a great alias to check into hotels under when he becomes really famous), Ryan sang some obligatory covers, before getting together with a couple of mates to try and come up with a name for what would ultimately become Ryan Meeking and The Few.
“It was kind of an arbitrary name that we just slapped on there after we wrote out a hundred different things it could be. The first name we had was ‘The Better Health’. Ryan Meeking and The Better Health. And then people just kept screwing it up – it was like ‘Ryan Meeking and the Boota Half’ or some crap like that on a board out the front of a venue, so we thought ‘we need to make this shorter’.” he says.
After hypnotising Warner Music’s Michael Parisi with his wares, Ryan played his music to a series of record company types who all decided that it would be indeed wonderful to give the boy a recording deal.
With the band’s sound shifting ever so slightly in direction between their first (unsigned) EP and a forthcoming album, and with a few new tracks already in the bag, it was decided to release the ‘Night Owl’ EP.
“We did it because we needed to get music out there now. We hadn’t recorded for about two years before it and we were kind of handing over our old CD shielding our faces going “I’m sorry, it’s not really us”, because so much can happen in two years.
“I’m hoping what the EP does is not only provide an example of where we’re at now, but it’s a kind of a bit of a gateway into our album. It’s like the marijuana of music progression. It’s a gateway drug into the album. Then we can push the heavy shit,” he laughs.
The five track EP opens with ‘Morning Bird’, a peppy, feel-good song written with the assistance of an owl that perched itself outside Ryan’s window on a recent trip to the UK. 'Thunder Without The Storm' is stripped-back, intimate and sublime, with a hidden instrumental leading into the laid back summery vibe of 'She Said'.
Vocally, he’s been compared to the late, great Jeff Buckley, one of Ryan’s early musical heroes, and when listening to the disc, it’s easy to understand why those comparisons are made.
“Well I take that as a huge compliment, because he was my hero. I think when my voice was developing, I listened to a heap of him, so I kind of kept that feel in my voice,” he says, adding that there have been other musical influences along the way, “Back in the day the Red Hot Chili Peppers were the first band I really heard and went ‘whoa! Music can do THAT!?’. ‘One Hot Minute’ was a fantastic album. I think later on in life The Shins – there’s been another moment where I’ve again gone ‘music can do THAT!?’, so every now and then I’m really surprised and I never stop getting new idols that I desperately want to chase.”
“Does this mean you’re becoming a stalker?” we ask.
“Oh not quite – not yet, but maybe when I … Wait ‘til I’m in the US,” he replies.
We enquire who’d be first on the stalking hit list and whether or not there’s anyone in particular we should be warning ahead of time.
“Yeah we probably should actually – I don’t know. It’d feel kind of useless not stalking a girl. If I was going to be a stalker, I’d do it right.”
America, you have been warned.
Along with an uncanny knack for sounding like Jeff Buckley, Ryan seems to have developed another unique talent – the ability to silence an audience. While most pub gigs involve drunkards paying no respect to those on stage by drinking, chatting loudly and even answering their phones, Ryan’s audience seems to be defying that trend.
“What seems to be happening now is that we seem to be recruiting people who actually care about the music. Gigs that we played recently like The Palais in Melbourne (which was fucking amazing) and The State Theatre in Sydney where the audience is there to just listen to the music , not to get wasted and hear some background music.
“We had a review once written about a show we did a year ago and the person was pretty much the whole time bagging the crowd saying it was the most ridiculous thing they’d ever seen, so loud and the most amazing music. They were really ropable with the crowd.”
But it was one recent gig at Melbourne’s iconic Esplanade Hotel where Ryan was himself silenced.
“We had a bunch of people rock up on Saturday night when we played the Espy and they rocked up to the front of the stage – it was crazy – and started yelling out the songs that Noodles Romanoff played back in the day and I’ve never had that. I was like “WHO ARE YOU!?”.
It seems Ryan Meeking (AKA Noodles Romanoff) might not be the only stalker in the world after all.
The Night Owl EP is out now through Warner Music.
Ryan Meeking and The Few’s debut album is due in 2010.
The band plays the National Hotel in Geelong on October 08 and Jive Bar in Adelaide on October 09. More tour details on the OFFICIAL MYSPACE.