In the spotlight – Skinny Dippers

In the spotlight – Skinny Dippers

Skinny Dippers is a Brooklyn, NY (USA) based indie music project fronted by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Gross. Drawing from his roots growing up on the coast of Maine, his style spans a broad range of genres by blending guitar driven indie rock arrangements with analog synthesizers and choral harmonies.

When did you first fall in love with making music?

“I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember. My mom tells me that when I was a toddler she would leave pots and pans out on the kitchen floor for me because I used to love hitting them with spoons to make percussion sounds.”

“When I was about 5 years old I started taking keyboard lessons and had my first ever recital. Me and a bunch of other kids are all dressed up in race-car helmets, animal costumes, fireman hats, and other outfits, and halfway through the first song I clapped my hands while executing a 360 spin in between parts which led to raucous applause from the audience. My parents said they knew from then on I’d be some sort of performer for life.”

When was your very first recording and release? Has your sound changed since you wrote your first song?

“It depends on your definition of a recording, but I started a rock/punk band called The Stop with my friends in Middle School. We used to practice in my neighbors barn and would record onto cassette tape using a radio that was in our rehearsal space using the built in tiny mic that was part of the boombox. By the time I got to high school I had moved on to ska and was singing, playing guitar, playing some trumpet, and writing songs in a band called Free Refills. We put out a number of EP’s that we would sell at school or at shows including our full length LP ‘Code Beige’.”

“My sound has definitely changed since the Free Refills days, but I did dust off my trumpet skills and add some horns to my next Skinny Dippers release.”

Photo credit: Aschel Gregory

What artists, would you say, have played a significant influence on you as a musician and songwriter?

“This is always the hardest question to answer as I think I could list a million different artists who have helped shape my sound in some way. Some of the musicians or groups that have most inspired me include Andrew Bird, Iron & Wine, Pavement, The Shins, Dr. Dog, Third Eye Blind, Elliott Smith, and The Strokes. All of those bands blend compelling songwriting, great playing, and a distinct sound that really makes them stand out to me. More recently I had the pleasure of working with my friends Dan & Jordan from TOLEDO who produced my full length LP and definitely played a huge impact in helping me find my sound.”

What’s your guilty pleasure song?

“Anything Hall & Oates. I have an entire ‘Room Cleanin’ playlist that is mostly cheesy 80’s songs. At some point I would love to do a cover album of all my favoyrite cheesy 80’s songs with a modern twist.”

What qualities do you admire in other artists?

“I’m a sucker for a catchy hook first and foremost, but I think it’s important to do so in a compelling way that brings an original sound to the table. Artists that can build a compelling narrative in their own voice all while sprinkling in unforgettable earworms will have my loyalty as a listener for life.”

How do you feel about the current music scene?

“There is so much incredible music being made right now, and it has become easier than ever to find music that fits your tastes. Advances in home recording technology have made it easier than ever to make music on a budget, and the internet/streaming services make it easier than ever to find music you love. The one thing I think needs to improve is the ability for artists to make a living off of their music so that more talented people can spend more time bringing music into the world.”

If you were asked to suggest only one of your songs for someone to hear, which would it be?

“My songs really vary from upbeat Indie Pop or Indie Rock songs to more chilled acoustic or Indie Folk type songs, so I think there’s something for every type of listener. My personal favourite changes upon my mood, but I’m often brought back to ‘Wedding Ring’ which I think is most representative of the overall Skinny Dippers songs, and one of my favourites to perform.”

Your song ‘Night To Day’ is currently in our chart. There must be a story behind the artwork?

“Yes! I’ve been working with my good friend and fellow music artist Nola Wren for all my single artwork, and we’ve gotten such a great response so far! With each of the singles, we aim to collage a number of obscure references and memorable lyrics from my songs into a visual representation of the song. Then we’ve applied a consistent style so that all of the artwork has a post-card feel, as if someone was sending you each of these tracks as a message or a secret love note.”

In the release talk for ‘Boat On The Water’ you mentioned your debut album ‘The Town & The City’. When can we expect the release of your album?

“I’m going to put out two last singles in June/July then drop the full 10 song LP in August!”

And now for some light hearted questions… Your mantra is summed up in three words, guitars and French fries. What toppings would you prefer on your French fries?

“Mayo all day yo! Fries are a delicious salty blank canvas though, and you can’t go wrong with most toppings.”

What’s your favourite guitar you own?

“I probably reach for my Martin 000-18M the most, but I also have a couple Fender electrics, and a cheap nylon string acoustic guitar that I got for free that I really love to play.”

Photo credit: Nola Wren

Do you have any hidden talents?

“I’ve never lost a thumb war, and on a more musical note, I’ve been called the Alicia Keys of whistling.”

Where is the best place for a skinny dip?

“Too many to count, but most of my favourite skinny dips would be back in my home state of Maine where I grew up. You can’t go wrong with a quiet lake when the moon is full, a sandy beach with the waves crashing over you, or the thrill of an outdoor pool under the stars that you had to sneak into to reach.”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?

“I really like ‘Fridge Notes’ from Shayan Regan. We’ve actually connected over Instagram before as we both noticed each other popping up in a lot of the same playlists even though our genres are quite different. Ultimately good songs shine through, and I love Shayan’s lyricism and can’t get enough of his voice!”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?

“I’d like to add ‘Safe’ from my good friend Harper James X. Harper is a Brooklyn Producer/Engineer and a good friend of mine who I’ve known for ages. He produced my first single ‘Panties’, and Middle Youth is his Indie/Experimental project where he sneakily drops tracks that he creates in between producing other artists. His latest album ‘Not Just Me’ features some incredible bass grooves, silky synthesizers, and ‘Safe’ is one of the tracks where his songwriting skills and production chops are on full display.”