Analogue Music | A Shoreline Dream

A Shoreline Dream

By Matt Conner

Music is far more than an outlet for some.

For Ryan Policky, the ability to make music isn't a creative exercise or even a professional channel. Instead, the longtime frontman of A Shoreline Dream refers to music as a central tenet—the weight-bearing beam that upholds the structural integrity of everything else. In short, if the music's not there, everything else suddenly falls apart, whether it should be connected or not. This is what made the shutdown of the music industry during the global pandemic such an important season of learning for Policky.

On this side of sheltering-in-place, Policky and company are back with a new album, Loveblind, that showcases some surprising new musical sides. For Policky, it's also a chance to exercise his creativity in other ways, such as directing music videos or taking care of audio production. He's learned more skills and followed more interests knowing that the more he leans in, the stronger the house will stand. And that shows through on the band's sixth full-length album.

Analogue: It’s been years since we’ve talked and you’ve taken the sound to various places in that span of time. Does the drive or reasons for making music in the first place feel the same at all as in those early days?

Ryan Policky: We were doing something eclectic before this called Drop the Fear and it was a Massive Attack trip-hop/shoegaze mix sort of thing. The drummer of that band and me decided to do something more of the rock side of progressive shoegaze, so we were heavily influenced by Slowdive and all that back in the day.

We’d done goth music forever. We’d been in the electronic scene. We just thought, “Let’s see where we can take this wall of sound.’ I don’t know if we had a full-fledged goal other than just trying to make the best-sound music we could in that genre, in that space of psychedelic explosions.

Right at the beginning we had all this hubbub from places like Filter and Paste and we started getting involved with these larger entities that were interested in us being a part of their businesses. We thought, ‘Okay, this is cool. We’re getting to a place where people are digging it and we can take this somewhere else.’

Once we had Ulrich Schnauss and some larger-named artists wanting to work with us, it was awesome. We knew we could keep making music and see where we could go with it. I just never gave up after that. I started my own record label and put a huge loan on my house to get it going. I knew that I had to make it work because I’d put a bunch of money into it. [Laughs]

Analogue: That’s Late Night Weeknight.

Ryan: Yeah, that’s Late Night Weeknight. I was like, ‘I gotta pay this back at least.’ A Shoreline Dream was still getting some press and I loved the sound and what we were doing, so I kept doing it to see if we could still have a good time and make some money while doing what we wanted to do.

Analogue: Given the journey you’ve described, how does that affect what you decide to release this far into your career?

Ryan: Yeah, I would say that Eric and I as a team working on music have always really jived well on our guitars. We’ve been challenging each other to get a bit more progressive with our sound. We’ve been good friends for forever,

I think the combination of the people we’ve had in the band because we’ve had people who are super hardcore, progressive—like one of our drummers who was on Recollection of Memory really pushed us into a direction we never thought we’d go by getting really technical with what we were playing. So I think it’s the influences of other people we’ve been around who have influenced us to the sound that we’re now at.

We don’t even really talk about it. We just do it. We just get together and make this stuff and it turns out the way it does. As a producer myself, I’ve been the one who handles those tasks. I just use the tools I have to try to make it bigger and louder and more expressive. It’s just turned into what it is.

It’s really interesting to look back and think about how it all happened, because it’s kind of just naturally progressed.

Analogue: So there are records that were surprises to you by where the band landed?

Ryan: I’m always surprised by the end of it. Every song is just like, ‘What? When did we do that? Where is that sound coming from?’ [Laughs] I’m always surprised by how the records turn out.

When I worked with Ulrich Schnauss, he was super technical and a huge influence on the shoegaze/electronic scene. Working with him, every time we made a song, I just had no clue how we got to where we got, but I was always so excited to hear it. I’d think, ‘Oh my god, this is amazing! This is going to be a huge hit!’ [Laughs] It wasn’t but you always think, ‘Wow, this is the sound I’ve been trying to get!’


I always hoped that other people get the chance to hear it and feel the same way because I’ve been totally blown away by some of our songs. And I think that’s what keeps me going. It’s not like I’m making a billion dollars or even really enough to mark this my full-time career. I just feel like it’s so worth putting the effort in to make it happen.

Analogue: You still seem just as enamored with the creative process as you’ve always been.

Ryan: For sure. We’ve never said, ‘Okay, we’re going to do it this way and that’s the way it is and that’s it.’ I always introduce new tools that keep me excited about doing it or new ways of recording in new rooms or with people we’ve never met before or different microphones or using rhythms we’ve never used.

This album has a lot of tempos we’ve never really played. We’re always a little bit slower, but we sped it up this time. Just those little tweaks make you want to keep doing it. That’s where I’m at. I just want to try different ways of expressing these crazy sounds I have in my head.

Analogue: Do you ever worry those ideas will run out?

Ryan: In my mind, if I’m not doing music, I start going crazy. I start getting depressed and it starts getting super heavy for me if I’m only sitting at the computer doing my design work and stuff. I feel like I’m missing something in life. I feel like I’m not doing what I really want to do with my life, so I think the muse will always be there because I don’t feel right if I’m not making music. So overall I think it’s a matter of not overthinking it and just going with what comes natural to me and what makes me feel complete as a person. Music generally always does that for me.

Analogue: You’re also involved in several other creative lanes besides just the music—directing the latest music video, the audio production. Is that a part of it, too?

Ryan: Exactly. For sure. I love making music videos. I do video and animation and that kind of production for a living. I’ve worked in advertising for forever and it’s always so cut-and-paste. You gotta go with the client and do whatever the client tells you, even if you didn’t like it. So doing video work and design work for this band allows me to express what I’m trying to do without those limitations.

I’ve always had a vision for what the sound should look like or how the story should be told. Being able to know how to do it with the tools that I have really kept me going.

VISIT: A Shoreline Dream