Analogue Music | Ron Gallo

Ron Gallo

By Matt Conner

This is, in a way, his list of demands.

Ron Gallo's latest album, Foreground Music, is more than just an interesting play on words. It's an apt title for a set of songs created to arrest more of your attention than you might normally give to him—or anyone else for that matter.

According to Gallo, there are questions that need to be asked and topics to be addressed and another passive record just wasn't going to add anything but noise to a world awash in it. Thus, Foreground Music was born, a killer new record as interesting as anything in Gallo's catalog, anchored by a cultural importance.

We recently sat down with Gallof for a conversation about the new album, his songwriting process, and the present state of making music.

Analogue: One of the things I love most about this new album is the way you get in and get out. There’s a killer hook or a great idea and you express that and then move on, and it just leaves the listener wanting to go back and hit play again. How much of your process is thoughtful about that—that restraint or whatever is at work there?

Ron Gallo: It’s probably more just undiagnosed ADHD. [Laughs] It’s me assuming that people have no time or attention span. I’m definitely not thinking about this stuff in an outward way, but when I’m making it myself and listening to it, I think, ‘Okay, you just repeated this chord progression four times. It’s time to move on.’

That’s why sometimes the songs can be rapidly changing or a little chaotic or sometimes [they’re] short. It’s probably my own brain’s attention span and then me assuming everyone’s is even worse than that. I probably have slightly more attention for myself as the person creating the song, but nowadays, you probably have 13 seconds to convey your point to people.

Analogue: Is that true for the way you consume art as well?

Ron: Wow, that’s actually interesting to think about because I guess I never have. [Pause] I mean, I guess? It depends on the kind of listener I am. In recent years, I guess I have been more of a passive listener. I’ll gravitate toward things or put something on that can create an atmosphere or be in the background—something that doesn’t require me to be intently listening. It’s been a while since I’ve put a record and headphones on and listened to every word.

Maybe that was part of it, too. I mean, it’s called Foreground Music, so maybe that was the intent behind this as well—to create something that can’t be ignored in that way. I guess all of that feeds into the brevity of it. It’s the internet times. I don’t know about you, but it feels like we’re constantly being bombarded with snippets of everything that’s ever happening everywhere all of the time. I guess it does influence the music in a way.

Analogue: When you referenced the 13 seconds to make your point earlier, is there a grief in there for you?

Ron: I guess I always like a challenge in a way. It makes you think outside of the box about how to cut through. A big question I had to ask myself in making it was, ‘It’s 2022. I’m a guy with a guitar. What justifies me even making a record.’ It makes you think more, and that’s when it started to unfold. So I like the challenge.

But there is a downer side to it. Not everything message needs to be elevated in the way that the internet does. I don’t think it’s good for everyone to hear what is going on in everyone’s head all of the time. So in that way, I think it’s a little bit difficult. You’re trying as a creator to do your work and make it meaningful and have it be in service to people, but sometimes you can’t compete with absolute noise and bullshit. In that way, it can be frustrating.

And it’s always evolving. Nowadays, everyone in the music industry is like, ‘Well, you gotta get in Tik Tok.’ This is not why anyone started doing this. This has become a different format. There’s a part of me that says, ‘Don’t be the person complaining about the reality of the situation,’ but it’s kinda bummed that it’s lost all of its purity in that way. You can still make records and do conventional things with music, but that’s everyone’s thing—at least from an industry standpoint—which is the bummer of it.

"A big question I had to ask myself in making it was, ‘It’s 2022. I’m a guy with a guitar. What justifies me even making a record.’"

You can still go out and tour and play, finally. That’s great. Thank you. But for the duration of the pandemic, it’s been limited to what you’re able to do on your phone. And that is depressing to me because that’s not what music is designed for.

Analogue: Were you wanting to make more of a demand for the listener with this one? I mean it’s called Foreground Music.

Ron: Yeah that’s definitely a big part of it. I mean, the term itself is sort of a joke in a way, but yeah, that’s kind of what it is. We’re living in this time where I feel like… the record talks about this, but it’s my issue with the way that things are. That’s something I’ve traditionally done but it feels more urgent now.

Sometimes my head space feels like shit is spiraling really quickly with where humanity is going and the increasingly fast pace of everything and all of this political. It’s just all this shit all at the same time and it’s created this red flag sort of urgency to it. It’s like, ‘Hey we’ve gotta figure some stuff out before it’s too late.’ That feeds into that theme, too.

Not only sonically is this stuff very in your face, which I wanted to be clear, but message-wise, too, these are more universal and collective topics and themes we shouldn’t ignore. Put that all together, call it Foreground Music and there you are.

Analogue: How much of this is some sort of responsibility felt to address this or that and how much of it is your creative process to try to sort out whatever is in your head?

Ron: It’s 100 percent both. It definitely starts with the second thing: me making sense of what’s going on in my head and the world and where those two things intersect. But when it came to actually making a record, that’s what I had to ask myself. It’s 2023. Guy with a guitar. Who needs it? Nobody needs it. There’s plenty of great music being made.

So that challenge came in and I thought oddly one thing that’s not done more than it should be is addressing these topics that we’re all universally facing right now. Then it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s the shit I’m writing about anyway because that’s what I think about all day.’ Those two things together felt super important.

Analogue: Has that latter part always been true for you, going back to when you first started writing songs?

Ron: Yeah, I don’t ever remember making music for music’s sake. It’s always been more of a necessity. It’s why I don’t have a lot of love songs or fairy tale fantasy story-based songs. Everything’s kind of because I need to get it out.

VISIT: Ron Gallo

Photo credit: Chiara D’Anzieri