Welcome to the Surreal World of Karina Rykman (12/15 at MilkBoy)

“It’s been such a surreal past few months.  It’s been hard to even make sense of it, to have these audiences know the songs and be singing them back...

“It’s been such a surreal past few months.  It’s been hard to even make sense of it, to have these audiences know the songs and be singing them back to me is the greatest thing that could ever happen…  And it’s my debut record!” says Karina Rykman.  Rykman’s first full-length, Joyride, dropped August 18th on AWAL, and the NYC indie psychedelic singer/songwriter/bassist has been touring ever since, playing a number of major festivals, before embarking on a largely sold-out headlining run, featuring Guerilla Toss handling support duties.  “I’m obsessed with them!  They’re incredible songwriters and incredible people,” says Rykman of the art rockers and phriends of PHILTHY during a recent phone chat, before letting me know that she and Guerilla Toss actually have a collaborative song set to drop in the very near future.

Karina is currently on a monthlong break between headlining jaunts.  The dates, which will have her accompanied by opener Coyote Island, will resume on November 30th in Saratoga Springs, NY, and include a December 15th stop at MilkBoy, which has been sold-out for quite some time now.  “Expect to have a really fun, engaging, dancing, rocking club show!  It blew my mind that it sold-out so many months in advance,” she tells me of her stop in the 215, before quickly adding, “Go Birds!  The jawn is gonna be jawned!”  And while Karina is obviously anxious to get back on the road, she does seem to be excited to have some time at home this week: “I’m actually born on Thanksgiving!  I mean, I was born on the 24th, so this year my birthday’s on Black Friday.”  She tells me that her family and her boyfriend’s family will be getting together for the second year in a row to celebrate both special days: “We’ll eat turkey and cake, because, ya know, it’s my birthday!”

And while Joyride is still firmly within the designation of “New Releases,” nearly-30-year-old Rykman has been making music for quite some time now.  “I started writing music only in 2019, which is crazy, and not so long ago at all!  Before that, I was a sideman, or sidewoman [laughs], for Marco Benevento, touring the UK and Japan, playing with huge bands, playing huge festivals.”  As Rykman’s senior year at NYU wound down, she was recommended for the renowned pianist’s band by another major musician: “I’d like to thank Marco Benevento, and Dave Dreiwitz of Ween, who introduced us and suggested I could be a bassist!”  She even admits that it’s still surprising to see people getting into her work outside of her collaborations with Benevento: “It’s fun and interesting to see people hopping on now and getting into my music separate from him.”

And Karina’s list of big-name musical collaborators doesn’t end there…  Joyride was actually co-produced (alongside longtime producer and childhood friend Gabe Monro) by Phish’s Trey Anastasio, who also contributes guitar on five of the album’s tracks.  The two met when they each performed at 2021’s Peach Music Festival in Scranton, and Anastasio took an immediate interest in Rykman, offering use of his Vermont studio, The Barn, where they worked with mixer Bryce Goggin, known for his work with Pavement, Swans, Ramones, and Phish themselves.  “It’s still one of the most surreal things that has ever happened to me… the way in which Trey, Bryce, and Gabe selflessly poured themselves into everything,” Karina tells me of the experience, mentioning that Trey’s music changed her life.

Joyride’s most recent single, “All That You Wanted,” dropped the same day as the album, and features vocal accompaniment from Veronica Stewart-Frommer of Melt, and guitars from Melt guitarist Marlo Shankweiler and Anastasio.  Rykman tells me that she track, which has been characterized as “dreamy indie pop” by critics, is one that she’s exceptionally proud of and also one that’s become a highlight of her live sets: “That was a product of working with my producer, Gabe Monro, and it’s one of my favorites on the record and one of my favorites to play live.  There’s even another jam that comes at the end when we play it live.”  The song has a charming music video (above) that was directed by Rykman’s close friend Charlie Chalkin (who has not only directed all of her videos, but managed to shoot them all in a single day), with animation from Charlie Laud, another good friend.  Rykman tells me that working with people she’s close with is very important to her process: “As an artist, it’s so important to have people that I trust to bounce ideas off of, especially as a ‘solo artist’ [laughs].”

While Joyride has produced three singles so far, Rykman is obviously very excited about all of the tracks.  And the Twitterverse (or “Xverse,” I guess…) — specifically Andrew Duddy (@Andrew_Duddy) — was curious about her favorite non-single off of the album.  “Right now, ‘Run of the Mill’ is really doin’ it for me,” Karina says, going on to tell me, “When I first started playing it live, earlier this year, I was so self-conscious of it, and felt vocally exposed…  And also, as far as the subject matter, it’s heavy.  It’s really about feelings of disillusionment and not being like other people, and not fitting in.”  However, she tells me that not only did the song really push her as a songwriter, but that she’s also been having a lot of fans telling her it’s their favorite song on the album.

Rykman admits that there was a bit of a transition going from the festivals on the first dates of this tour, to the headlining dates that she’s currently in the middle of.  “With festivals, I’m gonna go out there, and be the truest version of myself, and hope you dig it.  But, if you don’t, that’s okay, too…  A lot more anxiety goes into my headlining shows,” she tells me, laughing, explaining that having your name on a marquee or a ticket that fans have paid for certainly produces some added pressure.  However, she tells me that the shows so far have turned out to be amazing: “The dates on the Joyride Tour have been beyond my wildest imagination…  A few hundred people in a club, and we’re all aligned, and we’re ready to rock out and headbang.”

She also says that super fans — who follow the tour on social media, or even go to multiple dates – shouldn’t expect any night to be a carbon copy of the last: “There are plenty of songs played true to form, and plenty that we take for a walk.  Every show is different!”  And, as much as she loves playing for her fans, she tells me she equally enjoys getting to meet and get to know them: “Every night after a headlining show, I go to the merch table and meet people…  I hope to never get too big to do that…  It means so much to me to get to meet people, and they’re all the most amazing people.”

Karina Rykman already has dates scheduled through February and March of next year, when she’ll be bringing the songs of Joyride [mostly] through the South and Midwest, but she also seems excited to continue making new music and exploring new sounds, and suggests that fans shouldn’t necessarily get too attached to any one genre (I asked her about any exceptionally impressive concerts she’s seen recently, and she tells me the top three of the past month have been boygenius, Nick Cave, and Blonde Redhead.): “I’d like people to expect the unexpected, musically and in every other way.  I’m hellbent on not conforming or adhering to anything…  Genre-wise, I’m so fluid and open to anything, and the freedom to fuck around and find out, and you can come with me!”

*Join the waitlist for the sold-out show here.

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.