Written by Alessa Frenkel
Allan Rayman is far from the ordinary in every sense, his music defines the word genre-bending and his persona is a secret wrapped in stories of a struggling doppelgänger. But the artist chooses to let his music speak for him and purposely keeps out of the spotlight. The Toronto native is a musical enigma racking up almost 1 million Spotify listeners but never having given an interview up until 2 weeks ago when he sat down with Billboard to discuss his freshly released album Roadhouse 01.
In short, Roadhouse 01 is an uncomfortable, dark, brilliant and musically game-changing piece of art. And it is exactly what Rayman intended it to be: “I want people to feel something close to discomfort, something that gets them feeling like they didn’t know they felt that way, especially in live settings, and mess with people’s heads a little bit […] I know I had to stick to the development of these characters that I’m portraying throughout the story and show that there’s an evolution of Allan, especially with Mr. Roadhouse, this alter ego that I’ve created […]to kind of justify his selfish and dickish behavior in a sense — put it all on him. It’s a dark story and I don’t know if the ending is going to be dark or light yet, I haven’t figured that out. But I want people to be concerned about this guy, because it’s a heavy thing to fully invest yourself in your passion.”
Melancholic piano riffs, background hallows and the iconic scratchy voice singing “When it’s all said and done/And when the wolves return to hunt/And for the taste, he’ll chase it/Throw it all away to taste it” is how Rayman first greets his listeners on Wolf. The track is a dark, thoughtful story of struggling with following your dreams whilst being abandoned and getting lost in the process. It sets the theme of the album and is an unusual beginning to an album, but then again nothing is ordinary about Rayman.
The artist continues with this notion on the hollow, bass and synths heavy track with a catchy piano theme that is Shelby Moves and almost seems to want to provoke the press at is today. (“Interview, interview, interview please/They wanna know about me/What you wanna know about?/What you wanna know about?”). In fact, Shelby Moves is particularly close to the singer, stating: “It explains why I haven’t been doing many interviews and haven’t been all over social media; at the end of the day, I think fans build up these crazy ideas of celebrities or musicians or the people they’re listening to and watching and I think there’s a really dark undertone to that fandom and celebrity-ness. So Shelby Moves, I think, explains that at the end of the day.”
Faust Road and Hollywood/My Way prove that Rayman is a master at making you think “What the?” one second and bobbing your head to the tunes the next second. Faust Road accompanied by the edgy vocals of Adria Kain deals with success changing a person and leaving loved ones behind. Hollywood/My Way goes one step further and opens up with a girl screaming. (“Shotgun ready, all ready/Wrote the letter, all Bevey ever wanted was love/I gave my whole heart to her, now it’s all lost/All y’all want is love/Baby, I’m a bad boy for you/Baby, I’m a bad habit/Baby, I don’t do good for you/Baby, sling my jacket back“). Rayman deals with cheating on his girlfriend and self-hate over bluesy guitar strings and edgy synth riffs.
Head Over Heels is another classic example of genre-bending perfection. It has distorted vocal loops, a head-bobbing synth interplay, bluesy guitar riffs with piano pads all intertwined into a track that somehow makes all of these seemingly contrary vibes mold into one of the best tracks on the album. It’s surprising, keeps the listeners on his toes and deals with falling in love with an innocent girl. “But [I’m always thinking], “How can you do things that aren’t being done?” And that’s what I love so much. What I’m finding out about myself and my creativity is that I want to push boundaries and walk that tightrope and take the risk — be different.”
Roadhouse 01 is a piece of art, a showcase for the talent that is Allan Rayman be it his writing or his vocals. Ultimately, there is something so unique about Allan’s voice that sets him apart from most singers and places him in a league of iconic singers such as Adele and Tony Bennett; a voice that does not necessarily require instruments to instantly capture you. Roadhouse 01 promises to give him that final push for people to remember his name, it’s only a matter of time.
Check out a live version of Sweetheart below.
Credit: CBC Music