Paul J. Haley (vocals/guitar), John Ramsburg (bass/vocals), and Will Kramer (drums) have played in a variety of North Jersey bands over the years (Dollar Store Riot, Die-Cast Cars, among others). Then in late 2017, they came together to form Thrill Ride, with a sound that they describe as “Noisy Post Punk n’ Roll from SOMa, NJ.”
Recently, we sat down with Paul and John from Thrill Ride to get their take on the local North Jersey scene, the band’s sound, and what has inspired them…
1.) Why did you choose Thrill Ride as your band name?
John Ramsburg: We tried out a few names, but Paul came up with a name at a soccer game that stuck. I don’t even think he came up with it, one of the soccer moms did.
Paul J. Haley: Around this time last year, I was at my son’s soccer pictures event, talking to my friend Kiry, discussing many things, including the difficulty in naming bands and our weekend plans. After stating her plans, I sarcastically said “very exciting” in which she responded to some effect, “Yes, such an exciting, Thrill Ride of a weekend.” We both looked at each other and said, bingo! Ran it by the rest of the band and they were immediately sold! So John is right, a soccer mom saved the day! Thanks Kiry! xo
2.) Who would you say are Thrill Ride’s biggest influences?
Paul: I will leave John to answer his own influences, but mine come from all different directions. My two major influences are both The Smiths and Buffalo Tom. I wouldn’t be in any band if it weren’t for them. I am also a “[New York] Hardcore Kid” at heart that loves punk and hardcore, post-hardcore and some crossover/metal. I also gravitate to a lot of Brit-Pop, with Oasis, Stone Roses, Charlatans, etc. being some major go-to bands. The Rolling Stones are another major influence, but so are the hip hop sounds of Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy and Beastie Boys…I also enjoy classical and the jazz sounds of Parker, Coltrane, Roach, and Dizzy to name a few…..the list of bands/genres I listen to is endless, and it all depends on my mood at the moment which is constantly changing. Except for jazz, I am sure all these genres end up in Thrill Ride’s music. The best backhanded compliment I ever got from a friend and fellow musician was “you could hear the heavy [Johnny] Marr influences in your guitar playing if you just turned down all that distortion!”
John: Paul and I write the songs separately and then bring them to the group to “polish.” As a result, I think we have two different, yet compatible sounds. I’ve taken ideas from alt-country (Lucero), stoner metal (Kyuss), and proto punk (Modern Lovers) and tried to mold them into our sound. That said, Will is the main integrator. He finds the the right beat and rhythm to drive each song home. Without these guys, I feel like a one-legged bar stool.
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3.) What does the North Jersey music scene mean to you? Do you see it moving in a good direction?
John: I can’t shut up about it. I probably annoy everyone at parties telling them how amazing it is. I finally found a home, a safe place to really open up creatively within this community. Everyone is supportive and uplifting, and I can’t thank them enough for enabling me to explore all of my musical instincts. With this level of enthusiasm and positivity, it can only get better.
Paul: It means a lot! I am constantly amazed by the number of fantastic, diverse bands in North Jersey and new ones popping up, especially in SOMA (South Orange/Maplewood). Although open for debate, the SOMA Scene has been compared to New Brunswick and Asbury Park which is very flattering, but also nuts! The challenge in North Jersey is the lack of venues to play, but bands are taking DIY steps to address them. Definitely moving in the right direction and further support from the likes of Bone Pool Radio only enriches the experience! All the bands support one another, wearing each other shirts, band stickers on guitar/bass cases, etc.
4.) When you were growing up, what were your favorite radio stations? What did you like about them?
Paul: Oh boy, not much growing up WAY Upstate (NY). We had a couple of local rock stations: WRCK /Rock 107 (RIP) and WOUR/96.9 that is still going strong on the FM dial. I started out (and in some ways still remain) a metal head, listening to “Diamond Dave” era Van Halen, AC/DC and numerous hair metal bands, etc. I clearly remember the look on my father’s face when he bought me Motley Crue‘s Shout At The Devil at a local mall.
My older siblings all liked really bad 70’s rock and disco. I still remember flipping through their LPs with mild disgust, somehow knowing that their music wasn’t for me. To be fair, my sister loved Queen and Kiss though, and I still remember my mom yelling at her about about some Gene Simmons bloody tongue album cover.
I hated U2 at Red Rocks, only to love them obsessively by Live Aid 85. I also remember sitting on my bed with my rabbit-eared B/W TV thinking, maybe even saying out loud, is there any good music out there???, then as if cued, the “Night Flight” TV show introduced me to the world of punk rock with the Decline of Western Civilization documentary and bands like Black Flag and Circle Jerks. It was all over from there.
Hamilton College (WHCL 88.7) played a lot of “college rock.” I even co-hosted a hardcore show one time on it. It was our version of WLIR for sure. Hamilton College brought a lot of great bands in as part of their “Wednesday Night Live” salad bar series. That is where I was blown away by Buffalo Tom, a life changing experience.
Ultimately, we had to dig, really deep underground to find the music we were seeking. It was largely word of mouth, live shows and taking chances on purchased records from seedy record shops on the seedy side of town, or buying hardcore 7″ in Albany/Syracuse parking lots after shows. Because of these lack of outlets growing up, I am always on the hunt to feed my musical fix to this day.
John: I grew up in DelCo, outside of Philly. There was a 2-hour alternative radio show on 97.5 WPST that was more important than church to me. Then we got WDRE, 103.9 – they launched by playing all of Flood the first night. Dr. Dre bought it for obvious reasons a year later. And I’d be remiss not mention WDOX, South Jersey’s underground alternative station, it made my summers down the shore. Oh yeah, Cabrini College radio would play the craziest stuff back to back, like Beat Happening and then Samhain, it was great!
5.) What should North Jersey music fans know about Thrill Ride?
John: We will play any gig. Any. gig.
Paul: That whatever musical mistakes are made, whether in recordings or live, it’s all John and especially Will’s fault…lol.
BONUS QUESTION! What’s next for Thrill Ride? Any upcoming shows and/or projects to tell us about?
John: We have a gig at Tierney’s Tavern (Montclair) on January 12 with The Outliers, Suburban Home, and Rites Of Springfield. Also finishing up our album at Laughing Boy studios.
Paul: What John said! Working on lots of shows for 2019, new songs and recordings…will keep you posted!
Frank McKeon handles marketing activities for Bone Pool Radio. He also hosts The FM Show, a weekly ‘deep dive’ into music discovery. Whether the songs are from 10 days ago or 10 years ago, Frank shines a light on “your favorite bands that you just haven’t heard yet.”
The FM Show airs Thursdays at 7 p.m. on Bone Pool Radio. You can email Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org.