Following his acclaimed 2018 debut album Running, Melbourne’s Ryan Downey today returns with a new single & video ‘Heart Is An Onion‘, a vibrant full-throated indie-rock march and the first track to be taken from his forthcoming luminous art-rock album A TON OF COLOURS out Friday 14 May via Dot Dash Recordings / Remote Control Records.
To celebrate the announcement, Downey has announced a string of single launches in Sydney, Melbourne & Castlemaine, kicking off mid-April – tickets on sale now here.
Downey’s sound is a vibrant affair –musically, stylistically, and vocally. His astonishing voice often raises comparisons to the all-terrain vocals of Bryan Ferry and David Bowie, whilst his give-all performance style is inspired by artists he describes as “offering an expression from a deep human place” such as Kate Bush, Karen O and David Byrne. On record, Downey’s drama-filled, spirited songs are vivid and playful but with a raw sophistication, in part courtesy of producer Burke Reid (Courtney Barrett, Julia Jacklin), with an electrifying heft, depth and genuine emotion that nods to contemporaries re-defining the guitar record, such as Anna Calvi and Big Thief.
First single ‘Heart Is An Onion’ is a surreal, existential roller coaster ride towards hope and compassion. As Downey explains, “it’s about empathy and looking into each other’s human layers, seeing that we all have the same clunky, miraculous hearts underneath and finding resilience and magic in that connection.” The track’s bold, saturated sounds are steered by Downey’s determined yet vulnerable vocal performance.
‘Heart Is An Onion’ is accompanied by a wonderfully surrealist video which Downey describes as “Mad Max meets (British photographer) Tim Walker”. Created by Downey and co-director Alex Badham, the video was shot outside of Horsham in Victoria in the 40-degree heat giving the video the woozy sun-drenched backdrop of the Australian countryside in summertime. It uses iconic motifs from the Surrealist movement reimagined in the song’s lyrics, with a special nod to René Magritte’s iconic skies, blood-spattered statues and his ‘The Son of Man’ self-portrait, recreated here with Downey and an onion.
Mirroring the song’s lyrics which Downey describes as being about “layers unfolding, revealing our inner worlds”, the video uses face paint to represent elements of the inner self that inspire empathy – wounds are represented in the red ‘blood’ splat and locked tear, desire in the enlarged beauty spot, and individual stories in the snail trail maze.
Downey‘s forthcoming album A TON OF COLOURS is about humanness – its beauty, its contradictions, and our desire for connection. It is a love letter, of sorts, to the beauty of emotional expression and communication, with love being the conduit for this joy of self-expression. Inspired in the main by Downey’s long-term relationship there’s a soul-sharing vulnerability throughout, found in the aching longing in ‘Contact’ (“If I can’t be touched right now, then I need your love”), the exploration of intoxicating all-consuming love in ‘Sors De Ma Tête’ (“No freedom from dreaming with your eyes on the back of my eyes”), and in the introspective ‘Half Light’ which lays bare feelings of fear and inadequacy (“Fear, you will not own me, but I don’t want to be lonely, I just want to see half-light in full flight”).
Love is presented on A TON OF COLOURS as the multifaceted, visceral and galvanising beast it often is, and musically the record mirrors this in its sonic spectrum – from the chaotic to the delicate …The former found in the anthemic first single ‘Heart Is An Onion’, and the latter found in songs like the gently expanding cascade of ‘Patterns’, and somewhere in-between in the lurching rhythms and minimalist buzz of ‘Same Dream, Every Night’. It heaves, flickers, and radiates with a powerful tenderness. It’s open, adventurous and wants to take you with it.
A TON OF COLOURS is Ryan Downey’s second album following 2018’s debut Runningwhich was nominated for the Australian Music Prize, and saw Downey play a string of headline shows in Australia, as well as support Marlon Williams, Sarah Blasko and Emma Louise across Australia and Europe throughout 2018-19.
It was written and performed by Ryan Downey on vocals, guitars, keys, synths, beats, percussion, with additional instrumentation from Jesse Glass (drums, piano and additional percussion) and Nicolas Roder (bass, Moog). The album was recorded in 2020 at Soundpark Studios, Northcote, Australia. It was produced, engineered, and mixed by Burke Reid, and mastered by Guy Davie at Electric Mastering, London UK.