Origami Angel on the DIY Recording of "Gami Gang"

If you’ve somehow managed to miss DC outfit Origami Angel’s rise to the top of the DIY emo scene, you’ve got a lot to catch up on.

ryland and pat of origami angel
Ryland and Pat of Origami Angel

Made up of guitarist and vocalist Ryland Heagy and drummer Pat Doherty, the prolific two-piece has released an astounding seven projects in just five years. Each release has been infused with the perfect balance of blazing-fast tapping and twinkle riffs, thick and layered chugging breakdowns, and perfectly complementary accentuated drumming. What’s more is that the pair always finds time between releases to grow, evolve, and tear it up in brand-new and exciting ways.

Most recently, Gami dropped their sophomore LP, Gami Gang. This record sees the band ambitiously flexing in every direction. Doubling the size and length of Somewhere City, the band’s first LP, Gami Gang is 20 glorious tracks of perfection—and all of it was recorded in Ryland’s bedroom.

As a massive fan of this band, I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with Ryland to chat about the new record and get the ins and outs of his incredibly specific and impressive rig. Check it out below, and then head to Counter Intuitive Records to pick up some beautiful Gami vinyl.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Congratulations, of course, on Gami Gang—it's an incredible record. As someone who has been following your band since the early days, it seems like you were steadily building an audience that just totally exploded exponentially after that first LP dropped. Did you feel a massive shift or growth in your audience after the release of Somewhere City?

Yeah, in terms of the recognition, I think you’re totally right. We had sort of been building up this cult momentum through the earlier releases, which was the goal. That was a big release year for us, 2019, because it went: The Holy Split, then Gen 3 four months later, and then Somewhere City came out six months after that. We always had it planned that way, as part of the first LP rollout in a sense. We wanted to have this year where we released like 16-17 songs, and this is how we could do that financially.

I think there’s huge pressure in this community to get that first LP out, but it’s just tough. You want to make it right, you want to be able to do drums in the studio or whatever. Whereas with the EPs, you can do them your own and build momentum that way, so that's kind of the approach that we took.

holy split EP cover
The Holy Split
gen 3 album cover
Gen 3
somewhere city album cover
Somewhere City

Once we hit Somewhere City, though, the recognition was through the roof in a way we weren’t expecting. We were playing shows we booked before Somewhere City at places like All Star Lanes in LA and like 300 people showed up. Same in Arizona—we were playing at a tattoo shop I think, and people were just going crazy. We sold out Beat Kitchen in Chicago, too.

Just all over the country, there wasn’t a sleeper—places I had never expected us to have a significant draw were filled with people having fun with us. That was something that we hadn’t prepared to experience and made us realize that Somewhere City was a huge, huge step for us. It can’t be overstated. The first LP is so important to bands and I think there’s always a rush toward it, but I’m so glad that we were able to wait and take our time and get our legs under us before we did it.

You can definitely hear that growth from project to project with how solid and tight your presentation always is. It's funny to hear you say that this has been you all "taking your time," though, just because you've managed to still put out seven releases in just five years. That would be insanely impressive for any band, but especially being within the DIY space as you are, where such steady release consistency isn't exactly common, it's pretty incredible.

Thank you, that means a ton to me because that’s what the whole mission statement has been since day one. It’s hard because art and business is something that, in the heart, should never overlap, you know? But it has to a certain point and that’s something I realized very early on. When I was paying for the first EP [Quiet Hours], paying to have it mixed and shit, I was just like dang—it’s crazy how much money and energy and effort can go into this.

24 Hour Drive-Thru

Pat and I talked and we made a conscientious decision that as a band, we want to be as self-sufficient as possible. We were also working full-time, Pat was going to school, so I was like alright, let’s just sink money into shirts and every cent we make will just go back into the band fund.

Luckily, after the first run of selling shirts at shows and everything, the band fund was positive, so we started figuring out how to put that money most effectively back into our next record and just kept pushing.

I was super surprised (and excited) to see that Gami Gang was twice as long as Somewhere City. Was it always in the cards for you guys to put out a double LP so soon after the first record, or was that a result of having extra time due to the pandemic?

What's really funny is that we actually had this idea of making a 20-track album even before we recorded Somewhere City.

gami gang album cover
Gami Gang album cover.

When we were writing Somewhere City, I was working pretty much 50 hours a week and Pat was a couple of hours away at school, so it was kind of just [writing] in between grinding. I was just making sure that I was getting as much down musically as possible whenever I could.

I was writing this Somewhere City concept and anything that didn’t fit that, I kind of put in my back pocket. In the mess of everything, it took me a couple months to realize [just how much I had]. I got a notepad and wrote everything down that wasn’t for Somewhere City and realized I had like 35 songs. I wasn’t finished with a lot of them, and it gave me a little bit of anxiety even thinking about it because I loved them but knew there was no way that we could put out all of them.

Financially, we could only afford to do a single LP for the first one, but Pat and I were like "What if we planned to make a bigger LP—like a 20-song, 50 minutes to an hour-long record—with these songs? Just take the best ones and we’ll work on them." We had the final demos for these 20 songs like the week before Somewhere City was even released.

Wow, that’s incredible.

It’s kind of wild because I expect a lot of people to think that this is "that pandemic album," but there’s not a single song even written during COVID-19 on Gami Gang. It’s very interesting because we haven’t even gotten around to putting out all of the types of stuff that we’ve been writing during this time—and there are tons of songs.

The double LP was really us knowing that we wanted to take a bold musical step, we wanted to create a new experience. And in deciding that, Pat and I figured out that we really want to make every album its own unique experience, it’s own unique statement, and a reflection of our musicality at the time—whether that's more conceptual and concise like Somewhere City or some of the EPs, or whether it's all over the place like Gami Gang.

"Neutrogena Spektor"

It's absolutely wild that all of these songs were written so early, and that you write so much in general. What is your writing process like with Pat?

Since it’s just me and Pat—guitar and vocals/whatever I’m running my amps through and then drums—we’ve got a very efficient system. I’ll just record a little scratch of unfinished riffs and things into GarageBand and then have that in a Google Drive folder so that I can listen for hours on end.

I mentioned before how I was working all of the time. I had like an hour and fifteen-minute commute, so I was just listening for like two and a half hours a day when I couldn’t play guitar and writing down idea. That way, I knew once I got back to the crib, I could just make it super efficient. It was sort of just figuring out how to maximize that, and I think I got to a really good place mentally with my maximization of the music.

Pat's the type where I'll just send him these rough ideas with a click track and we’ll go to play and he’ll already have all of these crazy parts worked out. All it takes is your initial movement, your momentum, and someone else to be like "Oh, I took your inertia and I made it a real thing," and then boom—the song is done. So it’s a very efficient sequence of me and Pat working that way.

Each of your songs is made up of so many diverse parts, with so many seamlessly blended styles and influences. Are you mostly inspired by whatever you’re listening to at the time or do you have specific styles that you’re trying to play or emulate?

Pat and I both have super diverse musical palettes. I grew up with my cousin who had been a drummer in some emo bands and that’s what got me into it when I was super young, like eight. My parents also passed progressive rock and stuff like that down to me and then on my own, I figured out that I also liked crazy metalcore, like Attack Attack!, and big breakdowns.

"Self-Destruct"

Obviously, you go through periods of your life when you think those kinds of things are cringe. But when we were writing this stuff, I was like 20-21 and thought, "Nah, I’m gonna reclaim that," and combined those influences and tastes with what I love to do already.

Pat also has this incredible diversity where he loves a lot of hardcore and ska, but also has this dexterity with his playing—he knows how to play a lot of different types of shit just from listening to it, and it’s allowed us to combine a lot of elements seamlessly without anything being lost in translation. We’re really willing to try a lot of different things and it’s worked out for us so far.

I read that you tracked all of Gami Gang in your bedroom, which is wild because of how huge and clean it sounds. Engineering, I imagine, must be something that you’re also very passionate about, because it’s certainly not easy. Is having that control over the process something that’s important to you?

I’ve always wanted to be someone who’s recording things. I’ve recorded our own demos and our first three EPs, the split, and our Christmas song—even drums and everything. We went into a studio for Somewhere City to do drums and then tracked the guitars and vocals at Jake Checkoway’s apartment.

For this record, we were kind of in between a rock and a hard place. We didn’t want to delay it anymore, and we had signed with Counter Intuitive and I said to Jake [Sulzer, CIR founder], "Hey, I know you might not want to do this, but I want to record this shit on my own with Pat in my room, and I want to do everything." And, you know, he obviously wasn't totally sold on that because we had just come off successfully going into the studio.

I thought okay, I’ll use some of the money that we’ve saved as Origami Angel to rent the highest-quality mics possible and then we’ll come together and I’ll send this stuff to Jake Checkoway [to mix] and then to Jake Sulzer and ask if it’s good enough to release. After the first track, Sulzer was like "Wait, this sounds crazy!" and I was like "I’m saying!" [Laughs]

It definitely took a lot and it was a big leap for me to produce a full record and to record everything on my own, especially wanting to live up to the first record and its studio drums. It was an interesting process for sure, but honestly I found a lot of peace in it. Vocally, I felt like I could go to a whole different level because I was comfortable—it was just me, and I was able to sort of just tap into things and do it at my own pace. Same with guitar, I could do it at my own pace.

Even from the producer mindset, which I tapped into a lot more on this record, I could let these songs exist as rough mixes for a couple months before deciding I wanted to put a little Mellotron synth on this part, or I want to put a shaker behind this track, or I want to add a harmony here. It really let me go to a whole different level, and I think we’re going to continue to work with that idea, hopefully—combining the studio with at-home recording.

I imagine your bedroom isn’t acoustically treated or anything—were you using any tricks or did you have to come up with clever fixes for things that would’ve been simpler in a studio? What were some of your biggest challenges?

Definitely. I started by moving a bunch of shit out and putting my bed up against the wall. I had Pat’s snare at my house, so I thought I would test it out. I set it up with hella room mics and just hit it hard as shit to hear how it sounded. And honestly, it wasn’t the worst sound in the world.

It sounded really tight, not reverberated, and that’s actually the sound that I wanted for this record—a bit more punk-centric than Somewhere City, which is a different type of record with a lot more air and openness to it.

For Gami Gang, I wanted it to be much more abrasive. So I was thinking that even though this room is dead as hell, I like that for this record and we could really build around that. When we started to track the drums, Jake [Checkoway] was saying they actually sounded really good and that he thought the cymbals even sounded better than on Somewhere City.

"Kno U"

In terms of challenges, the overall setup was much harder than just dropping into a studio where everything is already placed and they have someone like Jake there, who’s way more experienced and can make sure everything is good. I was FaceTiming Jake for like an hour and half before we would record, just taking pictures of my room and asking little questions about room mic setup and other things. So that was definitely more challenging.

I also had some anxiety about having the mics I was renting sent to me, just because I’d never used many of them before and didn’t really know what to expect.

What mics were you using?

For the toms, we used Sennheiser 421s and for the snare, we ran two SM57s. I think we used an AKG 414 pair for the overheads and then had a Sennheiser pencil condenser on the ride for more of a focused cymbal sound. I used my SM7B on the hi-hat as well, and we also put a Sennheiser live vocal mic on the other side of the bass drum for a really, really pronounced and cut-out pop on the kick.

I also mic’d the bottom of the toms, which I’ve never done before. For the floor tom, I used an Audix D4, like a kick and drum mic, and it gave a lot of resonance to the tom parts. And I think we mic’d the tom rack with one of those Sennheiser guitar/tom mics.

For room mics, we had a Mohave tube stereo pair—they're mics Mohave doesn’t even make anymore, the rental company just happened to have them—that we placed like eight feet away in an XY pattern. That ended up breathing a lot of life into the dryer room too.


Shop the Mics

That’s such a clever way to add dimension to the drums while still keeping them super punctuated. I was definitely expecting you to tell me that you tracked everything in your room except for drums, which was a studio visit, so I’m incredibly impressed with the sound.

Thank you, thank you. A lot of that, too, is Jake Checkoway and the mix and us working back and forth with that—he’s a master at that.

The thing that I ended up really loving about this dryer room is that Pat is such an accentuating drummer who does all of these unconventional things, and I just wanted to be able to pick that up. When he’s hitting ghosts and doing a little double left-hand hit into a snare roll, I wanted that to come through everything and be part of what this record is centered around. I think we were able to capture that and work with it in the mix, and that’s something I’m super proud of.

I always say that every time I see Pat, he’s twice as good at drums than he was the time before. I really wanted to make sure that people would understand how much work this man puts into his craft, and it was super cool to be able to capture that.

Were you recording amps and guitars pretty conventionally?

That’s the thing, we went kind of a step above even what we did in the studio for the last record in terms of the drum work, but for amps and guitars, I’ve always been of the mindset that simplicity makes it a lot better. I’m doing a lot of complicated stuff on guitar playing-wise, but I really just put the 57 on it and let my pedal chain go to work.

a picture of a pedalboard
Ryland's pedalboard.

One thing I did experiment with a lot more on this record is layering. There’s plenty of parts that are a clean track, a crunchy track, and then a super dirty track or a chuggy track underneath—a lot of the breakdowns are layered like that—and my pedals really help shape all of that.

I did want to ask about all of the layering and all of your different tones. It sounds so huge, and the biggest surprise is that there’s only two of you. How do you put your pedal chain to work, especially live, to make everything sound so full?

In terms of a live setup, it’s really all about running through different amps. For the Somewhere City tour, I was running through two guitar amps, dual stereo, and then a bass amp underneath—I had a separate signal that cuts to the bass amp.

Now, I actually have the RJM Mastermind PCB pedalboard controller, and it does more than I ever thought. So now I have everything in loops, but I also have switchable amps in a loop. So I can go from all-distortion, with a Mel9 in there for the synth layer underneath, and have that going through three amps and then just cut it to one.

What amps are you using?

I’ve actually been rocking a four-amp setup recently. It goes wet-dry-wet, starting with a stereo wet into two Fender DeVilles—a 410 and a 212. Those amps take pedals really well. Then, in the center, I rock this Roland Jazz Chorus head that I rebuilt—it actually used to be a cabinet.

A friend from high school found it and was like "Hey, the speakers are all gone, so I’m gonna gut the electronics and I’ll give them to you." He turned the shell into his own cabinet, and I know a bit about electronics so I fixed it up. As soon as I plugged it in, it sounded like a JC-120, so I got a 410 stereo cabinet for it, and that’s usually the dry sound that I use live.

I'm also rocking the Radial Shotgun splitter, which lets you switch phase. It’s cool because you can send one signal in through the loop and have it be the mono and then switch to two signals in and it becomes the wet-dry-wet, which sends out to the Hall of Fame reverb and Flashback 2 delay just to add some subtle space when we rock live.

I’ll also have a synth layer in there sometimes, and I like to use a blender to blend that into the background. I have an octave signal, too—just a cut-off octave that’s going to the bass amp. That’s usually paid off very well for us, it’s pretty convincing live.

Something I’ve added and not yet had the chance to play live is the DOD Meatbox—a subharmonic synth pedal that splits, so you got one going to the bass amp and the subharm going into the PA for just a crazy sub. Hypothetically, that could sound bigger than even just a regular bass guitar.

I'm waiting for acoustic simulators to get better so I can run that in there and have a double acoustic sim at some point.

There are a lot of things that I have yet to experiment with that I really want to. Something I'm looking to do next, if I can figure out a way to do it, is to use the Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork+ off the bass signal to make a power chord on top of the bass. There’s a lot of crazy ideas and it’s been really fun experimenting, and it’s also paid off to the point where I don’t really think we need a bassist because I have this crazy rig that I’ve already put so much into.

In terms of just the bare bones of the pedals on the record though, I have one of those super mini clones of the OCD for the crunchy drive and that goes into the EarthQuaker Devices Plumes, which is the big dark sound. I love that pedal, that pedal changed the game for me. I was originally running a Glacial Zenith, which is a Tube Screamer clone from Adventure Audio. I love that company and love that pedal, but when I got the EQD Plumes, I knew it was different.

It really screams and is brutal and changed my whole philosophy for this record because it was the perfect blend of heaviness and clarity. I’m not usually one to DM a pedal account on Instagram, but when I got the Plumes, I was reached out like "Just wanna let y’all know, you changed my life." [Laughs]

I bet that they dug that, EarthQuaker Devices is full of great people.

For sure, I’ve heard great things from people who have toured their facilities. I love their pedals, and I’m definitely trying to get more into their whole collection. I think that they make the perfect hybrid of the kind of digital functionality that TC Electronic perfects with that pure analog warmth that everyone loves EHX for. It’s the perfect combination, and the art is also beautiful. It’s the perfect company, for real.

So those are the main two pieces in terms of the core sound, and then I’m running out to the MXR 10-band EQ at 18 volts just to get the big headroom. I have this one setting and it’s all taped to how I like it. I’ve been using that for a few years, and placed after the distortion, it just totally makes what I'm doing. It treats the amps differently and gives you that nice mid-range sound, but it’ll also let you get that piercing lead and really shape the distortion as well.

That’s something I’ve recommended to a lot of people who ask me what they should do in terms of pedals. If they’re trying to play this type of guitar, that 10-band EQ is what you need. I got my shit for $40 used, and it’s something that I would’ve spent $120 on now that I’ve used it so much. I have it mounted to the bottom of my board and use that zip-tie trick to make sure it's literally never turned off.

So that’s where the chain is now. I had to take a huge step up when I got the RJM Mastermind because it's so massive. I had to get a whole new board. I was rocking a 24-inch and now I’m at a 32-inch, so I’m that jackass with the huge pedalboard, but it’s worth it at this point.

Your pedalboard setup sounds like it’s basically functioning as a whole additional bandmate now. Do you experiment with a lot of different guitars, too? Has that part of your rig changed a lot, or do you tend to find something you like and build off of that tone with amps and effects?

Ryland's Jag Special sitting upright on a yellow arm chair
Ryland's Jag Special

In terms of Origami Angel, I’ve only ever used my Fender Jaguar Special with two humbuckers. I routed out this middle humbucker too, and that’s what goes to the bass signal. A few modifications were made to it, but it’s pretty much straight up.

Someone saw that I had Dratini on it and made me the shiny version of Dratini for it, which was really, really sweet.

So this has been the vibe. I was thinking recently that if I ever switched to a different guitar, it would be some crazy shit like an acrylic guitar with a metal neck or something.

Although I probably wouldn’t actually rock acrylic, I know those are supposed to be the worst for your back.

I love how niche and specific your whole setup is. It’s clearly gone through all of these evolutions, and really just seems to fit within the nature of the band in that way—always growing and getting bigger and better.

Yeah, for real, it’s definitely been an evolution and it’s definitely helped me as a producer as well, learning about this stuff. I didn’t come at this like "I’m gonna be the producer of our sophomore LP," when I was building the rig back in 2017, but I was trying to learn more and more about pedals and electronics and that got me to the point of figuring out that I had to build certain things that didn’t exist yet.

Even if it was a simple thing that I just couldn’t find, I was like alright, now I need to get good at that, and then I need to become proficient in signal chain. It was just a lot of evolution and it’s definitely changed how I am as a gear and pedal consumer and user.

That kind of resourcefulness is something that I think is just definitely part of the band’s brand now at this point.

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