Chicago's Footballhead rcently joined Tiny Engines, who will give their debut album, 'Overthinking Everything,' a proper release in March. Originally self-released digitally by the band in the Summer of 2023, the album has now been remastered by Jesse Cannon (Basement, The Menzingers, Saves The Day, Somos).
Fronted by singer/songwriter Ryan Nolen, Footballhead started as a solo project with no intention of ever playing shows. Which would have been a damn shame, because 'Overthinking Everything' is an extremely solid debut album that will take you right back to the glory days of early 2000's alt-rock. We caught up with Ryan to talk about all things 'Overthinking Everything'.
PRT: When you were younger you moved from Chicago to Palm Springs before moving back again. Has that had an influence on you musically? Asking because you are from the Midwest and play emo, yet you don’t sound like your typical ‘Midwest emo’ band.
Ryan: I was lucky; I always had older friends around me growing up even when I was like 7-8-9 years old who had their finger on the pulse of culture. I have a sister who’s 7 years older than me and she had boyfriends and friends who played in punk bands in the Chicagoland area when they were teenagers. I was born in the midwest and spent my childhood in the West-Chicago suburbs but I was always more influenced as a kid by bands like Green Day and Incubus than what I think we know today as ‘midwest emo’.
PRT: Footballhead’s sound is not limited to emo, but has a lot of 90s alt-rock and some power pop influences as well with some Blink-182 magic added to the mix. Was that the sound you wanted to go for from the get-go?
Ryan: I think that was for sure the blueprint for the project, but I also think that blueprint has evolved a lot. When I started footballhead, I wanted to write songs that sound like “there she goes” by the La’s or “story of a girl” by Nine Days, and maybe that shines through on the first EP, but we’ve certainly strayed from that. I think it’s all about being current in applying what inspires you in the present, and that’s always changing.
PRT: When did you go from listening to music to writing music?
Ryan: I probably wrote my first real songs at like 15 or so? I had a high school band with some of my best friends Yale and Blake. We’d play backyards or house parties in Palm Springs; we got to play Chain Reaction in Anaheim a couple times. But I took many years off writing songs and being serious about music and it’s wild now to think there was any lull in the first place.
PRT: Footballhead started out as a solo project. When and why did you decide to turn it into a full-fledged band?
Ryan: I initially never intended to play any of these songs live; it was all supposed to be a passion project. One of my best friends Alicia here in Chicago asked me to headline a show in the fall of 2022 and I jumped at the chance. And I think getting in a room with a bunch of my best friends and rehearsing these songs was just fun for everyone; so now it’s a band and I’m so stoked it’s that way. I think it was always meant to be.
PRT: Are the songs on ‘Overthinking Everything’ already a full band effort? Or did you write most of it yourself?
Ryan: Most tracks at their core on ‘Overthinking Everything’ were me; I couldn’t have done it without Snow (Snow Ellet) who produced and recorded the record. We were actually tracking songs at a rate where Snow suggested making the collection a record. Snow and I have been making music in some capacity for years now. His solo project is awesome too and I’ve played in his band. Even if one of us has the majority of a shell complete; we’re always exchanging ideas. Future Footballhead tracks will definitely be more collaborative.
PRT: Do you tend to indeed overthink everything?
Ryan: Haha, I’d say so. Don’t wanna be disingenuous here.
PRT: Most of the songs on the album clock in around the two-minute mark. Is it a conscious decision to keep everything short and snappy?
Ryan: Yeah, that was definitely intentional. Write loud guitar pop songs with that Beatles “A Hard Day's Night” formula.
PRT: Is it more challenging to write a shorter song that still feels like a complete whole than a longer one?
Ryan: I think you have to lean into what feels natural. But in the case of 'Overthinking Everything', if a song didn’t need a dramatic bridge, I didn’t try and write one. It was all about serving the song.
PRT: You originally released ‘Overthinking Everything’ in the Summer of ‘23 and the album is now being re-released on Tiny Engines. With all the tools that you have these days to get your music out into the world, what are some of the advantages of still signing with a label rather than DIY’ing everything?
Ryan: Haha, oh man. It’s still so refreshing to work with label support. Will from Tiny Engines has been nothing but a class act throughout our short time together. DIY’ing is so awesome and the creative freedom to do things at your pace is liberating,, but knowing there’s a team behind you pushing your music with legitimate distribution feels like it’s expanded the breadth of who hears our music a ton.
PRT: You had it remastered by Jesse Cannon for the re-release. Now, I haven’t heard the version that you released yourselves and don’t know the first thing about recording or mastering, so this might be a dumb question…. I’m assuming the short answer is that you did it to make the album sound even better, but what are some of the things that shine brighter on the new version?
Ryan: Jesse has been incredible. He mastered our record to Vinyl, CD, and digital and has mastered a ton of releases I really love and appreciate so it’s really sick to be working with him.
PRT: What’s up next for Footballhead once the album is out on Tiny Engines?
Ryan: Hopefully more shows in different regions. Another release show here in Chicago. And a bunch of other shit too!!
PRT: If the sky is the limit, what is one thing you would like to achieve with Footballhead?
Ryan: Keep pushing the ceiling I suppose. We write so much but I want to write several records.