Ryan “Shmedly” Maynes’ list of accomplishments reads like a rising rock star’s personals ad: Played with the Sub Pop band Arlo alongside the Foo Fighters in Japan; recorded with Weezer on their album Five Demos in 2003; composed music for “That ’70s Show” and “Weeds”; and accompanied William Shatner on piano for NBC’s “3rd Rock from the Sun.”
With that kind of resume, it may seem odd that Shmed (the nickname he goes by) would move from one of the prime hubs of musical opportunity, Los Angeles, to Missoula, where local musicians cut their teeth but eventually look toward the promise of larger cities like, well, Los Angeles. The thing is, Shmed didn’t move here to just play music, and he didn’t come here to be a success—not in the music industry’s definition of the word, at least.
He moved to Missoula in June 2007 with his wife, Carrie, and three kids, to start a recording studio called Club Shmed, and in one year he has wasted little time. So far he’s recorded albums for such local favorites as the Victory Smokes, Volumen, Black Velvet Elvis and the Good Neighbor Policy. He’s established a name for himself as a guitar and piano instructor. And he’s joined the ranks of ’60s-pop-influenced Secret Powers, a band that boasts almost every member of the now-defunct but locally revered Oblio Joes.
“I would do this for free if I could,” Shmed says, eyes racing over layers of digital music on twin computer screens in his new studio.
The first thing you notice about Shmed is his constant leg bouncing. He’s the fidgety, young-at-heart type who as a kid likely drove teachers nuts during math lessons. The interior of Club Shmed Studios seems to match his energy, filled with vibrant reds, oranges and blues like swatches on a paint sampler. Amps, microphones, guitars and pianos litter what was once a three-car garage.
Shmed says he came to Missoula to escape the competitive music scene that leads young musicians to lose themselves in their desire for fame. Five years ago, his long-time best friend and fellow bandmate, Denis Boder, committed suicide, and Shmed blames Boder’s death on the fierce nature of the music industry, and on Boder’s jealousy of bands that “make it.”
“I just watched it consume him until he killed himself,” Shmed says. “That messes with my brain.”
Shmed and Boder became fast friends at age 15, natives of southern California with a shared interest in music. They met their first girlfriends together and abandoned ideas of college together for dreams of rock stardom. But as time wore on, by Shmed’s account, Boder “got weird.” Shmed came to understand Boder’s cocky attitude as an indication of insecurity, but Boder’s obsessions grew stronger until he finally took his life.
“When he died, it was like a part of me died,” Shmed says.
Shmed continued playing with a band called the Holliston Stops, and secured a gig recording movie preview music with the London Symphony Orchestra at Air Studios in England.
He remembers one moment when he stood in the cavernous former cathedral of Air Studios and thought to himself, “This is the absolute pinnacle of as good as it gets.”
Though the Air Studios project went nowhere, Shmed took stock of his own life: a typical rocker’s pad, empty beer cans scattered like dead leaves. He says he knew he needed a change and pulled up stakes for Missoula, recalling his days touring there with Arlo, when the Volumen gave him a floor to sleep on and friends to jam with.
“I love the idea of bands being friends … bands being more powerful together,” he says.
The first months of his new life in town were “dark and scary,” he says. He dropped $13,000 to redesign the garage and recorded his first album with Black Velvet Elvis.
When he auditioned to join Secret Powers, then only two months old, drummer Ryan Farley says the band leapt at the chance.
“It was good timing on his part, and for us, too,” Farley says.
With Club Shmed as headquarters, Secret Powers began recording “almost immediately,” Farley says. Farley, a businessman by day, aided Shmed with permits and other legalities. The band helped Shmed contact groups searching for something beyond the low-budge basement recording experience.
Bassist John Fleming, also of Secret Powers, introduced Shmed to engineer Charlie Allin.
“Meeting Shmed has been one of the highest points in my musical career,” says Allin, who is now the manager and engineer at Club Shmed.
Club Shmed has become common ground for local bands of all flavors and fostered a collaborative atmosphere. Metal band Blesseddoom helped Secret Powers with cover art for Explorers of the Polar Eclipse. When Deny the Dinosaur found the $35 hourly recording rate too steep, Shmed enlisted them to paint his house.
“He’s a good person to have in your corner,” says Volumen guitarist Doug Smith.
For Shmed, recording bands, rather than striving for top record labels and fame, keeps him grounded.
“I think recording bands is great because I don’t feel that jealousy that killed my best friend,” Shmed says. “I want this to be like the end of It’s a Wonderful Life, where everyone has my back and loves me.”