Actor Courtney Gains made his name in ’80s American film through roles as a cult member in “Children of the Corn,” the son of the creepy family next door in “The ‘Burbs” and Patrick Dempsey’s nerdy friend in “Can’t Buy Me Love.” He continues to act in lesser known films and guest stars in TV shows like “My Name is Earl,” “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Criminal Minds.” He lives a working actor’s life but has diversified his career in a way that he can call the shots.
He is a filmmaker in his own right, having written, produced and directed. One of his films, “Benny Bliss and the Disciples of Greatness,” is a mockumentary about a musician escaped from a mental asylum. The film is the only one to feature a live performance of Gains singing and playing guitar.
It may surprise you, but Gains has been in several bands since the ’90s, including a performance with Phish in “Vegas ’96.” Gains started working on music and acting at 13 years old but he said the difference is, “Acting I get to be someone else, in music I am expressing what I think and feel about an issue. So in that way it is more personal.” Courtney began recording his own music in the late 80s and continued to do so until he met Steven Adams in the early 2000s.
Steven Adams started playing the bass when Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” drew him in. Adams said, “I fell in love with the bass being that it has that groove sound.” He’s played in various genres, from jazz to rock, and has been a session musician for acts ranging from Misfits to Chris Isaak to Spin Doctors. Through his experiences, he developed a love for Jackson basses. “I love the sound of humbucker pickups and they are light weight.” He developed his abilities in the North Carolina music scene, eventually creating a style that incorporates the nuances of all the genres he’s played over the years.
Adams travelled to L.A. in the early ’00s where he met Gains. “I actually came across his solo album online and really liked it, so I contacted him on Myspace – yes that long ago…We met up and started writing music from there.” They joined forces and formed the band Ripple Street. It was then that Gains entered a new musical phase. “I had only played in a few other bands and mostly acoustic guitar,” Courtney said, “so a three-piece rock band where I held the vocal and electric guitar down, was a whole new challenge for me.” This phase has paid off with growing attention and support that led to a self-titled EP, music videos and a deal with RL Recordings.
Gains said the early years were spent “in rehearsal studios to work on original material, my intent from the jump was to make a record. Then once we had enough material started playing gigs all over southern California seeing what worked and just keep on writing until we were happy with what we had.” The result was a ’90s-style alt rock sound fueled by Gains’ cathartic writing.
Adams described this process as, “like building a puzzle, you get that first way cool riff and then work together to build it from there. Verse, chorus, etc.” Gains said co-writing is, “Really about capturing a mood, a feeling. When co-writing it’s what the other brings to the party that influences things in a whole new direction, I like that. Co-writing with Steven, him writing on bass was very different than chords on a guitar – more staccato. So (it) made me simplify the lyrics, meaning less of them. Guitar players like to squeeze lots of lyrics into a song.” In regards to lyrics, Gains said, “It was about what was going on in my life at that time and pouring that out. Music is therapy for me and what comes and how it comes out is more from a subconscious place, not a conscious one.”
This work method gave Ripple Street’s 2013 EP it’s attitude and directed its structure. Gaines wrote most of the songs during a post-breakup fallout, but there are others with more uplifting themes. The songs share various motifs, giving a narrative feel, as Adams said, “I think every album should be a story in its own way.” Although the songs come from a very emotional place, Gains said, “If you get the story out emotionally enough times it helps to take the sting out of things over time.” He also said anyone going through similar times should, “Find a way to get it out that is productive and creative if you can. And most important, this too shall pass!”
Aside from Adams and Gains, the “Ripple Street” EP also featured session players who were allowed input. When asked what they look for in musicians, Adams said, “We look for solid in the pocket kinda players mostly.” This qualification may have helped in a recording session when Adams was in Germany and had to record some tracks. Adams said, “It actually was really easy to record the drum and bass tracks, we actually didn’t even have the scratch guitar track to play to and we nailed it very quickly.”
In the time since their work on the EP, Ripple Street has spent most of their time looking for distribution. In an interview between Courtney Gains and “The DCap” podcast in April 2018, Gains surprised the host and label owner of RL Recordings with his musical prowess and his band, Ripple Street. “Thanks to RL Recordings for getting behind the record.” They now have two songs available on the RL Recordings website and their video, “How I Feel,” can be seen on “Welcome to the D” Show 2 on the RL Recordings site and on the My Jams Music TV Network. When asked what he’s doing now, Gains said, “Getting a music video put together and would like to do another one soon. Right now listening to a lot of blues.”
With an eye to the future, Gains said, “We are still getting ourselves out there releasing some more singles soon. We also have some interest in putting some of our music in films, so let’s see what happens.” For what he wants to see in their next work, Adams said, “Pure raw emotion rock.” He also added, “Maybe an Australian didgeridoo, haha.” Adams’ sense of humor hints to what Gains says keeps him in Ripple Street. “The fun we have creating songs together and recording them. Where they start and what they end up becoming.” What Adams hopes the audience finds in their work is that, “Its straight up real rock.”
It’s this foundation that Ripple Street builds on when advising future musicians. Gains said, “First off don’t judge your stuff against others. Just play, just gig, just record and repeat!” While Adams gives more universal advice, “Keep doing what you love, no matter the circumstance.”