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Riding The Maximalist Wave

By Dakota Parks for Inweekly

It started with an inside joke—a pilgrimage to Medieval Times dinner theater and an available garage to practice in. Six best friends, now bandmates, set out to learn their new instruments and form Mid Evil Times, Pensacola’s latest new wave band. For many of the bandmates, though, their musical journey started in the hotbed of Pensacola’s punk scene.

“A lot of us grew up in the music scene here,” Allyson Ryan, bassist for Mid Evil Times, explained. “Both of my parents are punks, and I’ve always loved punk music, so I started going to shows at The Handlebar when I was 15 because my friends were in a punk band. Cintia, our rhythm guitarist, played drums for Sour!, Ryan was in a band in Atlanta, and Morgan had a really strong understanding of music theory, but most of us had never been in a band before, and we’ve only been playing our instruments for one year now.”

Mid Evil Times made their splash in the music scene in March 2022, playing their first show at The Legion and dropping multiple EPs on Bandcamp. The group consists of Ryan Holtzen (she/they) on guitar and vocals, Allyson Ryan (she/her) on bass, Cintia Nelson (she/her) on guitar, Seb Wynn (he/they) on keys, Morgan Churchill (he/they) on drums and Fiama Mastrangelo (they/she) as the band manager and occasional feature saxophonist.

Drawing influence from the New Wave craze of the late 1970s-early 1980s, Mid Evil Times blends together punk rock, pop elements and electronic riffs with funky harmonies to achieve a maximalist and playful sound. The group finds inspiration from bands like XTC, Orange Juice and Prefab Sprout.

“I love the return to maximalism,” Holtzen said, “just trying to cram as much as you can into tracks sonically, where it still sounds fun but chaotically cohesive. That’s the kind of energy we’re going for.”

As a group, the music process is collaborative, starting with lyrics written by Holtzen and joining sounds layered together by the members, each contributing their own riffs and pieces to create these experimental songs, sometimes jokingly referred to as “spooky Scooby Doo music.”

“When I’m writing lyrics, so many of the songs are based on whatever happens to be captivating me. We were watching ‘Pawn Stars’ on the History Channel, and I saw what a messed-up industry it is, so I wrote ‘Broken Gold’ about it,” Holtzen elaborated. “Then there’s our song ‘Doggone,’ which was just this crazy brainchild of an idea about a dog getting abducted by aliens and learning how to love. It’s our whackiest and most experimental song. It’s an amalgamation of a long gothic riff, new wave and funk with almost a Western tilt at the end of the song.”

For Holtzen, creating music is a cathartic and manic outpour of creativity but, most importantly, a place of exploration and self-expression.

“Without Mid Evil Times, I wouldn’t have come out to myself as quickly as I did,” Holtzen said. “Being onstage and putting on the most extravagant outfits I could find in my closet and going thrifting to find clothes to perform in really set off this giant lightbulb over my head. It’s been a way for me to explore being queer and trans—challenging myself both musically and to better understand these parts of myself. I’m grateful to have this medium and community to express that. Pensacola’s music scene has been so welcoming.”

The members of Mid Evil Times are just as diverse and eclectic as their tunes—young, female, queer, trans and nonbinary. Both Holtzen and Ryan explained Mid Evil Times isn’t a girl band, but it is a band with pronouns. They credit the Pensacola punk scene for laying this groundwork of acceptance and community decades before their entrance.

“People come up to us and say, ‘I think it’s so cool that y’all are a bunch of girls and trans folk in the band,’ and I get where they’re coming from because I never saw a lot of girls or queer people in bands when I was growing up,” Ryan said. “It’s nice to be in a changing community where there’s a lot more of us now. I think Mid Evil Times is a representation of this diverse community of people. Our audience is always a melting pot of queer kids and old heads.”

As the band members themselves grow and evolve, so does the music. Without a proper studio to record live music in, Mid Evil Times has released seven EPs on Bandcamp, recorded and pieced together digitally. Soon, they hope to record these tracks live for Spotify.

“Those tracks no longer represent how we play the songs because our music has evolved,” Ryan said. “We’ve enhanced the songs as we continued to play them, and we want to capture that live sound. We know the clock is ticking because we’re all so young. We already lost Fiama to graduate school, and we know we’re approaching that time in our lives when we’re going to be moving, getting jobs and having bigger things come up that disrupt how we practice and book shows.”

In the future, Mid Evil Times plans to record music live for streaming platforms, create at least one music video and book a micro tour to two or three cities. For now, though, they are taking it day by day—riding the wave as long as it lasts.

“When we first started, our only goal was to play at least one show,” Ryan said. “We’ve had such a crazy reception and so much momentum, though, and we want to make the most of it. I think we’re just gonna ride it out until it stops. For the short amount of time that we’ve been playing music together, it just goes to show that if you’re interested in music, you can be your own Mid Evil Times.”

To listen to Mid Evil Times, check out mideviltimes.bandcamp.com or follow the band on Instagram @themideviltimes.

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