The end of the tunnel

Riley discuss suicide in their EP series

By Nick Schwab

The saying goes: “Oh, to be young again.”

Children have it so easy. They don’t yet realize that the mirthful and sunny side of life has a depressing underbelly.

It works in music, too.

Certain music can be likened to one’s carefree childhood, as it gives one a euphoric appreciation of life. Then there is a different form of art -the form that still often gives you an appreciation of life, but through an examination of the bleaker parts of existence.

In other words, it finds beauty in darkness. As does the Dayton band Riley.

Riley just released their first EP of a nine-part series called The Cat of Nine Tails. The story started when they wrote the eighth part first and wanted to expand it into more of a story.

This first EP includes parts 2, 3 and 8, and will be part of what will be a three or four EP series.

Riley guitarist Eric Bluebaum called the story a tale of a character named Jonah that becomes involved in a series of experiences throughout his life in which he feels “lost.”

He added that it is a, “story of suicide and how much the human soul can take and at what point one decides to either grow or decides to kill themselves.”

Named after the whip-like torture tool used to create maximum damage, Riley felt it was the perfect metaphor for the story that was about a great amount of pain inflicted on the protagonist.

The Jonah character is not based on anyone in particular, but there are instances in the story that can be related to anybody, Bluebaum described. Riley called it a story about the trials and tribulations of the life cycle and a story about, “Self-discovery, loss, pain and struggle.”

Bluebaum said that Jonah symbolizes the notion that if one acts in anger, instead of through positive emotions, only more harm will come from it and it will only keep getting worse.

The band has likened the story to the Carson McCullers novel “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” a novel about an artist who uses expression in what she calls her “inner room” to hide from the normal troubles of the world. Throughout the novel, the character loses the ability to express herself and it devastates her heart, mind and soul.

Bluebaum said that the inner room in Riley’s case is, in fact, where they go to create that sense of expression.

“Every artist has a source coming into you of creativity and you are able to channel it with artistic language through that unconscious state of mind,” Bluebaum said.

To connect this artistic source to the character of Jonah is not that difficult as well.

Much like someone who commits suicide probably does it because they do not want to change their life or hold out hope, an artist has to think positively.

“If someone calls themselves an artist they would be a fool to say that they have stopped learning,” said Bluebaum. “You can’t know everything and there is always room for improvement.”

One of the more interesting things about the act of suicide is also its connotation in each culture, describes Bluebaum.

“In other cultures, such as Japan with Hara-Kari and with the Buddhist Monks in the Vietnam War, suicide is a huge statement,” he said. “In some aspects, it can be a powerful statement, in others it can be a cowardice statement, and it other aspects it is a courageous statement.”

Bluebaum added, “It is a hard thing to really dissect because it is very taboo, especially in this country.”

The whole point of The Cat of Nine Tails is that Jonah has no one to write a suicide note to at the end when he finally decides to commit that act and has no one to emote to.

“A suicide note is your last words. Everyone is owed their last words, and a suicide note is their last statement, as well,” he said.

In the end, Bluebaum and Riley obviously do not advocate the act of suicide, but are interested in why it happens.

Suicide is a strange thing. No one has ever successfully lived to tell about it,” he explained. “But when you lose someone to it, it takes something. One realizes it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

Riley will perform on Friday, Nov. 30 at Blind Bob’s, 430 E. Fifth St. Also on the bill are Instead of Sleeping, Ossicles, Dead Tenant and Shelly Freeman. Admission is $5 for 21 & up. Doors at 9 p.m. For more information, visit

Reach DCP freelance writer N ick Schwab at

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