You'll hardly ever see a picture of Ryan Manon's grave face. Whenever there's a photographer around, he pulls on some sort of Halloween disguise or freaky bondage mask.
Then he becomes Ryan Graveface, the twisted musical mastermind behind Dreamend, the Marshmallow Ghosts and Casket Girls, and the guitar player from Tobacco's Black Moth Super Rainbow. "I don't want the focus to be on the human that's creating things, in any way," he explains. "In any of the bands I play in."
He moved to Savannah, from the Midwest, two years ago. "Everybody I met was saying 'This city sucks. There's no music scene; there's no record store.' Well ...
"I'm very introverted," Graveface continues, "so I can't really be a part of a music scene in the typical sense, because I'm horrified at leaving my house and that sort of thing.
"But I can bring bands into town, I can open a record store, I can have events, I can do all sorts of stuff to try to tie things together."
Graveface Records, on 40th Street just off Bull, celebrates two years in business this week with a series of exceptional live shows and special events ("We never had a grand opening for the first incarnation of the store," Graveface explains).
While it hasn't exactly rivaled Target on the retail success level, the store's done OK, and Graveface himself has plans to reorganize, re-stock, re-light and reconfigure in the days and weeks to come. He wants to add classes, in subjects ranging from astral projection to guitar effects pedal-making.
"The store looks cool, but it's never looked and felt and run the way that I had in my head," explains the 32-year-old Ohio native. "So that is going to happen. Every single little detail — well, except ripping out the floor —will be different."
The record store's partner in musical mischief-making is also called Graveface Records — the independent record label sells, mostly via mail order, colored vinyl, limited-edition pressings to collectors all over the country, and the world.
All of Ryan's bands make music for the label; the roster also includes the Stargazer Lillies, Appleseed Cast, Jason Molina and others.
"I'm kind of in a perfect groove right now," he says. "It would be nice to get bigger, but I don't know how. I've hired employees to work the store and do things like mail order, so that I can focus on writing and trying to get better at that craft. So hopefully I can sell more records. But it's a tough game."
Graveface, who admits to being "prone to depression," feels he's also made great personal strides during his two years in Savannah. "I've never made this many friends," he smiles. "I actually feel connected to so many people here. I've met more good people here than I've met collectively in my entire life. And it's really awesome."
The record shop is as quirky and odd as its namesake — sure, there's loads of new and used vinyl, but the shelves are also lined with squirrel and raccoon taxidermy, antlers, bones, preserved paws and boiled jaws for sale.
He says he has been "collecting dead things" for years.
And then there's Halloween. "I'm completely and disturbingly obsessed with the holiday," Graveface says, "and when I was a child, all of October was Halloween.
"Now that I'm an adult, it's every day. Because I'm completely independent, I can make my life weird and spooky on a day-to-day basis. And that's what I feel comfortable in. It's all just fun."
Still, he has to play responsible businessman.
"I'm proud of the way I'm running the store, although it's probably a weird way to run a business. If someone comes in and spends $15 on a record, that 15 bucks goes into buying another record. I have never put another additional penny into it.
"I just wanted to see how organic I could make the store. It's completely funded by the people that shop there."
Savannah, and this new life he's created for himself, is — much to his surprise — easing his periodic bouts of depression.
"As I'm aging I'm trying to really embrace the tiny, miniscule things that make me happy," Graveface says. "Which are preposterous, and I don't even want to say them aloud!
"I'm just embracing the little things that get me through the day. I'm shockingly not miserable. Prior to moving here, I was pretty much suicidal — that word gets used way too frequently — but I was in a very bad place.
"And that's why I came here. If I hadn't left Chicago when I did, I don't know what would have happened."
Anniversary week events at Graveface Records, except where noted:
Oct 21: Hang Fire: Serengeti, Jel and Knife; Oct. 22: Record release party; Oct. 23: Movie Night (8 p.m.): The WNUF Halloween Special and TBA; Oct. 24: Board Game Night (8 p.m.); Oct. 25: An evening with psychic Susan Palmer; Oct. 26 (2-8 p.m.): Halloween Party with Tape Waves, Blackrune, The Marshmallow Ghosts and others TBA. "Weirdo attire encouraged."
• After a stunning Forsyth Park closer to this year's jazz festival, the Coastal Jazz Association is already back in action with "Two Divas," at 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20 in the Westin ballroom. Yes, it's Huxsie Scott and Claire Frazier — Savannah's own Vaughn and Fitzgerald — accompanied by the ever-swinging Savannah Jazz All-Stars: Teddy Adams (trombone), Howard Paul (guitar), Eric Jones (piano), Mitch Hennes (bass), Sean Bolden (drums) and Randall Reese (saxophone).
Admission is $20 ($10 for high school and college students) and, as always, CJA members get in free.
The very next night (Oct. 21), Jeremy Davis & the Equinox Orchestra are back at the Westin for two dinner sets. Make reservations at www.opentable.com.
• Cool stuff to look out for down the road: On Oct. 31, Dollhouse brings together a female-centric Halloween show, with Azar Swan and Delphic Oracle from Brooklyn, Savannah's own Dame Darcy, and DJ Tamaryn of San Francisco.
And hey now! GAM returns to the Jinx Nov. 1 for the annual Halloween (well, day after Halloween) rock 'n' roll debauchery-fest.
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