RyanDan grew up through B4-4 experiences
Twin brothers Ryan and Dan Kowarsky have one of the more unusual career trajectories in recent memory. The 28-year-old natives of Cincinnati, who moved to Toronto at age one, are certifiable wizened veterans of the music industry. They have toured, recorded and performed as RyanDan — the stage name of their new classic pop-and opera-based project — as far away as Australia and Germany.
But it wasn’t long ago that the two were singing and dancing for hordes of screaming teens as boy band B4-4, a project that saw them perform on stage with everyone from Britney Spears to Destiny’s Child.
“It is very different from what we were used to,” Dan said of the duo’s new popera project, which is styled after the soaring, high-wire vocals of Josh Groban.
Different — and considerably more rewarding, Ryan added. “It was quite frustrating to us in the B4-4 days. We were playing to a lot younger audience and the focus would be on our hair and our clothes. We had come from a very musical family — my father is an opera singer and my older brother is an opera singer — so we grew up very focused on vocals and orchestration. We weren’t happy doing pop music for young kids.”
Perhaps, deep down, they weren’t happy. But they were great salesmen: Teen girls across Canada loved B4-4 in 2000, which pushed sales of the trio’s self-titled debut past 200,000 units. They also earned a Juno Award nomination in 2001 for Best New Group.
Looking back on it, both Ryan and Dan seem a little embarrassed about B4-4.
“But we don’t have any regrets,” Dan said. “That whole experience taught us everything, how to sing in the studio, how to get on stage in front of people, how to do interviews. It got us ready for what we are doing right now.”
After they pulled the plug on B4-4, the brothers took some time to rethink their options. What they came up with was RyanDan, a project much closer to their hearts. “We absolutely needed to go through (B4-4) to get to where we are,” Ryan said.
No longer would they colour their hair or wear makeup — B4-4 paid great attention to the visages of Ryan, Dan and its third member, Ohad Einbender — nor would they dance in unison. The brothers wanted to sing the songs of their youth, from Frank Sinatra to Mario Lanza. The pair arranged to showcase themselves for record companies. By the end, they said, four major labels were interested.
RyanDan signed a contract with Universal Music Classics in the U.K. and recorded their self-titled album in England at the studio of Terry Britten, a veteran producer who has worked with Tina Turner and Michael Jackson.
They enjoyed overseas success out of the gate, in Australia, Europe and Asia. “We’ve done a few shows here but this is our first full-out tour in Canada,” Ryan said.
The trek features 12 musicians who comprise a choir and orchestra. “It’s important,” Dan said. “We want to put on a good show for the fans, so we really wanted to go all out, especially for this first tour.”
The live show is scaled down from the 62-piece orchestra that graces RyanDan. Hearing an orchestra of that size behind them was a rush, but it wasn’t the coolest part of the recording — at least for the brothers, who shared one co-writing credit on RyanDan.
They were much more enthusiastic about a certain piece of equipment they were using. “The microphone that we recorded our entire album on was Frank Sinatra’s,” they excitedly said in unison.
Twin brothers Ryan (left) and Dan Kowarsky of the duo RyanDan begin their Canadian tour in Montreal on June 19.