Ryder Buck’s message is simple. On his Twitter profile, underneath a photo of him playing an acoustic guitar, smiling and singing with his band, Ryder Buck and the Breakers, you will see these seven words:
“Live and love. We’re only here once.”
Last October, the 23-year-old young man from Los Angeles lived his dream when he met his favorite band and musical heroes, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, backstage at their Big Top musical festival at Los Angeles Historic Park. “I can now die happy,” he told his buddies.
And just that like that Ryder was gone. On Oct. 27, Ryder was struck by two cars while crossing a freeway in Los Angeles and killed. He was walking along a freeway after his car broke down. His laptop — containing recordings his band had been working on precious photos – was destroyed in the accident, and a ring he won for his high school water polo team at La Cañada High School in Los Angeles went missing. The family is still desperately looking for it.
Ryder lived and loved.
He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2012, and with the help of ESMZ, he beat the cancer. At Big Top, he wanted more than anything to thank the band. In the middle of ESMZ’s most popular song, Home, with his mother by his side, Ryder grabbed the microphone and thanked the band for “saving” his life. Ryder – a singer and songwriter himself — said listening to their music got him through his chemotherapy sessions.
“The Edward Sharpe band was always part of what he shared, both in lessons and on stage,” says his mother, Shelley Buck.
“We shared hours in the hospital, listening to ESMZ music, interviews, videos, etc.” Shelley Buck said. “Sometimes, when he felt up to it, he played them on his guitar, and this alone, brought the light into the room, the smile to his face and serenity to his spirit. I knew when he said he would connect with the band one day, that he would, that it gave him something profound to look forward to, and a reason to keep on fighting through the hell of chemo. He was flying so high since Big Top. He knew he had made true friends. And when Ryder made a friend, they were for life.”
At Big Top, Ryder treasured every second he spent with band members, and later he even ended up jamming with some of them. He said it had been his dream for his band to one day open for ESMZ.
Buck lived and loved Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. But the funny thing is, members of ESMZ may have had even more admiration for Ryder than Ryder had for the band.
During Ryder’s memorial service in early November, members of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros showed up to pay respects to a young man they had just one week before. The band stood beside Ryder’s family and friends to say goodbye and celebrate his life.
“I have never seen a more beautiful generous soulful kind loving act from any band than the ESMZ members who came and elevated and humbly participated in the entire three-hour funeral for Ryder,” said Mike Gabriel, a friend of the Buck family. “They came and saw and quietly watched all of the proceedings from the opening minutes to the end.”
The band performed alongside Ryder’s band, and brothers Woody and Reed. Among the songs they performed was All Wash Out, one of Ryder’s favorite ESMZ tunes.
“I was extremely moved by ESMZ and how sweetly deferentially they gave so much of themselves to Ryder for this tribute,” Gabriel said. “It was a beautiful thing to see such grace and love being shown by such successful musicians to a young Buck they had known for a few short days. This speaks to the power of Ryder’s giant heart and deep, wise, giving caring soul, but also to the supreme class heart and soul and extraordinary heart of a band I never heard of until yesterday. But when the female singer started singing graciously, deferring until being coaxed into submission, she belted a soulful heartfelt emotionally devastating, yet soaring with real love and glory for good people like Ryder Buck that left me agape with admiration for this incredibly generous band with a heart of gold.”
Zena Andreani, a close friend of Ryder’s (and senior prom date), wanted to let the band know how “special it was to have them celebrate Ryder’s life with us,” and even wrote a personal note to singer Jade Castrinos.
“I had no idea that Edward Sharpe would play at his service until I arrived,” Andreani said. “I could see some members of the band to the side, but I couldn’t believe my eyes. Like Ryder, I see the band as some of my musical heroes, especially Jade. I’ve suffered from pretty severe panic attacks for most of my life and it wasn’t until recently that I found a way to overcome them, to overcome my own insecurities. Ryder was always there for me, he still is, whenever I become consumed by my own fear. But so is Edward Sharpe. I play Fiya Wata whenever I feel the panic coming on, and it calms me down.”
Andreani said Ryder was her “light.” She recalled getting a phone call from Ryder after the final night of Big Top, but she was too tired to answer. She still has the voicemail.
“He wanted to tell me right away about his experience but it was 4 a.m. in the morning and I was sleeping — so he left me a voicemail instead,” Andreani said. “I’ll keep that message with me forever, I’m sure.”
Gabriel, 58, said his three kids grew up with Ryder and his brothers. He had not known much about Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros until they showed up at Ryder’s service.
“These are quality people, as well as quality musicians … all for a young guy they just met,” Gabriel said. “Head shaking to think they gave so much of themselves to honor a friend for life… I am now a huge fan of ESMZ and their sincere songs of love and truth. The trumpet player sent a look of love to the gathered 1,200 mourners as he took the altar stage about to perform in the church, and I’ll be damned if I don’t take the time to let their fans know these are not phonies. These are true generous souls who play songs of reflection, but more importantly, show true love by their selfless actions and words expressed for my dearly loved second son, Ryder Buck. It was an honor to be among this band of such high dignity and class and kind hearts.”
Shortly after Ryder’s passing, La Cañada High School established The Ryder Buck Memorial Independent Artist Scholarship to honor his “memory and creative talents.”
Despite the tragic events, the Buck family has remained positive. On Jan. 21, during the 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards, Ryder was certainly smiling down over the Beverly Hilton hotel as his ESMZ hero Alex Ebert took home his first Golden Globe award for Best Original Score for “All is Lost.” Then minutes later, Ryder’s father, director/writer Chris Buck accepted a Golden Globe for Best Animated Film for “Frozen.”
“It’s an exciting time on so many levels,” Shelley Buck said.
Meanwhile, Ryder’s band is moving forward, with his youngest brother Reed singing his parts. His band has decided to keep the full name, Ryder Buck and the Breakers. The band is lining up a full schedule for February and March to get ready for recording this summer and are expanding covers songs of ESMZ.
“The tonal quality of their voices is remarkably similar,” Shelley Buck said. “They played to a sell-out crowd in Hollywood, and are moving forward with his recording plans. We are excited to be keeping Ryder’s music alive!”