Porches Wrote Some Songs
At roughly 26 minutes, Ricky Music is his shortest album, but it also feels like his most urgent and expressive, balancing his desire for personal betterment with a chaos that's always looming beneath the surface. In person however, he seems anything but urgent, taking his time to speak softly, carefully, and thoughtfully. That contrast makes the voice in the album sound even more compulsive; it's only with this outlet that he can mitigate the feelings which challenge him the most, and it lends itself to the most compelling portrait of the artist yet.
You finished this almost a year ago, what does a year of waiting before the release feel like? Do you ever get the feeling that you need to change things, or make further tweaks?
It's kind of done when it's done, because you've got to make the final decisions before it gets mastered, and once you do that, it's kind of hard to go back and change anything. But it is one of the strangest time periods in the process of making and releasing music. I've spiraled a bit where you feel like you've been working, and you know you've been working, but you don't really have anything to show for it publicly, so people will kind of ask, "So what's up? What'd you do today?" And you'll just be like, "Oh worked on music." Nothing to say. After a certain point, I started to get confused about what I've done, if anything, but I do still feel good about the album. I've listened to it twice a month, just to check back on it. I didn't want to be tired of it by the time it came out, and somehow I've managed to still be able to listen to it and enjoy it.
What was the point of listening to it twice a month, was it for the sake of rehearsing?
I think just out of excitement, out of wanting to hear it and having a little more perspective each time I listen to it, and thinking about the lyrics and stuff like that.
Are you good at finishing projects, and more importantly knowing when they're done?
I'm not great at knowing when it's done, but I am sort of obsessed with finishing something—that feels really good. If there is an open ended part to it, or unfinished lyrics or arrangements, I really geek out, and pretty much anytime I record a song, I try and get the whole idea down in that sitting. Just because it's hard to go back to something after you've kind of felt the initial inspiration. Even if it's a super rough thing, I'll try to make it all the way to the end so when I do go back, there is a full outline of what the idea is.
The reason I ask that is because compared to your previous albums, this one is much shorter. Especially with some of the shorter songs, did you feel a certainty that they were done?
I've always been drawn to shorter songs and more direct songs. There's something really urgent that I'm drawn to about that—the Ramones, shit like that where there's really no fat. I really like the idea of making something as lean as possible, and just having it hit in that way. If i'm going to make music I just try and find the most economic sounds, the most economic lyrics, the most economic structure to just get this idea.
I think that's part of your style of songwriting as well because you often are very direct. Is that a conscious writing technique, to avoid metaphors and say exactly what it is you're feeling in a given moment?
I started writing songs when I was 16. It was kind of before I was experienced enough to ask myself those questions. I just kind of stumbled into the way that I write, and it was all pretty intuitive. I question certain things about it, more content than my voice, but that's just kind of what I've always been drawn to writing about. I've only been working towards being more direct and bold—not bold daring, but bold strokes of words.
It seems like a more optimistic album, but there's also that sense of urgency you mentioned, as if there was a desperation to be happy. What was your headspace like when you wrote this?
It is definitely about that process, and there are a lot of moments on it where I am trying to gain some perspective, which I feel like is where those positive reinforcement or positive mental attitude lines come from. Where you kind of tell it to yourself, even though it's not all sunshine and sunsets, but it does help to kind of talk yourself up or hype yourself up. It's wanting yourself to feel better than you do, and trying to step back and sometimes even laugh about how dramatic you can be or how heavy everything feels.
The first single "rangerover" is actually a bonus track; what made you want to add that in?
I made that after the album was done, and I decided to include it, because it felt like it fit in the general vibe of the record. I wrote it without thinking about an album. it was when Ricky Music was done, so I was just continuing every day to write. I remember going for a summer song, the image of riding home from the beach when summer is over—it's such a bittersweet feeling. I wanted to capture something like that. I sent it to Peter Kwang. We have different music tastes, but I really respect his tastes and his opinions, and he responded to that. Whenever he says he fucks with a song, I really trust that for whatever reason. I didn't really think twice about it after I made it, until I got some sort of response from a friend that I sent it to.
I noticed there's been a theme of dancing, both in the music but also in the music video for "Do U Wanna." Is this something that you're inspired by right now?
Yeah, but less writing about it. I used to breakdance when I was a kid, I was really into that, and somewhere down the line, I became so self-conscious of dancing and moving in public. But I also feel inclined to do that at the same time for whatever reason—I have all these hangups. So I took a ballet class for a couple of months, and I had never done that before, and I was doing yoga and I felt more in touch with my body and its movement. And I have to make these music videos contractually, and I figured like if I'm going to do that I might as well use it as an opportunity to work with other artists I admire. This choreographer Sharleen Chidiac, who choreographed both videos, is so talented. I was like, "Fuck, I should just get her involved with all of them." It's something I wanted to do outside of video, just being in a dance studio with her and having her help me move and learn the choreography. It's just something I've also never done. It's half getting out of my comfort zone and half experimenting, and I guess the third part being almost trying to squash this fear.
I also felt that there's this theme about the artistic process, the frustration in songs like "I Can't Even Think" or "Fuck 3," but also resolving it at the end with "Wrote Some Songs." Is this something you were trying to reflect?
It's meant to be half a celebration of boiling your life down to the most basic thing possible. Whenever you're facing anything just remember, it's trying to zoom out as far as possible and just breathe—you don't need to be so stressed about this shit; you just wrote some songs. That's what I decided to dedicate my time to so far in my life. I think by yelling that a bunch of times, it's kind of like a loud reminder to myself to kind of lighten up or something.
Do you feel that as you've gotten older it's easier to say exactly what you want to say with music, or do you feel that every album is different and presents it's own challenges? Or is it both of those things?
It just goes hand in hand with growing up and hopefully gaining more emotional intelligence as you have more experiences. I guess it gets easier. If you feel more in touch you've got to find new ways to solve how to express yourself and what you want to say, why you want to say anything at all, who it's about. I definitely ask myself more and more questions about each thing that I make, I feel like it's the main thing you have to keep on doing to grow, analyze your own shit, with as much scrutiny as possible.
What do you do when you're in the studio, but you feel like you have nothing to say?
I just try and let it come from somewhere else. If it's not my brain, I feel like there's always something that can come out. If you kind of get into a headspace where you're not even thinking, and you're just kind of spewing out these things, a lot of it is throw away stuff. I have hundreds and hundreds of songs that will never see the light of day, but I do try to always capture whatever is going on in case it seems worthy of releasing.