Evocative sounds underneath a complex but delicate composition are the main ingredients in Los Angeles-based indie band Races’ sound. Turning personal experiences into creative workflow, main man Wade Ryff composed a sophisticated first album, Year of the Witch, which provided a powerful starting point for the promising project. Today, they are ready to move forward with their next album with a refreshing new façade. Whattaroll caught up with Wade recently to chat about the juicy details, from their image to their approach and creative process.
How would you define the music style of Races?
I prefer not to. I have heard so many different descriptions of our music, most of which don’t make sense to me. I’d rather stay out of it and let the listener come up with whatever labels make sense to them. That being said, I think that the new music I’m writing is a bit of a departure from our first record.
Races is formed by six talented musicians but tell us, how is everyone involved in the creative process? Does each of you have a concrete role in creating a new song?
Races is not the same band that it was 2 years ago. Of the 6 original members, only 3 of us still remain. The 2 members in the past who were the most involved with me in the creative process are no longer in the band. The creative process has become much more solitary. At this point, I bring most of my ideas to Lucas (drums) first. Lucas helps get the songs off the ground but when it comes to creating a song, it’s pretty much just me.
Does the band have strong roots in LA? Do your surroundings “feed” your songs during your song-making process or is it more isolated?
You can’t help but be influenced by your surroundings. I’m born and raised in Los Angeles so it’s in my blood…for better or for worse. These days I find myself writing about Los Angeles. That’s a recent thing for me. I never really wrote songs about Los Angeles before. I love Los Angeles but I’ve become disillusioned with their lifestyle. I’d rather be alone in the woods, far from Babylon. New songs like “Big City Lights”, “Fugitives”, and “Koreatown” are pretty clearly about that struggle.
How involved is the band in creating the image they project, not only on stage but also in your videos and in your CD and poster art? Do you have an art director or are you pretty much hands-on and DIY?
It’s a bit of both. It’s usually me working with an outside person. My involvement is usually just saying what I like or what I don’t like, but the original idea, usually comes from an outside person. We have been blessed to have some really talented artists and photographers involved in the visual element of the band. Edward Chase Masterson directed 2 of our music videos, one being the “Big Broom” video, which had a huge influence on the visual aspect of the band. Ever since that video came out, balloons became this re-occurring presence in photo-shoots, posters, art, and shows. That was never planned. I think that for a lot of people when you think about Races on a visual level, balloons come to mind. That is all Chase’s doing.
Nowadays, it seems there are many artistic movements that go back the more romantic, less post-produced, and more analogue vision. Do you think that music is evolving and moving into that direction or is it the other way around?
It seems to be the other way around in music. Computers have had such a big influence on music. Nowadays, you don’t even need to know how to play an instrument to make music and anybody can make a record in their bedroom. Because of this you get a lot of artists that are almost entirely reliant on technology and studio tricks. At the same time, it’s opened so many doors. When it comes to choosing analogue or digital, I think it really comes down to whichever process the artist prefers. There are certain challenges with analogue… malfunctioning equipment, not being able to track down parts you need, the cost of tape, the challenge in finding good tape, the time and precision required to edit tape, having to actually execute your parts instead of fixing them in the computer… you really have to be dedicated to the process.
I think the speed and efficiency of digital tends to take precedence for most people and I understand why; especially if you are working with a small budget and time constraints. I believe that there are great benefits in utilizing new technologies in music but I don’t think anyone should be dependent on it. I’m a purist at heart but at the same time I don’t want to just rehash old traditions, sounds, and styles of music. My preference for my own music is combining the best of both worlds.
In Big Broom, you say “All my debts and all my dreams / Will one day be swept clean.” Where is Races at this very moment? Are you trying to finish one dream or are you about to start a new one? Tell us about your future plans.
I feel like it’s a new chapter for me. Last year came with so many sudden changes and challenges with the band. It left me in a pretty uninspired state of mind. I’ve finally reached a point where I feel liberated by all that has happened and I’m excited to making new music. I’m currently working on writing a new record. I’ve also really been enjoying collaborating with other people. Essentially I just want to stay busy, focused and inspired and continue to make more art.
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