interview – ricky eat acid

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

2014 is still incredibly young, but ricky eat acid’s three love songs is already presenting its case for album of the year contention.  as last week’s review articulated, the record is expansive, covering vast amounts of musical ground while still retaining a central, emotion-driven thesis.  the creative force behind ricky eat acid, sam ray, was kind enough to shed some light on his project, talking on topics ranging from musical and artistic influences to his relationship with orchid tapes.  check out the transcript below.

ricky eat acid is a project that sounds a bit different than your other bands, teen suicide and julia brown.  what got you interested in electronic music, and what still keeps you intrigued?

electronic & etc. music is definitely where i started at before anything else remotely serious.  it was still a joke at first, i mean, recreating goofy, pointless, almost genre-less songs for my friends’ entertainment.  i was already a fan of a lot of the typical “high school ambient & electronic/idm” stuff that kids who smoke weed sometimes but don’t really party yet listen to – aphex twin, autechre, telefon tel aviv, i totally forget what else – but i couldn’t imagine myself recreating anything close to that.  i don’t know if i even could picture that now.  still, over time it developed into something less joking and more of an actual pursuit.  maybe not a true pursuit, but something fun to do that i also felt invested in.  maybe it’ll become a true pursuit; that would be really cool.

what keeps me intrigued still, i guess, is that there is still so much to learn.  unlike music made with guitars, pianos, drums, etc., strictly where the limitation is the driving factor in innovation, electronic music is constantly expanding.  i mean, at this point neither project for me is truly one or the other; new julia brown songs are taking on more and more of a true production/electronic element and ricky eat acid songs are becoming wildly more organic at the same time and incorporating vocals more and more.  i don’t know if they’ll ever unify one hundred percent but it’s neat.

the title of your new album, three love songs, is a bit of a misnomer.  can you elaborate on the meaning behind that title?

it’s a title taken from a piece of writing that actually is a triptych (though still a misnomer since there are no songs in question).  no one has ever seen the three; or rather, i can think of two people who have and only one of them has probably heard the album.  but still, that’s where it started, i guess.  that existed before the album was even an idea to me and once i started working on it, it felt very fitting.  it’s an album concerned with loss, with degradation both personal and more far-reaching, but at its core it’s concerned heavily with love, and in a way love is concerned heavily with loss.  i find the two eternally entwined; to lose something you have to love it. even if it kills you.  the writing was kind of concerned with that, and the album was concerned with it from the other side: one focusing on love, one on loss, and it came together.

one of my favorite tracks on the album is “in my dreams we’re almost touching,” and it contrasts significantly with the rest of the record.  is there a story behind that particular song?

well i’d been listening to a lot of house music…hahaha.  originally i was listening to all these minimal, piano house producers, like modern deep house: just drums, pianos, some samples maybe, super sparse, super minimal.  six-to-eight-plus minute dance floor cuts.  i wanted to recreate it.  i love writing that stuff; it’s so refreshing for me, i guess, compared to making more “intricate” rhythmic compositions (though i still find the best house very intricate; it just comes more naturally, i guess.)  that song was one of like ten different things i started around just piano and some drums;  i think i was trying to work that vocal clip into another song and realized i should just start over around it.  i then got lost for many days wrapping that song up, and when i was finished it was maximal as hell and nothing like what i had intended to make, but i loved it.  everyone i showed it to loved it.  i went back and forth on keeping it in the album for four to five  months and eventually decided last minute i had to keep it and i’d work it into the narrative and the album flow somehow.  luckily i did, at least to an extent i’m very happy with.  the album, while continuous, is about abrupt tonal shifts and harsh contrasts throughout, and that’s in large part due to structuring it around that particular song, haha.

what were some key influences on three love songs as a whole?

aside from parts of my personal life and the environments i found myself in, it was drawn largely from memory, and from specific memories, and from the idea of my present life becoming memory and how that would shape it.  it’s really neat even a year later looking back at where and when certain songs were created and trying to relive that through them and finding it so different from what it certainly was really like.

other influences though are more obvious – certain musicians and artists always strike me, over and over.  the feeling of playing chrono trigger or final fantasy six as an adult versus a kid; the work of photographer pete halupka, who i loved as a kid and rediscovered during the course of writing the album; expansive pixel art landscapes a la people like this; and of course a ton of different music.  too much to probably even get into.

three love songs holds the distinction as being the first record put out on vinyl by orchid tapes.  can you talk a bit about your history and experiences with the label?

i’d been a huge fan of warren’s musical endeavors and the first time we talked he was still living in canada, i believe, and we talked in one of those pre-turntable.fm musical chat room things.  i was struck by the fact he’d heard any music i’d made before which was so cool, haha.  eventually somehow we got to talking more and when he moved to new york we met finally at cmj in 2012.  by that point he’d helped release some tapes for me (though i don’t think any exclusively through his label) and it was only natural to start working together more officially.  the artists he curates and the aesthetic of his label in general (not to mention everyone involved being such wonderful people) is definitely why i wanted to release this album there, and when he proposed the idea of making it the first vinyl record, i was ecstatic.  i’m really glad everything has gone as well as it has because i can’t think of anyone more deserving than warren or brian, and i’m honored to be part of it in any way.

the internet, and various forms of social media in particular, seem to have played a key role in disseminating your music to people that may have not heard it otherwise.  what are some other advantages to this digital age that you’ve encountered?  have there been any disadvantages?

the way you can email anyone, tweet to anyone, approach anyone – if you do so respectfully and humbly – is truly the end and at once saving grace of the music industry and music as a whole really, at least in my eyes.  with finesse, it seems like anything is possible.  so many people i’ve become friends with over time, bonding over music, meeting at shows or on tours, have eventually passed my music along to other people who we then bonded similarly, and i’ve met or at least had contact with so many people who were heroes to me growing up, who inspired me to start creating music in any capacity.  it’s truly mind blowing.  i couldn’t be more grateful or feel luckier.  it all started from emailing someone whose music i really enjoyed to say ‘thank you’ and we ended up talking.  they asked for my own music, i shared it, they shared it, and it grew very slowly from there.  without that initial interaction, i probably would never have gotten enough confidence to show anyone anything, online or otherwise.  it’s really amazing.

there are definitely downsides – so many people approach things without any sense of humanity – and i think making yourself very open to everyone is dangerous in a way, or at least something to be cautious of.  making yourself very available can be a wonderful thing, and i’ve always wanted to be able to listen to anything sent to me, respond to anyone sending me messages and emails, etc., but there is a line crossed sometimes when it comes to someone’s personal life, that kind of stuff.  it can get weird, i guess.  yolo.

do you have any plans to tour or play shows as ricky eat acid and, if so, how will the music translate into a live setting?

i’m playing a show in a week in new york (feb 2nd, super bowl show!) and i have no clue how the music will translate, but i’m actually very confident about it (much more confident too about later shows, since this one will be breaking the ice kind of).  i’m hoping to tour in 2014 and play a lot of shows in general, but i’m waiting right now to see what happens.  definitely very positive about it all.

the show ray references in his last answer is at the mercury lounge in new york city, playing with foxes in fiction and supporting gem club.  a trifecta of soothing, ambient music, it should be high up on the priority lists of people who live out in that area.  for anyone not yet privy to three love songs, seek it out, and be sure to give the collection of b-sides a listen, too.  ricky eat acid is truly something special.

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