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Adventures in Sound with Richard In Your Mind

Written by Daniel Clarke on June 3, 2010

Prolific purveyors of neo-psychedelic post-pop Richard In Your Mind return this year with their second full length album, My Volcano. True to form, it’s another genre-defying record, bolstered by the addition of producer, and now official fifth band member Brent Griffin aka. SPOD.

Currently touring across the country on the weekend with fellow indie stalwarts Cloud Control, Music Feeds spoke with lead prankster Richard Cartwright in a rare moment of downtime between shows, and found out that there’s still plenty of surprises in store from the Sydney quintet.

Music Feeds: So before we get on to talking about the new album My Volcano, I wanted to ask you about the Summertime EP. I was reading that these were tracks that came out of the same recording process as the album. Was there any method to the way you picked the tracks that were going to be on the EP?

Richard Cartwright: I think it was just the ones that we had fun making, but they were more stabs at different ideas in a way, things that we still thought ‘well, we really enjoy listening to them’ but didn’t think they fit the album. We kind of had more of a clear idea of what we wanted the album to be, which was a bit more focused, a bit more of a ‘journey’. So we had these other things and we thought ‘oh, what are we going to do with them?’ The album wasn’t ready and we wanted to make sure we were prepared to release one so we figured we’d put the EP together and, because they kind of all have a bit of a more whimsical nature, release it on the first day of Summer and it could be just the ‘it’s Summertime, it’s cool, it’s the Summertime EP’. (laughs)

MF: Something to keep the fans happy.

RC: Yeah, that’s it, and to just release it digitally meant we didn’t have to think too hard about a bunch of stuff and the logistics of it, so it was just like ‘here’s more music from us, and it’s available if you’re interested in checking it out’. We were really proud of the songs and I think a lot of Richard In Your Mind really has, like it’s a bit more ‘productiony’ I guess people say about the Summertime EP, but that’s a big part of our band too, because we just love spending time in the studio and messing around with things, whether it’s an acoustic… something, or just drum machines and synths.

MF: That definitely comes through in the music, you can tell that you guys have spent a lot of time on each track when you were in the studio. Now, you’ve been recording with SPOD, it sounds like he’s almost an unofficial extra member of the band now.

RC: Well he’s sort of an official one. He’s always got his stuff going on, but he was with us on the journey for all of the album, so in a lot of ways he kind of knows the songs better than we do. You know, we’d be there mixing with him and stuff, but sometimes we’d come in and he’d spend all night doing some other thing. We actually recorded most of it at my place, but we did do a few, it was really the mixing process we did with Brent (SPOD), but because we didn’t give ourselves too strict a time limit the two blended together so if we though ‘oh, this is missing something’, and Brent has this amazing collection of synths and his own equipment and stuff, we could have a bit of a play around.

MF: I must say when I first heard Brent was involved, I was thinking of his solo stuff and wondering how you’d sound together, but when you think about the way you guys approach the music it makes sense.

RC: Yeah, it makes a strange sense. It’s also funny, the persona that Brent’s kind of a superhero and SPOD’s kind of his amazing ‘gonna save the world with sexual powers’ persona, but his approach to music is a bit experimental, and it’s embracing of old fun analogue equipment and he’s got lots of similar musical tastes to us. It’s certainly not like we made a half-SPOD, half-Richard In Your Mind album, I think it’s more that we worked together with Brent Griffin of SPOD, and his wealth of knowledge.

MF: Listening to RIYM, I still wonder, how do you guys approach writing the music? I’d imagine you’d start off with a very simple idea and build it up from there. How long would it take you to fully develop a song?

RC: Often times each one takes ages. It’s usually though that eighty percent of it gets done really quickly, so generally I’ll have a song idea and start to flesh it out with a few things at home, then I’ll show it to Conrad, and we’ll kind of go ‘cool, that’s where it’s at’. That process is often quite quick, but then the last ten, twenty percent making sure it’s perfect, and then thinking ‘oh, there’s this little space here, maybe we should have some delays swelling off the last thing’ and really just making it glue together into what we want as a finished project, that’s the stuff that seems to take the longest (laughs).

MF: So you guys are on Rice Is Nice now, how is that relationship going? Have you found they’ve been supportive of what you’re doing?

RC: It’s so amazing that I can’t believe it. Julia Wilson, she’s like an angel. She stepped into the role really of manager as well. She’s keeping us all together. She was the one that drove us to the airport, and then when we came back at stupid hours in the morning, she was there to pick us up (RIYM’s current tour with Cloud Control sees them traversing the continent on the weekend, and returning home during the week). Apart from all those nice things, the label have been really trying to put our music around in enough places so that enough of the right people, or just enough people get to hear it. They’ve been nothing but supportive, and actually they’re doing a good job of just making us do stuff coz we all tend to procrastinate (laughs).

MF: I wanted to touch a bit on the influences of Richard In Your Mind. I love reading other writers try to sum up your sound, whether as neo-psychedelic, anti-folk, Odelay-esque etc. Do you guys listen to newer music, and take ideas from that, or is it more you go crate digging and dig out older records and think ‘hey, that’s interesting’?

RC: I guess it’s a little bit of both, but for sure I think the really big influences are the ones we’ve all been listening to for years and years. I worked at a St Vincent De Paul for eight years, so I slowly got a huge vinyl collection. I just love the sound of old things, and there’s so many great ideas from the people in the past that it’s cool to just visit them and go ‘oh, well this idea hasn’t been reworked’. It’s funny when you talk about people describing the way we sound, like certainly Beck is a huge influence, but it’s funny some people have recently said ‘oh, their lives shows, they’re a bit Animal Collective-esque’ which is really funny because Conrad loves Animal Collective, and I’m… I like them, but I’m not an Animal head (laughs). So for me personally I wouldn’t say they’re a massive influence, but they do seem to be popping up.

MF: I guess everybody needs their own terms of reference huh?

RC: Yeah, exactly. We totally listen to modern music, and I’m trying to think of any that I really like… We’ve actually all been really excited by Tame Impala, which is really cool. They’re a band who love the sound of old sixties psychedelic rock, and are really chill and groovy. Then there’s the Flaming Lips, who are a modern reference, but I guess an old one too. I guess we’re all children of the nineties, and that amazing explosion of music that happened in the early nineties, I think that sticks with us. Things like Beck, early hip hop and even things like The Orb… I love The Orb.

MF: I must say I love that honky MC take on ‘Make It Chill’.

RC: Yeah, it’s a funny one. See that was the one that just came out, that song was literally pretty much made, ninety eight percent of it, in about an hour or something. It came out of, the story is true, that my boss at the time was insisting that I come in to work, and I was like ‘I’ve got plans!’ and she said ‘well, you suck’, so it was just one of those times where someone pisses you off, and I just had to exorcise that demon by writing this song called ‘Make It Chill’, which is a vague contradiction (laughs).

MF: Nice. So what’s next for you guys? The album launch tour is in July, are you planning bigger touring adventures after that?

RC: Well, our album tour is only a couple of weeks after we finish touring with Cloud Control, so we’ll do that and then we’ll see what happens a bit. The more you play and the more you do stuff, the more opportunities tend to present themselves but the other thing we’re really excited about is, Conrad’s over today, and I think we’ve written up a tentative track list for our third album! So as much as it’s so wonderful to go around and play, and adventure, it’s also good to just be at home in the studio. We might be dreaming, but we’d love to have a third album out at least early next year, so we’ll see how it goes. Oh, it’d be cool to play heaps of festivals too. We’ll just see how it goes. No next tour is planned at the moment, but it is great to play outside of Sydney. I mean, I love Sydney, but playing elsewhere is kind of more fun.

MF: It’s the idea of being out of your comfort zone, meeting new people, having new experiences huh?

RC: That’s it. It seems easier to have people go ‘oh wow, you’ve opened my eyes to something!’ whereas in Sydney it’s like ‘oh yeah, I’ve seen you guys a couple of times and that was cool’. That’s great too, coz they’re our friends and our peers, but it’s cool to get out.

Richard In Your Mind’s new album My Volcano is out June 26th through Rice Is Nice.

The band are currently touring with Cloud Control, and will be launching the new album on the east coast in July. Click here for more info.

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