Australian-born turned LA native RY X’s debut album, Dawn, drips with soft, intimate beauty. The fragility will seep out of your speakers like an unsuspecting mist and permeate first your ears, then your mind and it’ll end up filling your cells, leaving you in a sort of meditative state.
There are no bombastic drums, no drops, no supersaws and no repetitive hook lines. Yet its warm reception from fans and critics alike proved, regardless of our terribly short attention spans, that we’re all still searching for something real to connect with.
The word anomaly comes to mind when the music and persona don’t quite line up. The music is perfectly reflective of RY’s profound connection to his internal self (both in a psychologic and philosophical sense), yet he speaks with a joyous and carefree tone. Time away from home hasn’t dulled his friendly Australian drawl, and immediately it feels like two old friends catching up.
We begin with tour preparation…
RY X: Growing up around Byron has given me such a deep connection with the sea so getting to just have a moment before a tour is super important to me. On tour I never really get to surf or be in nature the way I really like to, so I take the time to connect to that energy beforehand.
Music Feeds: Of course a tour can be taxing, all those hours in cars, planes, backstage and eating microwaved food but you do love it still?
R: I think I see touring as a giving exercise, going out and having people see your craft, allows you to give back in a really beautiful way. I’m super honoured to go on the road and play for people. For me, it feels nice to be received exactly as I am, so it does become a little easier with that in mind. I don’t have to put on a stage persona or anything like that. Touring is a weird thing though, I think anyone who is giving and travelling that way, it comes with an expectation almost. It’s definitely an odd lifestyle. I work hard to keep myself balanced and grounded so while I am of course really excited about getting out there, I need to do it with that mentality.
MF: From a browse through your socials, it becomes pretty clear your fans feel a deep connection with you and what you do. How does that translate live for you? Is there a higher expectation put upon you?
R: It’s a really good point, I love that people are able to connect with the rawness and honesty that I’ve created on these records. I think people have such a deep connection to it because it comes from a real place so do they expect that each night? Yeah, they do. It can be hard sometimes, if you’re fucking exhausted and drained and you still have to walk out on stage, but usually, and hopefully always…the music can get you there. I guess there is a huge expectation from myself too, to make it special and sacred. It can be interesting when people approach me and they’ve had such a visceral deep connection with something you’re making and even though you’ve never met them before, they look at you like they know everything about you and (laughs) it can be a little bit confronting but I chose to put myself in this role by making the kind of music I do so I honour it and accept it. I’m trying to be true to that.
MF: The way you talk about your live show is incredibly reminiscent of one of your own idols, the late Jeff Buckley who was said to have preferred the stage to a record, as what you’re putting out each night will only exist for the people in that room; the notion of how it’s mortality keeps it real.
R: I feel maybe it’s even more relevant now with the landscape. People are always connected to computers and they’re even bringing those onstage full of backing tracks. The computer is an amazing instrument if it’s used well but there is so much abuse of it! The players I work with and myself work so hard to make sure that everything we do is really live and has natural development every night so that we can have that interaction and experience with whoever is there. Sometimes, if we’re feeling it we might open up with a song for five more minutes than it goes for on the record you know? He was a massive influence to me, and I’m really glad I can access some of that. That fragile and vulnerable masculinity he possessed.
MF: Like Buckley, you’re rather fond of doing things your own way. Let’s of course not forget you rose to international acclaim with a song that completely defied the parameters set by the pop machine. You broke it!
R: Yeah, I smashed it and I’m still trying to smash it all the time! It’s a toy that won’t break and I keep throwing it at the ground. In front of the industry (laughs).
MF: So then how does a remix for one of 2016’s most iconic pop figures, Rihanna, come about?
R: Look, when Rihanna’s people call you and they tell you they love what you do and that they’re big fans, so would you lend your hand to a remix… When you feel respected and acknowledged for being yourself, then you can turn in a remix as honest and as real as you want it to be and either they’ll take it or leave it. The nice thing is I didn’t feel the need to make anything successful.
MF: Is that level of openness to creative endeavours super important to keep you from being stuck in a niche?
R: Yeah you totally can and it is dangerous. I think you need to always be challenging yourself and as long as you trust your own instincts and can figure out where to draw the lines of your own integrity then you can move as far as you want in any direction, until you get the feeling it’s not you, and then you need to listen to that intuition.
MF: Has this been your own set of rules to live by as far as your musical career goes?
R: The key to my own career so far with both The Acid and RY X has been trusting my instincts. Whatever I’m doing – it’s got to have my integrity attached otherwise it’s too cerebral and it doesn’t come from that deep down place.
MF: And that deep down place is where you find the magic.
R: Exactly. You know your shit.
MF: Tell me, you’ve got the European tour but you’ll be home to play Falls Festival and start the new year here. What do you want for yourself in 2017?
R: I’ve actually been doing a lot of meditation on that. I’m really looking forward to coming back to Oz and playing. Connecting to homeland and spirit. What I really want for 2017, go deep into my understanding of intuition, really maintaining a sense of love for what I’m making and sharing. Not to go too hippy but being thankful for what we’re all going through as humans, on our journeys. Try to be as human and as loving as possible through the whole process because it’s so easy to lose yourself and get caught up in it but I want to maintain my own essence so that what I make continues to hold power and purpose. My music may not sound like it has joy in it, but it really does, and that’s what I want for 2017 too. A quiet, deep joy.
RY X is playing Falls Festival 2016/2017 plus Sydney and Melbourne sideshows.
RY X Falls Festival and headline show dates
Friday, 6th January
Newtown Social Club, Sydney
Tickets: Secret Sounds
Saturday, 7th January
Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
Tickets: Secret Sounds
Falls Festival 2016/2017
Wednesday, 28th December 2016 — Saturday, 31st December 2017 – SOLD OUT
Thursday, 29th December 2016 — Saturday, 31st December 2017
Marion Bay, Tasmania
Tickets: Falls Festival
Saturday, 31st December 2016 — Monday, 2nd January 2017 – SOLD OUT
Byron Bay, New South Wales
Saturday, 7th January 2017 — Sunday, 8th January 2017
Fremantle, Western Australia
Tickets: Falls Festival