Races - July 2012

Races Session
Violitionist Sessions

Session Date: March 9, 2012
Posting Date: July 30, 2012
Artist Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Links: RacesTheBand.com, Bandcamp, Facebook
Recorded by: Michael Briggs

All For You
Hope And Gloom
Big Broom
ONE: How did the band get started?
Wade Ryff: We all met in the hospital. No, seriously! I was going through this period of time where I didn’t love myself that much, I think Oliver was coming off of drugs…
Devo Higgins: I was in the psych ward.
Wade: Yeah. We met in the cafeteria.
Garth Herberg: I was a nurse.
Lucas Ventura: I was working in the cafeteria. I served all of them meatloaf. I don’t eat meatloaf personally—
Wade: I hated your meatloaf so much!
Lucas: I didn’t cook it! I just served it!
Oliver Hild: It was more just reheating, not really cooking…
Lucas: It was on one of those heating trays. It was two days old…
Wade: …No, I mean, a lot of us are friends and two of us have known each other since high school, and I knew people that knew them in high school, but we weren’t really friends…We all just knew each other separately and had all played in bands, and it all just came together for this group.
Devo: I met Wade one night, and I was really drunk, and I was like ‘I sing! I sing!’ and that was pretty much it.
Wade: I was like, ‘She sings, that’s cool.’ And then I looked at a clip of her on YouTube doing a Hole cover, and it sounded amazing. In the back of my mind I was like, ‘Oh yeah, this girl sings.’ I was in this band at the time, and I always knew that I would want to start another band. It’s funny how I knew in my mind people I’d start another band with, and they were all on that list. But, I didn’t really know Oliver as well, so he was on Garth’s list.
Devo: The first time that we had a rehearsal, I didn’t know Oliver or Breanna. Basically we met, and then we started playing songs together.
Oliver: Wade had been asked to do a sort of one-off, ‘Hey, will you open for me and play some of your stuff?’ deal, and he was like, ‘Oh, shit, I guess I’d better put a band together.’ I think he gave us a week or two’s notice. It was supposed to be this kind of one-off, ‘Let’s just have fun because we all kind of know each other so let’s just slap this together.’ And then we were like, ‘Oh, that was fun.’
Garth: I think I had to convince you a little bit.
Oliver: Really?
Garth: I think the first time I called you, you were kind of half way…
Oliver: Because I had sworn off bands? Yeah…
Garth: I called you again to really put the pressure on and I think you were into it.
Wade: There’s one other original member who left. It was another back-up singer. But, aside from that, this is the OG line-up. First draft pick.
Lucas: I was the second draft drummer.
Devo: But you were already in the fold.
Lucas: It was complicated. It was emotionally complicated.
Garth: We could write a book about the beginnings of this band.
Wade: But, I think the easiest way to explain it is that we just met in the cafeteria of the psych ward.
DJ: Yes, that’s much simpler.
TWO: Your debut album Year of the Witch came out in March. What was it like writing and recording it?
Oliver: I’ll go. It really didn’t start as an album. It started as, ‘Hey, we’re just going to record some demos, because we’ve been playing for a year and at every show people would be like, “Hey, do you have any music?”’ So, we were just going to give them some CDs, so we were like, ‘Hey, let’s record a few songs.’ And then, like half of them came out…we just tracked live in a concrete warehouse way out in the hills, kind of where we live, and they started coming out better than we expected, and we were like, ‘Hey, let’s make a record!’ I mean, that’s the nuts and bolts of it. Do you want to run with that?
Wade: Yeah. You asked about the writing. We had most of the writing done when we went to record. There’s a few songs that we wrote in the studio that, once we released we were making the album, we were like ‘Oh, let’s make this song, even though it’s not really done.’ We just kind of figured them out. But, I think most of it was just songs that we had been playing live for a while, you know? So, we didn’t just go into the studio and write, necessarily, like a lot of bands do when they make a record.
DJ: Do you collaborate on your songs, or does one person have a vision that guides what the music is like?
Wade: I think it’s a bit of both. A lot of this record is me and Garth. I would bring songs to him, and he’s a composer, so he would…a lot of the back-up melodies and string arrangements and stuff, he would add to the songs…
Garth: We all wrote our own parts for the most part, with the exception of ‘Big Broom,’ which is a song that Wade brought in a pretty clear-cut demo for, we more or less adapted our stuff to the vision he had. But for like 90% of the record, everyone was writing their own parts and arranging it on the fly in the band room as the songs came together.
Devo: Yeah, but you did ‘In My Name,’ that was you guys.
Garth: But that was kind of— yeah, the extra bells and whistles and things—
Wade: All of the back-ups were pretty arranged…
Garth: That’s true. A lot of the back-up parts were worked out…
Oliver: Or we’d just get it in the room sounding good as a sort of rock band sound, and record that, and then sort of whittle out things and make room for extra harmonies, strings, percussion, whatever—
Wade: Yeah, we didn’t meet that much in the beginning, because it was…everyone was in different bands and we were just kind of…doing it, and so, we didn’t really work on songs unless they were already pretty figured out before we came into the band room. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, let’s just jam and write a song.’ Usually, because we didn’t have much time, it was like, ‘Here’s a song. It’s pretty much all there. Let’s figure out what we’re going to do with it.’ Which, it would be nice to see that change. I think it’s starting to. I think we’re starting to actually like, you know, maybe start writing songs from the ground up, together.
Oliver: We kind of have the luxury, too, of not having to go into the studio and record an album in two or three weeks or whatever. It was like, record the song, listen to it, kind of vibe with it. It wasn’t like gung-ho. A lot of bands go in and have to be so prepared, you know?
Devo: Yeah, the albums been done for—
Oliver: Yeah, it’s been done for…months.
Wade: It’s been done for about a year, for the most part. We sat on it for a year.
Oliver: It’s funny, there wasn’t one way to do any of the songs. Some of them were tracked live, and then we’d add on, like on ‘Living Cruel and Rude’ for instance, we just did a bunch of takes until we got one that felt good, and that was it. We didn’t really do— there were a few overdubs of violins and vocals, but that was a very stripped-down—
Garth: Yeah, that one. It was really great how that one came out live. I think out of the live feels that we got on the record, that one’s probably my favorite.
Oliver: Whereas ‘All For You,’ for instance, we had played that for a long time as this banger rock song, and we decided to revamp it completely and went into the studio and just got 70’s on it, and stripped it down and did crazy isolating of drums and overdubs, so every song’s kind of got this—
Wade: There’s different sessions. We didn’t make it in one go, so it’s like there’s songs from this session and songs from this session…I think you can hear it, personally. They’re recorded a certain way. Like the ‘Cruel and Rude’ session was ‘Walk Through Fire’ and ‘Living Cruel and Rude’ and ‘Year of the Child,’ and all of those are acoustic, and they’re the live ones. That was the day when we were like, ‘Oh, let’s just track everything live.’ And then there was another week where we went in and we’re just like, ‘Let’s overdub everything separately, record each drum hit separately…’
Oliver: We had help, though, from the guy who mixed our record, Niko, who really tied it together. We got to use really cool reverbs and stuff, so it was all really tied together through his ears, which, I think, helped immensely, since it was all of these different ways of approaching recording—
Wade: We got to use Frank Sinatra’s echo chamber from Capitol Records. That was cool.
DJ: What was that like?
Oliver: It was illegal…
Wade: Yeah, we got to go down there, which was illegal. We have a friend— I’m not going to say his name. He works there as an intern, and he took us down late at night, after hours. You crawl into the boiler room down this concrete shaft, then you go down a hallway and down another concrete shaft—
Oliver: I’ve got a video of it, actually—
DJ: Destroy it! Destroy the evidence!
Wade: There’s real plate reverbs, and I think there’s five echo chambers, and echo #5 is allegedly the one that Frank Sinatra used. Everyone fights over room 5. Anyway, the guy who mixed it, Niko Bolas, he has access to it that room. Basically, there’s a big speaker in the middle of this room, this echo chamber, and from his room on the second floor he’s able to send whatever he wants, like, he’ll send a vocal down there, it comes out of the speaker, he re-records it and it sends it back up, all instantly.
THREE: Where do you see Races in two years?
Wade: Broken up. [Laughs] Hmm, where do we see the band in two years…
Devo: With our awesome sophomore album, killing it.
Oliver: That’ll be the name of it. Killing It.
Wade: Probably the same thing. Probably just having released a record and about to go on tour.
Devo: We’re going to be back here in this room again.
Oliver: Just better at everything, like touring and everything. It’s all kind of new, I think, for us as a six-piece.
Wade: I think our second record is going to be better than our first record was.
Lucas: I personally think that within two years from now we’ll be able to afford hotel rooms on tour.
DJ: That’s a good goal.
Devo: That’s what we’re working towards.
Lucas: You know, that’s aiming high.
Oliver: Although, I must say that the couch surfing that we’ve done has been way better than I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be sketchy people who were going to try to rob us and like, rape the girls and everything, and it’s actually been great because, although I think hotels are comfortable, you’re a little isolated. We’re already spending 24/7 with each other, so it’s nice to meet people who live in the towns that we’re playing in and not have to be like we’re just locked in the van, get out, lock ourselves in this little room together to sleep like sardines with three guys on a bed—
Wade: Yeah, you get into someone else’s vibe. Like, for us, we’re driving for ten hours and we’re all pissed and quiet, and then you walk into somebody’s house and they’re stoked that you’re there, so all of a sudden you feel better, because they feel good. Like, I remember last night, I felt like shit, and I was just like, ‘Oh man, fuck this!’ And then we went into the room that we were staying in, and this little kid had left a Chewbacca doll, and he put a welcome note on it that just said ‘Welcome.’ And just that little thing, it was like, ‘Oh, cool! Someone is happy to have us.’
Oliver: Yeah, the room we’re staying in is a shrine to Star Wars. It’s pretty awesome. Spiderman sheets, Darth Vader and Chewbacca everywhere.
Breanna Wood: There were LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean posters everywhere.
Lucas: Yeah, it was pretty epic.
Wade: We were staying in a five-year-old’s playroom. What were those things we were playing with? The brain…
Oliver: With those questions you were asking us?
Wade: Yeah, the Brainy Quotes…
Lucas: They’re like little cue cards, and they’ve got questions about Geography—
DJ: And they’re on a spindle?
Wade: Yes!
DJ: Yeah, I remember those.
Oliver: You don’t get those in hotels, is the point.
DJ: No, absolutely not.
Oliver: You get the Gideon Bible. You can only read that so many times.
Wade: I learned that neon is a gas that humans don’t need to survive.
DJ: That’s valuable information.
Lucas: You need it to find bars, though.
Wade: Right.
Oliver: Yeah, it’ll be interesting how this whole cycle with this record is going. We’re still figuring it out still. Maybe the next time around, it won’t seem so like, ‘Whoa! What the fuck are we doing?’ We’re kind of making it up as we go right now.
Garth: Hopefully there’s a little more stability in two years. I think we’d all like to see a little more…we’d like to make this our living, I think, more of our lifestyle rather than something that we have to leave our day jobs for and then come back and kind of…make it all work. So, hopefully that will be the case in two years.
Wade: Yeah, that’d be dope!
– Interview and transcription by Dale Jones