By Jess Goulart
Photos courtesy of Richie Quake.
Brooklyn-based producer Richie Quake’s new aptly named single, “Slow Down”, is the type of track you put on when you’re deflating from a rager in the wee hours of the morning or basement chillin’ with some whiskey after a long day.
That metronomic trap beat will hypnotize you into a mellow state of grace so that you won’t even notice that Quake’s languid soundscape boasts serious production complexity. Ambient yet approachable, his work delivers melancholic electro-acoustics and adds depth to traditional pop tropes.
Quake was recently joined by Ari Finkel on guitar and Zach Berns on drums, and has a separate duo-project with singer Noelle Tannen under the moniker Heiress. BTR caught up with Quake to chat about “dark pop” and “emotional beats.”
BreakThru Radio (BTR): What’s your background as a musician?
Richie Quake (RQ): Well let’s see, from a young age I played a lot of instruments and then in high school I decided that I wanted to write songs. I did some folk stuff originally and from there I learned about a lot of different kinds of music and got into producing and using all different kinds of programs. Then I realized it was something I was very serious about, and now I go to school for it. It’s a big part of my life and always ever-changing.
BTR: Your recent single “Slow Down” is very divergent from folk, but do you feel your folk roots still influence you in some way?
RQ: I would say it’s very, very little influence right now, except for lyrically. Folk music tends to have really great lyrics–or, good folk music does–but it’s a lot of storytelling and really descriptive language because it started off as just a way to tell stories. I’ve always loved that and I try to retain a good sense of lyricism and word play and metaphors in my songs, and I think that’s one of the relics of my folk days.
BTR: How about influences for your current style?
RQ: It’s hard in 2015 when you have the internet not to have, like, 70 different influences. It’s not like when you would go to the record store and buy a record and that would be your influence. So, it ranges, but I’m really into Bill Withers right now, and production-wise this ‘80s comeback that’s been happening for a while. I like a lot of sound design; I work on sound design for a lot of films and soundtracks and stuff, so making really interesting sounds. The stuff that Arca does and James Blake, I think they do really interesting stuff. I’m influenced even by some pop song writing just because you hear it on the radio and party to it and I’m trying to make accessible music as well, in some respects. I think that’s always important to keep in mind.
BTR: You’ve tagged some of your music as “dark pop” or “emotional beats,” what’s your definiton of those terms?
RQ: I guess, when I think of “beats” and “pop” I think of a light fluffy thing… and I’m not really a light fluffy guy. So I feel like I need to put “dark” or “emotional,” especially on SoundCloud, because it’s a short attention span and you need to tell people what they’re going to get. I put “dark pop” and “alt R&B” and “emotional beats.” Getting specific and letting people know it’s dark and it’s deep and something I put thought into. But it’s listenable, it’s not dark drone–it’s dark pop!
BTR: Tell us about the writing process for you?
RQ: These days I’m working with a band, which is great. I got a few of my friends and fellow musicians from [SUNY] Purchase. In the past it’s been me writing the chords and then making the synths, guitar, drums, and bass. On my first album Visions, it was me writing, producing, and mixing everything, which was a great experience but it put a strain on me and exposed my weaknesses and strengths. Having a band is great because I go in and have a drummer and guitarist there, and I like to make synth patches and write chords and write lyrics and melody so, to have me do my thing and then just give guidance to everybody else is a really cool experience. Then I edit it all afterwards and fine tune and polish.
BTR: So you released the single “Slow Down”, what are your thoughts for the future?
RQ: I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I released the EP Visions and to me it was a great learning experience because mad people heard my stuff and it got some press and it got some play, but only two or three songs got play out of the whole thing and the other ones got left behind. It made me want to really refine my sound because I feel like I worked hard on that stuff and it got neglected because I didn’t have the publicity I wanted. So now I’m doing singles and I’m just going to keep on doing singles until I really feel like people are really listening. Then I think that’s the time for an EP or an album.
BTR: Do you have an upcoming release planned?
RQ: Yeah, I’m doing a single every month or two. I also have a side project called Heiress and we’re going to release a tape on Paxico Records, so I’ve been working a lot on that. It’s where I produce beats and a singer named Noelle Tannen sings; we collaborated on these tracks and they’ve been in the vault for a while. I’m doing a Richie Quake single, then an Heiress single, then Richie Quake, then Heiress, like that.
June 9 – Cameo Gallery – Brooklyn, NY