This week we’re featuring Los Angeles sextet, Races. Having released their first full-length album, Year of the Witch, back in March, the melodious group has grown accustomed to tour life, playing SXSW and opening for bands like El Ten Eleven and Saint Motel, which is where we had seen them live not too long ago (and loved them). Year of the Witch follows a biographical attempt at lead singer Wade Ryff’s relationship past, filled with harmonious vocals and powerful lyrics. We spoke to Wade Ryff about the album, making of their track Lies, touring, and more!
Who are Races?
Another band from Los Angeles.
Your band name was originally Black Jesus, which coincidentally was also the name of one of the tracks on Year of the Witch. What’s the story behind the name and song and why change it to Races?
There isn’t a song on the album called Black Jesus. However the song your referring to is about conspiracy theories in regards to the powers of the awakened pineal gland and some the spiritual mysticism that is overlooked in the Bible. Find out more here.
Can you talk about the writing and recording process of “Year of the Witch?” Were there any major rough spots you all faced at one time or another during the process?
We recorded the “Year of the Witch” ourselves. Oliver Hild (Bass) engineered the whole record and he and I produced it together. We tracked in a warehouse in Chatsworth, Ca which belonged to a Concrete Company. We would go in after hours and on weekends and work. I tracked all the vocals and backup vocals in a basement I was living in at the time. When we finished all the tracking, we took everything over to Capitol Records and had it mixed by Niko Bolas. To answer your question, Yes, there are always rough spots when making a record, especially when making it on your own. I would say some of the deadlines we had were the real challenges, but also blessings in disguise. It’s the deadlines that really force you not over think and to really trust your instincts.
The entire album has lyrics that can cut you deep inside, especially for those that can relate. Do you plan continuing down that emotionally deep path of lyrical content for future music or will things go more lighthearted?
I don’t know if I really have a plan on how to approach lyrics in the future.
Recently watched the music video for Lies, which happens to be one of my favorite tracks off of your album. Curious about who’s idea it was for Wade to get beat up the entire time? How was it making that music video?
Ha. The treatment for “Lies” came from the director, Edward Chase Masterson who is a great friend of mine. Working with him is always wonderful although pretty physically and mentally challenging. I remember he called me the night before the shoot and asked, “Have you mentally prepared for this? Are you ready?” I was a little caught off guard by that. I realized that I wasn’t really prepared. I mean, I had read the treatment and liked it, but didn’t really think about what it would mean for me. It turned into a few days of being beaten, manhandled, dragged in the street, body checked, chased by a mob, having baseball bats swung at my face, slurpees to the face, and running more than I have ever ran in my entire life…and multiple takes of all of this. It was fun in retrospect.
As a bonus track on your record, you all recorded (very successfully, I might add) Leonard Cohen’s “Lover, Lover, Lover.” Why did you all choose this song to cover? Do you have any other songs you would all love to cover?
Thank you. “Lover, Lover, Lover” was a song we covered at the first show we ever played together. I was in an obsessive Leonard Cohen phase. It sort became this staple in our set from then on so we figured we had to record it. We recorded that one on a very short deadline. There are so many songs I want to cover. I wouldn’t know where to start. We’ve covered a few songs over the last few years. Devon rocks a killer version of “Case of You” by Joni Mitchell (see here). We’ve done Warren Zevon, Sam Cooke, other Leonard Cohen songs, The Shivers. I’m sure I’m forgetting something.
I recently saw you all open up for Saint Motel at DC9 back in July and loved what I saw and heard – mind you it was my first time hearing you too. There was an incredible energy that came together as one when fitting six musicians onto that diamond stage. How would you describe your live shows to anyone who’s yet to see you?
Honest. What you see is what you get. If it’s a rough night, I’m not the best at concealing it, but the same goes for if we are having a blast.
You all have become quite adjusted to life on the road – any memorable moments for the tours you’ve been on so far? What city has been your favorite to this point?
There are constantly memorable moments on the road. Some I probably shouldn’t share. A highlight as a band from this last tour was probably a day off in El Paso. We went to the arcade and then went to the movies to see Batman. It was such a wonderful shift of gears from the previous weeks on the road. I had so much fun. I felt like a little kid on a field trip. It’s the little things that become sacred memories to me though. Making dinner for each other in a parking lot, being crammed into one shitty motel room and laughing at everything because your beyond the point of exhaustion, exploring a city together, the camaraderie you develop with the band’s you tour with. etc.
NYC is probably our favorite city. We have so many friends there.
Thanks for talking to us at Pick-Up Productions. What are the band’s plans for the rest of 2012?
Write, Record, Tour.