LA's next big indie act Races hits Club Congress on Sunday
There are those who wander through life, aimlessly wondering what to make of themselves, and then there are those of us who are lucky enough to figure it out early.
For Wade Ryff, lead singer and songwriter for the excellent band RACES, the choice was clear from the outset: “All I knew was, I wanted a band.”
It’s a noble goal, of course, and one shared by countless people undoubtedly as bored as Ryff was in 2009 when RACES took form. The difference, however, is that Ryff and the band members delivered on the dream, finally releasing their first full-length album earlier this year, Year of the Witch.
“It really was kind of a product of boredom, of not being able to do what I wanted,” Ryff explained. “I was playing bass in some bands, and I just knew that I needed my own band to be able to express what I felt I needed to express.”
Devised as a solo vehicle, RACES began with Ryff showing songs he’d written to various friends in the hopes that they might back him at a few shows. Songs such as the Interpol-meets-Fleet Foxes groove of “Song of Birds” and “All For You” originated around this time.
Eventually, the band became more collaborative, something which Ryff credits as integral for RACES finding its trademark sound.
“Usually, the songs start with me bringing the skeleton of an idea to the band,” Ryff said, “but it’s always different. All of the members really shape the songs, which is how we stumbled upon ‘Big Broom.’”
Ryff recognizes “Big Broom,” the album’s first single, as a turning point for the sound of the band, influencing the arrangement of a number of Year of the Witch tracks with its enormous, silken textures that make it the definitive RACES song.
“After we did ‘Big Broom,’ we knew we wanted that sound for the whole album. A lot of the arranging for the record involved just using the same instrumentation and tones on that song in different ways.”
“Big Broom” not only represents an achievement in sound but in Ryff’s lyrics. Evocative lines like “When that big broom comes / For its final sweep / I’ll be here in my golden chair / Alone with all my debts and dreams,” hint at the greater lyrical conceits at work on Year of the Witch, an album ostensibly inspired by a breakup.
“I always write music before lyrics,” Ryff asserted, “but the lyrics on this album definitely function thematically.”
This accounts for the similar tropes found in tracks like the cleaning-out of “Big Broom” or the “walkin’ out the front door” story of “Lies.” In keeping with the stately sound of RACES’ music, Ryff cites 20th century American literature as his chief lyrical inspiration.
“I’m definitely more inspired by writers like Bukowski or Fitzgerald than bands,” he said. “Things like language, word choice, all of that is much more affecting to me in literature than any place else.”
Much like the sound he’s helped create, Ryff’s attitude towards lyrics is resoundingly refreshing in the dumbed-down pallete of today’s popular music.
Yet, for how fully formed they sound, RACES remains an excitingly young band.
“I think we’re getting better with every tour,” Ryff said. “Things have progressed quickly, but I feel like all of us have become seasoned performers. We’ve been writing new stuff, it’ll be great when we can record it.”
RACES has plans to put out a new single in early January, hopefully to be followed by their sophomore full-length in March.
It’s RACES’ willingness to develop and expand that makes their music so compelling, and it’s with bated breath that one awaits what’s in store for the band.
RACES performs Sunday, 11/18, at Club Congress. $10, 18 & over.
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