Interview: RY X

Waterfront’s Harry Ballmann speaks to the rising contemporary downtempo singer songwriter RY X on his upcoming tour, the art of being succinct and playing real music.

I spoke to Local Natives recently and they were really bigging up the L.A. music scene; I know you recorded Dawn over there. What do you make of L.A?
There’s a real shift I think, a musical shift happening from New York to L.A. I live in the art district and its just full of converted warehouses into galleries, venues etc. It’s got an incredible vibe man.

So you’re just about to embark on your European leg of the tour, is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to playing?
Yeah bro, I can’t wait for Shephard’s Bush in London, it feels like I’m stepping on holy ground to be honest. Then you’ve got places like Utrecht in the Netherlands that I’ve never been to before, and Paris is always special.

When you’re on your tour, how much down time do you get?
Being honest not a lot, it’s mainly just travelling but I try to stick to my routine. I’m really into my yoga so that’s one thing I try to stick to.

I suppose with a lot of travelling you get to listen to a lot of music?
Yeah man I use the travelling for listening to music for sure; I’ve been really into contemporary African music, as well as some half hour long Indian instrumentals which just blow my mind. But then we jam a lot on our travels, working things for the live shows in the evening.

How do you mean man, what kind of things do you work on?
Well, we usually extend a lot of our songs live. On Dawn, they’re semi electronic but I have a band on tour I can improvise with. I’m not one of the 90% that literally just press play nowadays. Similar to artists like Bonobo, I enjoy working electronic music into actual, real instruments and changing it up slightly. Especially the song Sweat, we make that at least 8/9 minutes and change it up completely, judging on the energy of the room. It’s the same with Shortline too, we really extend the intro and go into some Steve Wright style playing. I really enjoy working with arpeggios too, which is always easier with a proper band rather than some piece of electronic equipment.

You mentioned Steve Wright, do any other influences shine through in your live playing?
I’d have to say Radiohead to be honest. Thinking back to King of Limbs and what they did on the album, compared to what they did In the Basement, I’m looking for the same effect. Get the melee of analogue and digital on the record, but completely strip it back when I play live. Real percussion, real strings etc.

Yeah, I noticed that all the names of your songs, like Sweat, Berlin, Only are all really succinct and short, no Fall Out Boy paragraph long song names…
Haha yeah absolutely. If anything I do it deliberately to allow people to develop their memories of the words for songs I use. You and I, we have totally different perceptions of say, the song called Salt. For me I think of the sea, bringing back memories of growing up in Aussie. For you, it may be totally different. That was my intention there.

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