INTERVIEW: Radical Face
  • TUESDAY, JUNE 14, 2016

  • Posted by: Jacob Swindell-Sakoor

Radical Face is doing things that most other artists have never even dreamed of pursuing. Over the last few years, Radical Face has released his Family Tree trilogy albums which chronicle different characters within a (mostly) fictional family. On his website, Radical Face has created a digital family tree which streamlines the listening experience for both old and new listeners. Needless to say, Radical Face is in a league of his own. During Baeble Music's latest interview with the artist, Radical Face discussed his newfound need for excitement, views on the current state of the industry, his love for movie soundtracks, and the value in failing.

via GIPHY



JSS: Whenever people ask you about your music you usually say that you're just creating music. Could you describe what kind of music you makes?

RF: I don't know. I'm always usually pretty bad at that. I think that probably the easiest way for me to put it is that it's almost always based on storytelling. It's more narrative music. It's not usually just a song for a song's sake. Usually, I'm trying to tell some kind of story, or there's some meaning in it. There's a bunch of pieces that head into that. Then I just use whatever tools get that across. I think that when I work solo it ends up much more acoustic and folky than other projects I do. The joke is everyone wants their music to be indescribable or something, but I think it's also that we have all these associations with genres so people are automatically like "Oh I play folk music or something. Then right people go, "Oh like Bob Dylan" or something and I'm usually like 'Oh, not really.'

JSS: So I noticed you brought up storytelling. How did you start telling stories in your music? When did you realize that your strength was in telling stories?

RF: I think it's 'cause it's something that I respond to a lot. Like I always read a ton. I often get more ideas, even for writing my own stuff from reading books and listening to movie soundtracks. Those are the two things that make me wanna write the most. 'Cause a lot of the time people are surprised by the music I listen to based on what I make. I listen to a lot of darker, heavier music which is very different from the stuff that I do. But weirdly enough, a lot of the music that I listen to a lot is not, it doesn't make me wanna write, I just like listening to it. So yeah, for whatever reason I've always had that kind of separation. I think I've always just liked stories and I just like storytelling. I've noticed that a lot of my friends are good at it and that's probably why we gravitated towards each other in the beginning. It was just that they always had a funny story to tell.

JSS: Could you go into any artists or movie soundtracks that you've been listening to?

RF: There's always been big ones. For years, I constantly put on, especially when traveling or something, the soundtrack to that movie Amelie.

JSS: I love that movie!

RF: (Laughs). Yeah, that movie and that soundtrack just stuck and I think for years that was just my go to and I always put that soundtrack on. As far as artists I'm a fan of, there's a Joanna Newsom record with all these big 15 minute stories. That's another one that I would just obsessively listen to all the time. I also like a lot of classical music. Mostly 20th-century stuff. Most of it was narrative tone poems and shit like that. If I'm ever writing a lot, I tend to listen to almost no lyric music. Like I will stay away from singers and then when I'm not writing I listen to that a ton more. I don't really know why though. It's never been a conscious thing. It's not like I decided to it. I guess 'cause I'm always writing a ton of words that I'm starting to fuckin' hate them, (laughs) so I don't want to listen to lyrics. That's like the most long, frustrating part of music making for me. Lyrics are like, ten times slower than music.


JSS: Do you feel like when writing your lyrics there are moments where the words just come naturally? Do you ever have a moment where it's like oh I've got one?

RF: Actually, for me I think it's a lot of failing over and over and then something clicks and I write it all in like, a day. So it's not like I'm adding a sentence at a time or something. Maybe I'm just fishing for a good head space. I don't know, but when it happens it tends to happen very fast. There's of course, other examples of songs where I did a line at a time before I was done, but most of the time it's just like I don't like this over and over (laughs). And then I'm like 'ah that's what I need to do!' But yeah, its just the part of it that's like, I think that I can work on music even when I'm necessarily in the mood to and I get in the mood to, and lyrics I can't do that. Like I sit down to write, and I read it all the next day and throw it all away.

JSS: Have you ever wanted to, or will you in the future break free from making conceptual projects and just make music?

RF: Yeah that's actually kind of where I'm at now. I finished this big eight-year project that I had no idea was gonna take eight years and then just did the two-month tour for the last record. This whole time on tour I was like, I'm about to be done. This thing is about to be finished. This whole project, all the ambition I had for it was mostly in scope. How many moving parts and how many moving things were connected and that was actually the challenge. It was kind of the size of it and I really wanna get back to the ambition being like a much more direct artistic thing. So that it's basically like, what can I do with the song? How far can I push it? What can I do with sound? You know? I want to be more efficient production wise. Like I had shackles throughout this whole project because I knew exactly what each record was gonna sound like and what instruments I was gonna use. So it wasn't the most free process. So now I'm at a spot where I'm like fuck anything interconnected. I'm super done with that (laughs). And I know I'll always use themes in some ways, but I'm kinda starting to get interested in themes of like based right nocturnes, which is music that's supposed to be heard at night. So I might use some little vague ones [themes] like that. Like this would sound cooler if you listened to it on a walk at midnight. As far as larger themes like family and stuff, I currently have no interest.

JSS: For this new phase in life and your career, will you shy away from lyrics and make it more production or instrumental based?

RF: I actually would like to dig more into that 'cause I've done in the past some short film soundtracks and stuff like that and I really enjoyed it. 'Cause again you're working with a theme, but it's a visual one. Like here's visual cues, how would you decorate this with music? I would definitely like to dig into it more and I'm kinda leaning towards working in the form of EPs. Like small projects and doing a totally instrumental one. Like, alright this has no lyrics, just music. Then other ones, like if I'm gonna do the nocturnes Ill write maybe four of them. Right now the record cycle is something I'm pretty sick of. 'Cause you know you work on an album and I usually spend eight months to a year recording it. Then I finish it and then you have to spend all this time getting stuff produced, and whether or not you're gonna get a distributor and work with a label. It becomes really just a business problem for like the next six months to a year and then it finally comes out, and by the time it comes out, it's old to me. You know, we live in a totally different age where you can actually just put stuff up really rapidly. I've been looking at the rap community and they put out stuff constantly. They're putting out records, like, the same guy will put out three records in a year 'cause he felt like it. I'm just like, man, that sounds like so much more fun! This record cycle where it's all inspiration and then you're bogged down for a year, and then you go back to it. So yeah, I kinda want to get off that and just chase ideas, and when I'm done just put it up. I can press it later if anyone even cares (laughs). So, I don't know. I'm just moving more and more into that. I think it's also been a big shift. My boyfriend who lives with me now, he's a classical musician, but largely plays baroque music. He plays viola de gamba and all these different strings and these different composers I've never heard. For me, and a lot of people, it all starts at Bach, and there's a ton of shit before Bach and I had no idea. A lot of it is really cool. So yeah, I've been digging more and more into that 'cause I'm more excited about instruments than words for sure (laughs).

JSS: You're very adamant about working by yourself and finding inspiration within yourself. So if you're unsure about a song, who do you go to for advice?

RF: I like to work in a bubble. There's songs where I'm already like 100% sure that that's exactly what I was trying to do and it's done, and I'm not touching it. Then there's ones that I'm sure that I don't like it and I'm like, this is shit, and I delete it. Then there's the complicated ones where I do something but it doesn't feel finished and in those cases I have a circle of about five people, and they all have very different music tastes and a lot of them are actually people I tour with. What's kind of a weird thing about the city I live in, the way we work, you don't really form bands. Everyone has their own solo projects. We just sort of help each other out. So you know, if I'm going on tour, everyone in my band has their own band. So this isn't their baby. They're just like what do you want? The flip side is if they're recording and say hey can you come help me track the drums? I'm just like yeah no problem. We just sort of exchange favors all the time. But they're also my springboard. If I'm stuck I'll call my friend, Jeremiah who plays guitar with me live, and I'm like, 'something about this is not there' and he's great because he's really harsh. He'll just be like, 'I don't know, I just don't think the compositions interesting' and I'll be like, 'Oh, good point.' I guess I just have to start over (laughs). And you know I do the same for him. I'll be like, 'I hate this mix.' What's going on with it? So yeah, I think that there's about five of us. We're very objective people and were not scared to give each other really negative feedback 'cause no one takes it personal. So yeah that's kind of my core group.

JSS: Outside of the core group is there anyone that you really want to work with? Any dream collaborations?

RF: I think the thing with collaboration, that's hard with me is in the beginning, when I was really getting into music, the whole reason I turned solo was 'cause I was shocked at how quickly bands became basically shitty relationships. There's all these communication problems. They become political. There's not a lot of talk about making a good result. It's mostly that people feel slighted. You know I was like this is exhausting and were not even making that much. Like were not even recording. So that was why I eventually backed off it and started just recording. It was so much faster. You could quickly see if the song would work. It kind of became easier for me to learn to play the drumbeat than to work with a drummer. At this point, I've done it enough that collaborations actually sound interesting again. The reality of it is just that even if you get along as friends, or even if I really admire what they do, I don't know if our mindsets will click. I think I'm kind of a pessimist and I kind of figured it just wouldn't work (laughs). It's not based on any real evidence. Occasionally I'll bump into someone and be like oh hey I love their stuff, but in my head I almost instantly shoot it down and say oh we're not gonna work together. Well probably just hate each other. So I don't tend to get into the dream collaboration state very often. I think I'm more surprised when I bump into someone and I can actually work with someone.

JSS: For the future of Radical Face you've talked about how you want to stay away from the concepts and just release music freely. Is there anything else that you would like fans of Radical Face to know to look out for in the future?

RF: I was talking to someone recently about where we're at now. As a music industry and how you know the internet has kind of ruined a lot of these older systems. Not like ruined in a bad way. I think a lot of them kinda need to go away. I think a lot of them are kind of predatory and shitty. So I'm welcoming it, but it's like we're in the Wild West now. No one really knows what works anymore. I think the label systems are largely kind of terrified. I just finished my last label contract, I'm going back to doing it all under my own label again 'cause having tried it both ways I like the DIY stuff better. It's more work and it's harder to get things done, but you just don't argue as much. So at this point, I don't think there are any rules anymore. I really think the only rule is the only one that's always existed, which is make work that affects people and things will happen. Everything else, I think is kinda up in the air. Even for myself I'm really working hard to just remove all those comforts or this idea that there's kind of a way to do anything, I mean that artistically and even just the way you release stuff, I really just wanna chase excitement. So whatever sounds exciting, just go for it 'cause fuck it, why not. So for, exactly what I'm gonna do, I have no idea, but I can say I'm more excited to do things than I have been in a long time. So you're gonna find out when I do.

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