Richard In Your Mind: ‘I Gotta Catch This Chillwave’
In the midst of an east-coast tour, Richard Cartwright from Richard In Your Mind talks to DARREN LEVIN about chillwave, being big in Maroochydore and striking while the iron’s hot.
Richard Cartwright’s been reading a lot lately – and it’s not because he got a Kindle for Christmas. The frontman of Sydney acid-pop outfit Richard In Your Mind spends five hours on a train three days a week, commuting back and forth between his new home in the Blue Mountains and the St Vincent De Paul op-shop in Bondi, where he’s worked for the past 10 years.
“St Vinnie’s is a great job, because I’ve been here so long that every time I go on tour, they work around me,” he says, enthusiastically, which is about the only mode he knows. “I only come in three days a week, so I’ve got four days to relax in my mountain chalet; make tunes, or just hang out.”
St Vinnie’s is where M+N finds Cartwright on a Monday afternoon. Later in the week, he’ll be resuming an east-coast tour in support of new album SUN, playing shows in Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle, Canberra and tonight (September 22) in Wollongong. The album hastily follows last year’s Australian Music Prize-nominated My Volcano, which bounced between genres like their oft-cited hero Beck. SUN is a more cohesive, relaxed affair; a reaction perhaps to its predecessor, which took far longer to make. Cartwright hopes SUN sets a precedent for the future.
“We should set those goals,” he says. “I’d like to release another album next year, but don’t hold me to that and don’t get angry if I don’t.”
So you’ve moved up to the Blue Mountains?
Yes, that’s true. It’s a bit of a distance, but I don’t mind it. I have a lot of time to read. [Laughs] I love reading, but when I’m home I do other things. I decided it was about time I found out about [American author] Philip K Dick and just read five books in a row.
Did you move up there to be closer to Cloud Control?
[Laughs] Well, we met Cloud Control when we did a Sydney Uni band comp. They came first and we came third, and it’s been that way ever since. I figured maybe if I moved to the mountains I’d get some of their cloud dust and we’ll become magic like them. [Laughs] No, the truth is, it’s too expensive to rent in Sydney, so I moved to the mountains.
And Jack Ladder’s up there as well.
It makes sense. I bought a house and it’s cheaper than renting in Sydney. That’s weird. It’s beautiful and it’s close to Sydney. I’m a bit born again, I think.
Did you do a lot of the record there?
Most of the record was done in the final stages of living in Annandale [in Sydney], but we certainly did some drums and quite a bit of the vocals in the mountains, and Jordy [Lane] did some guitar overdubs up here.
Why’d you feel the need to follow up My Volcano so quickly? Or was it just a matter of the songs pouring out?
The last album took so long to come out … and also Brent [Griffin] and Conrad [Richters] were going overseas, so there was this deadline that enforced upon us. We thought, “Let’s work to that deadline”, and so we did. It all just came together. I like the idea of lots of albums, not listening to them too much and worrying about everything, so when they actually come out you hate them. [Laughs] That being said, next time we might take longer.
It really comes across on record; that relaxed, unfussy vibe.
Cool, that’s good. We wanted to do something that was less ambitious than My Volcano. Not that we wanted it to be less good, we just thought My Volcano was more like, “These are all the things we like to do all at once!” With this one it was more like, “Well, let’s do all those things, but leave more space for certain aspects.” We wanted an album that was nice and chill to listen to; something that wasn’t an epic thing in the way that it was made and put out.
There’s that “chill” word again.
I use it all the time! When people ask how I’m going, my default response is: “Chillin’!” I don’t know if it’s ironic, or just who I am. It’s like a tattoo now that comes out my mouth.
I guess it fits in nicely with the whole chillwave thing.
What is chillwave?
It’s this loping, almost ambient type of music that’s happening in the States. Bands like Washed Out and Toro Y Moi. Have you heard of them?
Not really, but I should. I think I need to catch this chillwave. [Laughs]
Is the plan now to release a record once a year?
I’d love it … I want to be really prolific, but sometimes things take time and you don’t want to rush things. I don’t think we would’ve put this album out if we didn’t think it was good. We could’ve tweaked it and turned it into something else, but it is what it is. Of course, we’ve been thinking about it, but I don’t know what the fourth album sounds like yet. After My Volcano, we thought our next album should be a bit more live and a bit more chill. We’ve did that, so now it’s like, “Do we do a Beck and hop back and forth between crazy experiments and folk-y songs?” Maybe we should just go back and do a My Volcano part two? [Laughs]
Was the sun theme there from the outset?
Not the outset, but very early in. The sun comes up at some point in most of our songs … Bowie was so great at naming albums after one word, and I’m sure there are other albums called Sun, but it felt good to go, “Here’s a clear, simple idea – let’s work around that.” It fell into place from there.
Does it explain the consistency in the sound?
Yeah. I think a big part of the consistency is making the drums live and moving a bit away from the samples of My Volcano. There were more sessions that went across all the songs, rather than some songs being all about one place, and other songs being distantly related to them. Once we knew it was called SUN, we had the vibe it was going to be mellow.
It’s a real “lying in the grass on a hot day” kind of record.
I wish there were more gigs like that. It always seems like you have to wait for festivals in summer. The rest of the time, you’re forced to enjoy music at midnight in a club, which is fine, and you have fun, but I like chilling out in the sun. That seems like an equally valid and fun place to enjoy music, so it’s good that it has that vibe.
Maybe you should do more afternoon shows?
[Laughs] Maybe we should do all our shows at 3 o’clock. It would be cool to do a The Who-style set at a festival when the sun’s rising.
Is the sun a metaphor for rebirth? Songs like ‘New Morning’ seem to imply that.
It is. I’m often surprised sometimes how you can go to bed and worry about things, and how much sleeping on it makes it OK. The next morning, you’ve got a clear perspective, and can have a cup of tea and start again … That happens on grander scales with life and death, and morning and night; the dual nature thing. I like how in the morning you can start again … I enjoy waking up and going, “It’s a fresh day.”
It’s been a pretty prolific couple years for the band. Does that have something to do with having a consistent line-up?
That certainly has been a joy. We really feel like a great family. Everybody is getting a much more comfortable feel for what they bring to the band: Pat [Torres] is such a wonderful drummer, Jordy’s got such a unique guitar style, and Conrad and I have always known how we do stuff. Things like the AMP [Australian Music Prize nomination for My Volcano] has encouraged us to keep doing stuff…
Early on, I started to get in my head, “Just write lots of songs – and don’t work really hard on the crap ones.” [Laughs] As you go along, the crap songs become fewer and fewer. We’re just more comfortable in what we do, so it comes more naturally. And I guess we’re still feeling inspired which is good. Maybe it’s just the fear of losing inspiration. It’s like, “Do it quickly before we’re old!”
How’s the tour going?
Great. It’s not a massive tour by any means. We just did the Queensland leg: Brisbane, Maroochydore and Toowoomba. I think we were all worried about Maroochydore, because we’ve never played there. When we got there, all the shops were closed and there was no one around. We were getting a door deal and thought we might get 10 people. But lots of people came. I don’t think they were Richard In Your Mind fans, but they had a great time, and they loved [support band] Fishing too. Maybe in Sydney people go out to see a DJ in a broader community sense, but it seemed like these people really go out to see what bands are on that night, or to catch whoever’s playing. They were all there to get really tanked and enjoy themselves. [Laughs] The stage was great and the sound was great, and it was the highlight of the tour so far.
“We wanted an album that was nice and chill to listen to; something that wasn’t an epic thing in the way that it was made and put out.”
So you’re the biggest band in Maroochydore at this moment?
Maybe this week. There were some hungover people the next day, and I don’t know if they remember what happened! It was very cute too, because the Fishing guys were doing this really positive, happy, instrumental electronic music, and everyone there just wanted to dance. These really drunk huge dudes were getting them to high five them. [Laughs] It was very interactive, but not to the point where it got violent and weird.
Last time I spoke to you, you were pretty excited about getting a set of rototoms. Are there any surprises on tour this time?
Brent got some attachments for his rototoms, so he now has a woodblock and a tambourine. He’s a bit more like one of those classy percussion dudes, although he needs some chimes for those emotional moments. [Laughs] Alyx Dennison from kyu is with us. She did the backing vocals and hung out with us while making the album. We thought she was going overseas when we were touring, but it turned out she wasn’t and she wasn’t busy, so we brought her along. She’s got the most beautiful voice and knows her way around a synth and a tambourine.
Does having the extra person help flesh the album out live?
It feels great live because all our vocals sound so nice now [laughs] … Hopefully we can continue to play with her. She sang on three tracks on the record, and was another element in helping glue things together for us. It makes it a bit more chill because it’s a light, floaty sound. It’s been great having her on tour, too. She’s a really cool person and fits in with our strange senses of humour.
‘SUN’ is out now through Rice Is Nice. Read a review of it [here](
Thurs, Sep 22 – Yours & Owles, Wollongong, NSW
Fri, Sep 23 – Goodgod Small Club, Sydney, NSW
Sat, Sep 24 – RAOB GAB Buffalo Club, Melbourne, VIC
Thurs, Sep 29 – Transit Bar, Canberra, ACT
Fri, Sep 30 – The CBD Hotel, Newcastle, NSW