When RYAT released her first album, Avant Pop, she was very much aware of that she wanted to do an avantgarde pop record. Two years later she’s back on Brainfeeder with Totem, a deeply spiritual and equally virtuous record that seems to be the exact opposite. We sat down and talked to her about what happened.
Avant Pop, your first album, has been a very compact record, also considering its production process.
Yes, we wrote and recorded that in almost three weeks maybe. That concept I’ve had before I did the reocrd – I knew that I wanted to write an avant pop record. I wanted to make fun of pop song and write more odd type songs, be more tongue-in cheek about it and more rough about the lyrical content.
Now Totem is a totally different record…
Yes, Totem was a record that I wasn’t sure what it was. I just had all these things I wanted to write about, it was more of a different formative record for me. I knew it would be a journey.
And during that journey certain animals played an important role, right?
Well, a totem in the Indian culture consists of different animals that guided you through certain things in life and that gave you advice. And while I was writing the album a couple of animals came to me and it was always the exact advice that I needed. That was really weird, but beautiful at the same time.
That’s why the tracks have names like Sea Horse, Owl or Hummingbird? Considering the composition, you seem to layer quite a lot while your voice remains the main instrument on your songs.
I’m recording things in my house. So you have to use these little production tweeks in order to make the sounds that you want. I just like to combine all those little things and make different sounds.
You’re coming from a jazz world and improvisation seems to be an important part of your work. How is the relation though with your conceptual approach? Do you start off with a concept?
Yes, I work very conceptually. The two I feel like go hand in hand though. I feel like as an artist you get in something I call »the zone« where you are almost in this meditative state. Sometimes you don’t know exactly what it is, but I feel like once the art starts creating itself all of a sudden it starts to reveal itself, what it is and what the concept is.
You’re combining electronic and acoustic elements a lot. Your guest musicians though usually come from the jazz scene in NY and Philadelphia …
When you play with instrumentalists like that, you don’t have to worry the combination working or not, because there are just so organic in their nature and so techical and good with what they do in feeling every sound, the synthesis doesn’t throw them off. And the synthesis doesn’t throw me off, it just pulls you into a zone even more. But I understand how some people do get pulled off, cause it is hard work, I mean, it took me a long time to get really comfortable with doing both.
Totem is out now on Brainfeeder Records. www.ryat.info
Words: John Luas
Images: Malte Seidel