Interview: Richard In Your Mind
Words by Greg Mackenzie - Published on October 9, 2014
Richard In Your Mind’s latest album, Ponderosa, is some sterling psychedelia (and you can read our review our here). But even better is that the five Sydney lads are taking the madness round the country this month, touring the album, just so you can get your grubby ear holes all up in its live-music business. From all accounts, a RIYM gig is something pretty special. Ahead of the tour, Richard Cartwright, RIYM’s main dude, had a chat to us about all sorts of things, including how you can get your mitts on a smokeable version of Ponderosa from the shows. Forgive the long interview, but he’s a hella interesting guy and I just couldn’t stop talking to him.
I really dug your latest album, Ponderosa; it’s pretty weird, pretty eclectic, a bit out-of-left-field. Have you ever thought about making “normal” music?
Hmmm, yeah. But I reckon our music would be pretty normal if we just chose one [genre of] song and repeated it. We certainly have thought about and it is a frustrating thing with our band sometimes, trying to create an album, because it does jump around. But it feels like when we make an album, we want all the flavours in the meal; you want entre, dinner, and dessert— maybe in really weird orders.
‘Normal’ music is too boring. Music’s got to be interesting; there’s no point repeating things.
Whatever comes out is a result of us trying to keep it interesting. Conrad [Greenleaf] (of the band) is always one of our biggest critics, and I always show him demos first, or we share them with each other. I’ve always got to put something in there that will make Conrad say, “cooooooooool” or he’ll just be like, “meh, whatever, it’s fine.” [laughs]
Cool. It sounds like having fun and keeping it interesting is more important than trying to pander to a specific audience?
Yeah, definitely. But I also think we couldn’t— we wouldn’t know how to [laughs].
[Laughs] you wouldn’t know how to pander; you’ve just got too much integrity.
[Laughs] I guess we could aim for one kind of style.
So if you went to bed tonight and Mary the Virgin Mother appeared and said, you know, “Richard, mate, I’ve come to tell you that if you just switched to making accessible indie-pop or indietronica albums, you’d make the big time and you’d have loads of money and tour sex,” would you change your style?
I’d be like, “Hey, that sounds like a challenge.” I’d try to make the best fricken indie-pop album, and then the reviews would come in and I’m sure they’d be like “Oh, well, it’s not very indie-pop”.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to make a thing that you want to be popular, but I don’t know if I could make something bland [to do that].
Every form of music has those artists, or those songs, that are just great fucking artist or songs regardless. For us that’s the main thing. If it’s a good song, it belongs.
Being so diverse and so eclectic, and obviously striving to make each song unique, how do you describe your music to someone who hasn’t listened to it before?
With lots of rambling, and then they get bored and leave [laughs]. I just say we’re diverse.
We get called psychedelic a lot, which is sometimes kind of accurate. Psychedelic, to me, means lots of different things, and we’re certainly inspired by lots of other bands that also have that title, but also lots of other bands that don’t.
Then I’ll generally just say, “Oh, you like, um, Beatles, and Ween, and maybe you like Beck or The Flaming Lips, or Pink Floyd, then you might like us.”
When did you first say, “Fuck this; I’m going to mix trip-hop with sitar and psychadelic ’60s pop” and start making sort of, experimental, eclectic albums? Or have you always made that kind of music?
I think it’s always been that way because of what music we’ve always loved. Conrad and I forged our friendship on our love of Pink Floyd and Run DMC, and then we advanced to the ’90s and sampling. It wasn’t a conscious decision.
With computers and home recording, and even before that we had 8-track and 4-track recorders— it gave us that freedom to go, “Heeeey, we can put ANYTHING on this.”
I worked in an op-shop for ages so I would come home with all sorts of junk and play with it. Eventually you chop up bits of tape and make actual tape loops. Then maybe you get a computer and start making lots of other weird things.
A bit of it comes from a love of spending time recording; you just want to try everything and sometimes it’s even surprising to us what comes out. It’s like, “Oh, you know what, that kind of worked.” It’s a lot of experimenting, I guess. Music’s fun, you just play with it.
Where’d the sample on “Hammered” come from. Is it something from an old war movie?
Oh, when it’s like, “The plane is belligerent and hostile.” That came at the end. We had this happy song and we were trying to do the bridge and Brent (Griffin, aka, SPOD) was like, “It’d be cool if it got all Public Enemy,” [laughs]and so we added helicopters and a siren sound, and he googled “Police radio broadcasts” and we listened to a bunch of weird radio recordings. So it’s from that, and not like a movie or anything.
“Hammered” seems pretty self-explanatory, but is there a deeper meaning or is getting drunk in the daytime pretty much the gist of it?
I was thinking about this the other day. The chorus is obviously about getting drunk, but the one verse the song has is really just about being with someone you feel really comfortable with, but also feeling like you don’t really have a duration, but that’s cool with the other person too. And I’m a musician so I guess that’s also kind of like being a bum, depending on what your parents think, but she doesn’t care, she just likes me, and we get hammered in the daytime. I don’t know, it feels good.
So you’re hammered in the daytime with someone you like, what kind of weird shit do you get up to?
Well I don’t get up to toooo much craaazy stuff these days: tend the garden, feed the ducks, go for a bushwalk. I’ve always thought the daytime is a good time to hang out with your friends, and if you’re gonna take intoxicants, you should do it in the daytime because there’s heaps of fun things to do that you can’t at night-time. I dunno.
No, I agree. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to hang out in the daytime and get drunk— it’s fun. Or stoned or whatever.
Totally, that’s kind of what I was getting at. I mean we went to bed early in India because we were staying in these little, weird villages. In the daytime we’d smoke a big hash joint and go on walks in the forest or talk to the cow-herder lady, or whatever we were doing.
It also depends on you intoxicant. We found that hash was more conducive to umm—
Yeah, exploring, rather than just monging.
Being a psychedelic band, how much of what Richard In Your Mind comes up with is from an “altered” state?
It depends. I’ve had experiences in the past of being “psychadelic” and these days I’m not doing that often.
You’ve become a nark maaaaan [laugh].
No! I’m not a nark! I just smoke weed [laugh].
I’ve been on some incredible trips that I can never top; I can never go beyond them. And when I’ve tried, it’s been like, “Well this isn’t as amazing as the other times I’ve fricken broke through to the other dimension.”
I think that’s the cool thing about psychedelic experiences, once you have them and whether or not people go, “errgh, drug experiences aren’t real,” you still have the memory of what it feels like to have a stomach of a cow turn into crystal castle that you walked through and maybe a giant hammer comes flying right into you, or you teleport— I know what it feels like to teleport! And even though it isn’t real, you still have the feeling of what it’s like to teleport.
And do you ever try to channel that weirdness into your music?
Well it’s just part of me. The best things in music are the small things that point to bigger things. So it doesn’t all need to be about cognitive aliens invading the planet. So yes, but maybe not in a conscious or explicit way. It’s not like I’m gonna sit down and write a song about psychedelics— oh, I mean I have in the past, but it really just depends.
Do you get many people rocking up to your gigs who haven’t heard you before, and what kind of reaction do you get?
Usually it’s a really great reaction, or maybe the ones who have hated the gigs didn’t come up and tell us [laughs]. There’s normally a demographic of like the weird synth nerds and also sort of a Pink Floyd-ee crowd that are like, “Yeah, I really dig that maaaaan,” [laughs]. But we’re not a big band so we’ve played heaps of times to people that have never heard of us, and that’s the best thing: when people are like, “I came to see another band, but now I also like you guys.” But also maybe the people who didn’t like it just didn’t bother to come up and be like, “Hey you guys, yeah, fuck you!”
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen while you’ve been on stage playing to a crowd?
There was this time when we were playing in Tasmania.
[Laughs] I’m sure plenty of weird shit happens there.
[Laughs] yeah, say no more, say no more. We play bare-foot sometimes because the pedals and things are easier to do if you’ve got no shoes, like feet-hands. And the people below us started getting rowdy, and they started taking off their shoes and putting them on stage, and then they started throwing the shoes. There were just shoes everywhere and it was weird and fun but some people were really drunk and it got a bit dangerous. Some of them were having fun and others were like “Cool, we’re throwing stuff at these guys.” [Laughs] but it didn’t escalate into anything too horrible. I really love that train of thought: “Heeey, they haven’t got shoes. Heeeey maaaaan you can have my shoes.”
[Laughs] and then you went back home and started a second-hand shoe store.
Can you tell us about the Ponderosa album tour you’ve got coming up?
We’re pretty excited about it: we haven’t been out of Sydney in a while, and we’ve got the new players, Joe [Muller] and Richie [Cuthbert], and I reckon we’re sounding— “We’re sounding better than ever!” But no, we really are, because they’re just super guns.
And I got an electric sitar! I’ve been playing a normal one for about 15 years but it’s really annoying to use on stage, so it’s cool to actually tour with the sitar. We get to play with heaps of bands we like.
Tell us about your thoughts on supporting Cibo Matto in Brisbane on the 29th [of October]?
We freaking love Cibo Matto! I love Cibo Matto, but Conrad double loves Cibo Matto. Even as a teenager I stayed up late and watched Rage and I saw “I know my chicken / you got to know your chicken.” I didn’t even know it was Cibo Matto, but I knew it was the weirdest thing, and it was my symbol of awesome.
What’s the one thing you want someone to take away from a Richard In Your Mind set?
I want people to take away our personalised Richard In Your Mind, Ponderosa, king-size, rolling papers. They haven’t arrived yet but we got some made.
[Laughs] awesome. I’ll buy some.
I know that’s not what you really meant by the question, so also I just want people to be interested. We’ve got a bunch of albums, and even though this is our best album, we kind of engineered them all to not be— to not be shit. So we want to pique people’s curiosity, so they say, “These guys are interesting; I want to check out all their albums and all the strange places they go to.”
Do you know Nathan Williams, or Wavves rather?
Yeah, I think he does his own Wavves rolling papers and herb grinder and stuff.
[Laughs] it’s the first time we’ve done it. In the never-ending quest to not repeat yourself and to be interesting in a world full of a billion interesting people doing a billion interesting things, we decided to do rolling papers. I think we’ll do normal ones, but some that you can get with an album download. That’s pretty cool: you can smoke the album [laughs].
It’s been awesome talking to you, Richard. Holy shit, it’s almost been half an hour. One last question: You wake up tomorrow morning and Taylor Swift and Kanye West are tweeting about you, and you’ve got lots of money and lots of hype, and record labels are throwing themselves at you, who do you get to feature on your next album, and who do you take on your international tour?
Oh wow. Basically you’re saying we’ve got the golden ticket?
That’s what happens when Yeezy tweets about you. It’s like rubbing a magic lamp.
[Laughs] he’s a fucking genie man. I’d love to play with Cornershop. I couldn’t ask Tom Waits; he’d be like, “Fuck off.”