Having a ‘disturbingly playful’ conversation about conspiracy theories with RACES

Photos courtesy of RACES // Written by Molly Kish //

Showbams chatted with up-and-coming indie-rock band RACES at their sold-out Café Du Nord show in San Francisco. As the Los Angeles-based band rounds out its tour in support of the Generationals and promoting their debut Album Year of the Witch, we grabbed lead singer Wade Ryff and drummer Lucas Ventura for a candid interview outside the venue.

Showbams: Your debut album Year of the Witch came out this past March and was quoted to be a product of “personal discovery and artistic rebirth.” The title is also a name of a track on the album and falls into a running theme present within the context of relationships both past and present. Referring to not only your (Wade’s) past with a real life witch …

Ryff: Who actually lives in San Francisco.

Showbams: But, also pertaining to the band as a whole, having both worked together throughout the years on several projects and in other bands, do you feel this type of familiarity helped in the process of creating your album or was it difficult to work with each other on such emotionally-charged material?

Ryff: No, it’s like whenever you have any kind of emotional situation, if you don’t do something with it, it just kind of sits there. So, it’s better to write about it. Most people would talk about it with their friends or something; it’s just a different way to get it out of your system. It’s like my therapy sessions are just talking to myself with a guitar.

Ventura: The lyrics are all Wade’s, that’s like a very personal thing for him. We’ve been friends for a very long time, so I understand all the stories that are being written about and it’s stuff that we … we share a lot of our lives together, so I feel like I have a personal connection with them, but they’re really true stories about his life that he’s just flushing out.

Showbams: Listening to the album with the commentary, which you guys made an option and gives you a great insight into the songs and lyrics, you state that the track “In My Name” is about conspiracy theories. The one in particular that you talked about was in reference to the pineal gland and sodium fluoride. Whether or not the general public is knowledgeable of their personal consumption of it and how it blocks one’s connection spiritually. Can you elaborate on the idea, and is it one that’s held amongst the entire band?

Ryff: Me and Lucas are the ones that maybe get most into it over the rest of the band, but I think Lucas does the best job of explaining that.

Ventura: I feel like conspiracy theories are a little bit like religion, they kind of fill in a void of information that is just impenetrable. When people describe the indescribable with God, I think sometimes we depend on conspiracy theory in the same way. But I also think that there are a lot of really questionable things that happen with in the states, you know. Like something that is really fresh right now that happened because of the elections is the fact that the third party candidates get completely shut out of presidential debates and all national media. On the surface level it’s easy to understand how and why, but the more you pour through how the media behaves and also where the money is flowing during presidential elections, you just feel like we’re being highjacked and manipulated the entire way around. Stuff like sodium fluoride and what’s happening with FEMA camps, it’s all stuff you can go online and look up if you really are that nuts. I don’t know if I shouldn’t go on about it, it’s just fascinating!

Ryff: If someone’s interested in it, there’s a lot of website and literature that talk about it. It’s real, I mean FEMA camps are real and the fluoride in the water is real. You know, there’s a reason why the government doesn’t want you smoking pot and taking acid and eating mushrooms. I mean, there’s reasons for all that. That may be the only one that we dug in upon, but we believe in many other theories that we haven’t sung about. There are some on the next record, but I don’t think we touch upon any others this time around.

Showbams: “Walk Through Fire” alludes to a Charles Bukowski work and that Wade, you are a fan of 20th-century authors and the whole Beat movement. What other artists do you draw inspiration from and contribute to the overall sound of RACES?

Ryff: For that record, I was really inspired a lot by Leonard Cohen, Patty Smith and Television, musically. Even Bob Marley in a sense of instrumentation, in that Leonard Cohen and Bob Marley’s bands had the girls who sing backup vocals with them. I get more influenced by poets and authors than I do music lyricists, like Pablo Neruda, Bukowski and Scott Fitzgerald. Those were all people I was really interested in when I was writing lyrics to the record. So, there are some lines that are just stolen, grabbed straight from them. It’s public domain now.

Ventura: Me being the drummer of the band, my influences tend to revolve around things like that. I tend to freak out most often about Mick Fleetwood and Fleetwood Mac, that kind of stuff. I feel like the Lakers have been a very large influence on the band.

Showbams: How do you feel about the new coach and Magic’s involvement? I thought Phil was going to come back.

Ryff: Yeah, there was no coincidence that as soon as the old coach left, we were able to replace him. I thought Phil was going to come back, too. I thought Jack Nicholson was going to maybe come coach the team. I thought Scottie Pippen was going to assistant coach, but that didn’t happen either.

Showbams: I know that your original formation was called Black Jesus. What called for the switch in name, and how did you decide on RACES?

Ventura: It wasn’t really working to our advantage, not a really good name. But, you know what’s coincidental and humorous is that we go from Black Jesus to RACES and almost everyone incidentally hears it as “racists.” Then, there’s the pun.

Showbams: Amidst touring to promote the album, you guys have been a part of a lot of festivals including South by Southwest and San Diego Music Thing, but you guys were also a part of the production of Swan Lake, A Contemporary Rock Version. What brought you into that?

Ryff: The girl that organizes it, Sheena, is a good friend of ours and asked us if we wanted to be a part of it, and it was cool. Act 2 was our act and they used a few of our songs and it was awesome seeing ballet done to your music. Not something you get to see all the time, it was definitely a unique experience.

Showbams: Your website states that you’re already at work on your next album, in which you’ve been quoted as saying it “won’t be so much about a girl.” What type of material should we expect? Do you feel like there is any difference in direction musically, and do you feel like you’ve been able to exorcise the past demons of vulnerability during your 20’s and seek out new beginnings?

Ryff: Yeah, I don’t know what it’s going to be like. I was just thinking tonight about the songs and feeling like I need to start all over again. So, I don’t know. Some days I feel like I’ve got it figured out and know what the next record’s going to be. Then, other days I don’t know, but it’s going to be really good! I think it’ll be an extension of what we’re doing. I don’t think it’ll stray very far. It’s going to sound like RACES. I think it will be more fine-tuned and maybe explore some new territory. So far, the new stuff lyrically is more tongue in cheek. Everything is kind of disturbingly playful.

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