Richie Quake Isn’t Afraid Of Who He Is in Debut Album ‘I Want Some!’ [Q&A]

Photo: Josefine Cardoni

Having been dubbed "the modern mouthpiece of the New York indie renaissance," singer-songwriter/producer Richie Quake gives listeners a front-row seat into his psyche with the release of his debut album, I Want Some!. Having become a sonically irresistible presence in the deeply creative and passionate music scene of the Lower East Side, this project functions as a portrait of creative collaboration and pulling up your community.

I Want Some! serves as a window into a day in the life of Richie without over-embellishing anything or cleaning up any of the stains. With the privilege of helping lead the way for a new generation of the indie scene, the New York artist has called together quite the roster of collaborators for this project. Influence from Anna Shoemaker, Morning Silk, Middle Part, Blonder, Sur Back, Andreas Stavropolis, and Tabitha Aryn Ellin are woven into the fabric of I Want Some!. Everything Richie does is about community, and it's clear his debut LP is no exception

Ones To Watch had the opportunity to chat with Richie about his long-awaited debut record, the story it tells, and what he hopes for his future.

Ones To Watch: How are you feeling leading up to the release of I Want Some!?

Richie Quake: I'm a mix of anxious and excited. It's so exciting, but it's also very nerve-racking. It's a little bit everything, like a chapter opening up and closing at the same time. It's interesting.

In what way does this album differ from your previous releases?

I feel like it's more aggressive, but not in a bad way. Not like angry-aggressive, but just more in your face. The sounds are a bit more rock-oriented and have more edge to them. In my opinion, I think my previous stuff was very chill and somewhat reserved in certain ways. So yeah, I feel like this new one is kind of a much more raw feeling.

Committing to recording a full-length is obviously a massive project to take on. Were there any eye-opening experiences or challenges you experienced during this process, and how did you work through them?

It's hard to say. I felt prepared for what I had to undertake to do the album, but it's definitely a lot of work. It's not just the music. I think I'm still learning, and I learned a lot from this process, too, that I would love to apply to the next album. I think it's just understanding how interrelated everything else is and asking myself, "Do the songs connect on some level? Do the art and videos and single covers?" It's such a big undertaking that your sense of direction must be strong. For me, in the first single that I put out, the art didn't really match the rest of the art. If you look at "That's Not Love!," and then "Crawl," and then "Cherry Red," and then the full album, I think you can see that right around the time of like putting out "Crawl," the art starts to look similar. The feeling starts to come together, and that was a learning thing. That was something that I had to figure out along the way, which I'm going to be conscious of next time and be like, "Ok, all the single art has to be in the same world, and the album art, it has to live in that same world." Same with the music videos and even just photoshoots that I'm doing or how I'm presenting myself on the internet. I want it all to tell this story. It's not so much that you're trying to control or contrive the narrative, but it's important to elaborate on it and give people as much information about the world you're trying to build.

How would you describe the world that you've built with this record? How would you describe the story of the record?

I think it's a record about wanting to feel alive and not be afraid of yourself. Like looking yourself in the face, looking at the world in the face, and just being ok to take that all in, look at it, and either do something about it or don't, but being ok to look at it. For me, it's a lot about relationships, friendships, my habits or my tendencies, whether it's good or self-destructive, the toxic things, or the things that I tend to want to escape from, and accepting that these are all parts of me. And if I have these things, then probably you guys have these things, and we should all be ok to look at who we really are and not just who we want to be.

Right, acknowledging our flaws and working through them to reach actualization or the best version of ourselves instead of shoving them away and pretending they don't exist.

Yeah, and also to have a realistic perspective on them. So it's not about glamorizing or ignoring flaws or issues but having a realistic perspective and being able to face yourself in a realistic way.

You mentioned this is a bit of a transition from creating more chill, mellow music to more aggressive music. What inspired that kind of shift?

I think it is a couple of things. I think number one, I've just been in therapy, and something that I work on in therapy is exactly what I was just talking about. I think sometimes I'll play it too cool or be too cool for school because I don't want to be vulnerable, and something that I've worked on is just being like, "I am, who I am." I want to show it and share it not to be validated, but I don't want to be afraid of it. I don't want to be afraid of who I am. I don't want to be afraid of putting myself out there. So number one, it's partly just my own personal journey as a person. Then a lot of it has to do with the fact that during the lockdown period of the pandemic, I didn't play any shows, no one did, and it was super frustrating. There was so much pent-up energy. At the first show that I played back, I was playing songs from my last record, and there were a couple of moments where there were guitar solos or crazy outros, and I was like, "Holy fuck, these moments feel amazing to play! This is where it's at. I need to just be doing this all the time!" I just wanted to write music that I can just turn up to, but not party music. Just music that, when you get on stage, just feels so cathartic to play and emotional, really like a wall of sound, "Holy shit, this is so heavy" kind of experience. I want to play a show that rocks.

Which single were you most excited to release?

I think I was most excited for "Cherry Red," because I had played it a bunch on tour, and people came up to me and were like, "Yo, what's good with that song?" They said it sounded fire and sounded sick, and I just got hyped for this one. The other thing that made that one really exciting is that I was planning on doing this music video for it, and we did! We released a music video for it, which all these readers should go watch! While developing that music video, I feel like I connected to the song so much more. 

Can you tell me a bit more about your experience working with the incredible Anna Shoemaker on your single "Crawl?" 

So Anna and I are basically like best friends. I love Anna so much. She's one of my closest friends, and we talk all the time. I think we write really well together because we just trust each other and have a lot of fun when we're writing. At the time that we wrote "Crawl," it started off being four people—Tabi, my friend Andreas, who is Anna's boyfriend, and Anna and me—we just got together, and we were hanging out, and we were just walking around and like getting food and talking about life and we ended up making this song. Afterward, I was not super sold on the lyrics, but like I knew the song was really strong, and so me and Anna got together again. We were kind of just talking, as friends do, and didn't really know what to do, and then we, at a certain point, I was like, "Yo, this conversation that we're having kind of sounds like the way the song should go. We should just write about exactly what this conversation is about," and we ended up doing that and I think it worked well. She was singing on the outro, and it was just super natural, and it was fun. That's the best part about working with Anna and a lot of my friends who are in this Brooklyn, New York City, Lower East Side music scene. We just like each other's music, we like hanging out, and it feels organic, more so than anything else. It's different than going out to LA and having your manager put you in a random session, which can always result in something cool, but more often than not, it's just like, "Who the fuck are you?" and "Why am I here?"

The creative process is always easier to navigate when working with people you know and trust.

I know this is gonna sound cliche or weird, but music is like sex. One-night stands can be fun, but everyone knows the most fulfilling thing is when you are with somebody you trust, and you can explore and be vulnerable and try things that you haven't tried before. You just trust each other enough to go down paths that you may not have been comfortable exploring or showing sides of yourself that you wouldn't show in just a random encounter. The content you get or the feeling you get from it is way deeper when you're making that sort of connection with somebody. I just think music is so much like that. Sometimes a random session is cool, but it's great when you can actually have respect, love for each other, and already appreciate what the other one is doing. 

I know you wrapped up a tour opening for Rare Americans a little while ago, but is there anything coming up that fans should mark their calendars for and make plans to come to?

July 20 is my first ever headline show for the album, and it's Baby's All Right. So I'm really, really looking forward to that and just trying to make it great.

What is the most fulfilling part of touring or performing live?

I thought I would hate touring because I'm a high-maintenance person sometimes, but that is just because I Iike to eat healthy, have my own space, and I like to be comfortable. Anyway, touring was unexpectedly great. I adapted to the road life really seamlessly, and I think the best part of it was, as somebody who lives a very self-motivated life, I can just make music or I can not, and no one's really gonna say anything; honestly it was really nice to have a schedule, and someone to say you have to be here and you have to play a show. Then the other thing about being a musician too is there's not a lot of instant gratification, and there's not a lot of human validation. It's not like, "Oh, I did this task. So now, I can see that I'm doing better, and I will get a raise." I don't know what any of this is going to do for me. I don't know if or how anyone will respond or know if anyone will care. So going on tour, you see a crowd of people, you make fans, and they want to talk to you or take your picture, which is insanely validating. It's so much gratification. It's like, holy crap, when I do this, when I do "a," I can expect "b." When I go play a show, I can expect that there will be people cheering and listening, I will get new fans, people will buy merch, and share my music. It's just this very linear thing that is so rare in my everyday life. 

Knowing what you know now about the album process, what is something that you hope to experiment more with in the future on your future releases?

I really want to work with some orchestra-type stuff. Not like a full 100-person orchestra, but I really want to get strings on my next record. I don't know why, but that's been an obsession for me lately. I want to get cellos and violins and instruments like that. I also want to do more extremes in both directions. I want to write a really slow song and then I want to write something really fast. Ultimately, I just want as much freedom as I can have to just do whatever the fuck I want. I think I want to just go a little crazier on the next album. Not crazy, like loony crazy, but more like what Frank Ocean did on Blonde versus Channel Orange. Like he really went crazy on that album. Or like The Beatles on Sgt. Pepper versus any of their previous albums. They really went off on that one. To me, those sorts of albums are always just the most intriguing where it's just like, "Hmm, how did you put those ideas together?"

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