Riki is a synthpop/New Romantics artists from Los Angeles, California, active for some 10 years. Lucas Biela (LB) interviewed her for ISKC Radio Group.
1/ LB: Hi Riki, nice to be able to talk to my favourite current pop vocalist. You used to play post-punk before going solo, could you tell us a bit about that era of your career.
Thanks a lot Lucas! Yes, I started playing music in a punk scene. It was a period where I had a lot of growth- in my music, aesthetic, and friendships- and my relationship to myself. For the first time I was out on my own and discovering where I fit in. In a lot of ways this time is when I found my voice and confidence.
2/ LB: The next question comes as a transition to the previous one: what decided you to go pop in your solo career? (and don’t get me wrong, pop has a very tasty flavour in my mouth)
I agree that pop is tasty. I’ve always loved danceable pop and found that I was restricting myself by being a post-punk / new wave purist. Previously all of my music had to sound old and be created on the instruments that were available in 1986. I’ve been letting that go in a very natural way and lately I’m embracing high fidelity and an expanded palette. My ethos about songwriting is the same though with honesty being the main goal.
3/ LB: In your post-punk time, you didn’t sing if I am not wrong. Your solo career is proof that you are a very competent vocalist, with your own vocal signature. Is singing something you practice for some time already, without really daring cross the threshold of singing lead until your solo career?
I have always been ready to sing and my vocals probably have always been my best instrument. Before I started playing my solo stuff I was more comfortable being a background figure. I was a bassist and a synth player in bands and that suited me well at the time- a sort of gateway into commanding some stage presence and creative control.
4/ LB: Be it in your post-punk debuts or in your solo career, the 80’s are an obvious influence. Why is this particular era such an inspiration to you?
I resonate with instrumentation and production styles from the 80’s, I don’t know why other than inherent attraction. Conceptually, I’m inspired by theatrical, sensual, expressive, and not-so-cerebral elements that define a lot of the 80’s music I love. The term “New romantic” makes a lot of sense compared to the “old” romantic era which the Brontë sisters and Mary Shelley – and Beethoven, Wagner, & Chopin- helped define. Both are all about huge sweeping emotion and the wildness of nature- human nature included. Similarly also, both spark individualism and a mood of abundance that I just find very cool.
5/ LB: Your first solo album, ‘Riki’, was released last year, and it was an immediate hook when I heard it: dark atmospheres meet catchy melodies like very few artists manage to do. Then, comes 2021, and you release a second album, ‘Gold’. Struck again, but in a different way, as the atmosphere is warmer. Is that progression from darkness to light a natural progression?
Glad to hear this! Yes, it’s been a really natural thing. Gold was mainly written in pandemic isolation, so there was a need to see light. Coping with some chaos and darkness is also probably where the more laid-back roundness of the album came to be. When things feel safe / unstuck I have more impetus to make and appreciate challenging music, and the opposite seems to be true in this case- things felt dangerous and unpredictable so I sought comfort and all the venutian pleasures.
6/ LB: Coming back to the progression mentionned previously, I noticed german was used on 2 songs on the first album, while spanish is used in one cover song of your new album. My guess is that the choice of german is because it is associated with cold atmospheres (all that 80’s german scenes: Neue Deutsche Welle, electropunk, industrial music, gothic rock…), while spanish was chosen according to its association with warmer tones. Am I correct?
That’s an interesting point and I agree with it based on feeling, but this was not a conscious intention. I didn’t want to write in German again because my German is still very limited. The Jeanette song is one I felt I could perform with my whole heart. It turns out they ride in line with the moods of the two albums.
7/ LB: I am probably not the only one struck by your music. Your music brings the same chills as the artists that used to touch me while growing up as a kid. With all your talent, do you get some serious following?
I’m glad you feel that way! In a really real sense, music only exists for its listener, so to connect with a listener in this way gives my whole musical endeavor life. I’ve been fortunate for my music reaches people who resonate with it in a serious way
8/ LB: The first time I saw the artwork to your new album, I was obviously amazed by its arty side, but I couldn’t help get in mind an immediate reference to the artwork to Kate Bush’s album ‘The Sensual World’. Is Kate Bush a strong influence to you?
I am not a big fan of Kate Bush, no doubt she is a great artist. There are things about her work that I really admire- again, that romantic mode of expression and the archetypically feminine approach- but her voice/lense is a tone that I don’t see myself through at this time. I imagine that we are inspired by similar parts of life so there are parallels.
9/ LB: ‘Gold’ sees you duetting for the first time (song «Marigold»). A very charming song with the warm voice of your male partner. Could you tell us how the idea of a duo came to you?
This song was written as a conversation between lovers, so it was meant to be a duo from the beginning. I had a few vocalists in mind to sing it on the recording and then learned that Josh has such a beautiful voice so we sang it together.
10/ LB: Your acting in videoclips is really «natural», and the expression on your face and in your eyes moves as much as your voice. Given how expressive your character is, do you plan to star in movies?
I would love to do that. I was interested in acting when I first came to LA. I haven’t pursued it since then but given the right situation it’s something I think I would enjoy.
11/ LB: Is there anything you want to add?
Thanks for the kind words and thoughtful questions! I’ll be touring the US & EU/UK over the next couple months. Please come to the show if you can make it, I have schedules up and will post updates to instagram @riki.band