I've seen this band live only a handful of times, and I was uniquely baffled in a fresh way, each time. They don't manifest in person upon a stage in a traditional venue as often as other bands around Detroit, and its been comparably rare, these days, to see new music from Racehorses Are Resources, but lo & behold...
Two new albums were released yesterday by the Detroit trio of stylistic shapeshifters. (Check em out via bandcamp, or just stay on this page and continue streaming a few choice samples).
Racehorses Are Resources are comprised of Chris Peters, Michael Lapp, Nick Cicchetti, and Quelle Chris.
|RRR: Cicchetti, Lapp, Peters, Nick Speed|
"I've only been in the band for about a year 'n' a half, now," said Lapp, "and during that time, the approach to songwriting, from what I've experienced, is anything goes; no rules & avoid overthinking!"
"Mike is correct," said Peters. "The root inspiration is total spontaneity. We keep ideas around that make us a little uncomfy. I like to leave a large margin for error. When we are recording with Zach Shipps or at Nick Speed's we never plan ahead and we never discuss things. The idea is to arrive at the guitar sound and then go. Rhythm is where it all starts. Get a groove going, whether it be tight or smeary, and then go!"
Peters said that Racehorses Are Recources is really whatever he wants it to be. That could mean a 25-minute piece of guitar racket, a collaboration with John Sinclair over the poems of Jim Gustafson, or maybe a piece of a China Idol contestant from Bhutan. Peters vision does means surplus space, where boundaries fall away. The idea is for collaboration, improvisation, and spontaneity, above all.
"Some songs are more conventional in structure," Peters said, "ya know..., a verse-chorus-verse-chorus deal, others ignore that kind of thing entirely. Look, this isn't a new approach. It is very liberating though."
What I responded to, when seeing Peters and Cicchetti a couple years prior, and then somewhat recently with Lapp on board, was the wildness. The controlled wildness. It wasn't falling apart or discordant, but it wound its way through a song like a mobius strip coiling its way into a new circle every 16 measures, or so... The splash of sounds, textures reminiscent of hip-hop, or darkwave, or even experimental indie-rock, pulled me in... But then they'd always take it some place else.
"I think we've all been in other bands that have been so focused on writing the best songs for audiences and labels," said Lapp, "rather than what we want to experience as artists. The whole process,before, was to have those songs perfected and head into the studio with limited time to get the right takes, but that's something that I don't think any of us in RRR care to do with this project. We go into the studio for eight hours or more, once or twice a month, with not one lick of music written, and do complete off the wall improvisation, all of it live in the room together. After a take, we listen to it once, or sometimes not at all, and keep moving forward."
"(Lapp) is correct. And this goes for vocals too," said Peters, "at least for (Cicchetti) and (Speed). I think Cicchetti's best stuff comes when he completely improvises the vocal melodies and lyrics. Most of the songs with his vocals are done that way and very often they sound pre-composed...but they are not. And Speed's vocals on 2038 is just off his head, and i love it. Quelle Chris, on the other hand, works out the songs he produces a bit differently; he'll come into the studio, listen to the spontaneous vomit we barf out as we do it, takes home the tapes and then sends me songs that blow our minds."
Peters resume includes a substantial tenure with The Electric Six (during one of my favorite eras, particularly Switzerland0. Nick Speed is an esteemed hip-hop producer who's worked with 50 Cent, Talib Kweli and many more. Quelle Chris, meanwhile, is a stellar emcee, part of the last decade's wave of vibrant splicers like Open Mike Eagle, or Danny Brown. Cicchetti, among other past/current bands, was the guitarist/vocalist in Millions of Brazilians. Lapp, finally, along with previous tenures in adventurous outfits like like the noise-experimentalist Characteristics and, his first Detroit group, Ivy League Crew; he's also well-known as the operator of Detroit performance space Tires.
And Peters said they feel like they're really introducing this band to people, properly, for the first time with these two new albums. They've done a few EPs in the past and plan on performing more live inventions in the near future.
And I should add that during my interview process, Peters insisted on responding only after Lapp. This proved to get heated when I asked about the most difficult aspects or experiences were when it came to the recording process.
"Most difficult?" said Lapp. "What we were going to order for lunch. (Peters) is a bitch with food."
"(Lapp) is incorrect. I don't know what he's talking about here. Oh, my dietary restrictions? Yeah, I guess I can make ordering food difficult... So, once again, (Lapp) is correct."
I followed that up by asking what they found most fulfilling about making these two new albums with Shipps, Speed, and Quelle Chris.
"The freedom of discovery," said Lapp. "And exploration in sound and rhythms. I left every time feeling extremely happy, truly therapeutic."
"(Lapp) is correct," assured Peters. "Groove and my guitar are at the root of all of this stuff. Nick Speed and Quelle Chris deliver on the gritty and raw drum track end of things, and Mike delivers on the kit. It is a perfect heaven for me. I often play guitar more like a bass, which i think comes from my love for EpMd and the Gap Band. I just look to lock in with whatever scuzzy time keeping these guys throw at me."
Peters has coordinated several great collaborations and he has more in the works. Lapp said that bringing in diverse artists helps them stretch the boundaries of RRR and their own capabilities of what they can do in a studio/beyond...
I asked about the energy in the songs, the flow of aggressive to chill...of bombastic, to cerebral.
"The first track I ever laid down with RRR was 'Agatha,'" said Lapp. "It started by saying, 'Let's do something weird...,' and I think I just gave a quick four-count click in and: boom. That was all done in one take. If I remember correctly, Chris said 'Let's do a punk thing like the punk I am...!" And I just started riding those toms and snare... In the middle of that, I was like, 'Wait, wait, I don't want to keep this driving on the same pattern...,' so I just literally changed up my patterns, but kept the same tempo randomly. And that electronic noise thing was a toy (Cicchetti) brought in to play that he'd never used before, but it was playing in my ear the whole time. It was annoying as fuck, but I figured that since nobody can do wrong in this band that it was perfect...."
"But," Lapp concluded, "to answer your question, I don't think there was a conscious decision of having much meaning either romantically or politically behind any of these tracks. unless "Clip On Ties" is some sort of political slang, then i don't think so..."
Peters said that "'Agatha' is a piece that we haven't released yet, another great collab...! I cannot explain why so much of the stuff is so aggressive and intense. We are not planning any of this out very much, so we get what we get....and so does anybody who decides to take a listen!"
Peters concluded... "Mike claims that I claim to be a punk. I have no idea what the hell he's talking about there. i was six years old in 1977. I am not a punk, nor was i a punk. however, i do like me some punk."
For more info, updates, and music, check out RRR on Facebook.