The story behind RACES, the band who brought us Big Broom EP [Frenchkiss Records], is a poignant one, and the kind that always makes music better.
RACES exists as a result of artistic rebirth and personal rediscovery, but it all started at a point in Wade Ryff‘s life where motivation was at its most scarce. Disillusioned with music, beset with the bitter ending of a relationship with a real life witch and faced with the overwhelming stagnation of being a 23-year old in the sleepy suburban outpost of Van Nuys, Ryff wrote the pleading lyrics of “Big Broom” in the bathroom of his parents house. He explains the song’s message as “accepting that every ending is a new beginning, and even if we may have no control over when things are given or taken from us, we can always choose how to respond.”
Whether he realized it or not at the time, it would serve as a mission statement for a handful of musicians in the area who were also idling through their 20’s and desperate for a new beginning. Breanna Wood, Garth Herberg, Lucas Ventura, Devon Lee and Oliver Hild knew each other prior to RACES‘ first show, played in bands together, and oh yeah, either had dated or were currently dating each other. Still, no one would have expected it all to come together for Year Of The Witch, a life-affirming project forged from the pain of a time when life feels most uncertain, and for everyone involved to come out of it renewed.
At the core of the LP, in stores March 27th, there are plenty of sad songs and waltzes – “The Knife,” “Walk Through The Fire” and “All For You” all have a melodic and lyrical directness befitting their origins as Ryff’s solo work. That said, Ryff admits, “I didn’t want to play music that’s just a sappy guy on an acoustic guitar,” and RACES manages to achieve this, even behind Ryff’s plaintive words. It’s a startling show of sophistication from a band who has only been together for less than two years. The ornate orchestration and vocal arrangements, on the female-led counterpoint “Don’t Be Cruel” in particular, owe their origins to Herberg’s background as a composer – he’s the one who brings Ryff’s Leonard Cohen fantasies to fruition. Quoth Ryff, “he’s our Brian Jones.”
But even with the speed at which RACES is going forward, they haven’t gotten complacent in the slightest – they’re already working out new material for their next album, which they hope will integrate more of the electronic textures they’ve been experimenting with and won’t be so much “about a girl,” as Ryff jokes. Their goals are still modest – like perhaps playing the Bowery Ballroom in New York, or getting better as musicians; the sort of things on the mind of a band that isn’t looking to piggyback on any sort of hype cycle. On top of all that, what do they hope for most of all? Ryff puts it best: “I’d rather get dropped and start back at the beginning than not have fun with these guys.” It’s a fitting mission statement for a band for whom every show feels as exciting as their very first one.
So get your calendars out and save the date: March 27th marks the release of Year of the Witch. In the meantime, you can listen to Big Broom EP on their Facebook page or go to one of their upcoming shows:
01/27 – Red Room Lounge – Spokane, WA*
01/28 – Manny’s – Billings, MT*
01/31 – Manny’s – Aspen, CO*
02/01 – Fox Theater – Boulder, CO*
02/02 – Hodi’s Half Note – Fort Collins, CO*
02/03 – 320 South – Breckenridge, CO*
02/04 – The Cavalcade – Fruita, CO* SOLD OUT
* with El Ten Eleven