“Ya Herd?” is our Q&A series with some of our favorite artists and indie labels. You can check out all the previous posts here.
On this edition, we connected with Red, an indie rock trio from Upstate New York. We caught wind of Odin (Bandcamp / Spotify) a few weeks ago and were immediately hooked. So we reached out to learn more about this new album and the band in general. Check out the interview below and make sure to give Odin a listen!
So, how did the band first come together?
Avery (drums): Me and Lucy (guitar/vocals) started playing music together in the fall of 2017, but we’d known each other and been friends for a long time before that. We both grew up in the same place and went to elementary school – high school together. I think we first really became friends in 7th grade.
Chris (bass): I joined the band while Lucy and Avery were in the final stages of Running Month. I had seen Red perform a few times, but when I heard them play “Misha” at a show in Lucy’s backyard I realized the band was headed in a really cool direction. I wanted to be a part of it, partially because I loved the music and partially because I felt like I could contribute something vital on bass.
What kind of music did you grow up listening to? Who were some artists that had a big influence?
A: Both of my older brothers have always been really into music. I learned about a lot of artists through them. My oldest brother listened to a lot of Elliott Smith, Silver Jews, Pavement, artists like that. My middle brother most notably introduced me to Animal Collective when I was 15 or 16. All of those artists were definitely very influential for me!
L: Yellow House by Grizzly Bear is an album that greatly influences how I make music. Recently I’ve been listening to Half Waif and Doja Cat 🙂
C: Grizzly Bear was also huge for me in terms of guitar playing. I’ve always loved the textures in My Bloody Valentine’s music. And Modest Mouse’s Lonesome Crowded West still blows me away sometimes. Silver Jews for lyrics always, RIP David Berman.
Can you explain the name Red? I’ve always wondered about bands that intentionally have really un-searchable names. Did you know that if you search for “Red Odin” in Google, the first page of results is mostly for a video game called Puzzles & Dragons?
A: I remember wanting to think of a name that was open-ended and simple. One day we thought of the idea of just going by a color, I think I specifically brought up red and I’m pretty sure Lucy was like, “wait that’s pretty cool.” Something like that. Damn, this Puzzles & Dragons game looks crazy, apparently “Red Odin” is a catchable monster. Someone on Reddit says he isn’t even worth evolving tho
L: We were originally going to call ourselves Joan of Arc but realized we knew nothing about her.
Can you talk a bit about the addition of Chris on bass on the new album, and how he helped evolve your sound and creative process?
A: Chris’s parts do so much for all of these songs. He holds it down rhythmically while simultaneously homogenizing the tonal gap between me and Lucy. His parts almost function like a lead guitar would, they add a lot of interesting melodic color and often really back up Lu’s vocals.
L: I love busy music, like when a lot is going on within each instrument, and Chris’s choice to create melodic bass parts adds even more craziness to the guitar/drums. It’s so epic.
C: I try to write parts that harmonize with Lucy’s guitar parts and mirror Avery’s rhythms. Sometimes I let it rip and other times hold it down and try to get the crowd to groove with me. I love playing bass in this band because we play in drop C, which is super freaking low.
Where did you record the album? What was the setting like?
A: We recorded the whole album at an old church in Dobbs Ferry, NY. It was a really special place to play/record music and I think it allowed us to have a full, dynamic, and powerful sound that matched our musicianship and musical style well. It was very cozy.
C: The church was right next to a nursery school and at one point this mom brought her kinds in to watch us play. There was something really special about that. I also remember stepping outside and walking around the garden while Lucy was tracking guitar overdubs. I felt so calm and at peace. And another highlight was tracking the piano parts on Cal, Lucy and I had a lot of fun coming up with that stuff.
One thing I really liked about the record was the continued use of builds-ups and slow-downs. This felt actually serendipitous at times, as though it may have came about while riffing during the recording process. Is this something you consciously try to incorporate?
L: I realized it’s hard for me to like bands who don’t pay attention to dynamics or feel. Incorporating build-ups and slow-downs is a way to create a unique, textured sound. It’s definitely something we try to consciously incorporate / get better at.
C: The tempo changes are part of what makes us unique. It’s a dimension of music that few artists mess with, as most popular songs live at a consistent BPM. Another thing that sets us apart is the song structures. Red rarely uses conventional formats. Lucy and I once talked about our love for Nirvana, but also spent some time criticizing their use of formulaic verse-chorus- verse stuff. A lot of what Red does is about experimentation, freeing ourselves up from the restricting structures of the past (that are tried and true for some people) and trying something completely new. We want to see what else is out there.
A: Being expressive with tempo is a definite part of our style and experimenting with time changes is purposeful in our writing process. I think it makes our music sound alive in a compelling, non-synthetic way.
For Lucy: Please correct me if I’m off here, but I wanted to ask about some of your lyrics which are really interesting. On several of the songs on Odin (like Misha, Dirty Spright, and PSL) you seem to be speaking in second-person point-of-view. My interpretation was a kind of dual dynamic — one on hand, the weight in terms of how this person affects you, but on the other hand there’s the confidence of being able to address them directly through your art. Is that a fair interpretation, or did I just make this narrative up?
L: Some songs have more meaning than others. For example, for the lyrics on Dirty Spright and PSL I just noted down what came to mind first. Though, for Misha I tried to address people who are self-centered. I’ll notice a trend among a certain group and in my songs, I’ll use “you” to address them. I think the dual-dynamic you discussed is accurate of how I write. The only difference is I don’t feel the weight of one person, but more a collective of people. I’ve increasingly become more confident with calling out people’s behavior that I don’t fuck with, and it is in Red’s agenda to address this in their music.
The track “Cal” is totally different from the rest of the album. It actually sounds like it could fit right into Alex G’s “Beach Music”. Is that track supposed to function as a kind of interlude at the halfway point? Are you interested in continuing to explore and mix in more different vibes like this in the future?
A: Our intention was to have it be different than the other songs on the album. When deciding the track order, we did want it to function as a halfway interlude/resting point/weird break/vibe check lol
L: Hearing instrumentals on Alex G’s album definitely influenced my decision to include Cal on the album. “Walk” and “Clouds” are my favorite Alex G instrumentals.
Cal stands for Chris Avery Lucy.
C: I love the flute that our friend Justine added to this track. She’s been a good friend of ours for years and it was special to collaborate with someone so talented.
The last track on the record is called “Odin Talk” where Lucy & Avery discuss the DIY culture in the Hudson Valley from your perspectives. I’d love to dive into that a bit further, since you mentioned a couple defunct Brooklyn venues (we used to frequent) as examples of ideal DIY spaces.
Something Andrew & I wrestle with is the tendency of DIY scenes to retreat into more private, closed-off settings. There’s of course a lot of dynamics at play, like the financial challenge of sustainably managing a legit venue (especially in an expensive place like Brooklyn), and proactive crowd control and vetting. But since you both mentioned the topic of inclusivity, and having more “meaning” behind DIY gatherings, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you think is the right balance to strike for DIY community organizers.
A: For me, inclusivity within a DIY music context is reliant on a bunch of different factors. For one, I think it’s incredibly important for show organizers to put forth a concentrated effort to book respectful artists who care about contributing to a scene, more than just playing music in front of a crowd. Booking an artist is providing that person/those people with a voice and platform within a specific scene/community. I think it’s important to consider that fact, and try to book artists that may not have as much of a voice or are underrepresented within a scene/community. It is also important for venues and event organizers to provide a safe, respectful, and welcoming space for show-goers/musicians and not allow ignorant or offensive behavior.
L: I definitely agree with everything Avery said. I think it’s really hard to find the right balance for DIY gatherings because there are so many factors at play. Systemic gender inequalities, which were put in place by cis men, structure the DIY scene. It’s really disappointing to see female performers being overshadowed by their male bandmates. The best shows I’ve been to are when all the bands performing can interact with each other and their audience. If that dynamic isn’t present then it creates a really disconnected, unpleasant space.
What I’ve ultimately noticed is the DIY scene isn’t open-minded. It prefers loud, white bands that make the event less about the music and more about having a party in a basement. It think it’s important for community organizers to consider a band’s character when booking shows. Organizers should also realize that putting “This is a safe space” on a poster/post doesn’t automatically make it one.
C: I think the DIY scene is a lot better about inclusivity now than it was four or five years ago. There was a time, especially in upstate New York, where the scene felt like a boys club which was deeply problematic. But now I feel like its different and more interesting voices are coming to the forefront.
What’s next for Red? Do you have any shows coming up on the east coast?
L: Right now we’re just workshopping new songs. Our next show is on October 25th at SUNY New Paltz, with Godcaster and Hello Mary. And then on November 1st we have a show with Safety Scissors and Emily Yacina at the Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz. Shout out to Lavender Ladies. The best 🥰.
Lastly, can you give a shout out to any great songs or records you’ve been enjoying lately?
waveform* – Shooting Star
Drobakid – Two Moons
Momma – Interloper
John Coltrane – Blue World
Kitty Pryde- NO OFFENSE!!!!!
Kero Kero Bonito – Time ‘n’ Place
Bethlehem Steel – Bethlehem Steel
Dirt Buyer – Dirt Buyer
Cocteau Twins – Blue Bell Knoll