As the gentle chord progression begins the song “Paisley,” an overwhelming soft chill overtakes the moment and brings you closer to carpe diem. The overture is a graceful mixture of innovation and nostalgia that preps the listener for the unknown -unpredictable chaos wrapped around elegance. Southern California four-piece, Ridgeway embraces us with their new album Give that has an unapologetic agenda. Its fierce raw emotion explores past experiences, family, and human compassion. Translating their dream-like sound the resembles heaven and hell, Ridgeway’s honesty is straight from their hearts and out of their amps.
I recently got to sit, chat, and drink coffee with Singer, Alex Ibarra and Guitarist, Wyatt Coler as they discussed their carefully crafted album. Reminding us about the power of introspection and self-reflection, The Orange County natives discuss how music deserves to have a soul before it could be shared and consumed.
Who writes the songs?
A: Usually, it’s singer/songwriter style. I write full or half songs with a guitar and voice as the base. Then I bring it to the band and we create it from there. It’s definitely got a soul of its own before it touches all the instruments. I never fully bring a finished song. I have a chorus or verse and we work from there.
What influenced Give and what were your feelings during the process?
W: To me, I just wanted to do something that was representative of how we were feeling at the time, what we were listening to, and what we were trying to put forward. I wanted to do something musically influenced. Before it seemed like I was writing a song with an easier approach and now I’m giving it more of a specification that feels like it’s me. I’m also incorporating my own influences. I was taking easier paths with the parts I was writing and how I was writing them. I would choose easier chord progressions because it made more sense, but now I’m trying to branch out and try stuff that’s a little different that feels like I’m actually writing it instead of filling in blanks. Radiohead has always been a huge influence for me, so I’m always listening back to them and trying to figure out how to be as creative as them.
A: I really wanted to approach Give more lyrically than our past efforts. Throughout the writing, I wanted to make sure that it felt true to me. I wrote a lot in a therapeutic form. I really just let out what I felt through the writing process and let it just be for the song despite what people might think of it. I really tried hard. However, I still try to get the idea of “I hope people like this” out of my head. That’s something I try to do, and it felt good. Now, I feel like I could branch out and be creativity free for our next release. A lot of the record is about personal relationships, communicating with people you love, and how the last few years have been. This inspired what to put in Give. It’s an album to feel something mostly. I know that everyone feels something different from it.
How did the name of the album come to be?
A: The album started out with a song called “Give.” It was the first song we wrote. It was also the first thing we all agreed on. There’s something about the word. It could hold a lot and mean so many things. It means so many things to me, and it comes up now and then in the album.
What about the artwork?
W: I think for the most part, we all agree that Katy Johnson is our favorite photographer. Her concepts are probably some of the strongest out there as far as creative and unique, so we all felt that we can have her do the artwork. We all kind of pitched in the little ideas here and there, but for the most part, we let her interpret it the way she wanted. Then from there it was a collaborative effort on putting together the packaging and the typography that goes with it- stuff to accommodate it and compliment it.
A: There’s a lot of self-referencing in the whole album, and the songs have some connection to each other. Like the first song, “Paisley,” the lyrics are about a memory of a blanket on a bed, like the patterns on it. In the photo, there’s a person with a blanket around them, which is a direct reference. In another song, “Give,” it references “a blanket with roses on one side,” which is then paisley blanket with roses on the other side. The album cover has roses from the garden. We really try to make everything flow with each other. I don’t know if anyone notices it, but it’s mostly for us.
Is it one of you under the blanket?
A: No, it’s a friend of ours.
In the writing process, was there a relative aspect to the way you were writing before or was it different?
A: Well, we’ve been through a few changes through the years. This is our first adult release. Ridgeway started when I was 18, and we got a lot of immaturity out on those first few releases. I had fun with them. And when I look back, I still love them. But now, we have a new bass player who influences more than just bass parts. He adds a new dynamic to the group. We were just ready to take a record seriously and know where to hold back
How did you go about writing your lyrics? Was it more stream of consciousness?
A: For the most part, yeah. That’s how I write. Usually, I feel it right there and then. The idea and the mood is already there, so it comes real fast. Sometimes I find meaning in it a year later, even after the song is recorded. It’s kind of like, you know in SpongeBob, when they’re breaking through the marble and there’s a statue is already inside? Then Sponge bob hits it and it combusts into David. That’s how my lyrics are – just hit it right away. It’s already there, but of course, everything needs fine tweaking, and sometimes I wanna say something else, so I’ll go back and reproach it.
Interesting how you find different meanings in the album, what is it to you?
A: A lot of different things. Some of it is about my mother. My mother passed away when I was a child. This was the first time I felt like singing about it. Also, people don’t know that about the whole record. It’s very much about her. I just love that other people can listen and get something else from it, and create their own world in their heads. My grandma listened to the record and I wonder if she picked up on it causes she’s been there for everything.
Is the message that you’re sending to your audience political, personal, or both?
A: I think Ridgeway is mostly personal and creative. I wouldn’t consider us political. We wouldn’t want to put ourselves in guidelines like that. We’re just not that type of people. We just want to create.
W: This is very therapeutic for all of us. This band is for us in a weird way, but it’s amazing to see how it connects to other people. However, at the core of it, we’re all playing music because we really like playing music, and we’re doing it together because we really like doing it together. It’s just beneficial that we get to tour and people dig it to some degree.
Completely DIY band, Do you like that format, having creative control and being hands on with everything?
A: Up until now yes, but I would still love to collaborate with others in the future. I have a lot of pride in the ownership of our content. Give was done all on our own and that was a goal.
What genre do you consider yourself?
A: That’s the question I love asking people. In my heart, I write emo songs. Some people don’t like to hear that. I just write “me” as an emotion. My chords are usually somewhat heavy and you can feel something in them. I like to do the same with my lyrics. That’s what I contribute to Ridgeway. I also call us a pop band, but everyone has a different idea of what genre is.
W: The easy answer that I give when anyone is asking is Alternative, pop-rock shit.
A: It just depends on who I’m talking too. If they want the emo, the shoegaze, or the post punk. Depending on what light I want to be perceived in.
W: Or what genre this person would understand. Like if it’s a person that is not deeply in the music scene, I say something that is relative.
Who recorded the record?
A: Corey Coffman, from Gleemer in Loveland, Colorado.
W: He produced it too. He’s responsible for a lot of what was written in the record. He had very good ideas and added a lot of direction. There was a lot of parts that I wrote exclusively in the studio. Couldn’t have done it without him.
A: Writing and preparing for some touring in 2020. I think that’s it.
Any last words or shoutouts?
A: Shoutout to Corey Coffman, A few bands that I think everyone needs to know about: Soft Blue Shimmer from LA, Pure Hex from Oakland, Jordan Crimston from San Diego, Machinekit from LA, Roseville from Colorado, and Grainer from Minneapolis.
W: Katy Johnson (in the other room), The Obsessive from Philadelphia, Modern Color from LA