INTERVIEW: Rival Waves
Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Joel: Hello Rafael and VENTS Magazine! We’re collectively in a pretty good place at the moment. We’re spending most of these exciting days gearing up to release our debut album, TRANSDUCER. We’re also sitting down for this interview right after a really solid rehearsal for a big upcoming show at one of our favorite hometown venues….plus it’s summertime in Austin, TX, & we’re “talking” to you. Life could be worse.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Amputee”?
Joel: “Amputee” was a song that had its beginnings quite a few years ago. I wrote it at the time my previous band was writing new material for a new album. The guys liked the song and we actually played a version of it out a handful of times. It was a much less cohesive sounding track than it became. We never got to record as we ultimately ended up dissolving the band before we made that album.
Nevertheless, the tune stuck around, and when the decision to flesh out this project that would become RIVAL WAVES was made, “Amputee” was a centerpiece for it. As a result, I wanted to showcase the track on our debut album – and have it be the first single off of it.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
Joel: Absolutely. When I wrote “Amputee” I was coming to the end of a long-term relationship and taking stock, as one does, of my life. I had this overwhelming feeling of dread that the relationship had changed me as a person. It was almost like I didn’t recognize the person that this union of two people had turned me into. A person who was trying way too hard to conform into the ideal partner – losing friends, family, and my own personal ideals in the process. That feeling also led to this feeling of rebirth. That, with this relationship ending, it was time for the part of that “changed me” to be cut away in order for me to find myself again. As the idea manifested, I felt that it was quite a relatable way to think about a break-up. It is something most everyone has gone through, and I wanted to really explore that process. Ultimately, the exercise helped me get through the break-up relatively well.
Any plans to release a music video for the single?
Joel: We realize how important video is to online discovery and promotion and have created a lyric video for “Amputee” to somewhat fill that void. That said, we’re sort of always on the hunt for the right director and story treatment for a video – but at the end of the day it’s got to feel right to us.
Aside from a live performance, which is us in our natural element, we’re not a band that’s concerned with, or big on, staged performance videos. I don’t think you’re ever gonna see any of us in costume, looking plaintively off into space lip synching or miming to one of our songs. However, if a video can tell a compelling story that compliments the song, we’re always down to entertain those ideas.
The single comes off your new album Transducer – what’s the story behind the title?
Joel: As you may (or may not) know, a transducer is an electronic device that converts energy from one form to another. From a literal standpoint, loudspeakers turn an electrical signal into sound. Microphones employ the same principle but work in the opposite direction. I’ve always thought there was something magical or metaphysical about the science of recording music…and transducers facilitate that magic.
From an entirely metaphorical perspective, I view the band, our music, and the whole ethos behind RIVAL WAVES, as constantly seeking to convert order out of chaos. The result of two waves crashing on each other….eventually the waters still, and there is calm. I think that’s what we’re all searching for, and that is definitely the mindset I have when I sit down to write.
We also have a song on the record called “Transducer” that serves as a sort of personal self-validating call to arms that reminds me of who I am, who I can be, and of everything we can do as humans to affect positive change and make a difference…and it still does every time we play it.
So, why not TRANSDUCER?
How was the recording and writing process?
Joel: This writing and recording process for this album was a blessing and curse. This album was recorded over the better part of a decade and includes some of the best musicians in the world performing on it – including Satnam Ramgotra (Hans Zimmer, Nikka Costa), Martyn Lenoble (Porno for Pyros), and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Jack Irons. Not only was Jack the first drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, he was the drummer for Pearl Jam in the mid 90s. So I can honestly say I got the opportunity to record with a musical hero. The record also includes performances with a handful of my favorite musicians in Austin. It was a real honor to jump in a room and push air around with them.
The curse comes, as with every artistic endeavor, in understanding when something is finished. After collaborating with our co-producer and good friend JR Taylor (Styx, Terry Bozzio) on nearly 40 songs, the number of mixes and remixes from these sessions must have numbered in the thousands! Thankfully, JR helped me draw a line in the sand with the record. We aligned on taking our sessions to noted producer/engineer Louie Lino (Nada Surf, Matt Pond PA) and got the mixes to a place I was thrilled about.
At this point, I cannot tell you how excited I am to let everyone hear this record. With so many lessons learned, I can guarantee that our next record will be done much faster.
What role does Austin play in your music?
Joel: Austin’s been home for a really long time now. I’ve seen it change and grow pretty significantly, and while it seems less and less like the place I once knew, it leaves an undeniable imprint on my soul. While I think people who hear RIVAL WAVES may associate our sound more with Seattle, New York, or LA, I think everything we write has Austin bubbling right beneath the surface.
It’s also a cool moment in Austin when bands like Sweet Spirit, A Giant Dog, OTIS the Destroyer, BLXPLTN, Emily Wolfe and Megafauna are giving Austin a bit more rock and roll respectability than historically credited. We are excited to be a part of that thriving scene.
Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than on your own?
Joel: That’s kind of a difficult question to answer. From a writing perspective, all of the songs on this record were written by me in my South Austin studio. The real challenge is not having another invested voice to bounce ideas off of. I’ve always been someone who thrived in a collaborative environment.
When Erik, Marc, and Kelly joined up and RIVAL WAVES became a real band, I was so willing to collaborate and bounce ideas off of the band. I am even more stoked to now get song ideas that Marc has brought in and that we all build together in real time, or hear a new countermelody that Erik’s written that we can build a chorus around. I live for that stuff!
While I will always love TRANSDUCER, I think that it’s primary job is to introduce the band to the people and set the bar for the next album – which I can already tell is going to be so strong based on the level of collaboration.
What aspect of our current social and political did you get to explore on this record?
Joel: It’s so hard to say. We’re living in such a bland time. Nothing’s really going on. All sarcasm aside, there were so many topics that were being covered on this record. Politics, emotional abuse, depression, bipolar disorder, delusional behavior, the world pre and post-Trump.
I wrote the title track as soon as I got back home from a then-Senator Barack Obama campaign event in ‘08. I remember there was a palpable energy and sense of hope in the air amongst the attendees, but also a steely resolve that there was so much work that laid in front of us. The fact that we seem to be in such a current state of despair and disarray in this country, highlights that there is so much left to do – and, frankly, we have no one but ourselves to look to do it.
Conversely, the album’s closer “Battleplan” is an unapologetic fist raised, flag waving protest song. In my opinion, it is a straight up rebuke against the type of saber-rattling hawkish behavior that has pervaded American politics since 9/11. It’s been interesting to see the song’s personal meaning change and evolve for me over the years. Now though, more than ever, as we’re entrenched in identity politics and so many lives are affected as a result, this is the time artists need to put their asses on the line to speak truth to power.
Any plans to hit the road?
Joel: At this point we’re still laser focused on putting the final touches on the album release. Once that happens, we’ve started talking about taking RIVAL WAVES out for a test spin around the region this summer/fall. There are still quite a few logistics being worked out but it’s a really exciting time and we’re happy people are interested in what we have to say and play.
What else is happening next in Rival Waves’ world?
Joel: First and foremost, the band is already back in the studio collectively crafting new tracks to build off of TRANSDUCER. We pride ourselves on building the band’s reputation on the strength of its live show, and we’ll continue to do so in Austin – and beyond.
The band’s mission since its inception has always been to make the best music possible while leveraging disruptive technologies to create a more meaningful relationship between the band and the fan. We’ve taken our first few steps in that direction through strategic partnerships with strategic tech companies around Austin and will be looking to establish Phase 2 of the plan to build on TRANSDUCER’s release.