The Rider formed within the inner suburbs of Sydney, honing their infectious blend of blues, jazz and psychedelic Indie Rock. Tomatrax caught up with Calum Nicholson, bass player and vocalist of the band to ask a few questions.
How did the band form?
Henry, one of our guitarists and singers, had an audition for the conservationism of music up in Newcastle. He asked Tom and I (Calum) to accompany him with the two jazz standards he was playing for the audition (he got accepted). From there we got a three-hour gig at a restaurant on Valentine’s Day. With about two weeks to get the material together we learnt anything we could get our hands on; Folk, Blues, Jazz, Rock etc. After that we kept jamming together, playing at a few restaurants and bars – just doing covers with some extended jams in there. We eventually got a residency at a small bar called Mr. Falcon’s, which we kept on with for over a year. After a while we began to write originals. Our first legitimate gig as The Rider was probably playing Moonshakes at The Flinders in June 2013.
Where did the name “The Rider” come from?
Tom went through a big obsession with The Grateful Dead, which eventually rubbed off on me. For a while it was all we would listen to and the inspiration for the name came from their song ‘I Know You Rider’. I like the aesthetic of the name because it’s a common term used in old blues and folk music. I’m not 100% sure but I always interpreted ‘rider’ and being a slang term for ‘woman’.
Your music blends blues, jazz, psychedelic and Indie Rock. Is it hard to get the various styles to work together?
Yeah, it can be difficult at times. Sometimes it can take us a very long time to get a song into an arrangement that we are happy with. I always find that we end up discussing the smallest details. Perhaps the most difficult part of the process is trying to keep our sound something that is accessible to everyone. We always love to put complex musical ideas into our songs but we don’t want to play music that only other musicians would want to listen to. That being said, it is still a very entertaining and rewarding process.
What made you pick Talking Through Walls as your latest single?
I think the biggest deciding factor was how easily the song came together. A few months ago we went up to Katoomba to do some songwriting. We had four or five songs and ideas that we planned to work on and Talking Through Walls fell into place so well that we knew it was going to be a very strong song. I actually put most of the lyrics together sitting in a backyard with about five beehives in it. With all the bees crawling all over my laptop it turned out to be an interesting experience.
What was the inspiration behind the cover art for the single?
Tom Groves, who runs Knock Knock Magazine in Melbourne, created our artwork. Before he got started on the artwork we sat down and looked through some of our favourite album covers for inspiration. Some of those covers were; Love – Forever Changes, Yes – Fragile and Can – Tago Mago. We sent Tom Groves the list and our thoughts and let him do the rest. We love what he came up with, the colours are awesome and the design is simplistic which is what we were looking for.
Will there be an EP/LP to follow Talking through walls?
We plan on releasing a second standalone single towards the end of this year, followed by a second east coast tour. We have a few ideas and few songs to choose from but we haven’t decided on anything yet. After that we will plan to release something more substantial, perhaps a second EP. We also have this story that is told over three songs that we are working on, it’s going to be a heartwarming lullaby – we were thinking it might be nice to release that next year sometime. As for an LP, that might be a bit further down the track, but definitely something we want to work towards.
What was it like to hear your song on Triple M?
It was pretty amazing to have our debut on commercial radio, it was something I wasn’t expecting to happen so soon. It was definitely an honor to be played alongside great Australian acts such as; The Cairos, Papa vs. Pretty, DZ Reathrays as well as Boy and Bear (and more).
You’re about to tour round the east coast of Australia, what can fans expect from your shows?
Well, recently we have put a lot of time into constructing our set into one cohesive piece. We are trying to move away from the standard of just playing one song after another. Fans can expect 20 minute long medleys of songs, extended solos, whacky introductions, a bit of improvisation and, of course, a lot of energy. We have a rule that if we aren’t covered in sweat by the end of the show, we haven’t worked hard enough.
You’ve entered songs on Triple J’s unearthed page, has this had any impact on your music’s exposure?
Triple J Unearthed has been pretty good to us – we have seen a lot of downloads of our tracks and a good number of plays. We haven’t managed to grab the attention of the guys at the station yet but that doesn’t mean we won’t keep trying.
Do you listen to your own music?
Honestly, I do from time to time. I like to have a little self-indulgent moment every now and then. Maybe it’s a little narcissistic but I have always thought that if I can’t enjoy my own music, then I shouldn’t expect someone else to either. The flip side to that is that a musician can get sick of hearing their own songs. Especially during the recording process where you are listening to the song over and over again from a very analytical perspective – that can be quite taxing at times.
What (other) music do you listen to?
I could write for pages and pages about the music we listen to, but I won’t. A large part of our jazz influence comes from Henry; he is always showing us great stuff. At the moment Snarky Puppy and Haitus Kaiyote are regular favorites of ours. We are also big fans of the San Francisco Bay Area bands of the 60s and 70s, I mentioned the Grateful Dead, but also Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills and Nash get spun a lot in my house. Then there is the weird stuff we like to listen to. Tom loves his Canterbury Scene Prog Rock. Bands like Caravan, Gong or Gentle Giant are great if you want to listen to music that will confuse the hell out of you. I am a big fan of Kraut Rock as well, bands like Can or Faust. Also, my roommate mixes DnB and Jungle and they have become new favorites of mine. I should mention that I am (not so) secretly in love with Courtney Barnett.
What do you plan on doing after your tour?
Personally, I’m going to Burning Man to get weird. After that, the band will be back in the studio in September to prepare for our second single. We are also in the process of getting together some shows around Sydney and Newcastle before we set out to tour again in November. Busy times ahead for the band – we can’t wait to start exploring new music and meeting new people.
Check out the Rider’s Facebook page to find out more!