Catch up with vocalist Gabbi Coenen of Brooklyn-based experimental pop quintet Rvby My Dear and listen to single, "Animal", from their Unravel EP, out now.
What got you interested in starting a band?
Gabbi Coenen: I'm originally from Australia and I moved to New York to study at The New School. I was a jazz musician before I met the band and so I went and studied there and I met Oscar (guitar) and Darren (keys) while studying there. I wanted to start a band just because I wanted an outlet for my original music and it started off as more of a jazz inspired thing but, the more we played together and the more I was writing, it kind of morphed into this experimental pop thing that it is now. So, Darren and Oscar are both from The New School and then Jono (bass) and Abel (drums) came later on - we had a different bassist and drummer before them - but then they came on board beginning of last year.
Which musicians have you been influenced by, individually or as a group?
Well, I think individually we all have very different influences, which I think is good, in a way, because it stops things from being too homogeneous or anything like that. For me, personally, I guess I'm really inspired by a lot of British acts like Massive Attack and Portishead, as well as Australian singer-songwriters; I really admire Fiona Apple and Joanna Newsome and singers like that who have really interesting voices and write their own songs and they've got actual singing and all that. It's really broad, like I'm always checking out new stuff and going back and listening to old stuff. I'm a pretty big music consumer myself, so I try to find inspiration in whatever I think is good and I'll be like, 'oh, that's awesome! I want to try and do something like that!'. It's a lot.
What songs would be at the top of your playlist right now?
Right now, I really like the new Radiohead album, I think it's gorgeous. Actually, I feel like all my favorites have put out albums or EPs in the last few months, like Massive Attack just put out a new EP which I love; Radiohead album; the James Blake album is gorgeous; there's a band from Montreal called BRAIDS who I really love, they just put out an EP a few weeks ago and I saw them live at Rough Trade last week and it was amazing. I'd say those. And, there's a band from the UK called Daughter who I really like, they put out an album at the beginning of this year. There's actually a lot of 2016 releases that I'm really into right now.
Where does your name, Rvby My Dear, come from?
That is [laughs] the name of a jazz ballad by Thelonious Monk. It's a very, very old song from the '40s and I picked it because I wanted something with the color red in it because I have red hair but, also, I really liked that song at the time when I was putting the band together and I couldn't think of a name and I didn't want to put it under my own name and that just, in the moment, really spoke to me. Now, I look back and I'm like, 'oh, I don't know, I'm not sure,' but [laughs] I think it's stuck with us. The change from the 'u' to the 'v' was because it was getting too difficult having the same name as a song and then there was another artist who had the same name and it was just like, we need to do something to differentiate this, so we ended up putting the 'v' instead of the 'u' in the word ruby, which I know is very trendy right now and I kind of cringed a bit when I did it but, hopefully, it will pay off in the long run. I think [laughs].
Which words would you use to describe your sound?
I would definitely say atmospheric and cinematic. There's a lot of dynamics in our music but it's not noise music, it still has some kind of structure and flow to the songs; there's a lot of loud sections and there's a lot of quiet, delicate sections, as well. I think, if you like actually listening to music and really digging in to a song, I think there's a lot that can be found in our music, because it is so layered and textured and has so much going on. There's a lot to keep the listener interested but it's still accessible, in its own way.
What were your inspirations behind your single "Animal"?
It's part of a 2 song EP, so those songs were kind of conceived around the same time. In terms of inspiration, lyrically, that song in particular is about a relationship that is falling apart. I got really into that TV show Hannibal for awhile and that was the little seed inspiration for this song and I made it my own from there - which I know probably sounds really weird and really gross - [laughs] but I was really inspired by that kind of relationship between two people where you're so inside each others heads' and trying to manipulate each other and I feel like, musically, the arrangement that me and the guys came up with reflects that: at the beginning, it starts with this reversed little guitar thing, then it explodes into a big drum hit and then, at the end, it sort of collapses on itself a little bit, like reverse vocals and noise and stuff. It's got a lot going on, that song. We've been playing it live for almost 2 years now before we recorded it, so it's definitely changed a lot in the playing it live process and then actually recording it and all of that, so it's become a little more focused in the direction.
Can you tell us more about the new Unravel EP that you just released?
I like that it's just 2 songs and we basically just wanted to do 2 songs because they're both quite long, so it's already 11 minutes of music with just the 2 songs alone and I felt like they paired well with each other. The other song, "Hidden Threads", which we put out a couple months ago, that one is more quiet, internal, and introspective with the lyrics and I really gravitated towards the idea of having these songs be about, whether you're unraveling yourself or with another person and letting yourself fall apart, how do you put yourself back together after that? That's kind of what they're about. Musically, it's a more focused and refined version of what we did previously on our EP before this and we played around more with some production techniques, but the guy who mixed it, he ended up using the original demos that we had and put them through this synth filter thing and layered them underneath the new mix so there's all those reverse swells and distorted vocals you hear sometimes that the original demo incorporated into it. It was definitely a fun process, putting everything together, and it's quieted down now.
How would you sum up Unravel in one sentence?
We got a live review once who said that our sound was 'like beauty meets dynamics,' so I would probably just say that: beauty meets dynamics.
What do you hope your listeners are able to take away from your music?
It's hard, because I think people take away different things; someone can listen to something and have a completely different reaction than someone else listening to the same thing, so I just hope that people have any kind of reaction, whether that is good or bad, or positive or negative, I just hope that people will at least listen to it and give it a chance, because I think the music does offer something different that you don't really hear a lot, especially in the scene that we're in in Brooklyn; it's a lot of straight up, four dudes in a band, like, grunge music is kind of the big thing now. So, I think this sound is an antidote to that, it's a little more ethereal, it's a little more textured, and maybe a little bit more time and thought have been put into arrangements and stuff, so I just hope that people at least listen to it, I guess [laughs]. It kind of has to find a way to stand out above all the other music that's out there because there is so much and there's so much really good stuff out there. All I can hope for at this point is that people just at least listen and, whether they like it or they don't like it, that's cool.
Is there anything that you want to add?
We're playing a show on Sunday, June 19th at C'mon Everybody, which is in Brooklyn, as part of a series that the people at Elevtrtrax are putting together and then, on July 3rd, we have a show at Sunnyvale with a band called Jaggery and they're touring from Boston and they're amazing, so I'm really looking forward to that one. After that, I think we're going to be going away to work on the album that we just started recording songs for, which is exciting. Oh! And also, everyone can follow us on Facebook and Twitter @rvbymydear - with a 'v' - everywhere.