Emotions associated with avoidance live in the right side of the brain — but the only thing Rigs dodges is logic.
Boston-based musician Rigs relies on creative expression to make sense of the world — what studying textbooks can supply for some is what constructing zines, drawing freehand sketches, and performing music provides for her. The cathartic experience helps confront the changing tides in her life (and lends an excuse to leave basic math for the calculator).
As we gushed over the sophisticated yet direct minds of Phil Elverum, James Keegan (famously known under the moniker ‘Kitchen’), Alex G, and Mazzy Star, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the comforting and domestic images elicited from my brain while listening to lo-fi folk: the flickering warmth of a candle, laughter reverberating from a distance room, the cozy smell of a home cooked meal. We mulled over the feelings inherent to specific songs and albums, but to no surprise, struggled to find the formula ourselves.
The following interview has been edited for conciseness and clarity.
Boston Hassle: Your EP Clementine comes out on September 17! What inspired the concepts surrounding this EP and its title?
RIGS: What inspired the title was that I actually wanted to change my name for a while, because I really liked this name and that was sort of my manifestation of wanting to be someone else and labeling this transition as something more solid. But I decided against [the name change] because I realized that you can, over time, grow to be someone else without having to change your name.
I had gone through a big life change back in March. I shifted a lot as a person and I was sort of leaving a certain lifestyle behind. That was a really huge transition for me. It felt really weird. It felt kind of delusional. It was very strange to go through it and experience it. It’s intense to me. I think the EP is very story-like, I feel like it definitely encapsulated the feeling of being caught in some sort of huge storm. I want this music to make people feel something, but I also just want it to be a representation of me.
HASSLE: Is there any significance behind either the track list order or the final song versions that made it onto Clementine?
RIGS: It’s definitely a process, there’s a following to it. Every song is in a specific order for a reason; they’re so related to each other in a way few people will probably understand. Only three of [the songs] are original, one of them is a cover. The first couple of songs are a resistance against the change, and then I feel like the ladder. One of my last songs on the EP is very stylized to be a Microphones song. I tried to write in such a way that made me feel the same way that The Microphones made me feel. The final song on this EP is my favorite one. It’s called “The Hill.” I wrote the lyrics in around 20 minutes, it just came to me. I wrote the lyrics before the instrumentals, which I don’t normally do. I found the process to be much better, to be honest.
HASSLE: Were there any songs in the mix that maybe didn’t make the cut when you began the writing process?
RIGS: Actually, there was one song that I was going to put on there. I finished all the lyrics and I wrote the full song on my guitar. When I really thought about it for a while, I [felt] this didn’t belong on here. I thought the lyricism wasn’t very good and also it was a particularly sad song. I didn’t want a sad song on this EP; I wanted very distinct, strange songs, songs that you don’t really know what to exactly make out of them. There are other songs on my EP that can be taken as many things, good or bad, but I didn’t want a song to be so clear cut. That can be mistaken as me not really knowing how to put a feeling into a song. It’s kind of convoluted, but it can be really hard to express as much meaning from the music as you [want to convey]. That was a hard part of it, I guess.
HASSLE: What draws you to the lo-fi folk genre? When thinking about the trajectory of your solo music, are you someone who binds to a specific genre, experiments within and introduces untraditional sounds to a genre, or dictates your sound to the creativity driving each release?
RIGS: I really like folk music and lo-fi in particular because it’s authentic. A lot of the folk that I listened to, and just lo-fi in general, sounds more human than really anything else that I’ve come across. I like most genres of music, but I would say lo-fi folk in particular is always raw and the lyricism, a lot of it I can relate to. The instrumentals always sound a lot better than higher produced stuff to me.
As for an artist myself, I would totally get experimental with a lot of things. The problem with being experimental is that sometimes I don’t really know what to do. There’s so many things you could do [or] could be experimented with. Especially when you have a digital audio workspace (DAW) in front of you, it’s like, where do I begin? Where do I fit in? I think that’s a question as a new artist that I need to ask myself. I feel like it’s pretty intimidating to find your own sound, especially when you are experimental. As I keep making music, I don’t want to stick to a specific genre, but I would love to find my sound and have something that distinguishes me from other things.
HASSLE: It’s so hard because it’s so vast. As I’m learning more about the technical and production side of music, and when thinking of an arrangement within a song or to a body of work, you can literally do anything you want. That seems great in theory, but then when you’re actually sitting down it’s a different story.
RIGS: It can be a pressure almost to decide what sound I want to put in [a project]. You have the whole world on your laptop. That’s why I feel like analog equipment can be a lot easier. I personally don’t know a lot about analog equipment, but some of my friends use analog stuff. It’s really cool how they use it, and it’s almost less intimidating than to use a full DAW because you’re more limited to what you can do. I feel like you need limits as to what to do.
HASSLE: You’re also the lead vocalist and guitarist for Speakerhug, a local and recently formed shoegaze noise rock post ’90s band, and collaborated on other projects with different artists. Can you tell me a little bit about those experiences and how it compares to the approach of your solo sound?
RIGS: We formed in May, but our drummer went home for the summer. We’ve sort of been on a hiatus, but we’ve been writing all summer. We have composed an entire setlist, and we’re really excited to start playing shows this fall. The band sounds a lot different from how I sound individually. It’s very instrument heavy [with] extreme breakdowns and hype.
I almost prefer being in a band. It’s a lot cooler working with the other songwriter, who mostly [composes] instruments. When you both have a specific vision in your mind, it’s easier to execute because you have another opinion by your side. They’re like, “oh, this sounds good!” or, “oh, that can use some improvement.” They can see something that you can’t see sometimes.
HASSLE: I saw that your bandmate Peter Benson is credited in the production, recording, mixing and mastering of this EP, the experience helping him discover a love for making music with a little dirt around the edges. What is it like collaborating with similar people in a setting that allows other skill sets of theirs to shine? What did your communication and input look like during this process, considering it was one of his few times using an overdubbed approach and working within the experimental lo-fi folk genre?
RIGS: I would say we’re quite different in our mindsets, which was very interesting. He produces a lot of high quality things, heavy production, heavy post editing. I wanted this EP to be as lo-fi as possible. Him going from producing a band that sounds like The Strokes and works with a lot of hyperpop to me, who sounds like I’m recording a voicemail — it wasn’t necessarily a challenge, but I needed to tell my producer to let me try and do things. It’s something he hadn’t seen before. It was an experience for the both of us because I’m also trying to learn to become a basic recording engineer. He taught me a lot about it [while] he learned a lot about lo-fi production and how you need to mix things.
HASSLE: It’s honestly really cool because in a band setting, you have your respective roles and talents within the band, but you’re creating under a similar entity. But having him on as a producer, he gets to not only be a part of your solo project, but then you can see more of the production aspect of him as well. I’m not sure if Speaker Hug has any music out right now or what that recording process looks like, but it’s interesting to get a sneak peek into that circumstantial dynamic and how it might apply to the band.
RIGS: I definitely saw some of that. Connor, who is our other guitarist in the band, is going to be recording and producing a lot of our Speaker Hug stuff. Connor and I have a very similar vision for the band; I would say, Peter has different visions for a lot of different things. [Peter’s] a very helpful recording engineer, and he’s pretty talented at it. But yeah, vision is very important. I feel like if you or your producer or [someone in] your band doesn’t have a similar vision, then it can be a little conflicting and kind of a challenge to work together. But I mean, new perspectives, I guess.
HASSLE: Is there any correlation between the EP’s artwork and the ideas expressed through your music, or does it represent a part of yourself that may not come through the songs?
RIGS: The cover is an amateur drawing of me and a cat, and I think it sorta represents the silliness and the weird nature of the EP itself. The text overlay with some distorted and misspelled lyrics comes off pretty dreamlike and hypnagogic. I feel like that’s the feeling of the EP.
HASSLE: As an artist yourself, what are your thoughts on the intersection of music and art?
RIGS: Music and physical art overlay quite a bit. I think they are both the most creative expressions you can do. I feel releasing art, pictures or memories of things with music just gives your music much more of a human feel to it.
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