‘Pink Skin’ marks the 10th self-release of R. M. Hendrix, a Cambridge artist who describes his songs the way wine connoisseurs describe drinks. “This song is amber and tastes of cinnamon, oak and leather,” he says of “The Last Days of Black.” “This song is orange and tastes of rare meat and honey,” a less-appealing description referring to “Staring into the Sun.” Of “Lipstick and Perfect Hair” Hendrix notes, “this song is pink and tastes of sea salt and citrus.” Whatever your music preference, Hendrix promises to fill your senses with aromatic swirls that will cheer and inebriate. Psychedelic overtones are coupled with hints of effervescence, resulting in relaxed confidence. Crafting songs since 1998, Hendrix joined with Jason Martin of Starflyer 59 to master the new 3-song EP. Hendrix spoke with Resonance about bombastic elements, seasonal moods, and the New English sound.
“The Last Days of Black” was recently included on a Dream Wave Radio podcast.* Tell us about the podcast and what that recognition meant to you as an indie artist.
It’s quite a compliment. Dream Wave is a great show, and to be included with so many good bands isn’t something I brush off. Plus there are probably more quality bands and blogs than ever before… it’s not easy to get recognized, so when someone takes notice I can only be thankful.
*Click here to hear Dream Wave Radio podcast including R. M. Hendrix’s “Last Days of Black.”
I have a particular fondness for songs that fill the room, sink into your pores, and immerse you in sound. What inspired you to go big and loud on this EP?.
I’ve had the ambition to make songs as big as “Leave Them All Behind” by Ride. I love to be transported by sound and that tune has always done it for me. On my last album there were a couple of tunes that aimed for it but to be honest they missed. This time I spent more time producing the tracks and then asked Jason Martin from Starflyer 59 to master them. He did a great job bringing out the huge, bombastic elements of the mix. It’s actually a huge challenge to translate the visceral nature of live sound waves into a recording.
Your music is an eclectic fusion of upbeat psychedelic dream pop, layered with shoegaze fuzz and noise rock soundscapes. Your biography says that you wanted to make a record that was “neither nostalgic nor sentimental, just inspired.” Please list some key music inspirations that have influenced your unique sound.
I love bands that fuse melody and noise.
The Beatles did it some. So did Big Star, Velvet Underground, The Byrds. Then in the 80’s and 90’s bands like Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Teenage Fanclub, Jesus & Mary Chain, Telescopes, Ride and others made whole albums with this formula. Today it’s bands like Deerhunter and The Horrors. They make records that create noise beautifully, that focus on the tone and tenor of the sound as much as the discord of it. For the most part they sing too and don’t shy away from harmony.
~Creating noise beautifully is the key, and a difficult balance to achieve, but wonderful when done right.
Your last release, ‘Global Affairs/ Crack the Code & Remixes’ had such an eccentric espionage vibe to it. ‘Pink Skin’ is much more beachy. Is it simply winter versus summer moods or is there something more that accounts for the change in tone?
You’re probably onto something about seasonal behavior! If it isn’t literally the weather then it probably is the seasons of the soul. These songs were written and recorded while I was in a happier state of mind for sure.
I like the feedback intro of “Staring into the Sun.” And I think it’s fitting that the upbeat Blur style vocals sing lyrics which are nearly indecipherable. It reminds me of a joyously captivating moment in which a person quits caring about possible permanent damage and simply focuses on the temporal pleasure. Would you share a little regarding what the song is about?
It’s always cool to hear how others interpret songs.
‘Staring into the Sun’ was inspired by a zealot who rejected his beliefs, and then it kind of morphed into a break up song. Your interpretation fits pretty well! It’s just that post-joy permanent damage part that sucks, doesn’t it?
~Exactly! And that’s what keeps me on guard most of the time, the awareness of the consequences. Some moments remain extremely tempting though.
The tremolo in “Lipstick and Perfect Hair” infuses the song with a sense of insubstantiality. Like a wavering mirror on which you can’t quite fix your focus. The song says, “It’s not what you did, it’s what it said.” Then later, “It’s not what you said, it’s what you did.” I’m intrigued by the back and forth frustration, defensive yet convicted, concluding with, “It said you don’t care.” It’s somewhat dramatic. What movie character could be an icon for “Lipstick and Perfect Hair?”
I can’t name a character that won’t embarrass me later so I’ll reveal a bit more about the inspiration instead! I travel a lot and it seems like every airport has Fox News or CNN blasting into the gate areas. The song is about those talking heads transitioning from their serious news to banter and back again while suppressing their humanity. It’s my version of “Dirty Laundry.”
~Thanks. Now I’ve got Don Henley in my head, which is actually not such a bad thing. It always amazes me how news media can announce so many things in the same voice tone, as if all headlines are equivalent.
“Coming up next: The national debt tops sixteen trillion!!! And… Guess which Kardashian announces septuplets!!!”
It’s a little on the crazy side, especially when you consider which headline people would probably concern people more.
What’s next on the horizon for Hendrix?
I have a couple of videos I’m trying to wrap up for this EP. One is a cut-paper stop-motion animation so it’s taking longer than planned but I think it will be worth it. I’ve also started work on a new album inspired by these “New English” as I call them. I’m a transplant to New England so I’m still sizing up this place. I’m exploring the idea that geography and “sense of place” has a profound impact on the art you create.
From the Boston area I can point to Galaxie 500, Pixies, Throwing Muses, Swirlies and say that they had a “New English” sound. So the new record will sound New English, I hope. I’m planning to finish it by next Fall.
~I love the idea of the animation video. I’ve done slideshows set to music and the time that goes into them is always way longer than you expect, but once you’re finished, you have it forever. It’s worth it.