Austin-based psychedelic dance-pop artist Ty Richards dropped his debut full-length album, “Zillion” today, which brings a trippy blend of infectious grooves along with super-addictive hooks that keep the record spinning long after the music is over.
Congrats on the debut album! What events or what inspired you to release “Zillion”?
Ty Richards: Thanks, this has been a long time coming. It’s taken a couple years to finish this, but really it’s taken me 15 years to get my ass in gear, to knuckle down and release an album. I’ve been writing and recording for my whole life so it’s about freaking time! The magic vibe of Austin, TX was the creative catalyst for this whole album. I love this city with all my heart. When I moved here on a whim 2 and half years ago, the city instantly gave me an element of chillness and a creative shot-in-the-arm that I’ve never experienced. Also books like Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist and Steven Pressfield’s War of Art gave me that extra shove I needed to do what I was made to do.
All that, plus my amazing wife. She exposed me to some seriously great artists that I was too dumb to see on my own growing up. Guys like Prince, Stevie Wonder, David Byrne, Bill Withers, Al Green and Fleetwood Mac were just not in my musical vernacular until I met her. So, I’m glad I did. She was a huge inspiration as a human to me, but also as a fine connoisseur of pop and rock music.
What’s the message you hope your listeners gain from “Zillion”? Also, is there any meaning behind the album title?
Ty: The big thing I gained from making the record, and I still gain from hearing it now, is that if I can make fun of myself, then nobody can touch me. I’ve discovered there’s a type of invincibility that can happen through vulnerability. Also, the record has this certain brand of “dad rock” humor laced in it that is the perfect blend of smart and stupid. I think the world needs that kind of vibe right now. In a time where every single thing is offensive and serious, I want to make music that makes smiles happen; That’s a rarity. The record fucks with the idea of sci-fi, comic books and surrealism, but bridges the gap between that and the realities of human emotions like regret, joy, desire and nostalgia.
My ultimate hope is that it leaves people happy and more light-hearted, but also gives them an intensity that doubles as a release of intense sorrow and frustration. I’ve gone through some serious extremes, from lows like the death of my best friend, all the way to the crazy highs of knowing my unbelievable wife and having three beautiful daughters. Smiling and laughter is what makes me human. If I can’t smile and laugh through even the darkest things, then I’m not really alive.
I enjoyed the “Going Out for a Cigarette” music video. What made you take an animated direction with it?
Ty: I’ve always been a huge fan of that Tom Tom Club video for “Genius of Love” from the 80’s. It’s super busy with crazy hand drawn animation that doesn’t quite seem to make sense. Videos like that seem to explore the subconscious mind, and I was all about that when I was writing this record. I used all kinds of experimental methods to write these songs. Half of the lyrics on the album were created from “mumble tracks” which are basically non-sense translated into words, including “Going out for a Cigarette.” Plus, I grew up watching the Simpsons and I always loved those pilot episodes with the super crazy line-work. I had a really basic concept for the video which was “things that can’t be undone.” For example, you can’t uncrack an egg, or unexplode a bomb, or un-extinct a dinosaur. I like that some things in life are absolutely final. Done. Everything else was just an exploration from that. I made the drawings with a sharpie, scanned them in, added some annoying colors and added my childish, yet dadish humor.
What would you say was the most difficult part of making the album?
Ty: Finishing the damn thing. I loved recording it. I hated mixing it, but by the end I was glad that I mixed it. It took me twice as long to mix it as it did to write, record and produce the songs. Most songs took about 2-3 days per song of playing around until I found the sweet spot. “Uncle Ben” took me about 7 days to land on the write mix. I had done about 12 versions of it and ended up going back to mix number 2. That 90% mark always takes me forever to get past in anything that I do.
Who did you listen to growing up? Which musicians inspire you?
Ty: Led Zeppelin, The Toadies, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Third Eye Blind and Everclear were some of my big jams growing up. But, my biggest influences now are definitely James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, and there is definitely some “Midnight Vultures” / “Guero” era Beck in there too. I’m newer to Prince, Stevie Wonder, Al Green and some others, but they definitely played a huge role in this record.
What’s currently playing on your playlist?
Ty: Dang, a lot! I’m currently putting together a playlist for a new radio show I’m starting on March called Life on Mars with Ty Richards. The idea is that it will be a radio show for people who fucking hate listening to the radio. So, right now I’m listening to a lot of obscure tracks from popular rock artists like Zeppelin’s “Four Sticks” and The Beatles’ “Hey Bulldog.” And some super badass stuff that I see happening from this guy Arthur Joly Brazilian. I have a lot of fans from Brazil, Portugal and Spain that have turned me onto some insane music. Checkout his song called Só o esquisitão dança on the album called “O Punk Analogico.” But then I’m also really loving all the new stuff coming out Texas from the likes of my friends in Medicine Man, The Cuckoos, Whit. The Cuckoos singer is like a reincarnated Jim Morrison on steroids. Whit is like a Disney princess on acid. And honestly Medicine Man is one of the trippiest sounds I’ve heard in a long time. That’s it for now!
Check out Ty Richards’ music video of his single “Going Out for a Cigarette”!