Listen to Ricky Eat Acid's New Album "Three Love Songs"
And peep our interview with the Maryland producer on Bruce Jenner, indie labels, and middle school rebellion.
Fuck your doom-and-gloom projections about the music industry's demise. If you want an operative model look no further than Ricky Eat Acid, a largely ambient project from Maryland's Sam Ray, which sold out it's pre-release vinyl run on the up-and-coming Orchid Tapes label in two days. To those 250 people who bought Three Love Songs without hearing it, you're in luck—it rules. Featherweight electronics, aching piano, snippets of speech, even a pitched up Drake sample swirl around in a stew of delicately rendered pathos. While many ambient records try to alienate the listener from a familiar emotional spectrum, these songs describe moments of recognizable, lived-in humanity.
For some reason I associate Ricky Eat Acid with this kid I was neighbors with growing up. I haven't seen him in years, I have no clue what he's like now, but I bet we're still vaguely similar because we came up in the same environment—Three Love Songs captures that relationship. Check out our exclusive stream below, and peep my interview with Sam on subjects including but not limited to Bruce Jenner, indie labels, and the difficulties of middle school weight gain.
Noisey: You've had a lot of success with independent label Orchid Tapes. How do indie labels even work these days?
Yeah I have no clue how indie labels operate now. Aside from my experiences with Orchid Tapes, I'd probably just answer 'not well'. They're all a mess. They all seem to be broke or be funded by some weird endless supply of money. I mean a lot of them are run by great people, but it's not sustainable at all. A lot are just like passion projects and they put out their friends' records with money they make from their main gigs in bands, licensing, work, whatever, and do it for fun or don't break even or operate at a loss forever. Others strive to be really great but in doing so fail because they do too much at once and go really in debt when a couple records fail, or through poor business decisions, or whatever.
This sounds kind of damning I guess but it's also just more praise for Warren, Brian, and everyone who contributes to Orchid Tapes. They run it incredibly well and while it's still a learning experience for everyone to whatever extent, they exist perfectly in the line between passion project and real label, in that they release music they love and put a lot of care and effort into making a beautiful physical product. They also run the business side of the label really well so things don't lose money constantly and make money to some extent.
I dont know how the heck we sold out the first run of records in like two days though. That was really unexpected and sweet and I guess speaks volumes to how much people trust the label and their taste.
What were you like in middle school?
I completely sucked it was awesome and I kind of want to go back just to relive how shitty I was. Or like, go back and laugh at it more knowingly. In 5th grade I got expelled for doing some fuckshit. In 6th grade I got really fat and then lost all the weight again, which is fine but it's probably the worst time to get really fat, even briefly. In 7th grade I stopped being expelled and grew really long, stupid greasy metalhead hair and wore pants with chains and Rage Against the Machine shirts everyday. Some kids made fun of me in an 'FYE' record store place in a mall. I had glasses that were permanently crooked and my hair covered them most of the way. By 8th grade I was playing in a really bad/sweet punk band (which was awesome) and all my friends were skaters but I couldn't skate so I just kind of ran along behind them. Also in 8th grade I almost got expelled again 'cause I got caught with a lot of weed the day before spring break started and got arrested in school. I didn't get expelled ultimately though and I stopped wearing pants with chains before highschool.
How long have you been making music? Tell me how you got started, and some major turning points for you along the way.
So that punk band in 8th grade was the first thing I ever did with music, I played guitar and my friend Antonio sang and played drums and it was cool. We recorded everything live with Garageband and no mics. Freshman year of highschool i started messing around with FL Studio, making really bad rap beats and joke 'techno' music that eventually evolved into this album sometime between 2005 and now. I guess it went from making like, bad joke music to like, bad Aphex Twin/Autechre knockoff stuff but with FL Studio preset sounds. I kept playing guitar and piano and taught myself drums and bass and how to sing and other stuff somewhere in there and played in some bands in highschool. I spent literally almost two whole years trying to figure out how to pirate Reason on my Macbook before just using Ableton Live anyway. Freshman year of college I got robbed and owed a guy a bunch of money so I collected a lot of the ambient/electronic/Aphex Twin & Black Moth Super Rainbow ripoff music I had been writing in my dorm and guilted people into buying copies of it on burned CDRs so I could pay him back. That's when i started using the Ricky Eat Acid name 'cause I figured people would be more likely to buy music if it had a real name attached. I didn't make nearly enough money to pay the kid back so I ended up selling my textbooks. I kept using the name though and the music slowly got less stupid and eventually I started putting it online for free and I'm still doing that. In 2011-2012 I did a lot of stupid stuff but by the time it was over I sat down to write this record instead and I'm really happy I did. Now I'm about to put it online for free too (or 'pay what you want' or whatever) but we got to do a bunch of 12"s for it and sold them all so that was really neat.
Where were you when you were making Three Love Songs?
All over the East Coast, though mostly Maryland and Philly. I would try and work on things whenever I could—if I had my laptop or a tape player or something or some keyboards I'd be playing around with samples or ideas and if not I'd just be trying to sketch out songs and figure out their shape and stuff. Driving a lot on tour with the band I'm in was actually really great for that. I spent a lot of time bored as hell thinking about how to put songs together and when it came time to do it for real a lot of the conceptual work was already done.
What did you use to make it?
Ableton Live mostly and Garageband. Audacity. Some tape players. A bunch of really cheap keyboards I have around. Casio SK1. Some other Casios and Yamahas and some pianos around and mostly a lot of help from my friends—playing strings, contributing vocals and other pieces to get sampled in songs. It was a group effort even though it's a solo project. Everyone was really down to help out both with recording together but also just sending me stems from things we'd worked on previously or they'd worked on on their own. I've always been conflicted about sampling but i kind of said fuck it when I started this record and we'll see what happens, but ultimately I stuck to mostly working with people I knew as the source for a lot of the music instead of reaching for samples to play with.
What are your biggest particular non-musical inspirations?
The woods and stuff. Trees. Rivers. That kind of shit. Not in a lame 'love the earth' way, just kind of hanging out alone when it's really cold and there are a lot of trees and being really bored but not having anywhere to go or anything to really do. It's a weird feeling. Or not sleeping and just kinda wandering around ugly suburbia and knowing everyone for the most part is dead asleep, or maybe doing weird shit but definitely not paying attention to you. You don't get that in cities or maybe you do and I haven't found it. I don't live in cities most of the time but it's always the thing I miss the most when I'm staying there. Going outside, whether you're somewhere more rural or just suburban but hearing nothing—maybe like, cars far away, wind, trees, animals occasionally, but mostly just pure creeping silence and that total overwhelming darkness where you can flick a lighter in front of you or shine a phone around or something and still see nothing.
Also drugs, whether or not I'm doing them and whether or not I'm advocating them at all or not. Just generally. Everything has been drugs I feel like in my life. Everyone I know has been on drugs forever. They're all strung out or they're just prescribed a million things. I've been both and currently I'm neither and it's great. But i'm still seeing so many people I grew up with or knew for years bouncing back into rehab right now, or just ending up prescription drug lifers on antidepressants or benzos and stuff. Same kind of weird empty haze as that nighttime feeling I mentioned. It's not a bad thing and i'm not trashing it. It's just always hanging around.
When and where is the ideal time and place to listen to Three Love Songs? What kind of person do you imagine listening to it?
I guess the answer to the last question kind of sums up the ideal place and maybe the ideal state too.
I would hope that cool, chill people listen to it, but I guess we'll see. Maybe like, alt dads. Or really fucking depressed single moms. Maybe Diplo. It would be chill if Diplo listened to it. Even if he hated it. That would just be chill regardless. Basketball players. Scott Disick. Any of the Kardashians really. Even Bruce. I love Bruce. His life is so sad and his ego is so big. I respect that. My mom hasn't heard it yet. I hope she likes it. Maybe the people that make GTA will hear it and pay me a lot of money to put a song in GTA 6 and then I can play GTA 6 while listening to my own music and feel both kind of cool and also kind of like a jerk. Any like, ad people should definitely listen to it. Licensing agents. Or people making expensive movies. People searching for that perfect song that fits that important scene just right. I will license you that song for some money.
Ezra Marcus is both kind of cool and kind of a jerk on Twitter—@ezra_marc