[INTERVIEW] Meet Ricoshëi: The Down-To-Earth Duo With Out-Of-This-World Talent
“Honesty is the most important thing. If you’re going back and editing your feelings, your words, your original vibe, it loses the whole essence of making music. You have to belch things out and stick to your instincts…”
I remember my Ricoshëi discovery miracle like it was yesterday: I was waiting for the G train at 2 am on a Tuesday (don’t ask), when “Perfect like You” started creeping up on the DJ Koze podcast I was listening to. My heartbeat started to sync to the beat, and when the vocals hit me my entire body felt like it was being embraced by something that cared.
Yeah. Like I said, a miracle.
Chances are, your first exposure to Ricoshëi was not so different from mine. Ricoshëi’s pivotal track, “Perfect Like You” has been garnering the hearts of zillions of listeners and labels at lightning speed since its release. But that was just the beginning. From new releases like “Tokubetsu” to the launch their new label, “Whats That?”, the pair has be brewing up quite a storm following their rise to the surface.
I had the chance to chat with Nikko and Jake of Ricoshëi at this year’s Mysteryland USA, and it clear that this talented, down-to-earth, and multifaceted duo has so much more to offer to the world in the coming days.
GL: How different is your mindset when you are performing on a festival stage verses a club scene?
Nikko: “First and foremost: we play different things. In festivals we do DJ sets or hybrid sets, which is basically a DJ set with instrumentation where we play other people’s music but add a little stuff on top—the drum rolls, the occasional singing. Sometimes even I’ll bust out covers. In the live shows we do completely original music or, as in today’s case, play remixes we have done. Festivals for the most part we do our live stuff because, you know, it’s more the vibe. The stages at clubs usually don’t permit for much instrumentation and space. They’re very constrained. Whereas places like this you can spread everything out. In a DJ set you have to kind of squish. We play a little bit faster in clubs—just a little bit, we don’t get that crazy. It also depends on the venue too. If it’s a more intimate venue we’ll play a little more conceptual electronica stuff; if it’s a thousand person club and you’re headlining then you have to pick it up a little bit.”
GL: Can you explain to me how you guys work together as a duo—in the studio as well as live?
Nikko: “We both do a bunch of different things. Live, Jake is triggering samples and all the elements and parts of the songs, as well as doing rolls, claps, effects and transitions. I do most of the instrumentation live in the studio. We both do a lot of everything; we make most of the music together. But sometimes we’ll split the work. In the “Tokubetsu” track, Jake wrote lyrics and most of the melody. “Perfect Like You” started out as a one take— not the final recording— but essentially 90% of the track came out like belch you know? It was a long night of drinking and….let’s just leave it at that.”
GL: And that became your most popular track?
Nikko: “We weren’t thinking about making a hit track to be honest. It was more about getting it out there because—I think every artist goes through this— there are situations in your personal live that result in these kinds of outburst. I was pretty much rolling around on the floor when I was recording the original version of the song.”
Jake: “A lot of the melody was there, but it wasn’t necessarily the specific lyrics. We used the original recording as a guide so we know what it sounds like, and we’ll work on making the lyrics together”
Nikko: “Sometimes I’ll come to the studio and Jake will be like check out this beat/bass line and I’ll just take it from there. Sometimes I’ll come into the studio and I’ll play something on the piano with vocals: a basic sound structure, not even a techno or a house jam—it’s a pop jam essentially. You know? You have your verse, your chorus, your pre-chorus, your outro, and then rearrange everything. Every song is different.”
GL: How did you two meet?
Jake: Originally he was in another band—like, a band-band. And he wanted to do a show with some friends at the viper room in LA. We actually played together a couple of times over one weekend, since I did some events in LA as well. We rendezvous-ed in Detroit, then it turned out that we lived next to each other in LA. Eventually we were walking to each other’s places and working on music in our little home studios.
I feel like “Perfect Like You” was a blessing…But at the same time, we were doing all kinds of music before that. And all of a sudden you put a song out and it’s a pop song that, within our body of work, was something that wasn’t necessarily what musically identified before we released that.
GL: You guys have risen to the public eye after the release of “Perfect Like You” via DJ Koze’s Pampa Records. Can you walk me through how you/your music has developed following this level of exposure?
Nikko: “I feel like “Perfect Like You” was a blessing, but at the same time it made things a little bit more difficult, in a way. It’s obviously a blessing in a sense that we got a lot of exposure. We’ve gotten a lot of opportunities that we are extremely grateful for. But at the same time, we were doing all kinds of music before that. And all of a sudden you put a song out and it’s a pop song that, within our body of work, was something that wasn’t necessarily what musically identified before we released that. We were working on music for two to three years and we’ve got a lot of music that’s coming out soon, but it doesn’t necessarily sound anything like “Perfect Like You”. Your fans are expecting sounds that are not so different. If you’re a band that’s established for 10 years you can go out and do whatever you want. Like, if you’re Radiohead, you do something that people can relate to and then you go out and do “Kid A” kind of crazy stuff. But we started out with the crazy stuff. And all of a sudden this not crazy song got picked up by Koze and now it’s kind of like ‘hm maybe we shouldn’t release this right now’. So we’re holding onto a lot of music that we’re going to have to release at the right time. It forced us to go back to the studio and kind of reevaluate and make a gradient for our fans because you have to strategize about what you have to put out. “Perfect Like You” was a love ballad. You go back and you make a song like “Fantasy” and that’s not a love song but it still has that pop-y vibe, but you’re still kind of going a little bit out of that expected zone. And maybe the next release will be even less of that and maybe a few releases later, after we get crazier, we release some weird shit. Then we’ll go back and release another love song if the time is right or if we feel like it.”
Jake: It’s hard. You don’t want to pigeonhole yourself into one genre because the thing is that we were making such a wide spectrum of stuff and that [Perfect Like You] was the first one that stuck. So everyone is going to have an expectation of what we’re putting out so we can’t put out our entirely weirdo stuff right afterwards. If we do, people will be like ‘what did they do?!’So there’s a lot of strategy. Even the method of how we create. Before it used to all over the place. Now it’s in a specific vein and we’ll do something more commercial or accessible. So now it’s a little back and forth now.
Nikko: “So that’s why it’s a little bit hard in that sense. But like I said the pros far outgain the cons.”
GL: So did any of this effect the birth of your New Music Label What’s That?
Nikko: Anything that is way too crazy for the labels, we’ll probably put it out on our label— that was the whole point of making What’s That?. You have to fit into certain aesthetics when working with different labels. We have a release coming out on Monday on Kitsuné, and that’s one kind of sound. And there is the Pampa release. And then there is whatever else we got in the works in the next few months. But everything kinda has to fall into the label, and they have to approve it. And many times believe it or not they ask ‘can you change this a little bit?’ With our own label, we can just put it out there.
GL: If you were to sum up your philosophy in music into a single sentence, what would it be?
Jake: “It’s gotta come from the heart”
Nikko: “It’s gotta be honest. Honesty is the most important thing. If you’re going back and editing your feelings, your words, your original vibe, it loses the whole essence of making music. You have to belch things out and stick to your instincts and follow your guts.”