Q&A: Dead Rider

Dead Rider: The Raw DentsDead Rider: The Raw Dents (Tizona, 5/23/11)

Dead Rider: “Mother’s Meat”

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In 2009, Chicago-based rock group D. Rider released its debut album, Mother of Curses, on Tizona Records. Since then, the former three-piece (Todd Rittman, Andrea Faught, and Noah Tabakin) evolved into a four-piece, with Matt Espy on drums (who replaced the originally recruited drummer, Theo Katasaounis), and changed its truncated name to Dead Rider. The newly christened band’s rapport fostered more elaborate multi-instrumentation and collaborative composing, allowing Rittman, Dead Rider’s founder and former member of US Maple and Singer, to produce his rhythmic grooves on a more complex scale.

Dead Rider’s sophomore album, The Raw Dents, signifies the band’s newfound dynamics, with layered guitar/bass/drum, trumpet and saxophone blows, and the occasional interlude of supplementary sound. Rittman’s voice, which could be considered an instrument in itself, is distinct, versatile, and unavoidably haunting at times, adding to the album’s texture, as it adjusts with the intended mood of each track. The Raw Dents maximizes the fundamental elements of rock and balances psychedelia, noise, and synths with Dead Rider’s hard-driving sound.

We spoke with Rittman about the progression of Dead Rider’s lineup, its influence on the band’s music, and its latest record.

What did you hope to accomplish with D. Rider that you didn’t/couldn’t with US Maple?

Mostly to keep making music. The music for both bands functions on its own natural evolution and doesn’t prescribe to some set agenda. I would say, though, looking at Dead Rider’s evolution, we seem to be concerned with groove and space a little more. This band has a few more options for the creation of both groove and space, considering the multi-instrumental skills of the band. Also, everyone in the group has learned the all-important skill of restraint—something we exploit a great deal.

How did you originally choose D. Rider’s partners in crime, and how have their inclusions affected your songwriting dynamics?

Andrea and I met while playing with Cheer-Accident together. Then we started jamming a little on the side in a goofy cover band of sorts. We actually met Noah when he was rehearsing at a club where we were waiting to do a soundcheck.  He was really going for it at the rehearsal, and it made quite an impression on me. We met Matt at a D. Rider gig. His band, Avagami, was opening, and his drumming blew me away.

Initially, Matt’s position in the band was intended to be temporary, but what did he offer D. Rider that instigated the decision to make him a permanent member?

He immediately grasped the aesthetic direction we are going in, and he learned all of the material incredibly quickly. We knew it would be a serious challenge, and he rose to the occasion. Matt is a great musician and has become a dear friend. All that, and the fact that Theo was stretched way too thin to meet our expectations.

What’s the deal with the name change?

I really got tired of the inevitable question about the name D. Rider. Boy, did that ever backfire. Now everyone asks why we changed it. Oh, well.

You’ve said that you want to “excite the senses,” and several tracks on The Raw Dents include sounds such as barking dogs, mad laughter, and terrified shouts.  What reactions do you hope to elicit with these?

The sounds you mentioned are all sounds that I’m trying to balance between a literal context (i.e. the way they relate to a theme expressed in the lyrics) and a rhythmic one. These specific examples all have a push/pull effect on the groove that they exist in, setting up a clash between the beat and those naturalistic sounds.

How have your lyrical inspirations and thematic imagery changed between The Raw Dents and your last album, Mother of Curses?

Mother of Curses mostly dealt with ideas of my own corruption juxtaposed against scenes from the world at large. The Raw Dents keeps the layered approach, but is involved with the themes of paranoia and control.

What other instruments and sounds will the future Dead Rider explore?

All of them, eventually, I’m sure.

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