Let’s get “Sexistential.”
I had the chance to speak with the magical and mysterious indie-electronic duo, RKCB, or also known as Riley Knapp and Casey Barth, to hear beyond the music that they put out. Our conversations trekked various topics that provided a crazy and fun momentum for the interview. Whether discussing their music and recent releases, or their favorite songs, spirit animals, ideal days, and hidden talents, the guys had plenty to share.
If you want an act that can do it all, then here they are. This is a band built from scratch, all home-made, and based on the most organic and raw ingredients to create the soundscapes that penetrates through our bodies and electrifies our nerves leading to the most stunning sensations. Mixing their talents of sound and voice, this rhythmic production duo is the whole package.
For those who are not familiar with their music, there’s something in the way they comfort and arouse all in one riff and are able to compose a beat in an array of chaotic instrumentals, that are just remarkable. They’re the perfect example of over the top without being obnoxious. They’re overwhelming in the most exciting way, and their music manages to send chills down your spine. They posses an energy that ebbs & flows to the progression of their hypnotic music.
What is RKCB music, you ask? It’s music that actually permeates through the speakers and physically touches you.
The guys started off letting me know where they originated from. Knapp is from Phoenix, Arizona and Barth from Boston, Massachusetts. As I spoke with them, I got to know a little more about the genesis of this pairing, which Knapp explained had happened as kind of an accident. “RKCB kind of happened with us meeting in school, writing one song, which was “Comatose”, deciding to put it up online, and it built some heat from there…” Both coming from thoughtful, experienced musical backgrounds, this enabled the guys to better understand each other. With Knapp in a few bands and Barth working on solo projects, the two came to a collision that burst into something larger than life.
When I asked them where they got the notion for their sound, Barth went into this profound dialogue of how their inspirations stemmed from having a fond connection to the music of artists like James Blake and Rhye, and other “emotionally potent and visceral music and electronic sounds”. But he also then realized that the last decade has consisted of some major EDM/Pop, high energy movements as well and saw it more as an opportunity to bring those worlds together and make something entirely new. “We thought about what’s going to compliment the song, the lyrics, and what sounds are going to put the listener into this world that we want to create.”
Barth continues on with this kind of knowledgeable acceptance of what they have defined their music as, and with a settled mind explains “we’re both trained on multiple instruments- we’re both drummers first- and finding some really unique sounds is something we love to do all the time. Take natural sounds of piano, drums, guitars, anything that sounds like the instrument, whatever, and then take that instrument and manipulate it and turn this into something almost unrecognizable, so that can turn the mystery into almost something like this world that then when you write a song it can be a really visceral experience.”
The hot rhythmic-exotic sounds that RKCB produces are riveting compositions made to move the body. In that same vein, the guys noticed that as a result of their music, a whole dance community was in fact in motion from their songs, and so it only seemed right to dedicate a piece to all the choreographers and dancers who felt their records. As a result, the three-part epic visual ‘Alone, With You’ was designed. How the whole video concept for the three songs in this visual escapade came about was from the collaboration with the creative directing and production duo called Cue the Bird, and it stemmed from this place of the dance collective’s inspiration. (You can read more about the video HERE, and watch it below.)
“It’s pretty crazy how the dance community reacts to our music and puts out videos all the time and we’re blown away by that whole thing…So, Cue the Bird came up with this whole crazy fucking thing, and it was this gorgeous narrative idea, that went along with those three songs, and it was kind of everything we were hoping and envisioning for”, Knapp adds on.
Just the fabrication of this whole concept is majestic af, and these sexistentialists were able to bring these three songs (“Vice”, “Bloom”, and “Naive”) of erotic beauty to life. What is sexistentialism you ask? Allow the guys to explain their philosophy…
“It’s funny, Riley actually came up with it. We were trying to come up with what was a single word or phrase that would capture the mood of our sound and our songs”, and at first Barth wasn’t too sure of the term, in fact “I [Barth] really didn’t like it, and I was just like ‘ah, let’s think on it,’ and it was just one of those things that stuck with me for the next couple days, and I honestly actually totally forgot about it, and then I had thought that I had come up with it at some point, so I came back to him and was like ‘dude, what about sexistential?’ and he was like ‘I just pitched that like two days ago’, so that’s when we knew, oh ok cool we’re both coming from the same place, it just felt right… It’s something that can grow too, it doesn’t just mean one thing to us and it can be many different moods.”
Knapp then chimed in, “ya, the whole point of our music is basically we want to be different in the writing and we want to feel different and sound different and we want to be just overall a completely unique experience to what listeners are used to. And I think we’re trying to do that by adding a little bit more depth and a little bit more, not vagueness, but hide a little bit more normal and natural feeling behind these more complex and abstract things, so that you kind of have to dig deeper, but once you get there it’s worth it, for this whole unique experience, and it means whatever it means to you.”
At the end of the day, the guys want to be able to connect with people, and more importantly, connect worlds and people that would normally not meet nor would go out of their way to communicate. They want to build the conversations. “The reality is we’re all going through generally similar stuff, we can really feel pretty similar things at the heart of it, and all we want to do is make the bridge to connect those feelings, connect those dots, because what we found is that we want to bring a certain amount of emotional intelligence to our listeners through our songs, so people feel safe listening to our songs and can bring themselves to say, ‘you know, that is actually how it’s feeling, and I’m wanna stick by that.’ And maybe it’s not a hashtag and maybe it’s not a fucking social media post, but it’s something deeper and something we can all actually have a discussion about.”
On that same level of respect and understanding, the guys delineated what the best aspects of being a duo truly is to them. At the start of it all, Knapp and Barth were a songwriting-production duo, and so that meant meeting a lot of people, or as Knapp put it “blind-dating”, and having that person by your side through the process was the best part for them. “Just being able to go through that with someone is super valuable. We both write and we both produce, so we kind of tag team it, and there’s not as much fatigue, and there’s a little bit more energy, and a little bit more camaraderie as opposed to just going to a creative situation, you know kind of risking that.”
Barth further explains Knapp’s last point, “You definitely get to take more risks because you’re bouncing ideas off the wall and if something doesn’t work for that particular session or the vibe is just different, depending on who’s doing what, you can always switch it off.” With the amount the two have done together already, it is not surprising that they understand when it is the right direction they are hoping to pursue and when it just isn’t and that things need to change. RKCB consider themselves completely self-sufficient in terms of writing, producing, performing, mixing and mastering. “It both helps and hurts us because we get a little bit in our heads sometimes.” Barth chuckles and then the two laugh, as if they are reflecting back on these instances.
Throughout the conversations between the three of us, you can’t help but notice the joy and synchronization between the two, who seem to affirmatively recognize that they are two individuals, bound by one passion. Being so fervent about their music, there can be moments when they reach an intensity of making sure that what they hear individually and collectively, is what they want the product to be. “I think there’s this third brain between us that we both understand what that is”.
I challenged the producers to then describe each other using one word, which caused quite a hysterical uproar. The two thought hard, laughing and cursing as they were searching for the perfect adjectives. Knapp then came to the conclusion, deeming Barth as “deliberate”. Following that, Barth distinguished Knapp as a combination of two words “active” and “passionate”.
The guys have recently released a single with the former Disney channel star, and the now budding alt-pop artist, Bridgit Mendler, on a track titled “Diving“. The song actually landed a spot in the ever-so-popular Spotify New Music Friday playlist, and they explained that it was one of the most fluid, fastest experience with a song. Another shocking note about the track was that the vocals in the finished product are just the demo vocals that they had originally received from Bridgit’s team! No alterations!
“We find that often too that there’s sometimes a magic in that room, in that moment, at that time, when we’re writing a song that it’s so fresh that you haven’t been able to overthink it and sometimes you just write the song and cue the vocals and there’s a magic in that room… ‘Naive’ was like that too”.
They then mentioned the benefits of being an independent artist.
“At a label there’s so many different people so many opinions and you have to get it this way, and a lot of the time a demo or a demo vocal might be the right move and it’s whatever the right emotions and stuff are then.”
The band has worked with other great artists on some amazing collaborations, such as Opia, Steve James, and Ariana and the Rose.
I always love asking weird questions for their artists to describe their music by, and so I had to ask the question of what spirit animal would their music be if they could define it as such, to which Knapp seemed to be pretty confident about a Centaur. ha!
Next came the question of from all of these incredible singles they have released, which would be their favorite? It seemed as though the boys knew the answer to this one already.
“Mine is definitely ‘Elision’” says Barth calmly and thoughtfully. “‘Elision’ I like ultimately because that was the third song we ever wrote together; it was the first song we wrote together that I was just like ‘alright, fuck it, I’m gonna take a lot of risks and see what happens and see if it’s cool’ and just pushed my writing boundaries as much as possible.” You can really hear that in the single. “It was definitely kind of like an experiment for me, and then it turned into kind of this thing that we really fell in love with, and then it got brought to life when we started playing it live. Like it was kind of like a ‘sleeper track’ in terms of people listening to it, but it had a cult following of its own. For a small group of people, that was a favorite song of theirs but it definitely wasn’t the song that people know us for…then once we started playing it live and it became this like funk jam in the middle of our set and it just lit the whole place up and I kind of just fell in love with that moment”.
Knapp then expresses the love for his song choice. “Of our release songs, mine is “Baptize”. We have one coming up that’s been my personal favorite for a while, so that’s going to change my answer, but for now it’s “Baptize”. I remember it was so different from “Comatose”. I remember sending it to my mom and totally thinking she was going to shit on it” he chuckles a bit and jumps back in “and then she responded ‘this is amazing!’ and I was like ‘wait, you like it?!’
His voice begins to fill with an air of excitement, like a kid in a candy shop, “I really liked it and I remember think like ‘how did this happen? How did me and Casey make this song?”
The guys who are in synch with each other for almost every tune, to create these stunning tracks that fill the spaces and voids with sound, admitted that much of their success comes from the loyalty and trust between each other and their bandmates. “We have an amazing band, there’s this level of trust that no matter what happens, we’re going to be good. Ya it helps, I’ve actually known our drummer since we were in high school. There’s this total, trust total respect and then there’s just this raw passion that comes out in all of us and you know we all have different projects going on, but then we get on stage it’s really a unique experience.”
Aside from the fact that RKCB is always surprising us with their music, we find even more fun facts about Barth’s hidden talent! “haha, they [fans] might already know this, but when people ask me ‘what would you be if you couldn’t play music or if I were to be something else?’ I’d be a bartender. I love making craft cocktails.” He bashfully starts to laugh at himself and his other art, but you can totally tell he really does love it. “Some people are worried how passionate I am about it.” RKCB even prepared drinks for their Spotify session show in Boston a few months back, sad I missed out on that!
So, I had to know, how would the perfect days for the guys go?
“I would wake up, drink coffee (it just immediately appears in my hand), and I’m actually staying in an AirBnB that’s on top of a mountain, and I walk out and there’s a paragliding instructor there. He’s like ‘hey man, we’re gonna go down to the beach’, and then we paraglide down to the beach, and then we drink on the beach and grill… and that actually sounds really nice right now, I’m getting lost in it.”
He sighs with longing.
“Paragliding onto a beach grilling.”
Barth then jumps in, painting the pictures of his own getaway day. “I’d wake up”, he takes a moment to ponder where he will be and then says, “actually, probably at my house, where I am right now. I actually like where I am, I like my house. I’d come out, and put on some music, some ambient electronic music to help wake me up in the morning, and then pour myself some homemade cold brew, and walk out to my lemon tree, pick out some lemons, line up some cocktails for the day, and maybe go out to some local spot and have brunch or something. Then I’d come back and…” he thinks more and then comments “and maybe grill, grilling sounds really nice and making cocktails. Ya, hang outside, in the garden, taking care of my plants.”
Pretty idealistic, huh? They know how to chill; they’d be pretty fun to hang with.
With excitement, the guys were happy to relay the information that their upcoming single is part of a bigger sort of project that they are going to be talking about in the coming weeks, but it’s going to be a twist on their old stuff that will garner a fresh, unique EP for listeners to explore. So far, they have hinted to us that it should be releasing in a month. So, that is something to look forward to!
Listen to their music below: