Kurt Riley is an incredible musician and recording artist, who has made his name known throughout central New York. His “meta pop” and theatrical performances set him apart in the music scene in a huge way, but with his new single “FTR SHK” (pronounced “future shock”) on New Vine Records, Riley enters a new chapter, a Chrome Empire phase. To further solidify the change, Kurt Riley and his band are now kurt.riley+praxis.
The use of melody in the verses throughout kurt.riley+praxis’ song "FTR SHK” is a big part of what makes their sound unique. The vocal performance here has definite hard-rock energy to it, it’s a good moment within which listeners can get a clear and concise hold of the lyrics, the meaning behind the music, and at the same time feel a little closer to kurt.riley+praxis as a band. "FTR SHK” on the whole doesn’t come across as your average recording. Consistently there’s a strong presence of songwriting as opposed to just instrumental weight. The melody winds around in a simple and hypnotic manner during the verses, then there’s this brilliant build-up, the musical intensity beginning to rise, and then the spectacular hook and the resolve. The moment at which every element meets and the sound and the concept concludes and satisfies. The guitar riffs spiraling out of control towards the end keep the mind engaged and mesmerized, and then the final bit of vocals bring that pinnacle of emotion and passion. The way kurt.riley+praxis fuse creative songwriting and melody with this heavy edge is impressive and memorable. "FTR SHK” stays with you long after its end! There’s much more to come from kurt.riley+praxis, who will be releasing 10 singles through the coming year and leading into 2021.
Check out kurt.riley+praxis' music here
Hey kurt.riley+praxis! Great to be showcasing your new music on BuzzMusic! Tell us more about your start in the music world? How did the band form?
Lovely to make your acquaintance - thank you very much for having us. I've been working as a solo artist for a decade; my first record, Brighthead, was produced by Beyoncé/Run The Jewels collaborator BOOTS and his brilliant father, Steve Cruz. For my sophomore release, I composed a sci-fi concept album, called Kismet, which was highly acclaimed. Tabula Rasa, my third album, was released in 2017, and subsequently, I began releasing singles exclusively - three of them in 2018. This year saw the beginning of my newest thematic phase, Chrome Empire - cyberpunk rock and roll, futurist both in tone and subject matter.
My very first single from this phase, FTR SHK, was just released by my label, New Vine Records - and the response has been amazing!Ever since Brighthead, I've been blessed beyond comprehension to work with many brilliant musicians who have comprised the multiple iterations of my live and studio band. The current group is the best yet, and to honor their dedication and faith, I've rebranded as kurt.riley+praxis. (They deserve to be recognized!)
Do you believe that the way you intend to communicate your messages through your music is easily received by your listeners?
An artist certainly hopes so. From the responses I've received throughout the years, it appears that I've largely been successful; however, I do have a lyrics section on my website, just in case. (laughs) FTR SHK and the rest of the forthcoming Chrome Empire singles will push the limit in this regard, to be sure. But the topics at hand with this new material - climate change, AI, vast inequality, human/machine relationships - they're all either here, or on the horizon. To address them within the pop idiom is a unique opportunity.
“FTR SHK" was an incredibly versatile and catchy track. Where did you draw the inspiration to create this particular type of sound?
Thank you for your kind words. Principal musical inspirations are difficult to pin down - the work of Geordie Walker was certainly a key influence - but my general aim was to create a sound that sonically mirrored the brutality of the lyrics. New Vine Records was instrumental (ha) there - their production work on the track is utterly magnificent. We've gotten great compliments on the drum and synthesizer engineering, in particular.From a meta-perspective, I've wanted for years to retrofit the classic 1950s rock and roll combo for the 21st Century. So look at Bill Haley and The Comets - you've got a rhythm guitar, lead guitar, sax, upright bass, and drums. We're 4 pieces in kurt.riley+praxis, but we stripped down that archetypal chassis and rebuilt it in drydock with new upgrades - icy synth, deeply chorused guitar, growling bass, and drums that sound like miniature explosions. The backing vocals in the pre-choruses are even a bit rockabilly, really - one could picture a dystopian Blue Caps singing them. (laughs)
Can you dive into some of the lyrical depth within this new single?
FTR SHK contains more narrative information perverse than any piece I've composed thus far - even the cinematic tracks written for Kismet. Each line within the song cuts to another scene - it essentially creates the vision of this haunting future within one's mind. And each prognostication is drawn from real-life precedent; augmented reality's increasing prevalence, the rise of China's Orwellian social credit system, the troubling incel movement - followed to their logical conclusion, each of these real-life examples paints a dim picture of the years before us.
Thank you so much for chatting with us and letting us get to know you in the process! Do you prefer the more intimate recording process over live performance? How do you personally feel when you're performing your music live?
That is a Solomonic judgment for me. (laughs) I can't do without either half of the equation - the composition, arrangement, and recording of new material let my soul breathe, but performing those songs live puts an electric crackle across my skin. I've got to have them both. Performing live is one of the greatest pleasures I've ever known. (Even greater than a pint of Ben & Jerry's. Haha.) Just yesterday evening, we performed our last concert of the year in our hometown, and it was the greatest honor to hug and greet all of the people who came up to the stage to congratulate us after our performance had concluded. Connecting with another human being like that is truly a remarkable thing; I don't feel so alone on those nights. (No wonder I play so often!) Thank you very much for speaking with me - this interview was great fun. Cheers!