Collin Thomas, the dynamic force behind Rich Boy Junkie, began his melodic journey right from his college bedroom in Bloomington, Indiana. This genesis was defined by an electronic aura, with his debut LP "Shut Up, Already!" and subsequent EP "Neoteny and the Grand Gesture," both released in 2017, showcasing his nascent production flair. Amid classes and examinations, Thomas, armed with his laptop and ad hoc live band, enlivened the campus with his spirited performances.
The tides shifted when Thomas resettled in Chicago, his birthplace. Within the familiar walls of his parent's home, he birthed his second album, "Illinois, You're Killing Me." Departing from his earlier electronic venture, this album embraced a potent blend of emo and folk influences, its composition echoing with raw live instrumentation. However, the allure of the west coast proved irresistible and in 2019, Thomas, now an LA resident, worked on "The Happy Face," a sonic nod to the electronic roots of Rich Boy Junkie.
2020 and 2021 marked crucial milestones for Rich Boy Junkie as the music theory evolved and the line-up expanded. The band’s transition to a full-bodied, live sound was marked by the "Senior Portrait" EP and "Have Fun in the Sky." The latter album is particularly noteworthy as it introduced the talented Jazz Gaudet on drums and marked the inaugural RBJ release to feature players apart from Thomas. It was also the first to boast a physical release, thanks to the support of an engaged fanbase. As Nick Kinney, Brian Berger, and Sam Prevost joined the band, the line-up swelled to a robust five-piece ensemble, further enriching the band’s sonic palette.
The band's latest offering, “Downtown,” released in April 2023, is a collaborative piece and a reverential nod to LA's psychedelic, folk, and desert rock legacy. The sonic nostalgia that permeates this single is an homage to the diverse American songbook, echoing the rich heritage of early country artists and the Grateful Dead. It's the kind of song that sends you on a journey to a '60s love fest, enticing you with the sweet waft of guitar melodies and a voice so pleasant that you feel floating on a cloud of harmony.
"Downtown" wraps you in the warm embrace of a classic rock ballad, enveloping you with the strength and confidence of Thomas's vocals. It's as if every note he hits pulses with raw power and conviction. The background vocals caress your ears, harmonious and smooth, while the guitar weaves a tapestry of nostalgia. And when the direct, splashy drum beats kick in, it's like a punchy burst of energy that elevates the entire song.
The lyrics of "Downtown" are akin to a heartfelt letter that traces an intimate journey. It weaves a tale of changing cities and weather, of a rush hour on 8th Street, and recollections of the White Plains. It probes, questions, and muses on the dynamics of an urban space with a refrain that begs the question, "Did downtown let you go?" This piece isn't just a song; it's a sentiment, a memory, and an experience that lingers long after the last note has faded.
"Downtown" is an auditory joyride, a ballad spun from the threads of emotion and experience, shaped by the eclectic influences of a band that has traveled the rocky road from electronic to emo to classic rock. The ever-evolving sound of Rich Boy Junkie is a testament to the band's adaptive resilience.
Welcome to BuzzMusic Rich Boy Junkie! Kudos to capturing nostalgia on "Downtown," which reflects a rose-tinted essence reminiscent of the classic rock era. Can you share more about how this particular song encapsulates your influences and what inspired you to infuse this retrospective vibe in "Downtown?" Thank you so much! It was written as an homage to the type of music I grew up listening to, mostly through my parents. They were big country heads, but I was also constantly hearing bands like The Allman Brothers, the Eagles, and Bob Seger. That classic sound of 70's rock in America was "lame" to me when I was younger, mostly because teenagers like to be contrarians about what their parents like. I've gravitated more and more to that music as I've gotten older. Then during the heat of the pandemic, I watched the Scorsese documentaries about The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue tour. After that, I dove heavily into Dylan and The Dead, and a renewed love for all those other bands came with it. "Downtown" was one of the first things I wrote during that phase, and it came from my wanting to write a song that had that same quality. The lyrics of "Downtown" seem to weave a narrative that includes elements of travel and movement, with themes of home and identity juxtaposed with the city's energy. Could you delve into what influenced the songwriting process for "Downtown" and the story you aimed to tell? "Home" has always been an incredibly influential concept to me. I write many songs about where I live and where I have lived because the places where you spend your life greatly impact your perspectives. I love where I grew up and have been very fortunate to gain so much from every city I've been able to call my home. With "Downtown," I wanted to step away from that thematically and think about the places I could have gone but chose not to. Drawing more from that 70's rock stuff, particularly with The Dead, you get a lot of travelling songs about the journey of being on the road. I visited one of my best friends in New York, and I used to hate New York. But she showed me this amazing side of the city that I had never experienced as a tourist, and it made me start to love it. So I started playing this "alternate universe" game in my head, toying with the idea of a version of me that moved to New York five years ago instead of California. The song became that internal monologue, in a sense, of "LA Collin" talking to "New York Collin" and trying to analyze if those paths will ever cross. "Downtown" features a distinct guitar melody and direct, splashy drum beats harmonizing with the vocals. Can you walk us through your creative process in composing the musical arrangement for "Downtown?" How did you balance the various instrumental elements to create this cohesive sound? The guitar riff came first, which is definitely abnormal for me. It was one of those parts that I would play on guitar over and over again, and it actually became something I would play to check my tuning. It lived separately from the progression of "Downtown" for a long time. I was working through it with RBJ bassist (and my then-roommate) Nick Kinney in our living room when I put them together for the first time, and it was two completely separate thoughts that fit like a glove. The rest of the song really is a testament to not only Nick but also guitarists Brian Berger and Sam Prévost and drummer Jazz Gaudet. We did the basic tracking the day we learned the song, and it was just an amazingly productive session. Everyone stepped in and knew the assignment, probably because the song was rooted in such a familiar sound. So much of it was just instinct, and the glue for me was that I lucked into having access to a 12-string electric Rickenbacker on the day. Being able to channel that chiming, Byrds-esque sound for the lead parts made it feel genuine. I added in the piano and organ afterwards (because all great songs from that era have killer key parts), and Jazz built this amazing Beach Boys-style harmony to fill it all out. Everything came together so naturally, and feeling that consistent throughline when we made it was really special.
"Downtown" is a classic festival anthem, invoking images of everyone being in love at a '60s gathering. Considering the social and cultural shifts since that time, what message do you want to convey to the modern audience through the metaphor of "Downtown?" First off, that's super kind of you to say. Putting this song into that kind of context is meaningful to me because that intention does sit beneath the surface of this song. My outlook on life can be very fatalistic at times. I think everyone has their path, and every part of your journey is a square on your checkerboard. I feel like things happen for a reason, and when I face conflict, I try to remind myself that it all comes out in the wash. Our world is complicated, challenging, and fickle. Our country and human culture both work the same way - they're cyclical, and people have created amazing things and terrible situations with shocking variability. "Downtown" as a whole, to really simplify the message, is about accepting both sides of that coin. It is about taking opportunities and risks as they present if the time and place feels right, but also knowing when to sit in comfort with what you have at that moment. That might be a super vague "nothing" answer, but the song's thesis comes from me doing and seeing everything I can experience without beating myself up if it fails. I brought it up before but chose to move to California five years ago. If I had opted to instead move to New York, stay in Chicago, or some unspoken "Option D," I would be a wildly different person. So if this song has one pointed message for the audience, it's that I think you owe yourself some leeway and patience while accepting that your journey is your own unique experience. Revel in that because it's why you are unique to every other person. All of your triumphs and screw-ups combine to make you who you are, and you should wear all of that in big, bold letters. As we look forward to your future releases, how do you envision "Downtown" shaping your forthcoming creative direction? Will we see more homages to the past or a new fusion of influences that could redefine the sound of Rich Boy Junkie? I really think this song came together in such an easy and satisfying way that I am really hoping it's a sign of things to come instead of a flash in the pan. This was the closest thing I've felt, creatively, to capturing lightning in a bottle in a long time. I really love how it turned out, and the response has been super positive. That all in mind, the direction for this song informed quite a few tracks rattling around right now. One song, "River Call," is one of my favorite things I've ever written. So I'm not done with this angle just yet. I'm not working nearly as fast as I did when I was 19, but I think that's a good thing. 2022 was the first year since the band started that we didn't release anything, and I think that's made me a little more intentional about the process. "Downtown" was written with a collection of songs in mind, so my hope is that those other ones get packaged up and sent off into the digital ether soon enough. At the same time, I've been writing a lot of songs that go back to Rich Boy Junkie's roots of synths and drum machines that will feel almost antithetical to what "Downtown" is. It's always a bit of a toss-up for me, but what I can say is that working on this song stoked that fire again. More than anything, I'm excited to be back on this journey.