Small Talk: RACHEL RIES

Who are you and what do you do:
I’m Rachel Ries. Rachel Kay Ries, to be exact. Product of South Dakota, youthful boredom on the prairie, the Mennonite church and a beautiful family. I’m a musician, obsessed with songs that make me feel – both creating them and finding them and pressing repeat. I seem to always be on a hunt for catharsis and some sense of understanding. I’m also mad about kitchens and home-tending, cooking for more than one and making preserves. My mom taught me the importance of a well-stocked pantry.

Current obsessions:
Good espresso and, especially, cortados. Finding raw milk on tour. Comedy podcasts. Spring is coming! Horn sections.

A song or a record that will always put you in a good mood, without fail:
Die Trying – Cee-lo Green. Although it’s probably not perfectly accurate to say it puts me in a good mood, it fills me up each time, makes me stand a bit taller and opens up a well of faith when I’ve lost it. Oh man. If you don’t know this song, GO GET IT. And listen. There’s an awful lot in there. (or Robyn’s Body Talk. heck yeah!)

Tell us about an album or artist you think is really under-appreciated, and why they are deserving of more praise:
Oh my goodness Christine Fellows. Who writes a better stranger short story song? No one, that’s who. Her songs make my heart feel like a balloon.

Most played track on your iTunes:
Martha Ann – David Karsten Daniels. Infectious! That whole album: Fear of Flying. Best album all about death. (most plays closely followed by The Notwist, Jeremy Messersmith & Zeus)

Most cherished musical object:
My Mennonite Hymnal. And my piano. They belong together, see?

Proudest moment:
Oooh tough…. The making of my new record, Ghost of a Gardener, was peppered with fiercely proud moments. Giddy-determined-realized moments as I KNEW I was finally making the music I needed to make. A series of proudest moments. Sticking to my guns and having us retrack “Holiest Day” sans click-track and hearing it blossom into itself. Sitting in the control room the first time we heard “Ghost” at minute 3:12 – the catharsis, the crash, the key change. Sleepily sitting down to write the off-kilter countermelody on that same song and knowing, somehow, it was perfect. Hearing the infectious horn line in “Words” finally actualized after months of it just creating a ruckus in my head. The making of the entire record was me standing taller and taller and trusting myself.

Most vulnerable moment:
Yikes. Do I have to? I’ll slightly sidestep this one to honestly say that most all my songs are an exercise in necessary vulnerability. Every show, as well. I don’t do well with artifice or posturing. I am solidly scarily vulnerably me throughout the creative process. Therein lies one of my greatest strengths so, scary as it is day in day out, I don’t believe I’ll change it. (However, maybe I could use a side project where I wear spandex and sparkles and prance around singing about everything I’ll never know).

If you could score a film for anyone, who would it be any why:
Jim Jarmusch. I don’t know if I could ever do his work justice but it’d be such a thing to aspire to! It goes back to my quest for songs that make me FEEL. His films fill much the same emotionally unavoidable space for me.

Your favourite use of a song in a film:
Ok, if I thought about this for an age longer I’d probably come up with a headier more highbrow answer but the two moments that really stuck in recent years are both from Drive. The night-thick beginning of the film is just mesmerizing. The slow pace, the hypnosis, the carlights, the drive the drive the drive. It could go on for years. The song is “Nightcall” by Kavinsky & Lovefoxxx. And let’s not forget later in the film as he’s beating the shit out of someone in the elevator. Blood and fury fly as a soaring strange orchestral “O My Love” tenderly looks down from above (or maybe looks away). By Riz Ortolani, sung by Katyna Ranieri. Chilling juxtaposition as you watch wide-eyed horrified. “…as the stars must fade away to give a bright new day.”

Favourite venue to play in and why:
There’s this small big-hearted spot in Iowa called Cafe Paradiso. I’ve played there for years and no other shows are quite like it – an audience of people who listen with their hearts entirely open. Each show there is this crazy exchange of energy — I give them all I have, they fully receive and send that receptivity and energy right back. And it carries on, looping along all evening. Truly a dear place.

Dream venue to play in and why:
Y’know, I’d love to play Radio City Music Hall again but this time as ME. That’d feel pretty rad. I was in a friend’s band (Anaïs Mitchell) and we opened for Bon Iver there which was totally scary-great but I’d love to play my own songs on that stage. Let’s make it happen! That and Conan O’Brien… or Jimmy Fallen. Or Sesame Street!

First band t-shirt you ever purchased from a merch table:
Wow I don’t believe I ever have! First band shirt I bought, though, was most likely REM. I wonder where it went…? A beautiful pale peach soft Life’s Rich Pageant shirt…

Band you’d leave your bandmates for:
Justin Timberlake! JT – I’ve got so much to give! While that’d be wild fun man oh man I’d probably step away for the chance to play with Joan as Policewoman. Those hooks, that voice, that style… Unbeatable.

Album you want to expose your kin to whilst in the womb:
EVERYTHING. I want them to hear it all! From Chopin to the Carpenters to Tom Waits to Lhasa to Blitzen Trapper to the best hymns ever and Robyn. I want them to enter the world knowing that music is unstoppable and ever-changing and more than we can ever imagine.

If for some reason you lost the ability to make and play music, what would fill that gap:
I find home to be intensely creative. From gardening and preserving to painting a wall to knitting some new mittens to making a quilt to having a few friends over for a dinner party. If I could live my days pattering through the house, immersed in the domestic arts and entertaining, I’d be pretty damn happy. Currently, music has eclipsed all that and, honestly, it’s pretty hard sometimes. Part of me is starving. … deep breath …

What was your last dream about:
The last I remember clearly: I’m standing in a large city playground / open yard when a massive and tattered lion enters. Of course I’m terrified but know I can trust him. He comes to my side and we walk on. I know he’ll carry me when needed and I’ll care for him as I can. There was much more to it but I can still feel the peace of it.