‘Life Is Ridiculous’: An Interview With Ravioli Me Away
, February 28th, 2017 11:57
Ravioli Me Away discuss their new album, plans for an opera and facial surgery through the prism of Ravioliphilosivision with Melissa Rakshana Steiner
Portrait by Jack Barraclough
Ravioli Me Away, a trio made up of Sian Dorrer, Alice Theobald and Rosie Ridgway, became embedded in the fabric of London’s DIY music scene four years ago, quickly becoming known for their absurdist’s vision of everyday existence expressed through experimentation with compulsively danceable, synth-based post punk.
Their debut LP The Inevitable Album was released in on Good Job Records in 2014 and combined a sense of skewed-nostalgia with the futuristic in its use of guileless keyboards and funky bass with powerful, unpredictable vocals. A stand out track, ‘Cat Call’, captures the aggravation of this gendered experience with lyrics that are by turns pissed and resignedly deadpan, subverting expectations of humourlessness with a video portrayal of clowns doing a synchronised dance in an industrial warehouse.
Their second album Living Is A Myth was released on Upset The Rhythm in November 2016 , and saw the recruitment of fourth member Monika Krol, aka Meddicine. Similar to the debut, Living Is A Myth conveys a wry social commentary, though the band are keen to leave their lyrics and concepts open to interpretation. The new album, however, has a darker, propulsive urgency to it which seems designed for times we are living through; the title track with its lines:
I’m nostalgic for now
I travelled far ahead
I’m looking back with great affection – at this moment
Living is a myth because we’re constantly dying
seems to say, “You think this is bad… just you wait.”
Live, the band often perform in costumes that walk an asymmetrical line between alien feminism and suburban degradation, and you might equally find them dressed as an Orientalist’s questionable wet dream as in frocks made from Walkers crisps or cans of cheap lager. This focus on aesthetics and performativity is perhaps the only thing that is inevitable about RMA. Outside, the band (now a trio again) are involved in a range of creative pursuits. Sian plays in bands Emotional and The Bomber Jackets, and makes art under the pseudonym ACID PRAWN. Alice has an upcoming solo exhibition entitled Weddings And Babies which she describes as "Look Who's Talking meets Snoopy." Rosie informed me she has just undergone dramatic facial surgery and is currently is waiting to see what she looks like, but ordinarily makes art focussed on costume and performance as well as playing in bands Not Sorry and Das Boots The Chemist.
Due in part to Rosie’s recovery from the operation, RMA and I conducted our interview via email.
The new album seems to have a darker shadow than your debut, it seems more fatalistic or something. Is that a fair assessment? How do you view the new album in relation to your first?
Rosie Ridgway: Yes definitely, this album is RMA's blue period. They are our sombre works that reflect the depressing times of now. The first album was a musical journey around each other’s brains - a high energy group therapy. We have, you will be glad to hear, now moved on from our depression and have started to gather energy back again to confront the bollocks that we are faced with.
Your shows are always super fun and visually engaging, and it's novel to see bands play who don't just shuffle up and play a few songs and then go away. What is the process of creating your aesthetic, particularly for a live performance?
Sian Dorrer: We started off with set themes: fly fishermen, beauty queens, luggage etc. I guess we wanted to try performing the same material in different roles, it was a kind of experiment in universality. We're now focusing more on developing characters that are more of a Frankenstein amalgamation of cultures and stereotypes that interest us.
There's always quite a lot of humour in how we approach the way we present ourselves. I can never understand why so many bands are so earnest - I think that's the weirdest approach. Life is ridiculous. In my opinion serious issues should be tackled and presented in a humorous and playful way; it's less painful and boring for us and the audience that way.
Women get a hard time with this as they are rarely taken seriously in real life let alone when dressed in a 4-foot-wide foam cowboy hat and salopettes.
This is going to sound awkward, but a couple of years ago we were all at a music festival and I was sitting nearby and overheard Sian mention a short review I had written about RMA which she wasn’t too happy with (the perils of a small scene). Given that you are so unique, I'm sure I wasn’t the first person to describe you in a way you don’t agree with. What kinds of assumptions do people make that annoy you? What would be your best case scenario for how people understand RMA?
SD: Haha sorry! I'm offended by most people’s views and opinions if that's any consolation. I just think it’s generally better to avoid categorising any creative project I guess. It can end up being a bit lazy and diminutive.
I suppose I just want people to enjoy the gigs and let the meaning of the lyrics and aesthetics sort of wash over them in a more indirect way. I think retaining some mystery means the songs keep developing after we've written them. They can live on in someone else's consciousness and fester or flourish. I think that's when you've made something interesting, when it has a life beyond your idea of it.
I also like it when people sing the wrong words to the songs. I say let the little fellow grow up and be itself without too much tampering or analytical revisiting.
What is it about the mundane/suburbia/Kestrel lager that so inspires you?
RR: Ravioliphilosivision makes us look at the 'normal' world with differently orientated eyes - the mundane is where we started looking.
I thought your video for ‘Goblin Town’ made by Jack Barraclough was hilarious. I assume that it is a critique of a post-Brexit, nationalistic identity (or maybe the high cost of renting in London)?
Alice Theobald: Well, this happens to be a good example of what Sian was talking about - how the meaning of a song can develop after it has be written. We wrote ‘Goblin Town’ in early 2015 or thereabouts. Either way it was before Brexit was on the cards at all. But yes, ‘Goblin Town’ certainly became some kind of metaphor for the rise of nationalism and I guess Jack really carried that (and gentrification) forward as a theme when he pitched his idea for the video.
But the truth is, ‘Goblin Town’ originated late one night on the way back from a festival we had just played at and we were trying to hide ourselves between the seats at the back of the over booked coach. It was dark and cramped and we, err, were pretending to be goblins in Goblin Town... recruiting other goblins from (the seats) above.
We do seem to have a habit of subconsciously predicting the future though. We wrote ‘Euro Breakdown’ which is on The Inevitable Album in 2014.
One of your hits from The Inevitable Album was the song ‘Cat Call’. How do you deal with cat calls on the streets of London?
RR: People do not ever cat call me, they usually do a weird laugh or make a grunting noise. I think the girls (Sian and Alice) have very different experiences on the streets. I think if it happened I would be so shocked that I wouldn't have anything to say quick enough before they trotted off.
I confess, I actually like wolf whistling out of my car, usually at groups of lads. But really, I think I’ve been lucky, it must be so frustrating and nauseating to have that happen to you, it’s so archaic and primitive - the musical jingle of chauvinism.
I have heard a bit about your upcoming opera project and wondered if you could talk a little bit about it?
AT: ‘A View From The Futuristic Rose Trellis’ is a project we have spoken about for some time now. The performance will be a live multimedia production incorporating film, theatre, dance and live music which seeks to speak for the world in a material and emotional sense. Central to the production will be a giant rose trellis cage which the audience inhabit, becoming the architecture to which the opera’s moral conflicts are played out, attempting to address the big questions in life from a perhaps facetious yet analytical perspective.
Now we have the funding to make it happen we will be developing it over a succession of residencies this year and touring over a few selected venues in spring 2018. We will be inviting various other artists and musicians to contribute and have roles. So far we have Tom Hirst (Design A Wave) who will produce the soundtrack, Ben Wallers (The County Teasers and The Rebel), Cathy Gray (Beards), Dean Rodney (The Fish Police) and Victor Jakeman (Whitby Bay and WE). It's all very exciting so watch this space!
Sian, you ran (the now closed) Power Lunches Arts cafe in Dalston which was a crucible for the London DIY music scene, and Rosie, you founded the Good Job space in Bermondsey which similarly had non-stop creative action going on. I wondered what the relationship is between RMA and the ideals behind DIY/non-corporate music and art?
SD: I think as a creative person your ideas should permeate through everything you do. To me setting up Power Lunches was the same as making The Inevitable Album or Living Is A Myth. The less separation between artistic endeavours the better... at least it gives me some kind of peace of mind and conviction in what I'm doing. I tried to have a normal job and keep things separate but my brain shrivelled up into a tiny walnut.
RR : God I miss those two places so much. Those two places represented freedom. RMA will never be famous or corporate or whatever because I don’t think we want to appeal to the masses, we want to do things our own way. Having said that we are always looking for an intern to boss about and loads of money to finish our opera, so if anyone’s interested?
Finally, the world is going to hell in a hand cart. What are your plans for the apocalypse?
SD: Confrontation and humour in equal measures.