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Ollie Zhang , July 6th, 2016 11:37

We catch up with Rangda ahead of their impending three-date residency at Cafe Oto

Following the release of the thundering The Heretic's Bargain on Drag City earlier this year, Rangda will bring their hefty sound to Cafe Oto next month for a three-date residency.

Each night of the residency will open with a performance from one member of the group, either solo or accompanied by guests Rick Tomlinson and Áine O’Dwyer. The trio descend upon Cafe Oto from 11-13 July.

Read on for a brief Q&A with the group, and click here for more info on their residency.

How has working with one another changed in the six years since your first release?

Ben: When we first got together we didn't really know each other's styles instinctively. We knew the way each person played from listening to each other in general, but there weren't instinctive motions that happened, like the way you will naturally swat at something that feels like it might be a spider crawling up your arm. Now we are all instinctive swatters.

Chris: I think we've gotten more aware of one another's particular styles. From the outside looking in, what Ben or Rick come up with, say, for a Six Organs or Sir Richard Bishop song boggles the mind, in the best way possible. Being on the inside of Rangda...well, it's not that it's taken away any of the mind-boggling nature of their playing and song-writing, but I hope I've gotten better at figuring out where I can fit into it.

SRB: In the beginning we didn’t really know what we were capable of doing because we never played together at all until two days before the first record was made. Since then we have become very comfortable playing together. We’ve learned how to work good under pressure in the studio and since we never get a chance to rehearse (we all live in different parts of the country), we’ve been able to develop our sound the most while on stage.

What was working on The Heretic’s Bargain like? Was it markedly different from the time spent working on Formerly Extinct and False Flag?

B: The music felt quite different than the music that was worked on with the previous record but the recording process was very similar since we recorded at the same studio and with the same engineer (Jason Meagher at Black Dirt Studios). I think we even sort of ate the same things, the same types of sandwiches.

C: Nope, it was pretty much the same. Maybe more similar to the second record (Formerly Extinct) because we were recording it at the same place (Jason Meagher's Black Dirt Studio) and bringing maybe a few ideas in with us, but mostly coming up with things during the recording session.

SRB: False Flag relied more on improvisation because, as mentioned before, we never had a chance to play together until right before the tape started rolling. I would say that Formerly Extinct and The Heretic’s Bargain approaches were similar in nature. We had a few ideas before hitting the studio and then fine tuned them and wrote additional material on the spot. We still relied on improvisation but much less than on False Flag.

Working between composition and improvisation is something you’ve played with before – what was the writing process like on an album that feels as precise as The Heretic’s Bargain?

B: Composition and improvisation work together in different ways in Rangda. Sometimes an improvisation that is born on stage will coalesce into something more like a composition while other compositions will naturally have improvisational parts to them. It's probably not correct to think of things in strictly composition or improvisational terms. I would tend to think of each part of any particular song as lying somewhere on a continuum between the two.

C: It's incremental - write one part, then figure out what comes next, and keep doing that until the song is done. There will be parts which leave a lot of room for free improvisation, and I'm glad for that. I'm imagining those parts will take on a bigger role during the Cafe Oto residency. We're playing there for three nights in a row, and that'll allow for some stretching out. Also, it's the place I've played more than any other with the exception of Flywheel in Easthampton, Massachusetts, so I'm hoping that the familiarity with the venue might allow for some more risk-taking. We'll see.

SRB: Chris had some really good ideas that gave us some sort of foundation to work off of (especially for the long piece on Side 2). We spent a lot of time on that one because it moved into so many areas, sort of songs within a song. Certain parts of the other pieces were established while in the studio and then fleshed out from there. All of the songs had some open areas that were designed for improvisation but we did spend a considerable amount of effort in trying to make the album feel more compositional. The songs work well together and there is a nice, natural flow to this one.

How have you approached the residency at Cafe Oto differently than you might have approached another gig on your European tour?

B: With three days I'm looking to have a little fun. With that much time I imagine most of our music will be played. There are some songs we only really play live and only when we have the time to play them, so I am looking forward to having the space for that. It's also always nice to see Chris and Rick play solo sets, which everyone will be doing on their respective nights.

SRB: We haven't discussed it yet but the main difference will be that there could be some of the same people there each night so we will want to mix things up a bit, maybe play some material we haven’t played in a while and/or improvise a bit more than usual. I’m guessing we’ll play most of the new record each night and then supplement the remaining time with whatever feels right. Or whatever feels terribly wrong.

Now that you’ve got a few albums under your collective belt, where do you think the trio is headed next?

B: None of us have ever discussed it. Something may grow out of this year's shows. Or not. When we come together, generally all we think about is Rangda at the moment, what to do then, etc. The future is pretty wide open. Chances are it will include drums and guitar, but maybe not. You never know.

C: No idea, but that's fine by me. Being that we don't live anywhere near each other, Rangda seems to be a band that has spasms of activity and then periods of hibernation. So the direction we head in next will probably get figured out about a minute or two before we set ourselves in motion.

SRB: We never look too far ahead because we’re all pretty busy with other things, but in a year or so (maybe sooner) we will probably start thinking about ideas for the next record and we may be just as surprised as anyone else as to what it will sound like. It's always like that. We never really know what is going to happen until it happens. There's something to be said about that. I’m certainly looking forward to the uncertainty of it all!

Ranga UK Tour Dates


11th - Cafe Oto, London (w/ Sir Richard Bishop opening)
12th - Cafe Oto, London (w/ Ben Chasny opening)
13th - Cafe Oto, London (w/ Áine O’Dwyer-Chris Corsano Duo opening)
14th - Summerhall, Edinburgh
15th - The Sage, Gateshead, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
17th - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

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