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‘Meditation or psychedelic drugs’: Richard Cartwright on the origins of Super Love Brain

Dan Webb
Richard In Your Mind are an Australian psychedelic pop band. We caught up with frontman Richard Cartwright in the lead up to the release of their fifth album, Super Love Brain, on Friday 21 September.

You’ve picked five songs to accompany this article. Would you like to say anything about your choices?

[powerkit_row cols_nr=”2″][powerkit_col size=”7″]Alyx Dennison – I Don’t Love You Anymore
I could have chosen any of her songs but I think Alyx Dennison is one of Australia’s best musical beings (laughs). And she was in Richard In Your Mind for a while and she’s sung on albums and stuff. We really should have got her on our new one, but I think she’s just had a baby and I dunno, I live in the mountains and it just sort of didn’t – it was easier to – I dunno, I wound up doing the backing vocals. But we should’ve invited her, made the effort (laughs). But yeah I chose that because I think she’s just – I dunno, just the way she uses melody and she’s so unpredictable in her songwriting and she effortlessly has original ideas and yeah. I think she’s a cool legend. And that particular song is so cool, it’s got no melodic or harmonic instruments, it’s just percussion, except for vocals. Yeah, so it’s just all this tribal thing.

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Raindrop – Another World
Miles from Raindrop is a wonderful friend and a cool musician and Spod mixed and helped produce his latest album. Most of our albums have been done with Brent as well. And I really think it’s been an amazing job on this work. We’ve played plenty of shows with those guys and I really love, I dunno, he maybe has a similar approach in a psychedelic way. And he loves cool synths and playing in the studio. So they’re kindred musical spirits there.

Captain Beefheart – Observatory Crest
I’ve only really gotten deeper into Beefheart in the last few years. And I probably don’t listen to lots of him, cos like he’s pretty weird and stuff. I like weird music, don’t get me wrong. But I kind of like chilled out, relaxing music probably more. But I went through his discography, as you can do these days… and I love the stories about him and his musical, like his ten commandments for playing guitar or whatever he has. And I think as a story he’s an amazing character. But he’s also got these, you know, scattered throughout his works, these chilled out, lovely, sincere, pretty, beautiful songs. And I think “Observatory Crest” is one of them. If all my records could sound like that song then I’d be happy. It’s just so kind of lush and crisp and floaty. And he talks about seeing flying saucers and stuff. So I love that song.

Lee “Scratch” Perry – Dub Revelutions
Probably like, 70% of the music I listen to is old reggae and dub. Just I think it’s a good background to life kind of music. It’s harder to be sort of upset and things with reggae music. I think Lee “Scratch” Perry is a visionary. He sort of seems to be a weird, lightning conductor channelling just the vibe or something (laughs). His approach to production is amazing. He chooses these really loud percussion and the drums are quiet and he just sings “la la la la la” (laughs)… I think he’s one of those guys who if it felt good he did it. So I think that’s an inspirational philosophy I take from him.

Raul Seixas – Metamorfose Ambulante
I explored Brazilian music a while ago and really loved a bunch of it. I think I really loved Os Mutantes… they’re a cool 60s kind of Tropicália band. They reformed and we supported them at The Enmore, which was like the highlight of our life, sort of. But yeah, through them I started exploring old 60s and 70s Brazilian music. The people of Brazil obviously love music very passionately and so there’s heaps of good music in there to be uncovered if you go looking in the world of Brazilian music… This one particular song I just really loved. It’s got a cool, squelchy synth bass in it but it’s also got this really pretty guitar, it’s got a lovely intro, it just feels good.

Things were getting a bit more like, woah, we’re about to go through a crazy thing here… so it was easier to postpone the album than the baby.

Congratulations on the upcoming release of Super Love Brain. It’s your first album in four years. How long was the writing process this time around and did you experience any writer’s block?
Not writer’s block, just sort of I think it’s practical aspects of putting out music is the reason maybe why it took so long. We’ll do another EP later on, we did a lot more songs. The songs weren’t marrying together that we had… but we tried for a long time to smash them in. There’s more guitary, sort of band, energetic songs, sort of distorted guitar – it’s not like, heavy or anything, I don’t think. Anyway, it was a different vibe. So once we decided that we’d go, nah let’s separate these, then we were sort of like okay, cool, let’s make sure we’ve got enough to make this other – if we’re really going to make this feeling a thing, let’s embrace that and make it as good as it could be in that sort of vibe. Yeah, so not block, just organisational things, not being able to make decisions on things. But also I think the album’s been ready for a while, but then it was just finding you know, putting it out and having a good time for Rice Is Nice. And I had a baby – well I didn’t, like, my wife and I had a baby in November last year. And so probably the perfect time to release would have been near the end of last year, but things were getting a bit more like, woah, we’re about to go through a crazy thing here. Let’s try to not think about putting out an album and putting out a baby. Let’s wait, let’s do one at a time. So it was easier to postpone the album than the baby (laughs).

Thematically, this album covers three separate ideas. Did your interest in Buddhist philosophy inform your direction and decision making?
I think yes. I wouldn’t call myself a Buddhist or anything. But I do like the ideas in Buddhism, just noticing your mind and what it does… but yeah, that kind of mind stuff and meditation, and like I’ve been an on and off meditator… “All I Can Do”, that’s kind of a song about meditation (laughs) it says like, “I don’t think about the moon and the stars,” – it lists all the things I don’t think about, which is all I can do is think about you. And so it’s kind of maybe it’s like about a person like that in that form, but it’s sort of written in the opposite. So actually when I wrote it, all the things I say I don’t do are actually things I do constantly, sort of (laughs)… it’s not a literal song that can be unpacked in a ‘oh, this is exactly what it means’, but it’s kind of about trying to focus all this stuff maybe. Maybe wishful thinking that all I can think about is one thing but instead I’ve got a crazy monkey mind and I have worries and delights. And “Super Love Brain” the song, well, I’ve always called my studio Super Love Brain and Super Love Brain kind of seemed like a title for the, I dunno, some hard to touch psychedelic concept which might be the meaning of life (laughs).

You get interested in these things when you… think about the meanings of living… whether through meditation or psychedelic drugs or something like that.

Would you say that Super Love Brain, the name itself, came to you as an ill-defined concept and it’s something which may become apparent further down the track?
Well no, I think maybe it’s the quest of life is to figure out what Super Love Brain is. Maybe Super Love Brain is another like – is it the reason for life, is it God (laughs) if you use those words. But I dunno, the chasing the feeling of ecstatic experience. There’s chasing the feeling of life itself or something, I dunno. I guess you get interested in these things when you, I dunno, you think about the meanings of living and also maybe if you have ecstatic experiences, whether through meditation or psychedelic drugs or something like that, you have these things and you go, ‘oh, it feels like there’s a Super Love Brain!’ (laughs). And then you spend the rest of your life trying to like, yeah, figure out what is a Super Love Brain. Is it a piece of imagination and just like a lovely idea to play with, or is there a sort of humming, love brain going on. Is our brain – are we just neurons and being ultra creative and having fun as human beings or are we connected somehow to the ultra brain. I’m not sure (laughs).

Can’t say I’m sure either.
Yeah. But musically thematically, we just wanted to make it a bit more chilled and flowy, rather than like, jagged and sporadic (laughs).

You travelled to Nepal and India prior to recording your previous album and I understand you’ve recorded this new one across two studios, including a home studio in the lush surrounds of the Blue Mountains. How significant a role does travel and location play in relation to your music?
I think it plays a pretty huge role. As I said, probably actually some of the songs we wound up having to shed were the ones from that initial – cos we did it at Rec Studios, which is the old 301, and at home. And the ones we did at Rec we did cos we wanted to capture a feeling. And that was cos it was in a bigger studio. Like at home we don’t have as much space and as much equipment and stuff like that. And we got that live feeling. But then in the (home) studio, there’s two factors – the fact that we’re in a smaller room, but it’s in the Blue Mountains and we’re surrounded by trees. So if I was to like, draw some conclusions that maybe the trees make it a bit chilled out but also being kind of closed in this little music cave when you go back inside led to more kind of experimentation in the studio, less capturing of a live space but capturing sort of an inner space.

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Do you ever get sick of being compared to other bands and artists?
I don’t get sick of it. We don’t get too many things over and over again. And if we do get any good ones, then I want those ones. Yeah, so I dunno. And I don’t think we’re super like anyone else. I want people to compare us to the greats (laughs). I guess we don’t really get compared to Tame Impala that much, but you use the word ‘psychedelic’ and they’re obviously a pillar in the psychedelic Australian world. But I don’t think we really sound like Tame Impala. But if people reckon it then that’s cool. People have to try to classify things it seems. It’s helpful because people come up to me and say ‘oh, what kind of music do you play?’. I don’t think we’re even actually that psychedelic half the time, but at least that word lends itself to strangeness or diverseness or unpindownableness or something. But other times I think we just play songs (laughs). We try to make songs that sound kind of chilled out and make people feel hopefully good (laughs). Yeah.

The album artwork for Super Love Brain is by Myles Heskett, the former Wolfmother drummer. How did you two meet and do you know where his various musical projects (Good Heavens, Palace of Fire, The Slew etc.) are at these days?
You’d have to talk to Myles about his musical projects. I haven’t really spoken to him too much about all of those things. Good Heavens certainly was a cool thing for a while. But well we met through Brent, through Spod, and kind of through, like Conrad lived quite close. Sort of just a friend group. But it’s all pretty much all through Brent and Spod, they’re really good friends. And yeah, just came across Myles and his place in Newtown, he’d done this massive mural that he painted himself. We went there for New Year’s one time and it was a wild, cool party. And I was like, ‘oh, this is amazing, your art!’. And then he showed me, I didn’t realise he had art exhibitions. It’s all this sort of intricate, but very sort of abstract stuff. And I was like, ‘oh, bro, you’re amazing’. And then we were just trying to find something… we have an image that we did that was like, literally a Super Love Brain, like a brain in the shape of a love heart. And it’s a cool image but it looked quite sort of dark and sci-fiy. We wanted something sort of pastoral and warm. But we were going through some of Myles’ art and there was this – I just loved the feeling of the colours and this sort of, mellow, I dunno if it’s a retro feel to the colour scheme or something, but it’s sort of like a map or landscape or something. And Myles was just like, ‘yeah bro, I’d be stoked if you guys used it’. So yeah, it worked well.

If you could collaborate with any artist, in any medium, past or present, who would it be and what would you ideally create?
Holy moly… like any artist? Wow. Maybe I dunno, you’d collaborate with Salvador Dalí and make some incredible dessert or something (laughs). That’s a waste of a – (laughs) – but maybe you’d do something with Salvador Dalí, he’s wild. I dunno if he’d be a nice guy to work with, but he’s certainly got some cool ideas going on. Other artists. Huh. I dunno if that’s my answer (laughs). Who else… Do you know this guy Duncan Trussell? He’s a podcaster from America. I’d collaborate with him and I’d just make a musical album. He’s this weird, kind of comedian, spiritual, psychedelic man and he’s getting into modular synths. And I think – I dunno if the world’s – it’s probably a waste of, you know, I should probably do something with Picasso or maybe not. Yeah, but Salvador Dalí and like make a big sculpture or something – he already did sculptures. But yeah I think I’d make an album with Duncan Trussell. Making an album with someone is a really special thing to do (laughs).

Editor’s note: Four days after our interview, I received the following text message…

Hi Dan, Richard from Riym here, hope you’re well! Just wondering if the interview isn’t already all signed off on if I can give you an alternative answer to your last question? It’s been haunting me!! It’s such a big question with untold promise hidden within. It was too much for me on the spot! Anyway I would make a trippy ambient fantasy film with Jim Henson. It would have creatures, forests, sitars and maybe space travel. Yeah that’s something that would be magical and probably useful for the world. An album with Duncan Trussell is rad but probably not using the magic wish hard enough, I could potentially make an album with Duncan Trussell in reality without a magic wish! Cool cheers a million! Rich