Rykka Gets in Touch with Her Animal Instincts...
...And Reveals a Surprising New Use for Canadian Maple Syrup.
“Swiss-Canadian Rykka (formerly known as singer songwriter Christina Maria) has re-emerged from her acoustic past with ominous black leather, spikes and dark makeup, transforming herself into a fierce, electro-alternative, pop-rock powerhouse.” This is how Rykka describes herself and she’s not making things up. This fierce, electro-alternative, pop-rock powerhouse took the six-figure 2013 Peak Performance Project Prize and she is now poised to invade hearts and minds outside our lovely town of Vancouver.
I chatted with Rykka, so you can know all about her before she’s too cool to return our tweets. Rykka wanted to share two of her videos, so here is the first one. The second video is at the bottom of the interview.
Scott Wood: Hello Rykka! Nice to chat with you! Rykka is a very beautiful and unusual name. Can you tell me how to pronounce it and where it comes from?
Rykka: Hi! Thank-you! I chose the name Rykka by looking up baby names online. It's pronounced Rye-Ka. I think it's Scandinavian, but as far as I know it's very uncommon there too. It may be similar to a word with innuendoes I won't mention, but it's nothing that I can't use to my advantage, haha!Rykka... may be similar to a word with innuendoes I won't mention...
Scott Wood: You used to perform/make folk music previously under the name 'Christina Maria' (your given name). What is the secret origin of Rykka?
Rykka: After writing the new album over the span of a year, the music took such a drastic turn that I wanted to have a name to match the immediacy of the art. Also, the name Christina Maria was getting too "unicorns and rainbows" for me.
Scott Wood: What's one necessary item for a successful reinvention?
Rykka: To embrace change. Change = life. If you don't change and reinvent yourself, then you're not living.
Scott Wood: I read a review of your new record Kodiak and the reviewer referenced your old folk life, "Maria was making music that held promise, but lacked backbone." Is Rykka you with a "backbone"? Do you miss the old songs?
Rykka: I'm constantly evolving + I was born with a backbone. I don't miss the old songs; I'm excited for future songs. I do believe that it's important to remember what has been, but I'm way more excited about the present and future.
Scott Wood: You split your time between Vancouver (where you were raised) and Switzerland. You've said, "When in Europe, maple syrup is worth more than gold. If you don't change and reinvent yourself, then you're not living.Any wrong is forgotten if you have maple syrup to trade for it." What's one wrong you've made right with Canada's liquid gold?
Rykka: In Switzerland I live in an artist community house with 5 roommates. It's a 300 year old farmhouse and we heat with wood stove, it's amazing. Sometimes when I get so busy and I'm traveling a lot I can't do my chores, sooo I always bring home maple syrup for my roomies. <3
Scott Wood: You've said that you wrote your new album, Kodiak, from animal perspective to somehow try to bridge the gap between human and animal. How did you approach getting into an animal perspective? What was the most startling thing you found out about yourself while doing this?
Rykka: I wrote most of the album in Switzerland at home. I spent a lot of time just sitting quietly in the field in my backyard. There were a lot of foxes back there and if I sat for long enough, I'd see them. I also focused on walking really quietly in the forest nearby. There are secret deer that are really good at hiding in that forest. I really noticed how loud humans are—airplanes and trains. Anyway, I reconnected with a greater strength that comes with gentleness + beauty. Nature is so badass.
Scott Wood: I've read each song on the record is from a different animal's perspective. Which was the most difficult animal to write as?
Rykka: The songs aren't written as different animals, each song is a concept/theme viewed by one or more different animals. “Grasslands” is the most sensitive song for me on the record. Prior to writing it, I read about a Chinese student who went to Mongolia to learn how to live in the plains as a shepherd/nomad. Through his journey, I learned about how close the Mongolian people were to the wolves. They knew each other like humans know people. They plotted war against each other and knew their boundaries; both parties held grudges and took revenge. I find this bond amazing.
Scott Wood: You've said that some of "my favorite things aside from making music and touring are: Avocados, Chocolate, Saunas & Fashion Design." Female musicians are often expected to have a distinct look much more than male acts. How do you approach fashion design for your work?
Rykka: I had a "day off" on Thursday. I spent the day recreating my current stage piece and eating avocados. I cut up a pool noodle into perfectly shaped huge shoulder pads and sewed them onto a bra. I added extra straps everywhere to make sure they'd stay in the right place. Next I covered the whole contraption with a sweet skull/knife print tee that I got at Value Village (in Surrey) and cut up, then sewed human hair to the back of it all. I like to use tassels and hair and stuff for movement onstage.
Scott Wood: You spent a whole year in seclusion writing this record, Kodiak. What's the first thing you wanted to do when the writing was done?
Rykka: I was so excited to take a little break from writing and start recording. It was pretty demanding to write so intensely for so long, and I was so hard on myself.I reconnected with a greater strength that comes with gentleness + beauty. Nature is so badass.
Scott Wood: On Kodiak, you worked with Ryan Guldemond, the frontman from Vancouver's favorite indie band Mother Mother. I've also interviewed him: He is very nice, very talented and a little bit crazy. You've said this about working on the record with Ryan: “It was really cool working with him. He has strong ideas and I have strong ideas, so we end up doing the right thing.” Can you talk about a time this clash of ideas made for a much better song?
Rykka: Especially in the songs “Hiding in a Lion” and “Grasslands,” Ryan urged me to sing super gentle and to choose my moments to explode. I often have a strong will to sing full on chest voice, super loud, all the time, but in choosing our moments (or rather, fighting for them), I'm super happy with the results.
Scott Wood: You've also said about working with Ryan Guldemond, "It’s always really great to work with Ryan. He has a genius brain, he can see into the musical future… haha." What unexpected prediction would he make about Rykka's next record/future work?
Rykka: I predict that Ryan would unexpectedly predict something completely unexpected. For example, the recording will take place in a submarine, far below sea level or I'll use dog barks instead of hand claps.
Scott Wood: Thanks for answering my questions! Please introduce your favourite Rykka video.
Thank YOU! These two are more chill and solo/trio but they're fun.
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