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Artist Profile: Richie Quake on Imperfection and Music’s New Generation

Quake sat down with The Harvard Crimson to talk on the brink of his sophomore LP “Dog,” which was released on Nov. 15.
Quake sat down with The Harvard Crimson to talk on the brink of his sophomore LP “Dog,” which was released on Nov. 15. By Courtesy of Richie Quake
By Asha M. Khurana, Contributing Writer

Richie Quake is his own muse. The Brooklyn-based indie-rock artist wears two hats, as both a producer and songwriter. Most recently, he has leaned into the latter of those roles, focusing on songwriting as he shapes himself as a creative. Quake sat down with The Harvard Crimson to talk on the brink of his sophomore LP “Dog,” which was released on Nov. 15.

Quake’s process has changed since he delved into acoustic songwriting. He has adapted to separating the creation process from the production process.

“I just approached it by literally separating the, you know, writing the song first, letting everything kind of grow and live in that realm. And then when I was ready, I took it to the studio and fleshed it out,” Quake said.

Treating a work in progress as an entity separate from the final product has allowed him to let imperfection and forgiveness become a constructive part of the creation process.

“A lot of that was just kind of writing stuff on guitar together, and not really caring about how demos sounded like, but just getting together and writing the best song that we could write. And then trying to take it to a good place, maybe, months, weeks, and months later, you know, just not really worrying about how the production sounded as much as how the song sounded.”

Quake has always had a positive relationship with his artistry. On the length of his career, he quipped “I’m old.” Jokes aside, it was clear through conversation that Quake has developed a knack for introspection in his years in the music industry.

“I can't say I ever had a super concrete vision of who I was as an artist, or what I was doing. I just always made music and wanted to put it out there,” he said. “I have been through a lot of ups and downs and learned a lot of things and failed a lot of times and music has been just a stable thing. So songs, albums, EPs, they've gone up, I've taken them down, I've deleted probably 80% of the music I've put out. So it's a long history.”

While his career began with DIY tracks posted on Bandcamp, Quake has grown from his days of entirely self-produced work. He spoke on the magic of recording with a live band for “Dog."

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“This is my first album that I would say is not bedroom produced or anything,” he said. “It's just so fulfilling, because you can never get any sort of energy like that.”

When asked about his favorite songs to produce, he brought up the title track.

“‘Dog’ was probably just one of my favorite songs ever, because I have dreamed of working with string players,” Quake said. “Hearing them lay down layer after layer and build into this like, movie-score-like emotional thing, was just so cool.”

He suggested that a young Richie Quake would be surprised at the support from collaborators like his string players as well as his full live band. He noted that in his experience, producing in the social media age lends itself to an overwhelming amount of self-critique.

“I would look at what was blowing up on SoundCloud, and I let it just influence me too much instead of just always knowing that what I had was special,” he said. “I spent a lot of time nurturing the things that I still like other people valued versus the things that I valued. And now I don't do that anymore. Now I just value the thing. Now I just only focus on the things that I like and this and writing the songs and making the music that I want to hear no matter what anyone else thinks.”

Quake has worked hard to come to this ownership of his artistry and command for creating independently of expectations. One piece of that work was considering his company in his endeavors. “I've done a lot of work to surround myself with those sort of people who, who valued me for me, as opposed to, you know, someone else.”

He often considers the value of imparting this wisdom on young budding artists, and helping them navigate the ins and outs of creating music.

“I love teaching people things. I think about it often, how I wish that I had someone like me when I was young,” he said. “I think the beauty of music is just allowing people to be their most authentic selves, and connecting people on a level where it's like, we're not so different. On the inside, we have the same fears. We have the same love, you know, we have the same sort of joy and sadness and anger. And I think that there's so much in the world that's trying to separate us and teach us that our experiences are different and we can never understand each other.”

Quake underwent a formal music education in college — an experience which has become increasingly uncommon in the industry in the age of the viral hit. While he gives that experience mixed reviews, he has no regrets about his education as a formative tool for his creative development. Quake’s creativity shines out as he talks about music education. He muses about himself as a muse: “If I was a muse, like a music teacher, I would want to focus on showing people that we're the same and that we just have to find our truth and that could really unite us.”

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