Russ Meyer spent several years playing bass with Twin Shadow, during which time he began writing his own music. The resulting songs gave way to Meyer’s shadow persona, Rush Midnight. I talked to him about developing his own sound and his newly released album, self-titled Rush Midnight.
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Rachel Levine (RL): I know you’ve probably told this story a thousand times, but how did Rush Midnight get started? What’s the difference between you, Russ Meyer, and Rush Midnight?
Russ Meyer (RM): I guess this whole idea came out when my friends and I were talking about super heroes, and the super hero aesthetic. That inspired the project. I like to sing about adventure and adventures in romance. The world we want to create.This was a cool vehicle to say what I want to say. Everything is cinematic, sort of fantasy based. There’s a lot of imagination and it’s not all set in that urban New York type situation. You know, like everything is supposed to be in a new location. One [song] will be at the ocean side, one in a club.
RL: What do you mean by a super hero aesthetic?
RM: Extraordinary powers – confidence, swagger. When you hear it, I want the listener to hear that and for the listener to feel confident.
RL:Is there something particular you do to convey that?
RM: The minimal sounds and the look. For example, when we do a photo shoot, we use fewer colors because it across a little better for this stuff. Ultimately, we want to have costumes and proper lighting, dramatic lighting. Right now, since it’s still early days, we’re working with what we have. If we play a dive bar in North Carolina, it doesn’t make sense to wear a crazy leather vest with studs all over it and have a lighting guy that doesn’t make sense. Ultimately, the videos are previews of where we want to go with this. It’s an evolving thing.
RL:What was it like to step out into a solo project and away from Twin Shadow?
RM: Twin Shadow is always going to be George Lewis Jr. I toured with them for three or so years and that was great and we got to play amazing places. He helped me with my own stuff at a certain point. We finally had time off and [Lewis] co-produced my stuff and he agreed to put his name behind it. Once we had that, there were two options: stick around and be in the backing band or do this solo thing. We had a lot of time off from Twin Shadow, so it was a great time to take that risk or plunge.
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RL:You have a background studying conservatory jazz. Can you talk about how this may have affected your music?
RM: I spent a lot of time in college doodling on piano and writing jazz songs. I was supposed to be practicing transcribing bass solos and stuff, but I was veering towards composition and stuff. I walked away with a lto of technical ability and ease on the instrument. But, I’m trying to forget everything I learned. Some of the voicing or harmonies might have found when I was at school. Even though I’m going for a pop thing, there’s a little bit of advanced harmony or rhythm to the music that isn’t standard.
RL: So you just released your album, do you want to tell me about what this was like?
RM: Everyone always says there’s a lot of time put into an album, the writing of it, then 3-5 months of just pressing the material, and entering all the info, so by the time it comes out… well, it’s a little bit that I’m on to the next thing. I’m almost done with my follow up.
RL: So you were working on your new material while waiting for the new album?
RM: I was totally working on other stuff. While home, I write every day, It’s a 9-5 for me. Every day, it’s writing [music] or starting to write for other people.
RL: How do you go about writing music?
RM: Usually I begin wtith different rhythms or something I haven’t explored, a bass line or a guitar part, and build it from there. I want to have something new. I don’t want to do the same thing a million times.
RL: How do you end up deciding what goes on the album?
RM: It’s a process. At first you write a bunch — quantity. Then a week or two passes and you have a bunch of stuff and you show it to your friends, your girlfriend or something, and see how people respond. Then before you know it you have 20 tracks and some are favorites and some are forgettable. I narrowed it down from 25 tracks. Now I have leftover tracks which are pretty dead to me, and 30 new ones for the new album that I’m trying to whittle down.
RL: The album has got some fantastic jazzy jams in there, some breathy vocals, lots of swagger. It reminds me of an 80’s pop icon meets 70s groove. Was this intentional?
RM: I’m into 80s dance music. Whenever I dj around New York, that’s a good go-to thing. There’s a million 80’s solo acts and they have this one sound, the same synthesizer and drums. So, it’s what I’m working with because of the gear I have. I’m using a swan keyboard – dX7. It’s bordering on cheezy, but if used correctly it’s pretty cool. That’s fun to play with. I see it as a blend of that rock, guitar 80’s sound with some synthetic pads that are more brat pack. I wanted to stay with as crisp a sound as I can. I don’t want a huge palette. Artists tend to get bigger and bigger with more gear, and sound more expensive, but you lose something doing that.
Rush Midnight plays with Nightbox and Diamond Bones at Il Motore (179 Jean Talon W) on Friday June 13. 9 p.m. $15.