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Fresh: Martin Rivas releases new album, Reliquary
By Jason Dole
6/29/12 - 11:38 am
6/29/12 - 11:38 am
Above: A YouTube video diary documenting the recording of Reliquary, a soon-to-be-released album by Martin Rivas.
Singer/songwriter Martin Rivas is a Brooklyn native, but he’s also got some roots up in the mountains. When Schoharie County, Rivas’s home away from home, suffered in the floods at the end of last summer, he got a small army of fellow musicians to help out. The resulting 43-song charity download, After the Flood: A Compilation to Benefit Upstate New York Victims of Hurricane Irene, has raised nearly $10,000.
Now, Rivas is releasing his first full-length album in three years. Reliquary drops on July 10. It sees Rivas seeking out new ground among familiar themes. It’s also packed with a variety of new sounds and instrumentation—even a theremin.
The album itself a reliquary of songs that possess a unique power, both musical and emotional. Some are ornate, some are simple, some are sad, and some are uplifting. Each one is beautiful. This is Reliquary: art as artifact.
We spoke to Martin Rivas earlier this week about the album, the songs, and his upstate connection.
Watershed Post: Where did the name Reliquary come from?
Martin Rivas: I was on tour in England last summer. I went into the British Museum on a day off and there was an exhibit on these religious artifacts. They’re called reliquaries: these bejeweled guilded items that hold bits of bone fragments of a saint.
I came to the personal realization that we’re all kind of reliquaries of each other. I leave a little bit of myself in you, you leave a little bit of yourself in me. And when you’re gone, you leave a whole lot of yourself with everybody you came in contact with. Most of the songs on this album came from that realization.
WP: The album opens strong with “C’mon While We’re Young.” Are you in a hurry to get somewhere?
MR: I had a bit of surgery a couple of years ago on my ankle. I had some pretty major complications with blood clots… I was recovering and ended up writing an entire EP inspired by the experience. [Convalescence, 2010]
“C’Mon While We’re Young” is sort of the last song from that chapter of my life. I wanted to start this album with it because it sort of says “let’s get on with it...” There’s less time than you think. It’s a call to action: “Come on, you’ve got time, you’re alive, and it’s a beautiful day. Get on out and do what you gotta do.” It’s a feeling of triumph, and that’s what I wanted that song to be.
WP: What does it mean to you as a musician and artist to have a farm house up north in the Catskills?
MR: It really means a lot more than I ever thought it would! It’s such an escape. I feel like songs are just waiting for me up there. It really has turned into a place that I go to create, and also to be inspired.
It was in my wife’s family for a long time and both of her parents have passed away. I was close to her mom, and I almost feel like her spirit is up there, and the spirit of a lot of people that I miss. That seems to manifest itself in my songs quite a bit: celebrating people that you’re very fond of that aren’t with you any more.
WP: On Reliquary, “The Brooklyn Accent” has that feeling, but it sounds like someone who’s homesick for the city.
MR: Being a native Brooklynite, I’m kind of paying tribute to my grandparents and my mom’s aunts and friends and my dad’s mom, who were all from Brooklyn. I was imagining the sound of my grandfather’s voice which was such a distinctive accent, that mid-20th-century Brooklyn accent that seems to be disappearing. The song kind of celebrates and shows a bit of longing to hear that distinct accent spoken in Brooklyn one more time.
WP: “Your Heart Will Be Broken Again” stands out with its full sound and lush, almost chamber-pop production. But “The Brooklyn Accent” is noticeable for the opposite - its minimal approach.
MR: That was pretty intentional. When [producer] Alex Wong and I got together to begin tracking everything, we decided to sort of let the songs decide how much instrumentation they wanted. We generally started with just a voice and either a guitar or piano and built the song out from there. In the case of “The Brooklyn Accent,” the song basically said “I don’t need anything more than what you put down already.” We tried a couple of different textural things with it, and in every case we went back to just that droning middle C piano and the vocal.
WP: Some producers take a back-seat approach, others get more involved. It seems like Alex Wong was an active part of this project.
MR: Definitely. We had been talking about getting together, and it really turned into a sort of partnership. It was fun to get to conspire with him. I was raised on rhythm and blues and soul, and Alex comes from more of a classical background. I was looking forward to hearing what would happen to these songs when they went into one of his ears and out the other, what mojo he would impart to them.
WP: So, it’s all about the songs, right?
MR: It certainly isn’t like “let’s write a hit.” You just have something inside of you that needs to come out, and Alex was more than accommodating in trying to fish that out. The sentiments are there, lyrically, but with this record the sentiments are there from a sonic perspective as well. I feel like the sounds on this album impart the same feelings as the words do, and I’m very proud of that.
Martin Rivas tours the Southeast and Midwest this fall. Folks in the Catskills can catch him at the Rennaisance Arts Studio at 331 Main Street in Middleburgh, NY on September 29, for that venue’s first show since last year’s floods.
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