What is your name?
My name is Rhode Rachel and my solo project is Aura Blaze
What is your genre of music?
I consider Aura Blaze primarily a retro psychedelic pop/rock project, though upon closer inspection listeners will observe that I in fact explore a variety of genres across my discography. Nuances of everything from hypnagogic dream pop to classical to even black metal can be heard in my work.
Give us a little bio about you.
I credit my discovery of Tame Impala’s Lonerism with being the impetus to delve into the world of psychedelic production back in the spring of 2013. As a producer and musician, I have written in a range of musical styles over the years and my personal interests have always drifted back to the whimsical vibes of anything “retro,” whether it be classic rock, Motown, oldies or nu-wave. The warm analogue energy of production from the ‘60s and ‘70s had always seemed inimitable and almost sacrosanct, so when I heard Kevin Parker channelling a similar spirit through his work with Tame Impala, my mind was blown. A whole new world of possibilities opened up and I decided I wanted to explore this musical space, not only because I now had positive affirmation that there is in fact a niche for retro-flavored psych rock, but mainly due to the fact that it was indeed possible to replicate the production style of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Until this revelation, I thought I had missed the boat on this sound. I then threw myself fully into the world of psychedelic rock production, creating Aura Blaze and gazing deep through the doorway into the abyss of dissonance while standing firmly on a foundation of catchy and uplifting melodies. Psychedelic rock provides the perfect outlet for expressing both the avant garde, heavy, transcendentally weird atmosphere as it does for the beautiful and melodic. I enjoy playing with the contrast between these two extremes.
What made you go into music?
I have been a musician for as long as I have been alive. My father is a songwriter and keyboardist and his influence and guidance have been integral to my growth as an artist, fostering within me a strong interest in music right from the start. Throughout my childhood I listened to oldies on the radio every night as I fell asleep. I am convinced this constant exposure to catchy uplifting melodies of the days of yore has had an indelible impression upon my psyche, particularly in regards to my penchant for all things retro. I later got heavily into metal which influenced my awareness of the concept of atmosphere and this can be observed to this day in my creations, what with the aforementioned experimentation with melodic contrasts.
Who are your influences?
One of my biggest influences as a songwriter, producer, and vocalist is Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra. His aptitude for grandiose productions is unparalleled. As if his songwriting and production skills were not enough, he is an amazing vocalist on top of that. I highly respect Jeff’s work as both a performer as well as a producer. The same could be said of Kevin Parker of Tame Impala of course. As a one-man studio operation myself, I admire Kevin’s production finesse and I am inspired by his ability to create compelling musical works, recording all instruments and handling all vocals himself, one track at a time. His work continues to impress me and gives me inspiration and hope in what is possible to accomplish as a solo studio artist. That being said, his live lineup is incredible as well. True talented musicians all around. His drummer Jay Watson has his own solo studio act, GUM, which is another influence and inspiration of mine. In fact, the overall vibe of the Open-Mindedness EP is heavily influenced by GUM’s chill, synth-driven indie psych sound. Ariel Pink is another solo producer who continues to blow my mind. I got into his work about a year or two ago and the experimental and avant-garde approach to his songwriting is something I deeply admire. He manages to weave catchy and memorable melodies through weird and abstract time signatures and arrangements unlike anything else I have heard before. It is almost as if the atmosphere of his work resonates with the intangible nostalgia of something trans-dimensional, like it was syphoned from an alternate universe that occasionally overlaps with our own. I definitely credit Ariel Pink when it comes to the more progressive elements of track #2 on the EP, “The Summer Solstice.”
Are you signed?
Aura Blaze is currently an independent act. Though a label would certainly offer the advantage of connecting my music with a wider audience within my target demographic, I prefer the freedom of working independently and maintaining complete control over all artistic choices, whether it be musically, visually, or anything else. You can’t put a price on freedom. Should a fair and honest offer come my way that takes into account these concerns of mine, however, I may consider it.
You released your new three track EP ‘Open-Mindedness’, tell us more about the EP.
It’s a highly energetic, colorful EP that explores a range of different sounds and textures, some of which are new territory for Aura Blaze. I incorporated some splashes of nu-wave synthesizers over my traditional ‘60s-driven rock sound, giving the EP a sheen of glistening modern psychedelic flavor.
The title track is a groovy, dreampop psych piece à la GUM or Tame Impala that takes the listener through a kaleidoscope of radiance and texture. The vocal harmonies on this one, especially during the closing passage, are something I am particularly proud of. It is at this point that the song culminates in a sweeping melody through which the vocal incantations create a mosaic of interlocking notes akin to 1960s sunshine pop bands like The Cowsills or The Association.
“The Summer Solstice” takes on a more progressive approach in both arrangement as well as structure. I have introduced some intriguing polyrhythms with the percussion which contrasts nicely against a backdrop of orchestral flourishes and glistening, choir-like vocal harmonies. Again, the vocal production of this piece was influenced by the sound of the 1960s in regards to the layering and thick, lush harmonies. At the time this song was in production, I had just moved into my first home with my girlfriend in the countryside. It was springtime and the peepers chirping in the intro were recorded in our yard one evening. You can also hear our neighbor’s rooster crowing across the valley towards the latter portion of the song, around the 03:03 mark. I feel that by incorporating these elements into the fabric of the song itself, I have managed to capture a glimpse back into a very special moment in my life.
The EP closer, “The Only One I Know,” is of course a cover of The Charlatans’ classic from the early ‘90s. I immediately fell in love with this song’s melody when I first heard it and I knew I had to cover it. It was almost as if this song was written with the intention of eventually becoming an Aura Blaze song 30 years later. I took some artistic liberties on this one, introducing the song with an epic orchestral overture that alludes to the chorus melody. The synth brass was also an idea that sporadically worked its way into the final piece after some experimentation in the studio. The vocal production, however, was something I tried to emulate as closely as possible to the original. I love the unique watery yet percussive effect that the slapback delay has, while the reverb subtly adds a smooth depth to the overall resonance. It was a fun challenge to reverse-engineer this sound.
Describe each track in two words.
Open-Mindedness: Neon freedom
The Summer Solstice: Nature choir
The Only One I Know: Nostalgia reimagined
Who did you work with on the EP?
Musically speaking, I handled every aspect of both the instrument and vocal performances as well as production myself. I am currently working with James Moore of Independent Music Promotions who had done a stellar job promoting my sophomore full-length album The Sparkling Black in 2019 so it was a no-brainer to work with him again. I also want to give a special shoutout to Larry from Data Recovery New Jersey who was instrumental in reviving the recording sessions after my hard drive broke.
What was the writing and recording process like?
Believe it or not, this EP almost never saw the light of day. The recording process began at the start of 2021 and was held up due to an external hard drive that crashed during production. I tried everything in my power to diagnose the issue and to get my computer to recognize the drive but these efforts proved to be fruitless. I looked into other options and found a data recovery specialist in the area and he was able to revive the recording sessions. I couldn’t begin to tell you the relief I felt to hear these tracks again after such a long delay and after such a devastating feeling of wondering if I will ever hear them again, or if they will be heard at all, by anyone else.
As soon as the recording sessions were recovered around mid July I quickly got back to work and was able to put the finishing touches on the recording during the fall of 2021.
Will we see a music video for any of the tracks?
Yes, coincidentally enough. Aside from a few lyric videos from The Sparkling Black, I haven’t released an official music video since my debut single, “A Glass of Tears Half Empty.” This time around, I enlisted the services of freelance animator BPMT Studios to create a trippy music video for the title track. They have done some incredible work for other indie artists like Jandry Palms and I am super stoked to see what they come up with for “Open-Mindedness.” The music video will likely be out very shortly in the coming weeks.
What else can we expect in 2022?
I have an ever-growing number of singles in the works and I am toying with the idea of doing another full-length. There are also a few cover songs I plan on reinterpreting. Without a doubt, 2022 is going to be a monumental year for Aura Blaze.
Where do you see yourself now in 5 Years?
I intend to carry forth the trajectory of my music career into new heights each and every day. In 5 years I am hoping I will be making a full time living off of my passion and creativity, being able to put 100% of my waking hours into achieving my goals and aspirations.
What quote or saying do you always stick by?
William Wallace screaming “Freeeeeeeeedom!!!!” in the movie Braveheart pretty much sums it up.
When you are at a gig, what are 5 things you cannot forget?
At the present moment Aura Blaze is a solo studio project. That being the case, I do not tour but if I did I would certainly take into account the following five things:
Pack extra cables, guitar strings, picks, etc.
Ensure that all instruments and gear are working properly
Perform thorough sound check
Make sure to have perfected the setlist
Bring the energy — have fun and amp up the audience as much as possible
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