Richie Quake is his own muse. The Brooklyn-based indie-rock artist wears two hats as a producer and songwriter. More recently, he’s turned to the latter of those roles, focusing on songwriting while shaping himself as a creative. Quake sat down with The Harvard Crimson to talk on the eve of their sophomore album ‘Dog’, which was released on November 15th.
Quake’s process has changed since delving into acoustic songwriting. It has adapted to separate the creation process from the production process.
“I just approached it by literally separating, you know, the songwriting first, letting everything grow and live in that realm. And then when I was done, I took it into the studio and reworked it,” Quake said.
Treating a work in progress as an entity separate from the finished product allows him to let imperfection and forgiveness become a constructive part of the creation process.
“A lot of it was just writing stuff on guitar together, not really caring how the demos sounded, just getting together and writing the best song we could write. And then I try to take it to a good place, maybe months and weeks and months later, you know, just not worrying about what the production sounds like as much as what the song sounds like.”
Quake has always had a positive association with his artistry. Regarding the length of his career, he quipped, “I’m old.” Joking aside, it was clear from the conversation that Quake has developed a knack for self-observation over his years in the music industry.
“I can’t say that I’ve ever had a super specific vision of who I am as an artist or what I do. I’ve just always made music and wanted to put it out there,” he said. “I went through a lot of ups and downs, learned a lot and failed a lot, and music was just a steady thing. Songs, albums, EPs, they went up, I took them down, I deleted probably 80% of the music I played. So it’s a long story.”
While his career began with DIY tracks posted on Bandcamp, Quake grew out of his days of entirely self-produced work. He talks about the magic of recording ‘Dog’ with a live band.
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“This is my first album that I would say wasn’t produced in the bedroom or something,” he said. “It’s just so satisfying because you can never get that kind of energy.”
When asked about his favorite songs to produce, he brought up the title track.
“‘Dog’ was probably just one of my favorite songs because I’ve always dreamed of working with string players,” Quake said. “Hearing them layer upon layer and build into this emotional film score thing was just great.”
He suggested that a young Richie Quake would be surprised by the support of collaborators such as his string players, as well as his entire live band. He noted that in his experience, producing in the age of social media lends itself to a tremendous amount of self-criticism.
“I was watching what was blowing up on SoundCloud and letting it just affect 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 I still like that other people value, compared to the things I valued. And now I don’t anymore. Now I just appreciate that thing. Now I just focus on just the things I like and that and writing the songs and making the music I want to hear, no matter what other people think.”
Quake has worked hard to reach this mastery of his artistry and skill at creating beyond expectations. One part of this job was considering his company in his endeavors. “I’ve done a lot of work to surround myself with people who value me for me as opposed to, you know, someone else.”
He often ponders the value of imparting this wisdom to young aspiring artists and helping them navigate the ins and outs of music making.
“I like to teach people things. I often think about how I wish 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. Inside we have the same fears. We have the same love, you know, we have the same kind of joy and sadness and anger. And I think there are so many things in the world that try to divide us and teach us that our experiences are different and we can never understand each other.”
Quake received a formal music education in college, an experience increasingly uncommon in the industry in the era of the viral hit. Although he gives mixed reviews of this experience, he does not regret his education as a formative tool for his creative development. Quake’s creativity shines when he talks about music education. He reflected on himself as a muse: “If I were a muse, as a music teacher, I would like to focus on showing people that we are all the same and that we just need to find our truth and that can really bring us together. “