‘It’s a violent time to be human’: Hurray for the Riff Raff on making joyful music under fire | Music

Alynda Lee Segarra is practising radical pleasure. The musician – higher often called Hurray for the Riff Raff – has determined to embrace happiness despite this period’s specific horrors. “That is a violent time to be a human – it’s sort of all the time a violent time to be a human,” they clarify over Zoom from their ethereal New Orleans dwelling. “How will we keep current, how will we intensely really feel pleasure, and never simply the crushing weight of all of it?”

The reply is timber. “We’re hit with hurricanes yearly but vegetation is flourishing. It was very comforting to take a look at these residing beings and be like: ‘I don’t know the way to survive this. How the fuck do you survive this?’” they are saying, recounting pandemic-induced walks round their lush native panorama. Rising up in a cramped house in the Bronx, New York Metropolis, they felt the pure world was reserved for “very rich individuals who go on elaborate holidays. It felt like a class divide.” Now, vegetation aren’t simply providing Segarra power and solace – they’re additionally serving to them craft a entire new style.

“Nature punk” is how Segarra refers to their forthcoming eighth album, Life on Earth, the follow-up to 2017’s rave-reviewed The Navigator. It contains a scrappy, swaggering, Lou Reed-reminiscent homage to the rhododendron, whereas nearer Kin sees Segarra collaborate with a wind chime-draped tree which they describe as their “favorite experimental musician”.


But what’s most spectacular about Life on Earth is just not the uncommon credit score record, however the approach Segarra metabolises bleak and disturbing topics into songs that brim with hope, magnificence and cheer. Opener Wolves is a hovering, soothing, synth-peppered slice of heartland rock that alludes to local weather disaster. On Treasured Cargo, the refugee disaster is movingly – however in some way not despairingly – evoked in lyrics about journeying by way of the jungle solely to face the inhumane circumstances of US detention centres.

That music relies on the testimony of two males Segarra met a few years in the past whereas volunteering for an organisation that helps asylum seekers in Ice detention services. It was a transfer prompted by the musician feeling that they had been “getting pummelled by the information. I used to be like I’ve all this fucking free time and I’m simply feeling unhealthy for myself and the world: let me go do one thing.” Finally, the males had been launched, and one in all them gives Treasured Cargo’s coda, by which he asks individuals to preserve serving to refugees: “I requested what his message to the world was and that’s what he determined on. It’s actually lovely.”

Additionally lovely is Jupiter’s Dance, a sticky, bristling pop music that provides consolation to immigrant youngsters. It options the rhythms of the Puerto Rican music Segarra heard as a youngster: after years spent overlooking their heritage, they started incorporating such influences into their rootsy, folksy sound on The Navigator. Life on Earth strikes their sound on once more into one thing slicker and synthier, partly thanks to producer Brad Prepare dinner (Waxahatchee, Snail Mail), whom Segarra describes as a lovingly encouraging determine with a “Ted Lasso vibe”. In the previous, their work has normally been labelled Americana, however the musician feels more and more alienated from that style. “The Americana world feels so oppressive to me – a world that doesn’t need to hear the fact about how onerous it’s to be alive. It makes issues very fairly.”

Alynda Lee Segarra.
‘The Americana world doesn’t need to hear the fact about how onerous it’s to be alive’ … Alynda Lee Segarra. {Photograph}: Akasha Rabut

As a teenager, it was punk and the pleasant neighborhood round it that captured Segarra’s creativeness. “I used to be a part of an acoustic punk band that was very embarrassing, however as a result of in New York we now have such small areas I couldn’t practise the electrical guitar. I shared a room with my aunt, she would have been like, ‘that is so annoying!’” Born to Nuyorican (New York Puerto Rican) dad and mom – their father was a music instructor and their mom served as one in all New York’s deputy mayors in the 90s – Segarra lived with their aunt and uncle till the age of 17, once they left to journey the US and play music in a avenue band. “I used to be on this world of wanting to dwell outdoors of society, that was my largest dream, to not pay hire or pay for something and don’t have any cash. I felt like I might be crushed by making an attempt to be a part of the world and have a job.” The popular mode of transport was freight-hopping – the unlawful and really harmful follow of sneaking on to freight trains. “I look again and assume how the fuck did I do this? As a result of now I’m so neurotic,” they shudder.

The pandemic gave Segarra area to course of the trauma of that time. “These very bodily recollections would wash over me, all this stillness and silence introduced up a lot.” They discovered that EMDR – a type of remedy that makes use of buzzers and blinking lights to divest sure recollections of their distressing impact – helped. “I’d been doing speak remedy for a few years, and I can intellectualise one thing all day, however I used to be similar to: why do I nonetheless really feel like I’m crawling out of my pores and skin?”

This era of therapeutic has additionally altered their method to touring. Beforehand, that they had excessive expectations of themself: “I needed to carry out properly, I needed to give individuals hope. Now I need to go in being like, I’m a human and all I can do is be current with you.” As they put together to head again out on the highway, Segarra is hoping to take the classes of the final two locked-down years with them; the realisation that “it’s OK for me to simply get by way of as we speak, it’s OK if all I did as we speak was make a very nice meal”. As their profoundly heartening new album proves, they achieved an terrible lot greater than that.

Life on Earth is launched by way of Nonesuch on 18 February.

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