The cancellations of events and shutdowns of bars and restaurants due to COVID-19 have affected everybody — and that includes local musicians who have seen their regular gigs canceled and, in some cases, their lifelines profoundly compromised. As a result, we are checking in with one musician a week to see how they’re doing, what they’re listening to and if they are up to creating new music while they quarantine with the rest of the world.
This week, we caught up via email with Ricole Barnes, or as some may know him, Retro/Ricole, who some of you might know from his work as the leader of local band daMOOD. Not only was last week his birthday, but he also dropped his first solo album in five years, “#bannedfromstreaming,” on Friday. Tackling everything from the history of the Beatles to professional wrestling, it’s one of the most versatile releases to come out during the pandemic. During our interview, he spoke about the latest Fiona Apple record, what daMOOD has in store next and how COVID-19 has helped bring him back to his childhood music. To learn more about Retro/Ricole, visit his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/retroricole. To listen to his brand new album, check out his Soundcloud at soundcloud.com/retro-ricole.
1. What have you been listening to while self-quarantining and what about it makes you want to listen to it these days?
Ricole: I have a ton of customized playlists. The current album I keep revisiting is Fiona Apples’s “Fetch The Bolt Cutters!” I’ve been a huge fan since her last album, “The Idler Wheel…” so I was curious as to what she would do next. Well, only take it to another level of genius! I’m definitely inspired. So much that I completed my first solo project in five years during this quarantine titled “#bannedfromstreaming.” I recorded tracks for it dating all the way back to 2016. I remember even mentioning it to you form my Frederick Playlist interview in 2017. Reading about how Fetch was a six-year process reassured me that it’s not how and when you start, but how and when you finish. With that said, I released it on May 8, which happens to be my birthday and fifth year anniversary of my last solo project, “Mr. Sunrise.”
2. Have you come across any live-streams/Internet-based performances over the last few weeks that have stuck out as a result of COVID cancellations?
Ricole: Besides Doublemotorcycle? Yeah man! The artists of Generation X have been bringing me back to my childhood. Legendary hip-hop producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland have been hosting Versuz Battles. It’s where they have other legendary producers and artists square off and play music from their catalog back to back, letting the public decide who’s victorious. In addition to that, Questlove hasn’t missed a night of spinning records since the quarantine and it’s been an amazing, educational journey through musics many eras! Also, Travis $cott’s Fortnite concert was next level. Oh, I’ve found time to livestream my “DECADES” dance party as well.
3. Are you using this time to write new material? If so, how’s that process going?
Ricole: For sure! It’s been inspiring. We’ve used this time to finish our album titled “In The RED.” Our lead single, “Camp,” will be out soon ... I’m currently writing lyrics to the album’s title track, which should be complete by the time this interview goes to press.
4. What’s the most positive takeaway you’ve been able to experience from all the self-quarantining and the music industry being on pause for the time being?
Ricole: I think we’ve all been able to slow down for the better. The human condition is delicate and we shouldn’t take for granted the present. It’s allowed for ultimate self reflection and creativity. I know before this, I was constantly on the move and should’ve been more focused on my health physically and mentally. Quarantining has helped me hone in on both. For the music industry, it’s taken the politics of it out for a bit. You’re now free to be as creative, quirky and avant-garde as you want to. Social media is such a blessing when it’s used the right way.
5. If there’s one song that you think could help everybody get through these uncertain times, what would it be and why?
Ricole: “Ra Sushine” by daMOOD from our album “Yellow Sound Era.” It’s available on all major streaming platforms, so check it out.
BONUS QUESTION: What artists, local or not, do you think have done a great job staying engaged musically online and what about what they’re doing sets them apart?
Ricole: The artists I mentioned previously. Locally, there’s been a host of artists. My guy, Stitch Early, has been consistent and creative. JT Wicker, who’s an up and coming MC/singer/dancer/model has been providing great content visually and sonically. My guy, Downtown Dawson, with his latest EP “SMOLDER” gave us life. Mr. Husband, Silent Old Mtns., the list goes on. Thanks to all of those artists. Also, DaMOOD has a surprise for all of our fans/supporters ... I wish nothing but love and good health to anyone reading this interview.