Interview: Getting to know avant-garde prodigy Risa Rubin

Earlier in 2016, Risa Rubin released her sophomore album “Jewish Unicorn”, an audio-visual outing, which was met with resounding critical and public acclaim, and rightly so. The record spans eleven ethereal, harp-heavy, transporting tracks which evoke thoughts of everyone from Laurie Anderson to Joanna Newsom, each accompanied with an individual video to provide further immersion for the listener.

Decemeber 8th sees a re-release of the record on cassette, CD and VHS from Irish independent label Little L Records. We sat down with Risa Rubin to discuss the new re-issues, the recording process of “Jewish Unicorn” and more, which you can absorb below.

United Cassettes: Hi Risa, it’s a pleasure to catch up with you to discuss the new reissues of your sophomore album “Jewish Unicorn”. How has the reception been so far?

Risa Rubin: Hi! Thanks, a pleasure to talk to you as well! I would say the reception has been pretty good, definitely an improvement from my first album I released. I am still not a Beyonce, or even a Carseat Headrest haha, but it feels exciting that for the first time a few people are paying me for my music, and it is more accessible to people that I don’t know than before. I feel less embarrassed about promoting this album than my previous one, and even proud, so I think that is helping me get a better response. I really want it to be heard, so more people are responding to that, which is nice and makes me feel more like I’m on the right track.

UC: “Jewish Unicorn” was a self-made affair, which is something that we always love to hear. Could you tell us a bit more about the recording process?

RR: Sure. Yes, very very self-made. I recorded it in my apartment a year ago in Eagle Rock, which is a neighborhood in North East Los Angeles. I was living in a really awful building, and had just lost a nannying job, so I decided it was a good time to really create an album. I had a bunch of songs written and kind of cycled through them until I had a list of songs that really felt like something. I recorded in my living room for about a month and then had the album. It was recorded on a laptop that was in two parts. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but learned about the recording and producing process as I went. I spent that whole month very in it, and needed that isolation in order to really get it done. Since, I have been trying to kind of record a new album, and have realized I really need to be away from people and other responsibilities to make it happen, which is tough.

UC: Did you have any key inspirations when recording and writing the album?

RR: Not specifically, no. I guess I did have certain qualities in mind I wanted it to have; hoped it would feel comforting, unique, self-aware, hopefully inspiring, maybe even funny. There is a lot of music I have listened to in order to gain inspiration, but ultimately, at that point I really just wanted to make something that felt very honest and autobiographical. Something that was sort of the announcement of a certain phase in my life, kind of a purging of that phase of my life, because I knew that phase would be over soon, and it wasn’t necessarily a phase I wanted to relive. Wanted to take all of the inspiration from that period, put it out there, so I had made it known and could move on. Also though! I am a big fan of Miranda July, Pipilotti Rist, (which definitely influenced the video portion of my album) Joanna Newsom, Fiona Apple, and know I had them in mind to some degree while I was making it.

UC: How is your local scene in Los Angeles? Is there anyone you’d recommend to our readers?

RR: There are a lot of different local music scenes in Los Angeles from what I can tell, but there is one kind of dominating in terms of indie music, that I wouldn’t say produces the greatest music or types of people. That said, having made and played music here for the past 2 years or so, I have met a few people that I am friends with that really do make great music! Goosepimple, Mia Loucks (also released by Little L!), Moths, Dominique Matelson. I have also found that putting on your own shows allows you to kind of create the scene you want to be a part of. I put on variety shows with music, comedy, and other stuff, which I really like doing, and kind of helps me feel like my music fits in somewhere here.

UC: What’s next for Risa Rubin? Anything fun in the pipeline?”

RR: I don’t know! Hopefully a new album sometime pretty soon. I’m still working out the kinks of a new album, but getting closer! I’m also hoping somehow to make the album sort of theatrical. I’m hoping it would be something that you could kind of watch all of live in a seated, theatre type setting. My dream is that there would be a bunch of people playing on it and kind of dressed up in costume with maybe a set behind us, and some dialogue in between, kind of like a play. It might end up being way too much work, and so I might decide against it, but in a dream world I think that’s what I would do next!

UC: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us Risa!

“Jewish Unicorn” is out via Little L Records on December 8th, you can listen to Jewish Unicorn below.

Written by:

Label owner / vintage guitar aficionado / often found playing Earthbound.