LordRifa: Writing The Lullabies of a New Generation
We’ve pretty much covered the gamut in terms of the artist genres we’ve interviewed. We’ve taken on punk, rock, blues, hip-hop, electronic, instrumental, funk, folk and indie artists, but LordRifa is an entirely different animal. This was our first time interviewing a band that specializes in scoring films and videos. We’re delighted to have had the chance to chat with LordRifa’s Rev about how they got into scoring film and how different it is from the traditional band route. Enjoy!
Hey LordRifa, it’s great to chat with you and hear about your unique take on creating music. Could you start out by telling us a little bit about how you first got involved with music?
First off, I would like to say thank you for taking the time to chat with me. As a point of clarification, LordRifa is my last name. It’s also the name of my ensemble. You can call me Reverend or simply Rev. I don’t stand much on formality.
I started playing music at a very young age, but more importantly, First Father introduced me to storytelling at an even younger age. He would sing a story to me and then ask that I pass it on to the next person. That’s how it was done in those days. It sort of stuck.
Rev it is! Rev, unlike many musicians who end up in bands or playing shows, you’ve decided to pursue scoring films and videos. How was it that you came to do that?
I love soundtracks to things-Television-Movies-Videos even Commercials, (Although some are truly insipid!). My parents used to come home after a long days work and we would all sit in front of the TV and fall asleep. I would drift off to sleep to the sound of westerns and thrillers, game shows and sitcoms. I guess it’s a natural progression that I would write the lullabies of my youth.
I have played in bands throughout all my lives. At one point this time around, I decided to do it all myself. Less trouble and the only arguments I did have, I could possibly win.
But I grew very tired of playing with myself (Pardon the obvious pander) and decided to find a group that was able to play the things that I write. They needed to be flexible enough to play Bluegrass in the first 4 bars of a piece and then switch to Electronica in the next 4 bars, and then back again. And do it live as well!
Does the traditional band route appeal to you at all? Is it something you’ve ever done or are interested in?
We actually play gigs a lot. Sometimes we just gig for the fun of gigging. Sometimes, we play the film scores we write during the films premier. This is one of my favorite things to do. It combines playing live and film scoring all in one moment. We can score things for surround system to play back on the film, while we are playing something completely different live and completely surprise the audience. It’s all very exciting.
I love this band too. They are by far the best set of musicians that I have had the pleasure of working with. I’m gonna give them a quick shout out because they deserve it!
Steve Levy on Drums, Kenneth Armand Johnson on Keys, Wayne Sherwood on Guitar, Keren Gaiser and Bre Vallado on Vocals, Shawna Love on Bass, Daniel C. Wilson on Sax and Clarinet, Anna Keightly on Violin and Brian T. Chase who plays percussion, sings and anything else I find lying around on the street!
When scoring film, do you collaborate with other artists or are you composing and playing the various pieces all by yourself?
Music is a collaboration at all times. At the very least you are collaborating with the story you are trying to tell. On some films, depending on what the story is, I do it all myself, mostly because the film wants a singular voice to describe the story. Sometimes, I use the band (LordRifa) because of its multitude of voices, which tells the story in a different manner.
What instruments do you personally play yourself? Is there a particular instrument you start with when scoring?
I guess I would call myself a guitar player, although I also play Bass, Banjo, Mandolin, Cello, Keyboards, Drums, percussion and a whole lot of ego. I am in no way as proficient as I would like to be on any of them, but I can tell the story.
People always ask me how I start score and all I can say is, it’s different every single time around. It doesn’t matter what I start on, as long as I am true to what the story is asking me to start with. As an example, in the Sonnet Series Suite #2 the first thing I did was to start with the banjo even though we don’t hear it till the middle of the film. But what that did was give me an emotional place from which I can begin to help tell the filmmakers story.
Now, the piece of yours that we’ve featured is Sonnet Series: Suite 2. Could you tell us a little about what went into the creation of the score? How do you translate the emotions and scenes into music?
As a general rule, I like to get the film before the filmmaker has a chance to really tell me about what he/she wants from it. I want to know what the film asks of me directly. I realize that I speak of it terms of the film being alive, but I believe art is a living thing. It’s not organic life, but it evolves. It changes through time and perspective. Sometimes it changes for the better, sometimes for the worse. But in all cases we must respect art’s desire to live.
So I listen for what it tells me, then I create a musical sketch based upon those emotions and hand that back to the filmmaker to see how close I came. After that it’s give and take between the three of us. (The film, the filmmaker and myself).
Once you’ve composed a score, does it have to be approved by the filmmakers? Do you find yourself interacting with the film makers often when scoring a piece?
Film-making is an interactive process. It has to be. There are too many moving parts for only a few people to know. So just about all items are shared, bartered, haggled, beaten and argued until a common ground is found. I actually love that part about scoring. There is much to learn about yourself when you are forced to give up something you think is ESSENTIAL to the film and it ends up being just the opposite.
I enjoy the hell out of my artistic relationship with Rowan Brooks (The Filmmaker of the Sonnet Series) we are now on our 8th venture and he continuously brings me things that enlighten and challenge me as an artist. It’s what you want in a director otherwise its just notes for cash and I’m not really interested in that.
Out of all of the various scores you’ve composed, is there one you’re particularly proud of or fond of?
I am always most fond of the last thing I have done. It’s what I usually end up singing to myself when I walk my dogs. In this case it’s “The Florida Purse”, a musical that we did with Rowan Brooks (www.luckydragonproductions.com) and lyricist Ken Grobe. It just won best picture and best original score at the Scary Cow film festival this past weekend.
So what projects do you have lined up for 2014? Are there any pieces Progressive Man readers can look forward to?
In the immediate future we are putting out LordRifa’s 4th Album Called “Persona Non Grata”. I guess you could call it an electronic adventure into funky roots. Actually, we call it, “New Americana”. People need tag lines to put things in context and this seemed the closest. But we deal with real American themes of today; unemployment, the housing crisis, homelessness, loss, love and the unending addiction to our electronic BFF’s!
We have just begun scoring a film for Los Angeles based director, Frieda deLackner. In the spring we begin 2 new short films with Flying Moose Pictures based on 2 of the songs from the new Album.
Behind that, we have a few films in the hopper that I am not allowed to speak of… just yet.
We are also playing at the Sub Mission bar on Saturday, March 29th at 8 pm. 2183 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110. You should all come on down and check out the live show.
Thank you for speaking with us! Where can our readers go to find more pieces of your work?