Dust off your dancing shoes, kids, Body Parts are coming to town. Body Parts was formed by singer, actor, guitarist, and synth player Ryder Bach in Los Angeles, California circa 2009. Bach and his bandmate Alina Cutrono form the core of the group, and are joined by a rotating cast of musicians.
The band is currently touring the West Coast in support of their debut full-length LP, Fire Dream, which was released in October 2013 via Father/Daughter Records. In addition to Bach and Cutrono, the band’s Fire Dream lineup includes Derek Coburn and Taylor Dexter. We caught up with Ryder Bach over the phone, while Body Parts had some time off on the road.
Body Parts will be performing at Rickshaw Stop on Tuesday, January 21 with Cloud Control and Wild Ones. Read on for an in-depth profile of the past, present, and future of this uniquely theatrical band.
The Bay Bridged: You are currently touring the West Coast with Cloud Control. How is the tour going so far?
Ryder Bach: It’s good. It’s really good. We’ve played two shows so far. Cloud Control is incredible, and they’re really fun, and the shows have been really good. People have been into it and we couldn’t ask for a better time.
TBB: Sounds fun. Are you guys touring in a van? How are you getting around?
RB: We’re in this big, white Chevy van… It’s pretty cool. It’s not bad. This tour’s been pretty relaxed, compared to previous tours. Like, today, we have off. In between Portland and San Francisco we have two days off, which is nice… when we get to a show we’re not as exhausted, which is really, really great.
TBB: I understand that Body Parts has played at SXSW for the past two years. Any festival plans for 2014?
RB: Yeah! We are definitely going to SXSW… Nothing else is scheduled for sure (yet).
TBB: There have been some minor changes in the band’s membership since you started Body Parts in 2009. For example, who is S.A. Bach and what is his relationship with the band?
RB: Yeah… he’s like a songwriter himself. He’s really good, and he was playing with the band for like, a year. He played drums with us… He played percussion and sang. He did one trip to SXSW with us… and then we just kind of parted ways. We were taking the band in a new direction, and then we needed a different kind of drummer…
The way the band is set up… if someone isn’t available anymore, we kind of just rearrange completely.
TBB: Which other members are currently touring with the band?
RB: Right now, it’s Alina—the other singer, Taylor—the drummer, and Derek—keyboards and percussion.
TBB: How did you initially link up with Alina Cutrono?
RB: We were friends, and she kind of… I had just started this band and I was like, “I need you in it.” And she was like, “Alright, I’ll do it.” It just kind of worked out that we were both interested in the same sort of music, and she deals very well with my antics… We have a good working relationship… We have a nice way of bouncing things off of each other and being creative when we need to be, and to bring it, when to need to calm down…
I’ve always found that the danger of doing stuff on my own is that it’s really easy to lose all perspective of what I’m doing. So it’s always really nice to have a really talented, intelligent person to provide that sense of, like, “That’s a bad idea,” or like… “That idea’s really good, let’s go deeper into that.”
It’s kind of hard to describe exactly what we do. It’s different every time, based on the song… or based on the tour or the show. Also, Alina is a dancer. She’s like, a really good trained dancer. She does a lot of choreography and… she has a lot of surprise skills that sort of come in handy a lot of the time. She can breathe fire! She’s in, like, a sideshow performance. Sometimes in rehearsal, just to get fired up, we’ll have her breathe fire.
TBB: Do you still do most of the songwriting for Body Parts yourself?
RB: Yeah. All the stuff that’s released now… I wrote all of it. But we’ll see, you know… It’s kind of hard to say whether or not we’ll start writing together… it could happen. We’re gonna try it out, and see where it takes us.
TBB: I’ve noticed that your previous EP, On Purpose, is no longer available online (since its release in 2011). Would you say that the band has turned over a new leaf with the release of its Fire Dream LP on Father/Daughter Records in October 2013?
RB: A little bit, maybe… If anything, that was for practical purposes, more than aesthetic reasons. Just ‘cause the internet, these days, is like, presentation is a big thing… Just being able to present what you want to present, at the moment you want to present it, is pretty important…
Aesthetically, it’s not dead in any way. I haven’t killed it, but it’s just unavailable at this particular moment… I’m still into it.
TBB: Could you describe the recording process for Fire Dream, and how it differs from that of your previous releases?
RB: Yeah. So, for Fire Dream, I spent about a year writing all of the songs. Some of the songs, we had played live for a really long time before we recorded them. Generally speaking, it’s kind of like, I would demo out the songs quite a bit… For some of the songs I did, like, eight different demo versions of them….
Then with Ray, who engineered the record… Him and I spent about two months tracking everything in a variety of home studios and apartments… whatever we could find. And then I took two months off to do this other thing, and then we came back to it and spent about a month tracking the recordings of the other songs…
Then I worked with this guy Eric Palmquist, who mixed it. So for Fire Dream, there were really, like, three disparate stages… there was a huge demoing/writing [period]; and tracking took, like, a month. At each stage, everything changed quite drastically, I think. Mixing the album went from a home studio-sounding recording to a super dancey, poppy, hard-hitting album….
Taylor Dexter played the drums on it… It was kind of different for me to have other musicians play on all our recordings. Our previous stuff was all just me… messing around in a basement by myself. So that was a big difference with this album… other musicians played [their own] parts. That affected a lot of stuff…
Generally speaking… there are so many different phases at any stage…. The whole song can just sort of take on a whole new thing. Like the first song, “Desperation”, when we initially recorded it… it was feeling really long. So, we sort of chopped all the choruses in half, and kind of restructured the song after we had recorded everything. There were a lot of moments in the recording process, where instead of, like, “Let’s just like, fix this up.” I tend to do that a lot. I tend to go down a certain road, and then go… “No, no, no, this is totally wrong. Let’s go this way,” which can be good. Which is I hope is good, I don’t really know…
TBB: You once described On Purpose as being “foreground music.” Did you take a similar approach to writing Fire Dream?
RB: I took a slightly different approach… the intent of that EP was intentionally foreground. The goal of that was to make it difficult, if you wanted to just put music on in the background, that would be a bad choice to do that with.
But for this album, that wasn’t really the goal. Although, I think my singing voice and some of my arrangements can be a little off kilter, and sort of like, stand out a little bit, in a weird sort of way. I think the music tends to be… I think I will never to be able to escape this, the thing that, like, my music tends to be a little bit weird and off-kilter, but it will always be a little foreground-y. But that wasn’t the goal of this album. The goal of this album was really to capture this feeling that I describe as “Fire Dream,” and any foreground aspect is just by chance.[Alina Cutrono chimes in and says she thinks that the album, Fire Dream, has a loose narrative, with a beginning-to-end arc present on the album. Ryder Bach agrees.]
RB: If you wanted to listen to it with more focused ears, in that way, you could. You could focus on it in more of a foreground way… I think that’s always a goal with Body Parts. Like, if you wanted to pay very close attention to it, it would also be engaging in that way as well. I spend a lot of time on lyrics. That’s a big thing… The lyrical content is very much, like, I place a lot of importance on that… Sometimes I don’t even know why, because I don’t even think people really listen to lyrics that much, but I can’t help but want the lyrics to be the type of thing, like, if you do choose to listen to them, there has to be a lot of body and substance.
TBB: Is it important for you to incorporate that thematic arc into your live shows?
RB: Yeah, it is. I think that we’ve been, maybe not so much from beginning to end of the show, but we’ve been trying out new things with our live shows. That way, we can have it feel somehow connected to the experience of the album. Sometimes that means, like, different than the album. Live [performances] always translates so much differently… some songs are quite different than [on] the album… They just work a lot better in a live setting.
TBB: How has your experience in theater influenced your live performances as a band?
RB: Probably in the exactly the way you would expect. We are both very theatrical performers…. We try and think about our physicality a lot, and have it be something that is a theatrical gesture, rather than just like a band gesture. I think bands have a very specific way of performing, where like, everyone just sort of stands there. There’s like, clichés about how everyone stands…. Because of our theatrical background, some of [our] choices tend to be very theatrical, [with] larger movements. Our hands would go up into the air in places that other bands wouldn’t put their hands in the air.
TBB: I recently listened to the Yalls remix of “Be A God.” Are there any other artists you would like to work with in the future?
RB: That turned out great. I really like that remix. That guy’s good…
There are a lot of people I would love to work with…. I really like Shy Girls in Portland… There’s this band in LA putting out a record on Innovative Leisure later this year called De Lux. I’m really into them. Hopefully we’ll do some remixes for each other. This guy Derek Coburn, he actually plays live in the band right now, I wanna work with him on some stuff.
I really like Ariel Rechtshaid, he’s like the man of the hour, the producer guy… He lives really close to where we all live. I see him at coffee shops sometimes. He’s like royalty in LA. Actually, he’s royalty in the whole world. It would be really cool to work with someone like that. We want to work with people who we think are incredible, and no less, really. There’s a lot of really talented people in Los Angeles. There’s a filmmaker. Her name is Dagmar Weaver-Madsen. We want to do a video with her. There’s a bunch of stuff we’re trying to work on… getting timing and logistics together is the biggest thing. Everyone is so busy these days.
TBB: If you had to choose a favorite Body Part, or one that best represents the band, what would it be?
RB: Oh wow, I think I know. I think that it’s probably… the thumb. It’s either the thumb or the index finger, depending on the thumb or index finger we’re choosing. It depends on the specific finger, but one of those two.
TBB: Finally, what’s next for Body Parts?
RB: We’re hoping to tour more this year. We’re hoping to do a tour to SXSW and back. We’re just kind of working on new stuff in the meantime, and getting a new thing together, but who knows. It kind of just depends on what happens with touring… whether or not we’ll release something sooner rather than later. We’ll either be touring this whole year, or we’ll put out some new stuff in the next couple months… or maybe both.
Cloud Control, Body Parts, Wild Ones
January 21, 2014