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Miranda Lee Richards - Interview

  by Carl Bookstein

published: 31 / 10 / 2017

Miranda Lee Richards - Interview


Carl Bookstein speaks with Los Angeles based singer songwriter Miranda Lee Richards about the unsettling state of the world and her topical new album ‘Existential Beast’.

Singer-songwriter Miranda Lee Richards originates from California: San Francisco born, Los Angeles-based. Her latest album is the politically charged, yet still poetic ‘Existential Beast’, tackling the troubling state of our modern world. It is a follow-up to 2016’s evocative ‘Echoes of the Dreamtime’, That album’s gorgeous ‘First Light of Winter’ took on an impending darkness in the air, but ‘Existential Beast’ takes it all so much farther. Richards addresses modern times with poetry and integrity. She inspires her listeners with her altruistic viewpoint and vision. Her music career in its early phases included work with the great Brian Jonestown Massacre and its auteur Anton Newcombe. Today she draws on 1970’s influenced country-tinged psychedelia, but such terms don’t speak to her genuine originality and her unique songwriter voice- capturing multiple layers of darkness and light. Her work is both challenging and thought provoking. It is once again also poetry. Miranda Lee Richards kindly discussed her work, the world today and ‘Existential Beast’ with Pennnyblackmusic: PB: On the new album closer 'Another World', you state: “I’m not afraid to speak of the darkness for it has been brought to light.” What was the thought process that led you to decide you would take on the current political climate and the troubles of the world with 'Existential Beast'? MLR: I do feel a responsibility to talk about current affairs in song, because I feel a need to fill a void in that regard and I also feel very passionately about what's going on. There are simply so many issues on the table that it can be overwhelming, and it's easy to think "not my problem" and put your head in the sand. Well, as more interconnectedness sets in, we are beginning to realize that it's all of our problem. We live on the same relatively small planet, hurling through space, so we better get this right! PB: Was it scary to you to take on such heavy and political subject matter? MLR: Well, yes and no in the sense that the road had already been paved. There is a legacy of protest music in 60's and 70's rock and folk genres, and rap took on that roll in the 90's. But then, it seemed like there was a really sexually charged era for for a while in pop music, and I just felt like it was necessary to talk about the breadth of human experience. But it's important not to be preachy or taboo or you will turn people off. It just IS, and what we’re facing now is profound, life-changing, gutteral and terrifying. It is also a pivotal, transformative, and inspiring time. PB: 'Golden Gate', towards the end, speaks to a sense of wonder and magic. Are you able to remember these truths despite the weight of modern times? MLR: Well, yes, that's the contrast to the darkness and turmoil. There is beauty and light and fun to be had, and it's important not to forget. The bleakness is the old paradigm again of where we were and are and were headed. And that's what makes the CHOICE so important and why it's so important to focus on the solution not the problem. PB: 'First Light of Winter' from your last album 'Echoes of the Dreamtime' is one of my all time favourite songs. Were you speaking to a sign of darkness back then or did you feel more hope at that time? Or was it a mix? MLR: 'First Light of Winter' is examining the darkness, or the contrast, once again. It is about surviving adversity and becoming stronger as a result. For the song I utilized images from Hurricane Katrina (and now we have two more major hurricanes to add to the list) which was an aprapo metaphor for fear and the feeling of being totally powerless and victim of circumstance (or nature.) I believe it is time to begin the serious discussion around global warming - a lot of people have finally been woken up which is a good thing. PB: 'Another World' speaks to the promise of California. Do you see California rising to the challenge of the current national political climate? MLR: I do see California rising to the challenge, but not to the point of succession if that seems at all implied. It's just that there are a large percentage of progressive, conscious, and politically active people who call California home, both born here and who have come here from all over the world. PB: Do you ever reflect back on your early work and your time with the Brian Jonestown Massacre? What do you take away from and what did you learn from working with Anton Newcombe of BJM? MLR: Surely, I reflect back on it, but I personally happen to be in a very creative period right now, so I’m pretty focused on what I’m doing at the moment! And I would love to collaborate and make more music with Anton at some point in the near future. PB: On 'The Wildwood' you sing of “awaiting Judgment Day” and ask “Can the world be saved?’ How do you answer this question? MLR: I believe we are facing crisis right of biblical proportions (or about to) which is why I chose the term. And the question is for all of us to ask and answer and examine our personal role in the outcome. This puts the responsibility on everyone, equally. PB: You have stated 'Lucid I Would Dream' takes on your reoccurring dreams about being able to breathe underwater. What do you take away from and learn from these dreams? MLR: It's usually a reflection of where I’m at in life, and when I have one of these dreams it's a good indicator that I’m grappling with how to process an experience. Sometimes my underwater dreams are magical and uplifting, other times they are a bit surreal or dangerous. But then I realize I will survive the waves and ride them out, and that I can breathe underwater, so it's about triumph and having strength and power also. PB: When you last spoke with Pennyblack, you said the next album would be a sequel to 'Echoes of the Dreamtime'. Did the rise of Donald Trump lead you to change those plans and go on a new direction with 'Existential Beast' or were you still able to utilize your backlog of earlier work? MLR: Well I was working on 'Existential Beast' already. 'Lucid I Would Dream', 'On the Outside of Heaven' and 'Golden Gate' were already recorded and 'Existential Beast', 'Oh Raven', 'The Wildwood' and 'Back to the Source' were rough drafts. Song ideas and finished recordings are two different things, so there was work to be done and it had to be done rather quickly! 'Another World' took nearly three months to craft, not including all the arranging and production. That was my post-election opus! PB: Your use of poetic imagery in lyrics is always so strong: 'Autumn Sun' from the latest album, 'Colours So Fine' from the last one. Did you set out to be a poet from early on? MLR: Well, thank you - I didn't actually - I always aspired to be a good lyricist, but I but didn't think I had the acclimation to be a good poet. And then something switched in me where I was able to delve within a situation, pull the nuance out of it and be more creative with language. Sometimes I’ll adapt an existing poem of mine to song; I’ll chop it up to make it fit, but I always make sure in the end that the lyrics still read like a poem if possible. After all, that's the good stuff. PB: Thank you.

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Miranda Lee Richards - Interview

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Interview (2016)
Miranda Lee Richards - Interview
Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Miranda Lee Richards talks to John Clarkson about her first album in seven years, the 60's and 70's-influenced 'Echoes of a Dreamtime'

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Existential Beasts (2017)
Political but poetic commentary on the state of modern times from Californian singer-songwriter Miranda Lee Richards
Echoes of the Dreamtime (2016)
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