crash Interview

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Christopher Richard has made a name for himself as the front man of The Deadly Syndrome, as well as a regular member of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros. Richard will be releasing his first ever solo album Hardly Criminal using the name crash on May 6th, and the first track he released from the record was “Motion Animal.” Rather than going for the mellower rock or folk leanings of the other bands he has been a part of, crash finds Richard embracing styles like soul, and the first thing I noticed was that he had one hell of a voice. With the release of the album approaching, I had the chance to email over some questions and learn more. Check out the video for “Motion Animal” along with Richard’s responses, and you can pre-order Hardly Criminal from Community Music.

Your debut solo album Hardly Criminal is set to release on May 6th. What made you decide that now was the right time to release a solo album and how long have some of these songs been in the works?

I suppose it was like ending one chapter of my life and beginning anew. It was something I felt creatively ready for. The material started coming together pretty quickly for me so I felt I wanted to act fast on recording the album. I’d say the oldest of the bunch is ‘Almighty Equal’ by about a year, but most of the songs were pretty fresh going into production.

You’ve been a part of both The Deadly Syndrome and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, but crash seems to pull from some additional musical influences. On “Motion Animal” I can hear a lot of soul/Motown elements which was quite appealing. What other influences are present throughout Hardly Criminal and how do you feel you have made these styles your own?

That was the luxury I had going into this project, to pull from whatever I wanted and go any direction I chose free from additional input from other members. Instead of drawing from modern bands and influences, I wanted to pull from my past and upbringing; Art Neville, Faron Young, etc. on songs like ‘Motion Animal.’ I felt confident that I could only sound like me. I wasn’t worried about working hard on my own sound. Even now, I have some new song ideas that I want to push a little more, make people say, ‘who does this guy think he is?’ – that’s a sign of truly free expression.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes members Alex Ebert and Mark Noseworthy were involved with Hardly Criminal, as the album is coming out on Ebert’s Community Music and Noseworthy produced and engineered the release. What was the recording process like and did you approach anything differently compared to the other studio sessions you’ve been a part of?

I’m thrilled to have Alex and COMMUNITY carrying this debut for me. This has really become a musical family for most of us Zeros and we believe strongly in what we’ve built and are still building, so it was familial to have some of The Zeros play on the record.

It’s what we’ve been doing together for the last 6 or 7 years. The process was very casual for Mark and I. We had to split it up sometimes working for a week at a time, but it didn’t take many weeks at all. Mark had a clear direction for his side of production, so it only required me to focus on the performance and such. Between the two of us, we worked very efficiently together and most of what you hear was fueled by tacos. That’s always nice.

Tell me some more about the video shoot for “Motion Animal.” I understand that it was shot in a single day and it looks like everyone was having a blast creating it. Is there a chance the performance elements from the video might be worked into your live performances?

What’s funny is that those elements were already happening in the live show during that song. If anything, I had to decide how to finalize what would make the cut in the video. After-all, the banter is only the lagniappe to get you through the transition to show that the video was then live. I think people are missing that it goes from a performance video to a live recording in the middle. I wanted to be subtle about it and sneak it past the viewer, but maybe that’s part of the problem. But it’s also cool to realize well after the fact – ‘wait, this video is live???’ – I don’t think that’s ever been done before.

I think you’ve got an absolutely incredible voice that’s quite attention grabbing. Did you have any formal vocal training over the years or has your range come out naturally as you’ve performed with different bands?

Thank you. I can’t say really. I just sing. I started kinda early, just singing whatever was on the local radio or MTV, like any youth does. As a teen, I wrote a handful of folk songs, played open mics here and there, and sang in a punk band called Easy Way Out, but that was the extent of things. I grew up a pretty bad kid, so later after high school I started going to church on my own accord. I was singing in church all throughout college, for about 5 years or so. It was the most I had sang in all my life. They even allowed me to lead the worship regularly. Man, let me tell you, I was singing all the time and some of those good spiritual too. Not like those stiff (but angelic) catholic hymnals my mom always liked. Then I dropped out of college late and left the church, began writing songs again. Did it make me the singer I am today? Partially, sure. Otherwise, I guess I’ve just been determined (or stubborn).

You’ve been able to take the spotlight during some Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes performances, but are there plans for a solo tour this year?

Yes, definitely. We’re figuring out this year and beyond. Playing with The Zeros has changed my life, and I love what we do. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to do some of my songs in the Ed Sharpe set. I am, however, looking forward to playing solo sets and getting these Hardly Criminal songs and my show out there for people to experience. Look out for me!

What do you hope listeners take away from Hardly Criminal once they’ve had the chance to experience the entire album?

Well, at the least, I hope they connect with the stories, connect with the heritage, and with me. Perhaps if you hear my voice and you like it, then maybe you’ll become more curious about the lyrics or even the tabs. Then next time I’m around we’ll be singing these tunes together.

What kind of things do you like to do when not creating music?

I laugh A LOT. and I love food. Can’t get enough of it. There ain’t nothing like a good meal, great company, and some quality bud. Picture me red-eyed and smilin!

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions and I’m excited to hear the rest of the album. Is there anything else you’d like to say?

If you ever get the chance to go to New Orleans, you had better GEAUX. And tell ’em I sent ya!! There ain’t a better place to be, O I BELIEVE.

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