The Intake Form: Meet Orchestral Folk Wonder William Ryan Fritch

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The Intake Form is Flavorwire’s new questionnaire feature spotlighting emerging musicians worth your time, paired with a premiere. Here, we debut William Ryan Fritch’s Gregory Euclide-directed video for “Still” featuring Esmé Patterson, off his new album Revisionist on Lost Tribe Sound, and discuss imaginary friends who play basketball, death dreams, and hating Nineties alt-rock with the Bay Area multi-instrumentalist and film/TV composer.

The first thing I’d heard about William Ryan Fritch was that he doesn’t really read music and makes his songs with instruments bound for the city dump. I thought, “Big whoop.” Then I heard his music. It’s intricate work, full of sounds that are simultaneously huge and delicate. Also a member of Death Blues with Volcano Choir’s Jon Mueller, Fritch is clearly inspired by the drama of nature and tribalism. In some ways I’m reminded of Andrew Bird’s more ambitious instrumental feats, in others of Antony Hegarty and the first two Arcade Fire albums, but none of those comparisons is really a great fit. So I’ll just say this: the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen and the sight you run from in your nightmares are conjured both by the otherworldly orchestrations of Revisionist.

If you didn’t play music, what would you do instead? I really don’t know anymore. I’ve wanted to make music for a living since I was about 9 or 10, and I’ve honestly only considered two professions in my life: to be a professional basketball player or to make music. I love to cook more than most things, but I worked in enough restaurants in my early twenties to know that I would not be happy doing that day in and day out at this point. There is definitely a distinction between what I’d maybe like to do versus what I’d be qualified or capable of doing. I think my obsessive work style and love for cinema would drive me to pursue film editing and storyboarding, and that is probably the only other art medium I could truly lose myself in besides music.

Weirdest childhood habit: I was a strange kid. I am still a strange kid stuck in a world of adult responsibilities. I also spent a lot of time alone as a kid and therefore would pretend all kinds of scenarios to entertain myself. I used to play basketball by myself and practice as if I were ten different people at once; blocking my own shots stealing the ball from myself — and do this for HOURS! I admittedly still remember the names of all these imaginary personas and what their ‘game’ was like and could just as easily slip back into that imaginary world today if I was shooting a basketball and didn’t watch myself.

A fictional character you personally relate to: I always related to Big Bird as a kid. But based on the way that my friends and loved ones describe me, you’d think my personality sits smack dab in the middle of a venn diagram of all the well-known cartoon dogs: Clifford the Big Red Dog, Pluto, Goofy, Huckleberry Hound, and Scooby-Doo.

Are you a Paul, a John, a George, or a Ringo? George (Martin).

Your biggest fault: I literally just typed ten different things and then backspaced each of them! All my many faults seem to all pool together in a big, sloppy, unabashed whole. My lack of self-awareness on a day-to-day basis is alarming. I am so in my head at times that I am just flat-out careless. This combined with being a large man with an overwhelmingly gregarious/hyper-active personality can make for a lot of “Bull in the China Shop” moments where I am inadvertently destructive.

Something you have an irrational hatred for: The mirrors in front of weight rooms, weight rooms, 1990s rock/alternative/grunge, ’90s/early 2000s rock drums, ’90s audio production style, turtleneck sweaters, goatees, soul patches, guys with goatees and soul patches in a weight room listening to ’90s alternative rock.

What’s one phrase you say too much? “Absolutely”/“definitely”/“totally” — all of these overly eager positive reinforcement place-keepers. I gotta cut them out!

What’s the best thing a critic could write about your music? My favorite things to read are the unique visual or sensory images evoked by listening to my music. If it conjures an experience that is not strictly aural, then I feel like listener is tapped into the core of my work. The musical decisions I make for records or soundtracks are driven by imagined visual impulses far more than any cerebral compositional methods or formulas.

What’s the worst thing a critic could write about your music? The most painstaking is when critics reduce the pieces to just a nuts and bolts chord structure critique, or only seek context only from comparing my work to another artist. Viewing my music through this prism will only disappoint, I’m afraid. If you gut any one of my compositions just for it’s ancillary organs (e.g. progression, time signature etc), it will thoroughly demystify it and overlook what actually gave it life.

Your personal philosophy: – Eat well; – Be generous with your love and trust; – Nurture and protect the wilderness in yourself and those you love; – Create with fearless curiosity and strive to learn from your mistakes.

Tell us about the best day of your life: It seems oh-so-clichéd to say, but hands down my wedding day. We did it right and had are closest friends, allies, and family come to a lake retreat for three days and spent loads of concentrated time together with everyone. My greatest joy in life is seeing the people I love happy, and never in one day or place have I had so many people that I adore, all having fun together.

Do you have an enemy? I fortunately have no enemies that I know of. There are very few things I am more grateful for than the fact that I do not have to associate with anyone I don’t care for. I work from my home and whenever I do get out, I am generally so excited to see and interact with human beings that I have nothing but love and enthusiasm for people I run into. But then again, that enthusiasm may just be pissing people right off and I secretly have hundreds of people that loathe me, and I am just totally oblivious.

Whose career would you most like to have? There are many recording artists/composers that have embodied a lifestyle of perpetual artistic evolution and enduring curiosity. Ones that come immediately to mind are artists like David Byrne, Bjork, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Mark Mothersbaugh, Scott Walker, Tom Ze, and Jorge Ben; all musicians and composers that the varied body of their work speaks louder than any single seminal work they’ve produced. It is natural to look covetously at the fame or clout some artists have attained, but honestly I feel exceedingly fortunate to have my own career and trajectory that is unique to my particular tastes and skill-sets. It may be more circuitous and under the radar than I’d envisioned in my youthful daydreams, but I have somehow still been able to get to a point in my life where I am able and free to create whatever music I feel inspired to make, work with whom I like, and still support my family. It is unlikely that I will ever reach as broad an audience or create something that crystallizes a moment or sound the way many of those aforementioned artists have, but I have managed to claw myself into a place where I am able to sustain a lifestyle that allows me to take the creative risks necessary to learn and grow into a better artist.

Place you most want to visit that you’ve never been: Three-way tie between Peru, Ethiopia, and Nepal/Northern India.

Has technology helped or hurt music culture? How so? With the advent of each new music technology comes a complex wave of adaptive behavior. I personally think that we’ve reached a place in music technology where digital and analog processes can coexist in an endless and exciting plethora of ways. It is understandable that with each convenience and virtual approximation we adopt as “standard’ comes an atrophying of the skills or creativity that were required to create those sounds “the hard way.” However, this resultant change or evolution/devolution is only as pronounced as the proliferation, reliance and inherent value a musical community finds in this new technology, and such is only mandated by the competitive market.

That being said, I would definitely have a hard time maintaing my career in film music without having developed a proficiency at editing and mixing within a DAW (digital audio workstation). I personally do not care to utilize digital or virtual instruments in my music, but I am willing to admit I would most likely starve if I had to do without my computer. Ultimately I think the more tools people have at their disposal to create the better, but with the increasing reliance on these tools that make for endless musical possibilities comes the need for a more advanced sense of restraint and self-editing.

Preferred way to die: I have had enumerable dreams about dying from pneumonia, the suffocating from within, the smothering of your last breath. SO vividly I could feel that pain and resolution in my dreams, that it is like the needle has already run over that groove.

The unknowing and the novelty of each pain that could cull us from being are terrifying forces, so that exit seems oddly familiar and of all the ways I could go, it would likely feel the most poetic, circular, and congruent. Which is something we all seek in the face of chaos and impermanence.