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Notion 062 Dialogue: Rhye

For the first issue of the year, in Notion 062, Lauren Down speaks to Robin Hannibal, one of the duo responsible for the sensual, minimalist and classically leaning sonics of Rhye. Get your copy here.


__Field Notes

  1. Breakout track ‘The Fall’ was in fact the first the duo ever wrote together. Start on a high, right?
  2. The first video for ‘Open’ was a bit NSFW. The second is very amazing.
  3. Soundtracks and movie scores are a big influence on Robin’s approach to music.


Wry Anonymity

“It was really funny and for just a moment we thought, let’s see how far we can take this,” Rhye’s Robin Hannibal confesses over a crackling phone line when I ask him how he reacted to people mistaking the vocals on their new record ‘Woman’ for a woman’s.“We’re not that gimmicky though” he continues, “it was more a beautiful coincidence that emerged from the fact we wanted to keep things anonymous. I actually miss the time when you wouldn’t get the whole story surrounding a project. The internet has ruined things a little. Everyone is so over exposed. We weren’t really interested in selling our music based on our identities, we were very much interested in showing the music for what it was. We knew you could find out who we were in two minutes if you wanted to, but by not over exposing ourselves we were able to create imagery and a fantasy through the music, which can be music’s strongest ingredient.”

The vocalist in question is actually of course the other half of Rhye, LA based producer Mike Milosh. “I think the way he approaches lyrics, the way they are stressed, the intent and the sentiment behind them is something you hear more from female singers. Not necessarily his actual vocals, but then I’ve always known it was him.” We of course have not had the same luxury, and listening to the soulful, pleading “oooh make love to me” vocals of ‘Open’ or ‘The Fall’ (the first track the two ever wrote together) you could totally be forgiven for thinking it was a woman singing. The smoky, sensual, husky manner in which they wrap themselves around the minimalist percussion and wonderfully simple piano refrains reinforcing that fallacy with every listen. “We wanted to highlight what the music was about through the songs, the videos and artwork. It’s titled  ‘Woman’, it’s about women, the album art is abstracts of the female body and people thought it was a woman so I guess we succeeded on some level!”

Delving a little deeper into the record’s core Robin explains “it is very much an homage or an ode to women in general but it is taken from personal experiences because we wanted to make something honest. Mike’s wife was definitely the lyrical muse, but through collaboration the sonics are imbued emotions that will resonate with everyone. I mean it’s love. It’s basically love. Without sounding too corny, hopefully!”

A man with clear hankering for the past Robin talks about the artistic vision behind Rhye. “We may not be buying records the way we were maybe 20 years ago but I think that people still crave a full idea, one complete thought. That is what an album should be: A full conceptional idea that you put on to reveal more than any one track could. It’s just like any novel, and I think a lot of people forget or miss that. I would definitely say soundtracks and original movie scores were a big inspiration for the way I approach music. It’s the marriage of image and sentiment through a particular melodic theme, the fullness of the music and the emotional intensity they create through classical instruments and space.”

“We talked a lot about making the record something that was relatable right now but that also had a classic and timeless feel. The way we went about that was to make sure there were elements of today’s landscape in that kind of minimalist electronic sound combined with classic instruments, orchestration and arrangements. I feel that that art of arrangement is a little bit lost in todays music because things have to happen so quickly and a lot people don’t spent that much time on a song. We spent over a year and a half on 10 songs. We only made those 10 songs so it was very important for us that they had enough ingredients for you to want to keep sitting through them.” I reassure him that there definitely are.

This feature first published in Notion 062. Order your copy here.

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