“It feels really, really good to make music and get a response back from other humans, but I also feel like there’s a sharp learning curve.”
Summertime is usually the worst time to stay indoors. With that said, the COVID-19 situation has spurred many to remain inside for the sake of our own health and that of other people.
If things were normal, though, the festival season would be in full swing, with regular nightly shows happening at local venues as well. Sadly, this isn’t our current reality, but live music is nevertheless making a small comeback.
On Aug. 1, Boston funk soul partystarters Ripe will perform at the Yarmouth Drive-In on Cape Cod. In addition to music, it will be an evening of social distancing, with people enjoying the show from their cars.
I spoke with Ripe frontman Robbie Wulfsohn ahead of the event about how things have changed over the past few months, the band’s new single, their double live album, and craving the dynamic that only live music can bring.
How much has life changed for you and the band ever since the pandemic shut everything down?
Things have changed pretty radically, at least with how everything ended up playing out. After performing back-to-back nights at the House Of Blues in February, we were very much looking ahead to our next run of touring in late March. We were also in the process of writing new music, but that depended on a bunch of people flying from all over to one location to make it. Very quickly, both the tour and getting together to write new music ended up having to be shut down indefinitely because nobody knew what was going to happen in the future. Even now, we’re in a landscape where live music as we knew it will be gone for at least a very long time.
Speaking of those House Of Blues shows, you guys released the live recordings of those on Bandcamp a few weeks ago. Did you initially plan on releasing the live album? Or was it from an idea to give something to your fans during these crazy and uncertain times?
We definitely felt very excited about those shows when they were happening and getting those recordings made was obviously a decision we made before the shows happened. While our fans have been on everyone’s mind, we already planned on releasing the double live album before the pandemic hit.
Back in April, you guys also released a new single called “Backup.” There’s this real cool cover art accompanying it which looks like an astronaut with aliens riding on their back. Who made that space age drawing?
That’s a guy we work with named Noah Farrar. He’s also created the artwork for the other singles “Little Less Polite” and “First Time Feeling” that we put out earlier this year.
Over the past few months, Ripe has gotten to be part of a bunch of virtual events including “Live From Out There” in April and May, Calling All Crows’ Virtual Service Project, and 88.9 WERS’ 617 Day. How would you describe each of these experiences and what are your feelings on the livestreaming platform?
It feels really, really good to make music and get a response back from other humans, but I also feel like there’s a sharp learning curve. We’re still giving the experience of live music to our fans, which is the goal that we strive for, but doing it is radically different from the typical show that you’re used to seeing. For the sustainability of it, I don’t have enough knowledge to know how people are feeling about it, but I feel that from what we hear is that live music is gone for a while. I think it’s more about experimenting in this new space and trying to figure out what we are missing by not being able to go to shows and how we can bring that back. What we’re seeing is that just taking the concert experience and trying to box it into a digital format isn’t that simple.
No one has ever tuned into a livestream and gotten the same feeling they get while being at a concert. That’s pretty much what I’m trying to say.
It’s difficult to replicate the energy when you’re watching someone on a computer screen or on a smart TV, so I definitely get your point with that. With the show coming up at the Yarmouth Drive-In, Ripe is going to be performing in front of a bunch of socially distanced people in cars. What are your feelings going into this unique show? Are you excited for this new kind of atmosphere?
I’m honestly incredibly excited. I think that the stakes are very high because for anyone who does these shows in a new way while still having communal live music exist, they’re not only trying on their behalf. They’re also trying on behalf of their city, their state, and essentially the entire country because everyone is looking for answers to these questions in real time. For me, one key difference between this and our living room livestream is that there is some element of audience present. The dynamic relationship that we really treasure where the band does their thing and the audience, by reacting, feeds the band so they can take what they do and elevate it into this bigger thing is something that we miss dearly.
When we play without that, it’s still an absolute treat, but that dynamic is something that we’ve been craving. Hopefully we get that feeling back even though everyone will be in cars and socially distancing.
Can attendees expect some new songs to make their way into the upcoming performance?
I haven’t written the setlist yet with the band, so I can’t say for sure. I can confirm that new music is being worked on and we are trying to figure out how to get all of that done the way we want it. That is definitely a thing that is happening. Whether or not some new music will be unveiled when we get on stage on the 1st, I don’t know yet. That’ll be decided when we all get into a room together and hash that out.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.