As we near the September equinox, it is time to say goodbye to sun, sea and shell. Time to put down the light reading of your favorite pulp novels you enjoyed at the seashore. But now, right now, if it has eluded you this long, it is the time to pick-up the self-titled album by Summer Fiction. Summer Fiction is the brainchild of singer-songwriter Bill Ricchini who has been writing and self-recording music since the start of the twenty-first century. Summer Fiction is actually his third album, the first two (Ordinary Time and Tonight I Burn Brightly respectively) were recorded under the name Bill Ricchini.
Like your favorite novel, each Summer Fiction track evolves like a new chapter with a purposeful narrative that intimately reveals itself. To learn more about Bill’s album, read below as he kindly shared a bit of his influences and writing process with me.
xo: This is an amazing album – the kind that you listen to but it takes multiple listens to fully absorb as the songs are so full of tenderly layered instrumentation and vocals. I don’t use the term “tenderly” in the sense of “too precious” but it does run counter to the label of “baroque pop” that I have seen written about your work. So, I’m curious, when recording alone, how do you keep a song from becoming too baroque or excessive? Or, more simply, how do you know “when” you are finished with a song?
BR: Thanks for the compliment. For me, it is hard to separate arrangement from songwriting. I do both roles on my records. I usually have a vision of a song’s arrangement as I write it and then I’ll experiment. For example Chandeliers didn’t always have a harpsichord but that was an experiment that worked. Also the baritone sax line on the chorus is a nice touch. But, in an earlier version, I had a glockenspiel on the fadeout which to me was distracting. I go on instinct. My ears tell me if something isn’t needed. The record is dense but everything is in its right place.
xo: Your vocals are understated yet so emotive and I find the timbre of your voice to be quite hypnotic in this record and in your earlier albums recorded under your given name. Who are some of your favorite vocalists and what have you learned from them?
BR: I like subtle, emotive singers. I don’t usually dig the whole American Idol thing. Favorite singers are Brian Wilson, Chrissie Hynde, early Madonna, Dylan, Julian Casablancas, Lou Reed. Good singers don’t have to be good singers. It is about feeling and vibe and taste.
xo: I love that each song on this album seems to have a story that play like mini-movies in my mind. How do you conceive of the narratives? And, does this album have a conscious continuity lyrically speaking?
BR: I think these things emerge as you go and sometimes you look back and it surprised you. Like the makeup theme on the record. That was a total accident but now I am really into it. I think sequencing songs plays a large role but that comes later. Kind of like the old saying that you don’t write the songs the songs write you. I believe that and when I see a mood developing I go with it and make little tweaks to build a narrative. I will say some of this record was written as a sequence like Kids in Catalina into Carry On. That is no accident.
xo: The video for Chandeliers is amazing with the synchronizations of footage and how the overall feeling works so well together with the music. I understand that it is comprised of clips from the Marco Bellocchio film Fists in the Pocket and was edited by a Canadian designer. How did you come to work with Kevin Chia and how much input did you have in the making of the video?
BR: Kevin is an old friend and I love his videos. The ones for Best Coast are just brilliant. The vision was really all his I have to say. We discussed some aesthetics and he ran with it.
xo: Would it be correct to say that you have been a part of the DIY music movement for a long time and were you at the helm of all of the engineering and production on this album?
BR: Yes, I’ve produced all of my records. On this one I engineered most of it as well. DIY is just a nice way to say ‘use what you have’. It was born out of necessity and no money really but along the way I learned things I wouldn’t have if I paid someone to do it.
xo: And finally, how do you measure home recording with live performance and what do you find the most challenging with each outlet?
BR: Enjoy both but recording is my real love. I like that you are making something forever. Shows are also great but kind of like building castles in the sand.
Download a song from the album for free, courtesy of the artist.
Also, check out Kevin Chia’s amazing video.