It’s a Monday afternoon and I’m catching up for a coffee with Adam Rippon. He slides into the chair across from me, a cool cat, grungy, kinda surfer with a bit of a hippy vibe. He’s also the lead vocalist in the Newcastle band Red City. Adam orders a turmeric latte, while telling me he doesn’t drink coffee – I laugh at the irony of inviting him for a coffee, something he never checked me on.
Rips (as he’s more fondly known) has such a cool vibe about him, but to be honest, I’d never guess he sang lead vocals in a band. And he’s too humble to tell you that straight off the bat anyway. I was to learn that the Physiotherapy student always had music in his veins, his grandfather was a Welsh singer and his grandmother played the piano, so he can recall from a very young age listening to them having a good old sing along with friends when he was younger.
K: Who is your band and where did they come from?
A: Braden (Lehman) is the guitarist and it started off with just him and I about 4 years ago. We are both really shy so it took a fair bit of courage to even go jam with him in his shed. We just did that for about a year. Then Dyl (Dylan Iredale) came along, our drummer, he had previously played in a few bands and we knew each other from school. So we invited him along for a jam, funnily the same day he had quit another band, and he brought Jake (Jake Asser) our bass guitarist, who was previously in Nova and the Experience to the band.
K: When I went and saw you play a gig for the first time I thought, wow these guys are really good! You have a very unique sound that I wasn’t expecting. Triple J unearthed described your music sound as ‘heavy grooves with dreamy rock and roll’. Is that the sound you had always intended to have?
A: No, not at all. We started off blues and acoustic guitar but then as the drums and base came in we could expand our sound a bit more. Braden got into more heavy psychedelic, Dyl loves bands like Sticky Fingers and Bootleg Rascal and the rhythmic drumming, and I like groove, so that has an impact on how we sound —so we just ended up with a blend. I would describe it as heavy groove with some psychedelic rock.
K: Given that Newcastle has a pretty large repertoire of up and coming bands was it hard to get yourselves out there? Was the community supportive when you first hit the scene?
A: It’s definitely your mates and your immediate community that support you when you’re starting out. Like my mum has come to nearly every one of my live shows! Which is a great support. Then as you do more shows you might be lucky enough to have people that you don’t know come along and support you. It’s the guys at the gigs that you don’t know, screaming your name that makes it all pretty sick. Everyone is pretty supportive and it depends on where you play too. Like the Lass, everyone goes there for music so you’re always going to have a good time playing there regardless, and places like the Stag and Hunter treat it like a real show not just a gig. They put you up for the night, meals, a bar tab, Colin the sound dude is awesome, it’s the whole thing. Different venues around town offer different things so you have to choose what you’re after.
K: is it the same with out of town gigs?
A: Yeah it’s pretty cool to play at different venues. We played a Frankie’s pizza in Sydney, which was so sick because it’s kind of a punk bar and we could get away with playing real heavy stuff and they loved it.
K: Who is your business guru?
A: That would be Dylan, he’s super switched on and takes charge of all that kind of stuff. Him and I kind of share it, but he’s the one who’s better at articulating things and getting conversations going. He’s the one who instigated the Triple J unearthed feature.
K: Given that you have come from a place of having no experience managing a band, has it been hard to get your name out there?
A: Yeah none at all! It’s all just hours and hours behind the laptop, contacting and talking with people to get them to hear you and be interested in having you play. For a handful of emails you might only get one reply, so you follow up with the rest. It’s just ongoing and so time consuming at the start. It’s about chipping away at it.
K: Is it imperative to have that EP to be taken seriously?
A: You have to have something solid, you can’t just claim you’re a band and ask, ‘can we play?’ Some venues might be ok with this, but a good venue will always want to see that you have something behind you that they can listen to.
K: Is it hard to get the EP and video clips done and off the ground?
A: Yeah kind of, money always plays a big factor in how fast and how easy it is to produce. We have a little something, something due mid next year thats been in the pipeline for a while, just because of life for all of us. Dylan moved to Sydney for work, I started Uni, Jake is busy as a chef, Braden is going to do the snow season in Japan. We all sort of have other commitments apart from the band, which isn’t bad because it makes you really work out the nuts and bolts without the pressure of a deadline.
K: If you had the money to throw 5-10k at the band, what would be the first thing you would invest in that would be the most productive for where you’re at?
A: [laughing] The guys would say instruments, but as a vocalist I would spend the money and go to a really good recording studio and spend the time, like days on end, just recording and getting it down perfect. It’s great now but it sometimes feels disjointed over a couple of weekends. The new EP we wanted to record live so we spent three days over at SawTooth Studios and recorded every song live not layered. It captured our sound so much better, we always wanted our EP to sound just like we do on stage and authentic to the live set, without the fluffiness of the studio recordings.
We always wanted our EP to sound just like we do on stage and authentic to the live set….
K: Does social media play a big role in getting your name out there?
A: It plays a pretty big role these days, but I still think live shows and getting people in the door is more beneficial, people who haven’t heard you before who can create so much more hype. You can talk about your band all day, but unless you do well performing live, it doesn’t matter.
K: I feel like your music has this old soul vibe about it, it’s something you wouldn’t expect from such young musicians. Do you get much of an older crowd?
A: Yeah we do. There are a lot of older people at our gigs and I love it, especially when they tell you that it reminds them of their younger days or a concert or show they went to. I love that we can bring up those feelings and memories for them.
K: There are so many great riffs in your music. Talk to me about curation.
A: Historically we model a song around a riff that Braden has come up with, sometimes Dyl might come in with a drum beat and them we work the song around it. On heaps of different occasions Braden has had a riff and I’ve had a melody and lyrics and it’s just matched perfectly. It’s pretty special when that happens.
K: Would you say Newcastle is a music city?
A: There are heaps of great bands at the moment in Newcastle. We have a really great musical culture here, it runs deep. And pubs like the Lass are awesome at nurturing that culture. It’s such a welcoming environment.
K: What’s the best thing about living in Newcastle?
A: Surfing. Without a doubt.
K: You grew up in Redhead so I should have expected you to say that! Tell me about growing up there.
A: I could literally walk out of my house and go for a surf. It was the best thing ever. It’s like a country town by the ocean. It’s such a tight knit, family community and you actually know your neighbors and can say hi, which can get lost when you live in big cities. In Redhead you know everyone. We could always have a jam and not have to go far. There’s lots of muso’s in the community and the surf club puts on lots of gigs.
K: Did you start in music fairly young?
A: Sort of. My mum put me in the Newcastle conservatorium choir when I was, like, ten. They had these black velvet outfits. So funny! But then I didn’t do anything with it until years and years later because I was so shy about singing. I think my mum saw something in me and wanted to get me going. I didn’t do it in school though; I only really studied any music by chance. I had to take some extra subjects at Uni to get into my Bachelor and I chose songwriting, piano and guitar. That was a pretty big eye opener for me because I was always against learning an instrument; it gave me a new respect for the other guys in the band and what they do. I won’t be playing an instrument any time soon in the band though!
K: Have you always wanted to take it that next step and form a band?
A: I just wanted to sing. I’d love to do it fulltime if I could. I love being in a band. Whether I sing fulltime or not, I don’t mind so much anymore, because it’s just so much fun. It’s a huge part of who I am, I love helping people and that’s why I’m so drawn to massage and yoga and then why I started studying Physiotherapy. But straight up, when I sing on stage that is the most of me that I can give, ever.
It’s so good to know that there is three other dudes behind you, supporting each other, and we all get along really well so that’s a huge bonus, the friendship. As a band we always discuss everything, we never shut each other down, without them I’d have a very different sound. I wouldn’t naturally gravitate to the sound we make, it’s like the boys bring it out in me which is really, really sick. I don’t have the musical capabilities to produce what they do, so Im super happy to be along for the journey.
I’m very fortunate that I’ve had friends growing up that are good musicians that have helped to shape my sound and give me advice on different ways to sing.
K: If you could play a gig with someone famous who would it be?
A: Ohhh F&*k I don’t know! Maybe Ocean Alley, we’ve always loved them and been inspired by their music so that would be pretty sick. Pink Floyd would be mad if they were all still here and together.
Red City definitely has a unique sound. When you see these guys, a young surfer looking lot, you would never think that they play the style of music that they do. Adam’s passion and talent really shine, along with the band.
Red City is having a break at the moment from playing live gigs as they lead up to the release of their new EP in 2020, but next year you can catch them around Newcastle at the local haunts. I would highly recommend hitting up a live gig where you can see them in their element and really get a feel for their music and meet them in the flesh, they are always keen to share a story and have a beer – true to the Newcastle Local spirit!
Check out Red City on Instagram
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