What originally began as a home-recording project by Casey Seymour has expanded into a full-blown psychedelic-rock group that has put out three records.
The band Ravi/Lola consists of Seymour and Milwaukee musicians Nick Wieczorkowski, Robert Thomas and Anton Sieger.
The most recent project by Ravi/Lola, the album Shape Up Shoulders, captures a neo-psychedelic sound with lackadaisical meanderings and hazy melodies. What distinguishes the modern outfit from 1960s-era psychedelic is the precision of the riffs and hits, creating a balanced, easy-on-the-ears pop record.
I recently spoke with Seymour to discuss Ravi/Lola and his new band, Kiss Critique, which includes drummer Wieczorkowski.
“There has never been an intentional sound for Ravi/Lola. Everything you hear is what comes natural to us. It was a lot of improvisation in the beginning … improvising together and then adding more to it. Being a nostalgia artist does take skill, but it’s not something we are interested in.”
The first time I saw the group perform — at Frank’s Power Plant in Bay View — Seymour played a sitar. The massive Indian instrument was stationed in the center of the stage, with Seymour sitting cross-legged, the stage light illuminating the scene.
Why a sitar?
Seymour said, “When I first (went) to college in Milwaukee, I got into The Brian Jonestown Massacre (a group formed in the ’90s in San Francisco) that used the sitar a lot.”
Shortly after, Seymour traveled to California and visited a music shop that offered a variety of musical instruments he hadn’t seen before.
“I tried some of them out, including a sitar, and discovered I could write a line or melody,” he said. “I came back and ordered a sitar online and used it in some of the earlier Ravi/Lola recordings and a little on Shape Up Shoulders.”
Seymour bought another sitar two years ago, which he says is “nicer and easier to play.”
Seymour is an apt sitar player, but modest.
“I am seeking out a guru to teach me how to play properly,” he said. “It doesn’t seem that it’ll be on the next R/L album though, as we don’t really see where it would fit on this batch of songs. But that could be changed.”
On Jan. 15, The Activities Archive, a catalog of music online, posted five EPs of previously unreleased recordings from 2012, one of the songs being the first collaboration between all members of the current line up.
It is clear Ravi/Lola doesn’t have trouble writing and putting out new music. Seymour said he usually has a demo for the band every two to four weeks.
Given the directions Seymour has taken throughout his time with Ravi/Lola and other projects, what should fans expect from his upcoming work?
Seymour said, “You can definitely expect a more concise vision, both musically and lyrically. We aren’t losing our diversity, but I think our sound is becoming more of our own. We have a wide variety of influences among the four of us, which really comes through and I’m excited for people to hear it. It’s going to be heavier, poppier and our live shows will likely be more energized.”
‘Boy Lonely’ and ‘Nick Sickly’
Seymour’s new project, Kiss Critique, is an electro-minimalist pop group that is intentionally surface-level.
Seymour explained: “Nick was getting more into dance/pop forward music. … So we took a break from the home recordings we were doing as Ravi/Lola.”
An 11-track album, Allegations, is an ode to a dream-like aesthetic, with themes of love, ego and flash at the forefront. The duo created personas for the album: Seymour as Boy Lonely and Wieczorkowski as Nick Sickly — one suffering from a sickness and the other suffering from love, or “lack thereof.”
“I had been suffering badly from vertigo caused by an inner ear infection, which influenced the mood and lyrics,” Seymour said. “I’m a really anxious person already and that really exploded once I got sick. It felt like I had lost myself because it took me so long to feel normal. It was terrible to go out in public, couldn’t drive, delusional and paranoid. As a result this project represents the process of getting through that and feeling better in general.”
Allegations is an audacious exploration of mood and cheeky cognizance that taps into the starry wonderment that listeners have come to enjoy from the pair.
Kiss Critique played a live show Jan. 12, which may be the band’s only live performance.
The band is finishing up another album for release at the end of the summer.