Graham Ulicny’s hypnotic, carbonated, and electric vocals create a sort of kaleidoscopic dye spiral. As the singer of the buoyant live wire that is the Athens, Georgia-based band Reptar, Ulicny uses his staccato and whirlwind-like delivery to fingerpaint images of memories gone by. Before they hit the stage this Wednesday at the Soda Bar in San Diego, Cinema Spartan caught up with the band to discuss the loneliness of the digital age, physical media, and their newest record, Lurid Glow.
ROBERT PATRICK: I love your vocals. You can be baritone, staccato, or hit high-notes. How did you go about forming that delivery, stylistically?
GRAHAM ULICNY: I have never had formal vocal training, so it’s all a bit of a mystery to me. I think when we first started playing, I manipulated my voice kind if unconsciously. I liked how it sounded and how expressive it was so it just kind of stuck that way.
Modernly, you and Spencer Krug of Moonface have to be some of the most fascinating songwriters. In your opinion, what makes a great lyric?
Lyrics are something I’ve grown into over the years. I like to write songs from different perspectives that maybe have more of a stream of consciousness vibe. A lot of the new material is about the bleakness of the internet and how people maintain a blissful appearance in the face of total loneliness. Good lyrics, to me, are very dependent of the flow of syllables and sounds. I think about that a lot when I write.
As an artist, what’s your experience with Spotify, and do you think it has a permanent place in music?
To be quite honest I’m not sure how it all even works. I know our music is up there because our label consented to it, but we don’t make any money off of Spotify. I don’t know anyone who does. All in all, though, if it helps introduce people to music its a good thing. When I hear people bitch about not making money off Spotify, I just think ‘if you want to make money off art then stop writing songs and start writing jingles’. It’s probably ridiculous to enter into making music with a careerist agenda anyways. 99% of the time its unrealistic. We make money off of playing shows where real physical people pay money for tickets to see us create something. I can live with that kind of exchange.
In reading interviews with the band, it seems that you’ve had a more relaxed and time-friendly experience while making Lurid Glow. How was the creative process different?
Mostly we just had more time. We had the luxury of being able to do multiple recordings/demos of many of the songs. I think that made Lurid Glow a more cohesive album.
What’s your take on the reemergence of vinyl, and do you think it’s helpful to musicians in a climate where physical media is less popular than ever?
It’s extremely helpful. We are very lucky to be on a great record label that loves vinyl and believes in physical music above all else. We are able to help sustain the band through the physical releases. Before we were on a label we would do things like dub cassette tapes and make CD-Rs so people could listen to our music. It’s the difference between a letter and an email. One is just way more personal.
Would you ever consider scoring a film, and if so, what director would you want to work with?
I have always wanted to score a film. It’s hard to think about Reptar’s music in a movie because its so effusive and not at all ambient, but if someone ever approached us we’d love it. John Carpenter, I’m looking at you.
Do you think Pitchfork, as a whole, has been more positive or negative for musicians?
We got slammed by that website and it probably hurt our record in some ways, but mostly it was just annoying to read a bunch of bullshit written by someone who thinks they know your story. Ian Cohen got “Athens” wrong, got our band wrong, and got our music wrong. There’s no sense being bitter, but I think that website is problematic. It’s the Fox News of music journalism. It’s like reading a conversation between privileged Ivy League white men who think they have sick record collections. It’s very boring. I mean the same folks at Conde Naste, who put out Golf Digest, put out Pitchfork so I’m not sure how they can pass judgement on the independent music scene.
What song, off of the new record, has been the most emotional for you to play live? Why that particular track?
“Amanda” is really the only slow burner in the set. I love the atmosphere of that song. It’s about long distance relationships in the internet age and I think a lot of folks can relate to that.