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RisaRubin

by Aimee Myers

Thirteen years ago, Risa Rubin was in the first grade, living with her Jewish-Republican parents, a comedy writer and a clothing designer, in their Laurel Canyon home. It was here, just blocks away from Joni Mitchell’s ‘Ladies of the Canyon’ house, that Rubin began singing and writing her own music, following in the footsteps of her idols Patsy Cline and Martina McBride. She began taking singing lessons, but her twin brother’s rage disorder halted her musical development. Fast forward ten years and she’d been accepted to UCLA as a photography major, had moved out of her parents’ house, and was taking vocal lessons, singing only soul and jazz standards. She was enamored with Nico. She spent class time writing songs, singing them in her head until she had the chance jot them down and take them to the studio where she’d been recording for six months. At this studio, she completed three soul songs, but ended up hating them so much that she swore off both soul music and UCLA, deciding to dedicate both her time and energy to finding her true sound.

After couch surfing around New York for several months, Rubin found herself at the Ché Café in San Diego, playing an album that she had recorded while living in Buffalo with her family. After the show, one of her friends suggested that she ditch the piano for a synthesizer and explore the realm of doom folk. With this idea in mind, she wound up in Berkeley where she decided to take up harp after listening to Joanna Newsom. Perhaps by fate, she met a harp teacher at a BART station in Berkeley, and finally she had everything she needed to begin writing and recording her debut cassette, ‘SHEMA.’ While splitting her residential time between two farms near Santa Cruz, she made several unfruitful attempts at submitting her cassette to labels around the area, but it wasn’t until she met Wyatt Blair of Lolipop Records through mutual friends that the LA-based label decided to release her music.

The album art for ‘SHEMA’ features a photo of a singing young Rubin, surrounded by lines of glitter glue and a collage of old photos, perhaps a nod to the artistic inclinations of her childhood. ‘SHEMA’ is comprised of eight songs, four of which come close to five minutes in length. Each song is created with a simple formula: a combination of Rubin’s whimsical voice, a harp, or a synthesizer (or both), but produces an entirely unique and otherworldly sound. As the newest member of LA’s underground scene, Rubin provides an incredibly refreshing break from the usual punk-psychedelic-garage rock combination that has sonically dominated the scene for the past decade. Regardless of your string instrument of choice, ‘SHEMA’ demands attention, beckoning the listener into a world of charming lyrics such as “High above/I didn’t know what love was/so I could not pretend to fear it any longer” accompanied by a marriage of sounds so seemingly foreign and tranquil compared to most LA bands that the listener wonders what to make of it all, but understands as the final notes of “Folk Song” fade out that Rubin is unequivocally one of the brightest stars to frame the LA skyline.

Listen to ‘SHEMA’ on Bandcamp and keep up to date with Risa Rubin’s future performances and releases on Lolipop Records’ Facebook page. ‘SHEMA’ can be purchased on cassette from the label’s website as well as from their shop in Echo Park, CA.

xx

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