There is little in the way of sonic exploration that Vancouver singer/guitarist Rykka is hesitant about exploring. She performs at Cowboys on June 13.
Long before she was known as Rykka (her given name is Christina Maria), she was already a staple in clubs and cafés around the world where she performed acoustic sets and honed a folk sound.
But as she embarked on her latest songwriting stint, her music took on distinctly new form.
Bursting with rock arrangements and hook-laden melodies, this is music that carries a bold immediacy.
Rykka got an early start with music, with her folks being big fans of a spectrum of genres. Her dad enjoyed his classic rock while her mother encouraged her children to sing harmonies as she sang lead while practicing jazz tunes.
“All the time – when we were driving to elementary school – we’d be singing in three-part harmonies,” she recalls with a laugh. “Also, I always wanted to be a musician. My mom recently told me that when I was 10 I said I was going to be a singer in a band.”
Rykka eventually took up the guitar as well. Over the years she would sing as much as she could, and even busked for several years – an experience she said she wouldn’t trade for anything. “I learned so much about performance.”
She previously recorded under her given name, but with the new disc being quite a shift away from her older material, she felt a name change was in order as well. Musically, some of the changes came from writing songs using a keyboard as opposed to a guitar, for example. “I wanted to change it up a little bit.”
And speaking of the new disc, there is definitely a feeling of energy just bursting to get out at every turn, from the disc opener Blackie to a fired-up live version of Electric. Carolina, with its infectious rhythms and keyboard wizardry, is yet another gem on the disc. Showing another side to her means of expression, the haunting Travel Back in Time opens simply with acoustic guitar and then steadily builds in momentum.
Musically, it’s a wonder, and the tune also showcases Rykka’s voice in a reflective new light as well. Straight Line also showcases more of her unrestricted vision as to putting a song together with its jazz-inflected sensibilities.
All this ‘breaking new ground’ was born over a stretch of time in relative isolation, she says. “For the last year, I’ve been writing in seclusion, really far away. The music has evolved so much from where it was.”
The 12 songs that make up Kodiak were penned in the European farmhouse where she composed for much of 2011. “I’m Swiss-Canadian, so I go back and forth a lot. I have a nice little record label in Switzerland, and a label here. I do a lot of tours in Europe as well.” This past February saw her cover several dates in Germany, and she heads back later this summer for more festival dates in Switzerland as well.
Sessions for Kodiak subsequently took place in Vancouver’s Mushroom Studios and District Four Recordings with input from engineer Sean Penner, mixer Warne Livesey and producer Ryan Guldemond. Interestingly, all of the CD’s tracks are sung from the perspective of different animals — Blackie – a murder of crows; Down in the Depths – deep sea fish.
“Ryan has a really strong vision,” says Rykka. “I wanted to work with him because I knew that we would clash. He fights for his idea and I fight for mine, and what we come away with is the right thing to do.
“The music is pushed to a whole new level because of that.”