West Palm's Symbols on Death Threats, Magic: The Gathering, and "Going Gold"
Things are heating up on the production front again with a recently released remix of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" and a new original song titled "Rifle in the Pocket" emerging on the band's profile on Soundcloud. County Grind sat down with singer John Richters (AKA Flaunt Thursdays' J.J. Contramus) and discussed the emergence of the witch house genre, as well as his own influences and the direction he'd like to take, and sex, and movies.
First off, I listened to "Rifle in the Pocket," and I'd like to know where you draw your influences from in the lyrical content of your songs.
John Richters: I was raised Southern Baptist, and when I was in fifth grade, I bought a starter pack of Magic: The Gathering. I started getting into it because all of my friends were. My family convinced me that it was satanic. Somehow, I decided that it was wrong to own the cards, so I burned them. The best part was that when they burned, the smoke was red. It legitimized the idea that they were satanic.
So do you feel this way about your current band, being a witch house band?
It does have a lot of religious angst to it.
Is there a song in particular that addresses themes like that?
There is one where I compare sex to a girl worshiping me.
Which song would that be?
"Resonant Clear." Also, "Rifle in the Pocket" was written after I watched the movie The Antichrist. There's a part where she yells "DON'T YOU LEAVE ME!" and so I wrote a song about how if my girlfriend left me, I'd kill her. The hook for the song is "Don't you leave me."
Would you kill your girlfriend?
Have you been looking for somebody to put out a recording right now?
It would be fun. Probably when we release the recordings of our five-song set, we'll start looking for a label.
Would you look for a more local, smaller label to put something out, or would you go for a more nationally known label?
That whole scene isn't very local-friendly. The only labels for it are Tri Angle and Pendu Disco in New York and Disaro in Los Angeles. Those are the biggest for it. I'm sure there are others.
Was there a band in particular that turned you on to the genre?
It was Salem. They're the biggest name right now, but after listening to it along with what I liked before, I saw a lot of stuff that led up to it.
What were you listening to before that helped to segue into it?
The Knife and Crystal Castles are the two biggest influences.
So when did you first start writing songs for Symbols, and what was used in the production?
January of this year. I used Ableton Live. All the synths were made on the computer.
How does this differ from what is used during a live show?
It's prerecorded beats and synths connected through my computer, and then Ates [Isildak] plays guitar through a vocal effects pedal. Lauren [Dwyer] plays the keyboard, and Dan [Potvin] plays bass.
What was the motivation to form a band and play live shows?
I thought it would be hilarious to start a goth band with my girlfriend. I was really enjoying the darker sounds we were making, and the beats were fun and simple. They were so easy to make for me. It just kept going.
How do you feel about your band in comparison to other musicians in the area? Do you feel that you're really trying to stand out from everyone else?
Yes. A lot of times it feels like people locally seem to dig things that are pretty typical.
Do you feel that witch house is a more emerging genre to get into?
I guess so. I mean, there's a joke that going gold in witch house is getting 2,000 views on YouTube.
So how many views on YouTube does Symbols have?
We don't have a YouTube [laughs].
But you do have a Soundcloud page. Have you received a favorable response?
We've reached about a tenth of gold status. It's OK. You know, a drop in the bucket.
Now, I know that you are also involved in West Palm Beach's nightlife, being a resident DJ at Respectables' Thursday night-party "Flaunt." I'd like to ask you what your ideal set would consist of.
Like what I'd want to dance to myself?
Yes, without considering any appeal to the crowd. A set purely for John Richters.
Light Asylum - "Dark Allies"
Crystal Castles - "Baptism"
White Ring - "ixc999"
The Knife - "Silent Shout"
Cut Copy - "Lights and Music"
Daft Punk - "Face to Face"
Martin Solveig & Dragonette - "Hello"
The Weeknd - "High for This"
Alice Deejay - "Better Off Alone"
and to close the set: Big Freedia - "Y'all Get Back Now"
Symbols, with Boxwood and My Electric Heart. Saturday, July 9, at Respectable Street, 518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Click here.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.