Photo Credit: Micah E. Wood
The reality of illness is quite daunting, and I’m only speaking from the perspective of someone who was tossed into the role of a caregiver. On the other side though, it can do various things to the mind, and in the case of Rye Thomas, music came about. Thomas, known in the musical realm as Soft Punch, has always surrounded themselves with music, often noting the beauty of sonic universes. So when push came to shove, and it was time for new music to emerge in the form of an album, Soft Punch had a lot to work with, and thus – ‘Above Water‘ was born. It’s Soft Punch’s September release, and Thomas came through to talk about all of the above and then some like great music videos, DC, and much, much more.
Kendra: Some years ago you fell ill and life sort of just stopped for you outside of your home, but you kept pursuing music by writing and noted that some of those songs made it onto “Above Water.” Was it sort of cathartic to get to finish some of those songs and finally get them out of your notebook and onto a record?
Soft Punch: Every record is cathartic on some level. In this case, especially on the song “Fine.” There were some arrangements that I dreamed up when I was incredibly ill (and uncertain if I would ever improve), and they ended up coming to life with the actual musicians I had hoped to work with. That was definitely gratifying, and I’m so pleased with the final results.
Kendra: Do you think you’ll be pulling from the songs you wrote then on future albums, or are you interested in building an album around the present moving forward?
Soft Punch: I do still have a batch of songs from the past few years that I want to make use of on the next record. Those will undoubtedly get combined with newer songs, so the record will still contain some of the ever-changing present. I’d like to get to work on it relatively soon.
But beyond a sophomore album, all bets are off. LP3 could be anything.
Kendra: While you penned some of this record while at home, are there any local spots in DC you feel ‘Above Water’ could be comparable to in regards to overall vibes and aesthetics?
Soft Punch: My old band Tereu Tereu had an album called ‘Quadrants’ that felt very connected to the geography of the District (beyond just the title!). ‘Above Water’ is a fairly inward-looking album, so I don’t connect it as much to physical locations. However, some pretty otherworldly spots in the Botanic Garden might suit the dreamy aesthetic.
Kendra: You dropped “My Head” ahead of the record and man, what a song to relate to because I feel like every one of us is a prisoner to our own thoughts at any given moment. Other than music, have you found any sort of release that gets you out of your head, even if for just a moment? I’ll tell you mine, it’s baking!
Soft Punch: I got a Nintendo Switch last December, and I spent a lot of this year playing ‘Zelda.’ It was a damn fun adventure.
Kendra: The video for “My Head” made me think, here’s a person who had to have grown up in the last wave of MTV because you delivered a well-rounded concept. Did you have any favorite videos as a kid?
Soft Punch: Oh man, for sure. “Black Hole Sun,” “All Is Full of Love,” “California Love,” “Da Funk,” “Star Guitar”…
Kendra: Be it a music video or a record, you’ve been inspired by a lot of great artists but I’m interested in how Frank Ocean has moved you, creatively speaking?
Soft Punch: ‘Blonde’ is the best mainstream music release of the past ten years, easily. It creates a whole sonic universe to get lost in. It’s every bit as immersive as ‘Kid A’ or ‘Ladies and Gentlemen,’ ‘We Are Floating In Space’ or ‘Miseducation’ or ‘Pet Sounds.’ Those are the sorts of albums I really love.
I feel like we haven’t had as many of those deep sorts of records in recent years. Streaming encourages artists to release more frequently, and playlists don’t favor esoteric sounds. It takes a bit more artistic resolve (and a budget) to put out Lemonade or IGOR.
I’m pretty eager to hear whatever Frank Ocean puts out next, but he’s gonna do it on his own time frame.
Kendra: Time for a side note – with this being October, I’m asking everyone to recall their favorite Halloween costume growing up – and if you don’t have one, perhaps your favorite candy to pick up for yourself now that you’re grown and don’t have to go door to door for it…
Soft Punch: I dressed as a zombie a lot before zombies were quite so common. It’s a nice look because you can really get creative and paint as many wounds or injuries as you want on there. Spit a little fake blood (corn syrup and food coloring) if you really want to gross people out.
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘Above Water’ out now, what else can people expect as we continue into fall?
Soft Punch: I’m working on solo versions of these songs. I’ll probably post some on social media. If you want access to more behind-the-scenes content and unreleased material, follow me on Patreon!