Interview: Araless

If you’ve seen Araless perform in the past, it might be difficult to recognize the bearded white dude hyper-rapping about the evils of capitalism as the voice on “Intertwine”, crooning about how nice someone looks. Your ears aren’t lying. On this new single, Araless takes hiatus from themes of dark US realities of racism and his typical straight, seasoned flow. “Intertwine” is a chilled out Summer R&B gem which sees Araless go blue eyed soul, serenading an offscreen partner with some archetypal R&B mating rituals.

The change in styles from his previous steeze is prefaced at the beginning of the song as Araless sings “I’ve been opening my mind / growing all the time” and “it’s like we’re always becoming new people but we still feel the same.” The beat is by producer OK that sounds like it could have dripped out of Baths’ Cerulean. Bubbly synths move against PC music monitor glow. The beachside vibe of the track requires you to find a mai tai halfway through. Or maybe it’s just us. Have we made enough jokes about all of DMM being alcoholics yet?

The change in Araless’ stylings didn’t come completely out of the blue. Araless channeled a Cat Stevens rock temper on the fuzzed out rock-hop jam “Can You Tell.”

If this song is only the first trick Araless has up his sleeve, we cannot wait to see the whole magic show. We sat down with Araless to get his own words about where his music is in the past, present and future.

Araless, how are you living?

I’m living good, trynna stay as busy as possible, and grateful.

I’m curious about your name. Does it mean something, where did it come from?

Any Reality Achieved /Learning Endlessly/ Still Striving - but I came up with that later. Really it’s a phonetic spelling of my initials RLS.

You’re associated with some Seattle crews and beat collectives. From what I could see you were associated with Black Magic Noize and Filthy Fingers United. What do you call those units, what is your identity within them, and what does the connection entail?

I would call both of them artist collectives. I love being part of a collective. Black Magic Noize runs really deep for me. The core members of BMN met in ’06 and went through so much insane shit together. At one point we had visual artists, poets, beat makers, rappers, singers and songwriters and everything else involved. Nowadays we keep it pretty simple, mainly me, Madshroom, and Vaughn going around gigging and working on music. Within that, I feel like we’ve had shifting roles, but I’ve always kind of been the guy that helps execute people's creative ideas, like a problem solver. Filthy Fingers United is specifically a beat maker’s collective. I was there on the ground floor when it was first being discussed, but with FFU I can kind of relax and just produce beats. Maybe do some administrative stuff here and there. It’s a pretty dope place to be, because BMN mostly draws from FFU beat makers for production, and all of BMN is in FFU.

How did you get linked in with producer, OK?

I’ve actually known OK for a long time; I met him in Bellingham when he was rapping as Walrus Mageever. He’s done a lot of drastically different types of music since I’ve known him. When he got put on FFU the beats he was putting in just hit me all the way to my cartilage, and I just randomly started writing to one of them. I recorded a rough version of "Intertwine" and sent it to him, and he was pretty enthusiastic about it. I mobbed over to his spot and picked out like 14 beats that had this very electro-funk vibe and have been slowly writing to them ever since. Everything he does just forces you to move and sway and get lost in it. Ask him about Flais some time.

Who are your most major influences, not just in rap but in music generally? Apart from that, what have you been listening a lot of lately?

My influences are so eclectic it’s hard to nail down. My parents were always listening to classic rock, country and new wave, my sister was always blasting alternative and grunge, and when I was a kid I was listening to shit like Tupac, Ruff Ryders, and Boyz II Men. Later in life I fell in love with singer/songwriters like Elliot Smith and Neutral Milk Hotel, and underground west coast legends like Freestyle Fellowship. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of working with cats like Abstract Rude and doing shows with Scarub and Myka 9. I'd say some solid influences for my current sound is shit like Bootsy Collins, Childish Gambino, and 90's r&b acts like Blackstreet and Usher.

A lot your past work has been heavily political, and anti-capital specifically. "Intertwine" is obviously a big switch in vibes. What motivated the switch? Can we expect similar material or is this a one-off?

My politics are part of who I am and aren’t going anywhere. Capitalism is a parasitic economic system point blank. I’m never going to stop rapping about that, educating myself and in the process educating others. But at the same time, I can’t close myself off to other, more universal aspects of myself, and love and ecstasy are things I experience like every other human. As an artist, I need to be express those things, and as an entertainer, I want to unify rather than divide. This is definitely a start of a new era for me artistically. I’m working on an 8-10 track project with OK and my gorgeous engineer Lucy Christo.

If your lyrical interests and aesthetics extend from political rap to R&B how far past those things are you interested in stretching? What are some other lyrical and musical themes are you planning to explore? What’s next for Araless?

Like I said, my influences are eclectic. I will continue to rap my ass off, and I will definitely be exploring this funky r&b vibe, but I’ve also got some original songs I’m playing with seven other amazing musicians; some funk influenced bluesy rock that I’m really excited about. There’s a horn section, some beautiful harmonies. After my project with OK, my main focus will be to get a record done with them, under the name Araless and the Greater Good. It will be such a huge departure from anything I’ve done to date I think people will be really surprised. And then of course I’m going to continue to animate, and finally get a cartoon show going.

Were there any life changes that accompanied the creative shifts in your music?

There weren’t any life changes per se, just a shift in perspective. I realized I hadn’t paid enough homage to the small, simple things in life like joy and love. I was kinda closing myself off creatively to the most important human experiences, and I had to rectify that.

What do you have coming up shows-wise?

My band Araless and the Greater Good is playing the Back Bar at The Crocodile on September 6th. I’m sure there are other shows, but I can’t think of them at the moment. I'll have them up on my Facebook tho!

What kind of things motivate you to pursue music? What keeps the fire burning to create?

The beautiful thing about music is that it conveys emotions that are almost impossible to put into words. You can get across essays worth of concepts with a few lyrics, some well placed chords, and a good melody. There’s also no limit to where you can go with music. There’s always another instrument to learn, another genre to explore. . .

If you were going to turn us on to some of your local favorites in the scene ri