Hopeful Dystopia : Bryan Richie Talks Galactic Protector, Songwriting, and Influences

I know The Sword. I mean, I don’t know them personally. We don’t hang out and have beers together or anything, but I’ve been privy to their groovy 70s doom/prog/stoner sound for some time now. They harken back to a time in rock when bands had album art that Frank Frazetta could’ve displayed in Heavy Metal magazine, and they write songs about dragons, worlds crumbling, and mystical armies fighting guys in cod pieces and double-bladed swords fashioned by 5th level dungeon masters.

Bryan Richie plays bass and keys in The Sword. It seems that during his downtime Richie has been putting together electronic/synth-heavy instrumental songs. The songs he writes on his own are both an alternate dimension away from The Sword and coming from the same mystical and magical realm at the same time. He fashioned enough songs to release an album of his own under the name Galactic Protector. Evening is something that the everyday Sword fan might be a little surprised by. Perplexed by, even. But for those adventurous music lovers, they’re going to find an infinitely wonderful music world to get lost in. It’s a gorgeous, low key album that hints at bands like Air, Massive Attack, and early 70s synth albums. There’s also bits of lo-fi goodness that Tame Impala, Mac Demarco, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra hinted at in their early records.

But we’re not giving Bryan Richie enough credit when throwing names out there. He’s put together a very uniquie, one-of-a-kind album that builds it’s own paths and worlds where you feel free to lose some serious time in. Even the album cover, which displays a strange and beautiful landscape, gives off a much different vibe. It’s definitely more Moebius and less Frazetta.

Evening comes out June 28th via Burning Witches Records. Bryan Richie sat down with Complex Distractions and answered a few questions about the making of Evening, influences on the sound of the record, and how Genesis’ Invisible Touch set him off on the right direction.

J. Hubner: So tell me about Galactic Protector. What was the genesis behind the project?

Bryan Richie: The project started after The Sword completed our High Country album cycle in May of 2016. Once we got home from the last leg of tour I ran up to Switched On, bought myself one of those Moog Mother 32’s and started down the rabbit hole. I had initially purchased it to do the On the Run sequence for our Doom Side of the Moon project but once I learned some of the basics of the machine, like being able to send it midi clock, I strapped in and flew off into outer space. It wasn’t until I ended up with a half dozen tracks I thought were interesting did I really consider doing a solo album, though. I’ve always made music at the house but it was more just for my own enjoyment or learning the ins and outs of the gear I had.

J. Hubner: Have you always had an interest in electronic music? The synth and keys work well in The Sword, but with Evening there’s quite a bit more nuance and low key vibes. 

Bryan Richie: Absolutely! I don’t know if you could truly call it electronic music but the first tape I can remember holding was my Mom’s copy of Genesis’ Invisible Touch – could be ‘kid time’ but I feel like we listened to that for a year straight. My approach to the synths in The Sword is a little different, up until Used Future I tried to keep my synth parts to things I could still play live with the Taurus 3 while still playing bass. Out of necessity the parts themselves stayed simplistic but I always felt that was part of their charm in fitting in with the riffary. Here, I had free reign to get as far out as I wanted to.

J. Hubner: Who or what are some influences on the vibes with Galactic Protector. I hear everything from Air to Kid A to Lips’ Yoshimi to early 70s Berlin School stuff, but more of an uplift. 

Bryan Richie: It’s all over the place .. all that French stuff – Ozio, Air, Phoenix, Daft Punk, Yelle, Justice, recent things like Todd Terje, Toro Y Moi, Tame Impala, Mac Demarco, Hiatus Kaiyote and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. There’s this Cal Tjader record called Amazonas that leaked in. I also think Night and Day by Al B. Sure is one of the best songs written.

J. Hubner: When writing, what influences the songs. Do you just go with a vibe, or is there a narrative? The album as a whole has different atmospheres sonically, but it all gels together so well. Is there a concept behind the album?

Bryan Richie: Nine times out of ten it’s the vibe, I’ll get inspired by the sounds and move from there. No real narrative to speak of but I’ve always had this thought about the ‘hopeful dystopia’ – a crumbling infrastructure / society that still somehow remains viable for its inhabitants. I think a lot of my music subconsciously hangs out in that world.

J. Hubner: One of the songs I’m currently obsessing over is “Sunset on Saba”. I love the ghostly piano that brings us in, and then the distorted beat that accompanies it. Can you walk me thru that track and how it came about? 

Bryan Richie: The bass synth at the end came first then that ghostly piano came second. I put down a straight forward beat for some reference and those three bits together were my kick off point. The rest of the track came together pretty quickly after getting those parts working together. As I was massaging this one I wanted to have the track start with that ghostly piano because I liked the desperation in those chords when they were leading.

J. Hubner: How old were you when you got into music? What was the first instrument you started playing?

Bryan Richie: My folks will say it was when I was bouncing along to Christopher Cross’ Sailing as a toddler but I was about 12-13 when it really hit me. My friends and I that were in art class together, influenced by the likes of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Green Day, decided one afternoon that we should be a band, and I wanted to be the bass player. Later that year on my birthday I was gifted a Fender Jazz Bass from my parents and immediately got hooked up with lessons down at the local music store. Thus began my routine til I graduated High School of coming home, forgoing most homework and playing bass.

J. Hubner: Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?

Bryan Richie: It was a tape of …And Justice For All by Metallica – wore it out!

J. Hubner: So what were some go-to instruments you used for Evening. 

Bryan Richie: The Moog Mother 32, Minitaur, Slim Phatty, and Taurus 3. I also used the DSI Mopho x4, Sequential Circuits Six-Trak, Korg Microkorg, Fender Strat, Reverend Dubking and an old piano. When I was up in Portland at Flora Recording doing The Sword’s most recent album Used Future, I was able to use Tucker’s DSI Prophet 08, Korg Polyphonic Ensemble, Roland Juno 106, a Sequential Circuits Pro One and the Mellotron D.

J. Hubner: The album is being released by the incredible Burning Witches Records. How did you get hooked up with Darren and Gary? 

Bryan Richie: Back in 2006 The Sword played a show in LA — either on Halloween or around it — and we had this killer power trio opening for us called Year Long Disaster. Their singer/guitarist was my future label-mate Daniel Davies. We ended up taking them on a couple of tours and over the years and Daniel and I stayed in touch – so when he released his Events Score album I had to reach out not only to congratulate him on such a fantastic achievement but pick his brain a little about how that all got going, ask him about his experience with the label, etc. I had my record all but finished, to the point where I had A side and B side mp3s, but I had no idea what I was going to do with it — release it myself? Try to pitch it to a label? Let it sit in a folder on my desktop indefinitely? So I shared those A&B side mp3s with Daniel and he graciously forwarded them over to Darren and Gary. They’ve been fantastic to work with and I’m beyond excited to be included in their roster.

J. Hubner: Can you tell me about the album art? It fits the music so well. 

Bryan Richie: A friend of mine named Kearin Cook painted this amazing piece for the cover. I had given her the album tracks to listen to and some really loose ideas but I wanted her spin on it. Only thing I can really remember telling her was that I wanted a border and some part of the art to break it. She knocked it out of the park and in my eyes her art encapsulate the project – very much a window into the world that’s created by the music.

J. Hubner: So can we expect more Galactic Protector in the future? 

Bryan Richie: Yes! I’m already working tracks for album number 2!

Galactic Protector’s Evening is out 6/28 via Burning Witches Records. Hit up the BWR website Friday morning and order the limited edition vinyl. Or go for the digital option. Either way, get it.




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