Seattle’s The Salt Riot released one of the most memorable albums in recent times – Dead Star – that lives up to the promise of what we call ‘The New Rock N Roll’. We connected with lead singer-songwriter and guitarist Julia Vidal via email to gain insight into this intriguing emerging band. 

There is a delicate balance between edginess and melody in the songwriting — is that something cultivated or something spontaneous? 

This album was done with thought and planning but there were many portions of it that were purposefully left to “chance” or “the moment.” Music has to feel alive, it can’t always be rehearsed and rehashed. Often times I would have the guitar parts down and then I would sit and sit on them, when it came to track vocals in a few takes, I wouldn’t rehearse, I would simply say ” start me in” and I’d basically put down exactly what I was doing and feeling at that moment.

     Dead Star purposefully plays sing-song melody against introspective and thought-provoking lyrics that juxtapose done our intention to spread powerful meaning through catchy hooks. We love to mix up protest inside the pop-like melodies within the rock medium.

Seattle is of course known for the heavier side of rock music – inspired perhaps by the dreary weather that the city is known for. Your music is more spare, ethereal and atmospheric in parts. What does that sonic approach represent to you?

Growing up in Alaska, I believe the weather in Seattle is a lighter breath for my muse! It can be moody but it is also so full of life. We essentially live in a rainforest, a temperate one. Water is life and Seattle is lucky enough to be surrounded by sounds, ocean, lakes, rain, all of it. These ethereal sounds are what you hear and see in an old growth forest, wind whispering in trees and a raging waterfall overflowing with rainfall. To hear this type of music in the Northwest you don’t need to travel further than your own backyard. 

What were the inspirations for the music on the new album? There seems to be a deliberate plan in the manner in which the music is set up – what was the process in which  this was all put together?

A lot of Dear Star was written acoustically by me and then brought to the full band to hash out with exceptions like “Nameless” and “Angel” where bassist Jack Machin took the written lead. We broke every part of this album down to nuance and detail, especially during the mixing process lead by Jack with my collaboration. Tracking live gives it a moving, life feel — and then spending hours mixing to just the right point allows that planned purpose to reveal itself. The perfectionism that we all hold ourselves too can be heard. 

     Lyrically I draw a lot of inspiration from contemporary social happenings and universal politics. Much of this album is a macro-level approach to life, our common global ties, our common human histories, repetitive history, the stories of humankind we hear over and over again. 

     In many ways Dead Star is a desperate calling to see ourselves for what we truly are, a mere flash of light and time in a large large expansive continuum. This both minimizes and trivializes but it also frees us . (Freedom is a huge theme on this album.) Although the concept is atmospheric it ties into the desperation that one ultimately feels when faced with the daunting realities of humanity. It seeks to realize and then find hope. 

     The band name in itself has these themes and Dead Star continued to play on them, also recognizing the history and looking to our future. 

I like that in your bio – you resist the labels that the music industry puts on the band and invokes the antiquated concept of rock ’n’ roll instead! What is your rationale for that attitude?

It is SO hard to ask to be heard these days. People want a quick category, a quick flashy soundbite, an image in a McImage world. Something to recall back to, to file under “known.”

     This MUST be resisted on all levels when it comes to art. Art is contemplative, it is mystic, mysterious, it doesn’t reveal all in one glance, it demands you dig deep, you explore, it asks to be revisited. You should have new insights every time you delve into it again.

     So yes, when it comes to terminology … genre-wise, it’s pop it’s rock it’s blues it’s alternative it’s indie. All of these labels add no real value to what art seeks to serve. And art seeks to serve the purpose of abandoning labels and the known. Successful art pushes our comfort zones, into a new exploration.

What is The Salt Riot prepared to do in order to get the music out to as many people as possible? 

We keep asking Jack to strip down fully for all the shows and he keeps resisting. : )

     Another thought is a high end champagne Kombucha that we name brand and market 🙂 

     All kidding aside its no joke at the end of the day. You have to work hard to get music heard! We constantly think about ways to reach new audiences through shows and social media. We live in a fortunate time where people can access music now from all over the world. This channel is dynamic and it’s a tool to reach people everywhere. What a great time to get music that has something to say to audiences everywhere. 

Thanks to Chris Estey/Big Freak Media for making this interview possible. 

... still there’s more …