Afternoon Bike Ride – Exploring sonic landscapes, with friends.
“…it’s important to remember that we all feel love, sadness, joy, fear….we’re all of the same blood so we should treat each other that way, like family.”Afternoon Bike Ride
Individually, they are accomplished musicians and producers in their own right, pedalling through the world of music with hundreds of millions of online streams collected in each of their baskets.
Experimentation and collaboration with other artists and producers over the past few years has given these Montreal-based artists sophisticated palettes and a taste for adventure. Pushing out their sonic boundaries led them to meet in 2018 for, what was initially intended to be, a collaborative aside to their solo projects. Harmony and open-mindedness within the group allowed for different approaches to creating and producing, resulting in the birth of what is now, Afternoon Bike Ride.
The trio comprises singer-songwriter, Lia Kurihara (aka LIA) who first entered the music scene in 2017 and, over the course of the following two years, released a string of incredibly well-received singles and live performances around Montreal, New York, and Singapore; David Tanton (aka Rhoda / Tender Spring) a musician and beatmaker often laying chilled out guitar licks over lo-fi beats, leaving an aroma of freshly cut grass and cherry-blossom in his wake, and; Éloi Le Blanc-Ringuette (aka Thomas White), an experimental electronic musician and DJ whose recent work surfaces with a more cinematic and delicate vibe than his club-oriented early releases.
Afternoon Bike Ride released their 15 track self-titled debut album in late September with a little help from an incredible group of friends. The album is laced with contributions from Middle School, Ryan Hemsworth, Sleepy Fish, Kogane, Naji, Eli Bishop, Santpoort, Aso and Park Bird, gently imbuing the album with an incredibly eclectic and hypnotic blend of lo-fi beats, dream-pop vocals and leftfield production.
It commences with ‘Dog Years’, a collaborative track with Middle School, whose lyrics read: “Every heart beat like new, we finally found our truth, that everyone is part of you”. ‘Sunday Sketch’ dreams of a cathartic release from isolation and claustrophobic limitations imposed by the pandemic.
That escapist theme continues on the hypnotic ‘Terrace Rain’: “Sometimes I like to let my mind lead me to places far away”. A wealth and depth of musical influences, and skill in combining them, is displayed across the album; such as on lo-fi slow jam ‘Tomorrow’ and heartbreaking fireside folk duet ‘It’s Alright’ with Imagiro.
We’ve been fortunate enough to speak with Afternoon Bike Ride about their experiences in creating this elegant and delicate collection of songs. Let’s get into it…
You each had your solo projects before working collaboratively and found this arrangement gave you each space to experiment. To what extremes have you each pushed outside your individual ‘comfort zones’ since working together, and what have been the most enlightening moments for you?
Being in a band pushed each of us out of our comfort zones:
Lia: I’ve been working solo with collaborators and co-producers for a while, and I never thought I’d have a band. However, it’s helped push my artistry because we can support one another and also inspire one another. We also always have people interested in listening to our sketchy demos, lol.
Éloi: I think since we started getting serious with the band it’s pushed me to hold back more in my production (less is more sometimes) and be more open to criticisms/changes. We all have different backgrounds and I think it comes through in the music.
David: I’ve personally had to spend a lot more time putting thought into what the full composition of a song feels like outside of the little ear-tickling textures I usually like to spend a lot of time noodling with. Focusing on what a song is trying to convey sometimes means that not every texture or every little flutter has to be front and centre.
Your latest album includes a number of fantastic collaborations – can you talk us through how these came about and the process involved in determining who would be a good fit for your collabs, and the different angles each artist brings to your core ideas?
Our album has been described as a salon of characters and that’s kind of how it all came together. Just talking to friends and thinking who would be an absolute joy to have in our living room, spending an afternoon with. Each artist brings their own flavor to the songs, in some instances they swooped into an existing song with completely new vocals (Kogane) in others they started the song (Imagiro), Naji built Cétait with us, each had a different way they contributed to the collaboration.
What have been the most eye-opening or rewarding aspects of recording this album with such an array of musicians and producers?
Connecting over music with each other and with our collaborators is the most rewarding and the positive reception is the cherry on top! Finishing this project as a team that spanned literal years makes us so excited for the next projects ABR has in store.
The whole process sounds like such an adventure, a gift even. Can you describe the feeling and chemistry within the collaborative group when you were composing, recording, and finally listening back to this album?
In single words, it kinda felt like: Excitement, joy, bliss, frustration, exhaustion, anticipation… and then right back to unbounded joy.
Working as a collective, each with your own styles and ideas, how have your writing and composing styles changed or developed whilst working together – and how have you approached decision making, (e.g. whether a piece of music should have vocals, or remain instrumental, how a track is to be structured, etc.)?
Lia: My vocal style is definitely softer in this project than with my solo work, I think working on this project also helped me to fully round out my vocal style. I really love singing in falsetto which I hadn’t done much of with the work I’d released before but now in my solo work and with ABR I find the falsetto making more of an appearance and it feels right. Decision-making is always collective, sometimes two of us want one thing the third doesn’t and in those cases, we always find ways to compromise.
Éloi: Often one of us starts a demo and the others hop on one at a time and we do some back and forth. I think the most important thing is being open to everyone’s ideas.
David: I think we all have somewhat different ways of going about songwriting but the biggest joy of creating anything is that it’s always a shifting process, learning to work with different energies to make the best product possible.
Selecting track listings for albums can be painstaking as your aim is to pull in your listener from the get-go. You open with the beautifully alluring “Dog Years”. What’s the significance behind that track for you?
It’s the first one that really felt like it was a “band” song and kicked off the “hey maybe we should write an album?” discourse. It felt natural to keep it first in the tracklisting itself!
You highlight the lyric “Every heart beat like new, we finally found our truth, that everyone is part of you” – thinking about how you guys came together and produced this wonderfully eclectic album… it almost feels that this line describes your own coming together, beating to a common rhythm and bonding with each other, and the music you’re making… I could be totally off the mark, but I’m interested in your thoughts on the weight of that line. Can you tell me a bit about that?
You’re definitely on the mark! That line is meant to communicate how we’re all connected, one species trying to find our way in the world. It can be easy to dismiss the well-being of others who feel so far away from our own communities but it’s important to remember that we all feel love, sadness, joy, fear….we’re all of the same blood so we should treat each other that way, like family.
I read that you intend for the listener “to pause their inner monologue and take a moment to breathe” and you explain these tracks were a “cathartic release from isolation and claustrophobic limitations imposed by the pandemic”. After the challenges we’ve had across the globe, that kind of mindfulness is most welcomed… how did the pandemic impact you, as artists, aside from having created these wonderful songs?
Lia: The pandemic offered a chance to pause and reflect on what was serving me and what wasn’t, how I could live a more conscientious lifestyle, and what my priorities are.
Éloi: The pandemic actually set the stage for ABR to flourish. I wasn’t inspired with what I was working on before anymore and started making a lot of more ambient stuff which ended up becoming the basis for our Skipping Stones EP. I’m grateful for it in a weird way but I also realize I’m in an incredibly lucky position.
David: It’s given us a lot of challenges incredibly similar to creatives around the globe, as well as made us all look to new avenues of creation & collaboration not previously used by any of us.
If you imagine that pandemic hadn’t happened at all, do you think this album would have come together in the way it has, and if not, how do you think it might have differed from what we’re listening to now?
Maybe ABR would’ve stayed more of a side project and maybe we would’ve spent less time tinkering away on it. But the sound of it would’ve stayed pretty similar as we had tons of demos already before the lockdowns.
Obviously, each and every track is precious, and some more than others perhaps – do you each have your individual favorites or a track that has significant or special meaning for you?
Lia: My favorite is “It’s Ok, I’m Here” the strings and the simplicity of the guitar and vocals really feel like the sweetness of a peaceful sunny morning and it puts me in a good headspace.
Éloi: It’s very hard for me to pick a favorite but right now I’ll say If I Was A Bird, it could be because I’m working on an alternate version of it at the moment but also it has my favorite synth line on the album.
David: I think my personal favourite right now is the album closer: Rise Again. it really highlights what we can all do as a band & also kinda allures towards how even though it’s the last track in the album we’re absolutely not done. There’s much more we’ve got planned.
Now that you’ve had a little bit of time to sit back and look back following the release of Afternoon Bike Ride, are you planning on further collaborations and, if you had the option to work with any artist, who would you most like to collab with?
We’re already working on album two and couldn’t imagine not collaborating on this project! We’d really love to collaborate with Dijon.
Everyone measures success differently – what does success look like to you, and what are your main aspirations for Afternoon Bike Ride?
Though it already feels like a success to have been able to reach people in a meaningful way, being able to fully support ourselves financially from this project would be a great next step. Our main aspirations looking forward would be to continue releasing music and getting it into people’s ears plus tour the world!
One might say you’ve completed the first lap of your journey with the release of this, your debut album… where are you guys pedalling to next, and what might the sonic landscape look like for the next part of this journey?
We’re working on album two already and it’s gonna be more upbeat/catchy but still our essence. Plus we can’t wait to tour!