Risa Rubin's New Album is a Therapeutic Exercise

Risa Rubin, in conversation, at her Westlake apartment in Los Angeles. Tuesday, October 23, 2018.

Risa Rubin, in conversation, at her Westlake apartment in Los Angeles. Tuesday, October 23, 2018.

“I woke up feeling really angry towards my grandpa today,” reveals Risa Rubin, a Los Angeles based musician who has just released her fifth album entitled I’m Reliving the End Over and Over and Over Again and It’s Only the Beginning. “He’s dead," she elaborates while making a cup of coffee.

“He was like a millionaire, and when he died, he gave his wife millions but nothing to my mom. And I just woke up hating him for that.” Risa explains her resentment towards her grandfather. The 23-year-old has just lost her job at a cafe in Venice, which took “hours and hours” to get to from her Westlake studio apartment and she’s “running out of money." Risa’s demeanor is tense; her life is marked by anxiety. Anxieties about money, her career, her relationships, her future: all topics she explores with an unrelenting honesty on her newest album.

Risa was born in Venice, California and grew up in Los Angeles. She started singing when she was seven, but didn’t play any instruments until she was around 18, which is when she and her family briefly moved to Buffalo, New York. Risa explains: “I was living in Buffalo and it was during one of the worst winters ever. And I was so, so lonely and confused about my life that I decided that I was going to learn to play the accordion. And I found this Russian man online who gave lessons, and I went to his house. He was a legit hoarder, and there was shit everywhere and a really sad, crying baby in the room. And there was a horrible snow storm outside.”

Her experimentation with the accordion didn’t last, but this is normal for Risa, who says that she is constantly picking up new hobbies, believing that they will be her “new thing," a habit which she has heard is indicative of Bipolar disorder. “I’ve never been officially diagnosed, but I’m pretty sure that’s what’s wrong with me," Risa adds.

Shortly after leaving Buffalo and her dreams of being an accordionist behind, Risa moved to Berkeley, California, which is where she first encountered the harp. “I was taking the train somewhere, and I saw a woman performing in the station. And I wound up taking lessons from her,” she reflects. Originally intended to simply “accent the music” Risa was already producing with her keyboard, the harp is now an integral part of the musician’s unique sound. A sound which got her signed to Lollipop Records, a label in Los Angeles whom released her second album, Shema, on cassette tapes.

“I didn’t sign shit. The whole thing was so unprofessional. Towards the end, they basically forgot that I existed,” Risa describes. Due to Lollipop’s lack of efforts to promote the album, Risa’s following project was distributed by Little L Records, an independent label in Ireland. “It’s run by like, a teenager, in some small town in Ireland. So it didn’t really lead to anything.”

Risa’s frustration with music labels inspired her to start up Sylvia, a musical collective/label, that showcases the talents of female and gender non-conforming musicians in the Los Angeles area. “It just felt like all these dudes acted as the gatekeepers to the music industry. And that was a really shitty feeling.”

Sylvia’s newest release is Risa’s latest album that is described by BandCamp, an online music company, as a “creative ambition that demands to be recognized.” It was featured as the website’s “album of the day” earlier this month.

I'm Reliving the End... is now available on all major streaming platforms and Risa hopes to embark on a promotional tour of the West Coast, this December, with stops in all major cities. The album's sound is haunting and elegant, with Risa’s impressive vocals revealing her deepest, darkest fears. Without hiding behind metaphors, her lyrics are frank and truthful. “Songwriting is very therapeutic for me. When I’m making music, I feel okay," she says, while biting into the seventh mini-donut she’s consumed during the interview. “That’s why I’m doing all of this. So I can feel okay.”