Ripe is a band of seven friends who came together in college and haven’t stopped playing music together since. They have been described as Seven soulmates who refuse to believe in a single definition of dance music. This is on display from the moment they take the stage in a live set. Seeing them on their 2019 tour at Brooklyn Steel was nothing different. Ripe has a mission of elevating good days into great and bad days to be tolerable through their live shows. With their contagious energy it only takes a few songs and everyone in the crowd has begun dancing in their own way.
The atmosphere Ripe is able to create at their shows is incredible. You see people that normally wouldn’t be dancers besides maybe a head bob, full on jumping up and down with songs like ‘Little Lighter’. The band works hard to make it a safe space and one where all are accepted and that you can have this moment of release at their show. To create a safe environment Ripe has a Safe Space initiative for their 2019 tour in which I talked with lead singer Robbie Wulfsohn about in an interview and you can read below. In addition to this we talked more about their live shows, what song Robbie would use to introduce someone to Ripe, how the band met, and much more. Check out the full interview below.
So this is pretty cool I’m not sure if Emily passed this along to you I was actually part of street team or Goon Squad in April for the Ripe show in Salt Lake City at Kilby Court and..
Robbie: Hell yeah!
Yeah and so that was like one of the moments that made me want to look to work in music. So it’s really cool almost a year later to be sitting down interviewing one of my favorite bands.
Robbie: Well that is really really humbling to hear man. We had an absolutely amazing and in the best way unexpected time in Salt Lake City. So I’m glad that you were part of it.
Yeah and I brought like fifteen friends with me and it was one of those things you know that mean so much to you and you are just hoping everyone likes it has much as you do and nobody leaves disappointed and…
Robbie: I couldn’t agree more with you. That is how I feel about the band.
Well good news all of my friends left saying it was one of the best shows they’ve ever been to. So I wanted to ask how you would describe your live shows?
Robbie: Um I think that for us we are just looking for at the live concert itself like just a moment of release. Like ideally an ecstatic type of release. But we know that the two things we want to do most for people is to take good days and elevate them into great days. And to take hardship and elevate it to tolerable. So like it is through the same methods it’s through like getting people dancing, getting people to understand that they are apart of something symbiotic when they are at the concert venue. Like getting people to realize I feel like there is this huge push to find moments and think individual events are like blimps in time that make you feel this rush of feeling. I think that if people are like helping each other get there that is how you get there as hard as possible for the most possible people. So we are just trying to see if we can get people to that letting go in a positive sense. Whether that letting go is heaviness or that momentary insecurity of being in a space of a lot other people unsure at what is about to happen and kind of like riding that wave until people are feeling that new kind of free.
You talked about creating these moments of positive release through your shows, I noticed in your lyrics for songs that there are moments like dance solos and releasing pent up emotion written in. Are these set up and written in as part of the creative process?
Robbie: Um I wouldn’t say that it was as the song was written before it was worked on out with the audience. I would say that we tend to have songs exist in the live sphere first. Like we’re not a band that sits down and records the album and only then starts playing music live. A lot of the times the way we figure out what kind of moments we want to bring into the studio and the way we want these songs to exist is from seeing what makes people respond hardest in the most face to face person to person experience you get to have with them right. So we are definitely excited about moments that feel like that, but we don’t know what these moments are until we are working them out with an audience. It’s like when you tell a joke either people laugh or they don’t. It’s not a reflection on if you’re a good person or a bad person but the point is you want to keep working with what works until everything that you’ve got is something you feel confident in showing to the rest of the world as proof to what you do and what you’re about.
Wow okay that is a cool approach. So after you are trying it out at the live shows and seeing the response are there tweaks and things made from there before recording in the studio?
Robbie: Definitely I think that we want our recorded music to do the same thing as our live music in terms of letting people feel that kind of free and that elevation. But those two worlds are so radically different from each other especially today we know that to achieve the same thing we are going to have to go after it from two radically different angles. We learn from the live setting what works there and sometimes those tweaks will make it to the recorded thing. But even then once we know how it feels amazing live once it is time to record it we will open the entire song again and take a look at okay here is what we are going for, we know this is how we go about it live. How do we chase that same feeling? But in a way that is most in tune to the studio so that we are not just trying to like completely replicate something that you kind of cant without being there like a recorded song.
So speaking of a Ripe live show and it bringing people together and elevating them. There’s now the Green Headband Gang of a group of people who are huge fans. They asked an interesting question on Instagram the other day and I wanted to ask you the same one. They asked what Ripe song you would use to introduce someone to the band. I know all of these songs are close to you. But is there a song that comes to your mind?
Robbie: That is a difficult question for me because we are in the middle of new writing and so there are songs that are songs that are still in that very precious to my heart like they’re still my babies because they’re young and are just being given life for the first time. My heart is torn in two directions though. Because I love the music that we have put out into the world so far and also it makes my job to already be making sure to be like “Yeah we have this new stuff, and this new stuff is crazy exciting.” But you’re not going to hear it for a long time so that’s not fair either. Um I think honestly for me just selfishly one of the best feeling moments at the show is just the bridge out through the rest of the song in ‘Little Lighter’ where like the crowd first it chills out for a second then they start to interact with Josh. Then if we are lucky and if the crowd is into we end up bringing the whole room to a frenzy. People that I know from their behavior the entire rest of the show are not jumpers and may not even be dancers are on their feet and in that kind of motion. So I would probably end up using ‘Little Lighter’ it is also the first track on the album so it does seem a little bit on the nose. But to me that is still a moment that every time it happens it’s like It is one of those feelings of being in my body and out of it and get to like watch this thing happen with me and my closest friends and all of these people that love what we do. While simultaneously being right in the middle of it and facilitating this thing that is happening.
You mentioned being in the middle of the writing and creating stages, what is that like in a seven piece band?
Robbie: It is a lot of conversations. All seven of us are like contributing at all levels of the writing process. Some people are like the initial creators, some are like the people that grow it from like baby song form and then everyone in the room gets together and edits it to a finished product. So the only real constant is that we are always trying to shake things up because we are definitely know that one of the things that we have going for us is having seven musical brains that care a lot about what we are doing that are always on. So finding ways to both lean into developing skills when we want to and to shake up the ecosystem when we insert new variables into songwriting. Because I think that for us the albums that we are most excited by when we look into their history there is always like for every song that makes the album there are four that are also amazing that just didn’t make the album because it wasn’t what the album was about. So I think that we would rather be spoiled for choice and be like really led to say what it is we want to say with our next record. Rather than to just being like okay we finally have these twelve songs, that is enough to put out an album.
You talked about having seven musical minds, you all met in school at Berklee and it seems pretty naturally. How would you describe how Ripe formed?
Robbie: I would say that it came together very naturally and that the sticking out of it has been like the figuring out that this decision you made when you were a freshman in college is actually going to deeply impact the rest of your life. Just like transitioning from being college friends that were partying together to a band late in college that was going to make a go of it, to like a band that is now like trying to view itself as the professional organization and trying to take it as far as our listeners and our world will allow us. So we tumbled together as like friends at parties. I met Sampson and Tory at a party at their apartment and us and some other musicians got together to record some music not even thinking it would be a band. Then that music sent ripples like through our community and so we kind of decided that we wanted to form a project that played that music and would continue to make music like that. We found our horns because we had a studio session booked like after we had been a band for probably two and a half weeks. We were like maybe a trumpet would sound cool. That snowballed into Josh asking his friends one of whom was Calvin which led to us having horns in the band. When one of our first guitarists like left us to work with his absolute favorite band at the time the person we ended up going with on guitar was his roommate while we were all at college who was already a person who was in our orbit completely and was just ready to join on and be a crucial part of what we do when the time was right. So it has been this natural tumbling together but then like the last three years it is learning how to like take this idea that without having to disrespect 17 year old me there is no way that you know when you make these decisions what the outcomes are going to be. Not only that though is you don’t even know what kind of people you are going to need to become to achieve the things you want. So it has been this extremely steep and extremely exciting learning curve. Learning what it means to be on tour for three straight months. Learning what does it mean to structure the decisions of your life around this thing you care about more than anything else. It can sometimes be hard from caring about it so much. I think where we have grown is in trying to make this the rest of our lives rather then not knowing what is happening but know it is fun. It has been really exciting seeing everybody kind of assuming a new position on like what we do.
I took a folklore class in college and was taught about traditions and three times consecutively something becoming a traditions. In my first three interview I asked the same question, I think I ask it selfishly. But I love karaoke and I love to hear what actual artists performing on huge stations if they like karaoke and what their go-to song is. Do you like karaoke Robbie?
Robbie: Um I only do karaoke after a like medium length night of drinking and I don’t know whether I like it or just get talked into it by good friends. (laughs) But my go-to song is either ‘Rocket Man’ by Elton John or ‘Africa’ by Toto. I’m actually going to go with Rocket Man just because I feel like Africa has been in the news too many times. It’s playing in a desert and Weezer is playing it now. It’s too much Africa. I love that song but.
Lastly I wanted to give you the chance to talk about your 2019 tour and some of the things you are looking forward to as well as what you can tell me about your Safe Space initiative you are doing at all of the shows. Can you touch on both?
Robbie: Well thank you very much I am going to answer those in reverse. I feel like that’s an easier way to tie them together. The Safe Space initiative is something that we have all spoken about as something that we care about. Some things happened around a venue called The Middle East in Boston that just resonated a lot with me and with the guys in the band of just realizing that a concert is a space where especially at our concerts we would like to create places that people are able to cut loose and able to let go of things and able to feel free. Um to think of concerts as a place where some people are under constant fear that being harassed or engaged in a situation that they just don’t want to be in when they are just trying to enjoy music that matters to them. That sat very wrong with us and was something we wanted to get directly involved in making a little bit better in whatever ways we could. So we have pins available at our shows as well as a video and some documents online that can just walk people if they want to into what they can do to be a more active bystander and things to help diffuse situations before they arise. Or to help impose from a community perspective some kind of behavior at the show. I would hope that everyone does their best but there is not going to be security watching ever inch of the room, and it is always difficult as the band to be able to see what’s going on from the stage. So what we want to do is have this be the start of a conversation with the people that care about what we do just ensuring that safety of the people at our shows is a huge value to us and we want you to know that. But we also want to work with you on how to actually go about doing this thing that we say. So we view this as the starting of a conversation.
But in terms of the 2019 tour it has been crazy. We have done shows that have just absolutely had my jaw on the floor the entire time. It makes singing very difficult but we get through it. (laughs) Um no but it has already shattered my expectations I know I speak for most of the guys saying we are so far and away blown away with how many people are coming and how much love they are bringing to the music. We feel like we are more together from the stuff on Joy in the Wild Unknown. It has like sat with us and has been digested by both us and our fans and we are really excited to show where things are at with that. We also have new music written that is in the test out phase in front of crowds. So I cant say that you will be seeing a ton of new music because we want to be conscious on not overloading people with new data but we are going to be playing new tunes and new covers. We could not be more excited about how we are feeling towards the show. So if you already dig what we’re doing or think you might dig what we’re doing I think that now is a really good time to check that out.
And with these new tunes is there any sort of like release timeline?
Robbie: There is no set timeline there are just steps that we want to take to do it right. All that we know is that we want to take the steps necessary to have what we do next be a step forward with everybody together and we want to take the time to do that right. So all we know is the thing we have to do next and I can’t talk about that.
And I think as a fan like there is this balance because you love it so much and you selfishly are always wanting more, but it is one where we can appreciate your quest to do it right and the way you want to do it.
Robbie: Yeah that is exactly what it is. I think that we know that the new stuff is going to feel very exciting to us and it is going to be the moments where we are most curious about how the crowd is going to respond. But we definitely want to play shows that feel like our favorite shows. For me I absolutely adore hearing new music and also love going to a show and hearing my favorite song that the band has already released get played. Ideally I want both moments of those to happen at a show as a fan and we are just trying to see if we can bring that to people that decide that they want to listen to us.