Rebecca Butler & the Richards are pretty people, but don’t get hung up on how attractive of a band they are. They have sharp pop sensibilities, killer musical chops and one hell of a stage presence. They started like so many other bands do by rising from the ashes of another band. In this case, that band was the Boo Who’s, which had a significantly more rock sound.
Butler, who sang in the Boo Who’s, went on a short hiatus while continuing to write new, acoustically driven songs. Eventually, she felt the need to hit the stage again, but with a full band. Enter Sam Ogden (guitar/vocals), Pierce Saxon (keys/guitar/ukulele), Jordan Cook (drums) and Patrick Young (bass).
“At first it started out as my friends kind of helping me ‘cause I wanted a full band… and then they just stuck around,” Butler says.
Their first EP “4.10.11” is a comfortable collection of pop/rock songs. Perhaps “comfortable” isn’t the right term for it. Though the music does have qualities befitting a coffee shop, or even the soundtrack of a romantic comedy, a careful listener can pick up on the raw emotions that must have been present during the song’s actual writing. “Stupid Boy” is one example of this with its melancholic ode to a past love. While part of a group effort, “4.10.11” is predominately a product of Butler’s own creation.
“[The songs are] influenced by one feeling at that moment. I’d have to get up in the middle of the night and write the song in one go,” Butler says.
Since the EP’s release, the band has gone on to play numerous shows around Austin clubs and has developed a dedicated following. It’s easy to see why with their emotional stage show paired with their outstanding musicianship. Watching an audience react to the band’s set is an interesting sight. Heads bob, toes tap and people break into dance, especially during “Count to Five,” a distinctly funk/rock influenced track. It’s important to mention this, as funk and R&B have become an important aspect of Rebecca Butler & the Richards.
“We used to play songs she had written as she had written them… but then it became more collaborative and that’s when it became more fun,” Ogden says. The new songs do indeed sound different from the band’s first foray into the studio.
“It’s a bit heavier,” Butler says, alluding to new songs like “Carousel,” which showcases a decidedly creepier side of the band with its carnival-like atmosphere and wrenching lyrics. “Carousel,” however, is the exception on the new EP. Most tracks feature rock/pop songs that have a very danceable beat.
“We worked on songs hoping to make them a little ‘dancier,’ make people move a little bit more. It probably comes from playing these songs a million times.” Ogden says. “Like, if we do this, people move a bit more and it’s found its way into whole songs.”
While citing Dr. John, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Otis Redding as influences, the band also looked to The Beatles and The Beach Boys for inspiration. “I definitely want to stay pop but we definitely have more rock influence,” Butler says.
Ogden adds, “We needed to diversify in general, so a lot of that just came from wanting to make it a little funkier.”
With a goal in mind, Rebecca Butler & the Richards went into the studio with a mindset that few bands have when recording: using the studio as a tool. Virtually turning their own songwriting model on its head and adopting a far more mature outlook on recording, the band began building framework versions of new songs with the intent to flesh them out in the studio.
“We sat down and said, sing it like that, play it like that. After that it came together.” Young says. Ogden adds, “We’ll discuss that we want harmonies on this part, and then we figure it out in the studio. It’s not fun to go into the studio and just play your guitar part ten times, but the fun part is, let’s do this, this and this here.”
The band members detailed how they had added harmonies, claps and even the sound of a ratchet, to the tracks. Some ideas stayed and some were left aside. It is this kind of decision making process that can make or break a band, and Rebecca Butler & the Richards have made it over one of those huge musical hurtles that comes with recording.
Written and Images by Clayton Hodges (firstname.lastname@example.org)