Rollercoasterwater are an experimental psych-pop group based in Los Angeles. Their new EP, Umami Sounding Fireball is a kaleidoscopic odyssey into the cascading and colorful musical visions of singer Chuck Behring and percussionist Robin Levy. WLUW caught up with them over the phone and talked about their history, influences, and future.
WLUW: First of all, I just want to congratulate you on the awesome new EP, we’ve been playing it a ton on our station and we dig it a lot.
Chuck Behring: Yeah that’s awesome, we worked really hard on that thing. We worked a good month and a half at our friends studio and he helped us with some of the production on the live instruments and its definitely more acoustic, there’s more acoustic drums, guitar, and i’m kind of an electronic guy so its refreshing detour for me to play around with recording live more stuff live and he helped us record it, he’s in this band named Vinyl Williams, definitely check them out if you dig us.
WLUW: Could you introduce yourselves?
CB: I’m Chuck ‘Chuckie’ Behring from Rollercoasterwater, I’m the singer and I play the sampler. I kind of do a lot of stuff on the computer and midi that I put through the sampler, and I play guitar in the band at the same time. And I’m here with my drummer…
Robin Levy: Robin Levy. I play drums. I do some sampling as well, with the sample pad, some electronic stuff. All the percussion in the music.
CB: What we do is, I create an outline on the computer, some basic midi stuff, some simple melodies and chords and textures and stuff and I bring it to him and he and I work together to figure out how it can work rhythmically and if there should be live drums or just sample pad, and then we add a bunch of special effects over it. It turns out to be some psychedelic dream pop or whatever category we fit in (laughs) but we’re Rollercoasterwater.
WLUW: How did you two meet? What is history of Rollercoasterwater?
RL: Me and Chuck have grown up in the same town, we knew of each other High School together but didn’t know each other and we met in college. We both went to a college called Cal State Northridge. We met there because we were both involved in music and we hung out and jammed a couple times.
CB: It was that thing where we both knew of each other in high school, but we didn’t talk because we weren’t in the same group, I was a choir nerd and he was a band geek type of thing. But then once we converged in college, things really clicked pretty quickly when we started jamming, and there was a mutual admiration. He can do stuff that I can’t even think of, and it’s really awesome to work with him.
RL: The other thing is Chuck was Rollercoasterwater before I was Rollercoasterwater, so we started jamming, him already having a bunch of music under rollercoasterwater
CB: and I had played a few shows solo, like Panda Bear, Grimes’ style, just me and my sampler singing, but I needed some help – it was pretty complicated stuff and I needed some help, some live percussion, something more than just the sampler. Although that was great to, and people who do that are awesome, but it was just as awesome to bring Robin in and have Rollercoasterwater matriculate into something even better.
WLUW: Titles seem to be such a prominent part of your music. Where did the name Rollercoasterwater come from?
CB: Rollercoasterwater came from my first drug experience, it was on a thing called Salvia, which was legal in Cali at the time. It’s an extremely potent psychedelic, and it was the first anything I ever took, I think I was 14 years old, had never even had a beer. I had no idea what it was, going to the dentist was the most I had ever done, as far as being in a different state of conscious. But my friends invited me over, and had it, and they started smoking it, I tried to do it and it wasn’t working, and I ended up taking a big hit of it, and it hit me like a wall. Anyone who has taken salvia where it’s legal knows it’s kind of this thing where you like go beyond time. And I kind of saw the music I was going to make, and I saw this image of myself, my whole life flash before my eyes, and my head felt like a rollercoaster. I don’t know if you’ve played Mario 64, but you know how he jumps in the painting, and it kind of ripples? That’s what was happening to everything, and Rollercoasterwater made sense in my head. The next day, I started Rollercoasterwater, and I had faith in the project so much. It was really intense. A lot of the music I made in that time was some of the best stuff I made I think.
WLUW: Is that the same origin story behind the song “Glideboy 64”?
CB: Yeah kind of, “Glideboy 64” is a very optimistic song about how creativity is my way of getting through anything. Making some type of creative thing can solve whatever problem I have. Rollercoasterwater had taken us to so many crazy places, actual physical places, and allowed us to meet so many people..
RL: A quick side note, the N64 is one of our favorite consoles ever. The N64 is an aspect in so much of what we do, the names we choose, the songs we make. The games from N64 as a console itself, is probably one of the biggest influences in our music.
CB: We are hugely, hugely influenced by video game music, especially videogame music from the 90’s. I think that’s probably some of the best compositional music that was made in the 20th century, as far as I’m concerned. The next thing we’re working on right now is so N64, compositionally, texturally, but it has a psychedelic aftertaste and a percussive thing going on that we add to it, but it’s super N64, we’re so influenced by that and people our age are so nostalgic when they hear that type of music, and I think that’s such a fun thing to exploit in our audience.
WLUW: What is a passion you have outside of music that you think helps with songwriting and performing?
CB: Video games for sure, they play a big part in creative flow .people in science are now talking about flow, and a lot of people who are creative in their career, they find themselves getting a lot of stuff done in a very short period of time, a flow where they sort of go out of time. I think having a time outside of being creative and just playing is really important for an adult, especially because we don’t really have time to play in real life. But other than video games, I’ve lost 80 pounds since high school and i’ve done that through cooking. I’m super influenced in music through taste, it’s sort of synet, When I hear music, I can almost taste it, I can hear the balance of certain tones, flavors that compliment each other or accentuate each other, in a way that like salt or pepper or salt and sweet make each other more dramatic, cooking is huge.
WLUW: Seeing as you two recently graduated from college, how did you manage to put out so much music while in school? How did you manage to juggle your creative life with your academic life?
CB: It was very challenging. It was hard to get through it actually. We both got a degree in music studies, and we love the school, and the people we met are awesome, and so many people we met are going to go on to become these crazy people, who are gonna be executives at live nation or something, and those connections might be really valuable down the line. It’s hard to write in school, it’s definitely something we would do on the weekends and if we had like a break, we would dedicate it to music. We recorded the EP literally in the only amount of time we had over winter break. I always have sketches, song sketches or ideas on my computer that I make quickly wherever I am, school or something. But most of the stuff that’s actually good, you have to spend a fair amount of time and make sure it becomes its own idea.
RL: And I feel like studying music and having a music degree, what’s really helpful is that you make music your life in every aspect. But it’s very challenging to spend all day doing music for school and then having some free time and not wanting to touch music. I would have those days where I would play drums for a class, I would play piano for a class, I would think about harmonies for a class, and then when I got home at 8 at night, I just wanted to not. Watch netflix or something
CB: It turns it into work at a certain point.
RL: But Overall music will always be my full time/overtime job. I don’t mind that much.
CB: it was interesting, but, i’m glad to be done with school. We’re going to be making so much more music, so much quicker, even since graduating we’ve made so much stuff and it’s some of the best stuff we’ve made.
WLUW: If Rollercoasterwater were an actual body of water, what would it be?
RL: I feel like a very, very dark but clear blue wading pool that spins. I know of these things in South America, something like one of those weird bodies of water that is very small but has movement for some reason.
CB: And with giant snails going in circles around it, causing the spinning. I agree 100%.
RL: When I was in Belize there’s this thing called the big blue dot or something. It’s this huge small pond, but it has this huge underwater cave that goes straight down. And because it’s so deep that when you look at it, it’s a really really beautiful color of like light blue all the way down.
CB: It’s so weird that some water is like blue. And other water is not, sometimes it’s clear and sometimes it’s not. Anyway
WLUW: You two have always been pushing the limits of psych-pop, but it seems like as you’ve progressed, and especially with songs like Strobe Froth or Trying to Maze you’re getting more and more abstract and experimental as you continue to release music. Is this trend going to continue on the next album?
CB: Totally, Strobe Froth is as trippy as it gets. The funny story about that song is we literally recorded an old strobe light. It was this old strobe that must have been in a wooden box, and it made this really weird clicking noise. It sounds like a bike, people always think it’s a bike, but it’s actually a strobe light we recorded in a studio, just turning it up and down. It made this really weird loud sound. And we just had this giant indian drum and a whole bunch of other crazy stuff just laying around, and we were like, let’s throw it together and it became this crazy thing that just, worked. But I think it has to do with how you make it, if you’re inspired by the object you’re recording it’s a pretty interesting paradigm to approach it from. Psych-pop is a really interesting idea like, bands like Animal Collective, or Of Montreal, or MGMT are all staples in that genre but they’re all so different. Psychedelic music is just music that makes you feel trippy. Psych-pop could be Black Dice, like vomit noises distorted, or PC Music, or candy sugar music that’s just so trippy and unbelievable. It’s bigger than most people realize, people like Rihanna and Miley Cyrus are basically psychedelic, even Justin Bieber’s new music…
RL: Don’t call it psychedelic
CB: *laughs* I wouldn’t say it’s psychedelic
RL: It’s connected with psychedelic music, definitely.
CB: It’s trippy! The instrumentals are tripper than the old stuff, his pop music from the 2000’s. There’s almost a push in that way, I think the 20’s are going to be super psychedelic. I’ve been saying that for a long time. By 2020, mainstream culture is going to be very, very trippy and I’m pretty excited for it.
RL: As to your earlier question, are we going into a more ambient or pop direction, definitely both, 100%. It reminds me of this feeling i’ve been having recently. It’s funny you’ve mentioned bands like MGMT because I know they’ve been having similar feelings from interviews I’ve read. When I look back to Dripping Retina, our first album, my favorite songs from that album are nowhere near the most popular songs from that album. The most popular song for us on that album is “Chiropractor”. Recently I started getting frustrated with it because I don’t like playing it live that much. But most people I talk to it’s their favorite song because it’s so easy to digest. My favorite song is “Everything is Fine”, but that’s one of the least popular. And I know MGMT has the same problem, they’ll never be able to play a show again and not play “Electric Feel” without getting fired or letting down their fans. So we’ll do more pop stuff, and definitely some more way crazier stuff.
CB: I love pop music. I kind of went through this thing during these past few years, where I used to be like “oh no that’s way too pop”. I would listen to like I said earlier, like vomit noises distorted or whatever. And that stuff’s awesome. But now I listen to like Janet Jackson. Pop music is pretty psychedelic melodically, if you go beyond the pretense of what’s associated with what you’re listening to. It’s kind of like, “oh wow thats a crazy transition” or “that’s a crazy horn”, you could put a psychedelic filter over it and that would be a great psychedelic pop song, that’s how I look at a lot of music, whatever package it’s in, I try to hear it for what it is. But, I definitely think we’ll do both (ambient and pop).
WLUW: If you were stranded on a desert island, and could only bring three albums, which three would you bring?
CB: Honestly, the Donkey Kong Country 2 Soundtrack by David Wise. Literally, it’s so influential. I think that’s what music in 20 years is going to sound like. We haven’t even seen the full scope of that individual’s body of works influence yet. So much hip hop, so much pop has sampled that it’s not even funny.
RL: Geez louise. If I had to think about something I could listen to over and over again, I want to pick something new, but I also want something old. As long as I could take my vinyl setup, honestly… it’s gonna seem cliche but I would probably take Dark Side of The Moon. I’ve listened to some original pressings of that a couple times and it’s such a spiritual experience. It seems like such a cliche psychedelic stoner thing to say but that’s what I am so I’m ok with it *laughs*.
CB: I don’t know what the last one would be, I feel like we both like. We listen to Blank Banshee over and over again. I think Blank Banshee would be the third one, to offset the other two.
RL: Which one though?
CB: Blank Banshee is this artist from Canada who’s doing like vaporwave-trap and it’s just perfect, basically.
RL: It’s the best of all worlds
CB: It’s basically perfect electronic music in a lot of ways. So: Donkey Kong Country 2 – David Weiss, Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd, Blank Banshee – Zero. Yeah that’s perfect.
RL: That sounds good, I could listen to that right now.
WLUW: What are some of your favorite albums that have come out recently?
RL: This isn’t necessarily pertaining to Rollercoasterwater, it’s just another part of my musical brain. There’s this new Bassnectar album that just came out that’s really rad. I love bassnectar, the album came out like a week ago so it’s fresh in my mind.
CB: We’re so into electronic music, it’s ridiculous, Part of what we’re doing right now is we’re making this N64 pop music, but it’s also going to be dance music, not necessarily EDM or anything, well it could be, if people want to call it that, but we love dance music, we have parties all the time at our house and that’s what we play. I love the new Charli XCX album, I think that’s really, really sick. That’s probably my favorite thing from this year, it’s like a new pop sound.
WLUW: It’s very cutting edge.
CB: PC music is super cutting edge. Yeah, that’s the perfect way to describe it.
RL: Yeah, literally, I’m not as big a fan of PC music as Chuck, to me it feels like an edge literally cutting.
CB: Yeah cutting edge is the perfect way to describe PC music; sonically, and physically and culturally, so that’s good.
WLUW: What’s next for Rollercoasterwater?
CB: The thing we’re working on rightnow is going to be a full length album, and it’s going to be self titled. It’s going to be dance oriented and N64 inspired, and video game music inspired, and the cover will feature a roller coaster made of water. We’re working with an artist and it’s going to be super rad and the songs are coming together really well.
RL: For the writing process we’ll be in LA, but we have gone on a tour already, and we hope to travel the whole country. We have some good support on the other side of the states between Chicago, Atlanta, and New York. We’d love to see as many places as we can and show people what we’re about.
CB: Tour was so much fun, we met so many cool artists and cool people. Definitely want to tour again.