Ritchie Young

Ritchie Young

His music is featured heavily on the Boxtrolls soundtrack, and he fronts the Decemberists’ favourite group – “dream pop” act Loch Lomond. Hailing from Portland, Ritchie Young is used to being surrounded by a dazzling array of instruments onstage. But the 39-year-old has opted to strip that away for a more laid back UK solo tour. I caught up with him at Manchester’s Roadhouse.

Your band’s named after a very famous Scottish loch – how did you choose the name?

We were recording the very first record and we were going to call ourselves “The Mountains”. But we ordered the tape and it came from Loch Lomond in Scotland, and we thought that was a much more interesting name. We have visited it now, actually. We did a radio show on the shores once, and I bought a bottle of Loch Lomond whisky and drank it all day.

Loch Lomond’s album, Dresses, has an incredible array of instruments – flugelhorn, vibraphone, dulcimer to name a few. With all that, does it feel lonely doing a solo tour?

Yeah – but it’s good to see if the new songs hold water. If I can’t do them on my own then I’ll restructure it. The three weeks I’ve been here I’m tweaking songs.

For our readers who’ve never heard your music before, how would you describe it?

I try to describe it as slow-pop, but then they wisely ask more questions and I end up saying that it’s like dreamy pop music. It’s definitely not shoegaze type stuff though. I’m nowhere near that.

You’re from Portland, a musical hub famed for the Decembrists, She & Him, Laura Veirs, for example. How has that influenced your music?

There’s 2000 bands in a city that’s under a million. I used to own a music venue in an old funeral home – and that was very interesting as my job was to listen to music. I saw amazing and mediocre acts but I found myself feeling like a piece of sand on a beach. So since we closed it down for about a year I didn’t go to a live show at all as I needed to recharge my batteries. But I think I’m ready to go back out and find more bands.

Ritchie Young

Ritchie Young

When I’m writing music I don’t listen to music at all, I listen to educational podcasts.  Once I’ve finished the tour and new record, I’m excited to go out and buy some new records and be a fan of music again. Find bands I really like who won’t have influenced the record – so there’s no cringing, feeling like I’ve ripped them off.  Not listening to music whilst writing is a good way to eliminate that insecurity.

Have you got any plans to collaborate with Portland artists?

Portland is such an incestuous town. You’ll always end up at someone’s house and therefore playing on their record. I’m part of the Decemberists choir on the new record – that was fun. I also got to work with Mark Orton who did the Nebraska soundtrack. That was amazing and I’d like to work with him again. He’s the first musical genius I’ve worked with. Comparing him to myself is like me trying to chisel a wheel out of stone – and he’s working with fibre optic cables. He’s brilliant.

A few of your songs made it onto the Boxtrolls movie soundtrack. How was that?

It was fun – tons of fun! I contributed four songs to the whole project. Two were original and we got to write a song with Eric Idle from Monty Python. He wrote the lyrics and my friend Martha wrote the music. We also wrote the end credits and contributed a couple of folk songs.

Tell us a secret that you’ve never told anyone… (well, the press at least!)

Well… I was riding my motorcycle in the deserts in the dunes of Central Oregon when I was like 12, and it was 90 degrees Fahrenheit and I was lost for the entire day. The sand there constantly moves so I left a trail of my things – my helmet, my motorcycle – that was covered up forever. I almost passed out and I would’ve been covered up myself within half an hour. I almost died. It was a much more surreal and psychedelic moment than any drug I’ve ever taken!

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I'm a huge music lover, being a regular gig and festival goer, singer songwriter, tv/radio presenter and reviewer for Silent Radio.