Gabriel Lucas Riccio

There may be no finer example than The Gabriel Construct if you’re seeking an artist whose music truly reflects the heart and soul of the artist creating it. Gabriel Lucas Riccio is a vocalist, composer and multi-instrumentalist from PEV’s backyard in Salisbury, MD, and the mastermind behind this solo rock project. A graduate of the music program at Swarthmore College, where he won the Melvin B. Troy Prize in composition after studying under Gerald Levinson, Gabriel’s musical upbringing is as complex as his new debut record, Interior City.

Beginning witGabriel Lucas Za8nowqVSng4Nw4mbi0aQbHlFPK74poPWv4qCxEkcosh samples from his parent’s collection (Stravinsky, Mussorgsky, and Peter Gabriel), Riccio grew into bands like Tool, A Perfect Circle, Deftones, Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden and his biggest inspiration, Failure. Moving on from the alt-rock scene, Gabriel discovered more sound that caught his attention in genres such as IDM, trip hop and underground rap, as well as 70’s progressive rock from bands like Yes, Genesis, and King Crimson. The musical journey didn’t end there, as Riccio next found jazz (free jazz, fusion, modal jazz) and then 20th century classical music. He even dived into world traditions like Indian classical music, Balinese gamelan, and African drumming traditions. So…why am I telling you all of this? Simply put, to just give you a taste of what to expect on Interior City. The sound is complex, deep, and patient. Gabriel puts it simply as an “experimental/avant-garde form of progressive rock.” But the history of music isn’t the only inspiration behind this effort. Riccio says:

“Lyrically, the biggest inspiration was a simple idea…’in a society which respects nothing, we are all taught that we are not worthy of respect.’  The album largely deals with the paranoia and escapism that comes from that sort of mindset.  How do we deprogram ourselves from that idea and all the ideas associated with it so that we can begin to treat ourselves, others, and the world around us with a real sense of respect?”

While The Gabriel Construct has remained a studio project to date, Riccio will soon be shipping off to Chicago to assemble a lineup to bring these songs from Interior City to life, live on stage. Click to to keep up with the progress, and keep an eye out for other works Gabriel is associated with, including the bands Being, Its Teeth, and Ocuplanes. There’s still much to learn, so read on for all the answers to the XXQs below.

XXQs: Gabriel Lucas Riccio – The Gabriel Construct (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what makes you stand out from others in your genre?

Gabriel Lucas Riccio (GR): The Gabriel Construct may be described as an experimental/avant-garde form of progressive rock.  Progressive rock started as a genre which integrated classical and jazz ideas into a rock setting, and I am trying to return to that original idea by integrating ideas from other genres into rock music – ideas which haven’t been used in rock music in the same way before.  Interior City incorporates influences from classic prog, 20th century classical music, extreme metal, 90s grunge and space rock, free jazz, drum-n-bass, 80s pop, middle eastern music, and more.

PEV: Calling Eden, MD (soon to relocate to Chicago, IL) home, what kind of music were you into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?

GR: Early on, I discovered a number of things in my parent’s record collection, including Stravinsky, Mussorgsky, and Peter Gabriel.  In middle school, I got into Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Deftones, and soon after I discovered various 90s rock bands – Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden – but Failure was by far my favorite, and the most inspirational to me.  I started listening to IDM, trip hop and underground rap.  I got into progressive rock after that – 70s acts like Yes, Genesis, and King Crimson, alongside modern acts like The Mars Volta, Opeth, and dredg.  From there, I got into all sorts of jazz – especially free jazz, fusion, and modal jazz – and then 20th century classical music.  I started exploring world traditions like Indian classical music, Balinese gamelan, African drumming traditions…I attempt to keep an open mind and listen to all of the music I possibly can in as many different styles as possible, and then learn something about all of it in order to add more tools to my toolbox.

I played my first concert in sixth grade with the guitarist who played on Interior City and two brothers.  It was a sort of talent show, and we played covers of Aerosmith and Cream.  I was playing the drums, and my floor tom fell over.  Soon after, my kick pedal fell off.  It was fun!

Gabriel Lucas viSRWSsLetvL9NdWyaoDH4_j9iK5WTxGbmMP4bsxURgPEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene when you first started out? What was your first show like?

GR: I’m still trying to break into the scene, especially since I just moved to a new city (and there wasn’t really a scene to break into where I came from).  I also haven’t played a show with The Gabriel Construct yet, as it’s been purely a studio project so far, but I’m currently working on assembling a live lineup in Chicago to perform material from Interior City.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Gabriel Lucas Riccio show?

GR: I’d like to keep things unpredictable.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage to perform?

GR: It really depends on what I’m performing – it’s going to be very different if I’m singing for a rock band or performing a classical work, on piano or voice…every scenario is unique, and every show is unique.  Some make me nervous, and I’ll channel that nervous energy into the performance, but for others (usually rock shows) I’m totally comfortable going in.

PEV: What is the best part about being on stage in front of an audience?

GR:  For more serious shows, I love being able to pour my heart out in front of people.  For more lighthearted and humorous shows, I enjoy being theatrical and going over the top.  It’s more gratifying to do either of these things in front of an audience than to do them alone.

PEV: What is the underlining inspiration for your music?

GR: The largest rock influence on the album is from the ’90s space rock band Failure.  I even went out and found the flanger pedal they used so I could use it to create the lead guitar tones on Interior City.  I was also heavily influenced by Devin Townsend’s wall-of-sound production, and by Scandanavian progressive metal bands such as Opeth and Enslaved.  When it comes to jazz, I had Thelonious Monk in mind for ‘Subway Dwellers’, but Coltrane’s late free jazz was probably a bigger influence overall.  The primary classical influence on the album was definitely Olivier Messiaen, though the first song on the album, ‘Arrival in a Distant Land’, tries to answer the question ‘What if [Philadelphia composer] George Crumb were a singer-songwriter?’

Lyrically, the biggest inspiration was a simple idea…in a society which respects nothing, we are all taught that we are not worthy of respect.  The album largely deals with the paranoia and escapism that comes from that sort of mindset.  How do we deprogram ourselves from that idea and all the ideas associated with it so that we can begin to treat ourselves, others, and the world around us with a real sense of respect?

PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out, do you ever look back on your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?

GR: I started coming up with basic ideas which made it onto the album as far back as 2004, so it’s already exciting to see how those songs evolved and how I’ve evolved as a musician and as a person in the nine years it took to create the album.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about you?

GR: People who write music like mine are often expected to do drugs, but I don’t do any at all – not even alcohol or caffeine.  It doesn’t interest me and I have no need for it.  I see the avoidance as a form of self respect.

PEV: What do you do when you hit a brick wall in your writing? What are some methods to get over that?

GR: I generally just wait it out and work on something else in the meantime.  I’m generally not in a hurry to finish a given piece of music unless I’m writing for a deadline – sometimes I’ll even let a piece sit around for years before returning to it and finishing it.  Usually I don’t have a problem working with deadlines, but the last song on Interior City, “Curing Somatization”, had to be finished on a deadline, and that was a stressful process.  I sat down with the song every day for months, trying to finish the lyrics and vocal arrangements, but I only ended up managing to write what I needed at the absolute last minute – I would finalize just enough material to record the next day.

PEV: How do you think the industry has changed over the years since you first started out or just started enjoying music?

GR: It’s changed quite a bit just in the time from when I started writing the first music on Interior City to when I completed it, and that’s all because of the internet.  YouTube was around in 2004, but there wasn’t the same kind of competition.  It’s become much more popular, and now 8 years of video are being uploaded every day, and you have to compete with all of that if you want people to watch your videos.  People have changed their listening habits to accommodate the enormous amount of music that’s available now.  Everyone evaluates music after listening for 30 seconds these days, as there’s too much music to check out and too little time.  This is unfortunate for people releasing more challenging music which may require a few listens to “get”, or for people like myself who are still tied to the idea of albums as complete works and songs that need context, but it’s the way it is now.  Even my listening habits have changed to reflect the times.

PEV: What can fans expect from your latest release, Interior City? What was the writing process like for this album? What is the story behind the name of the album?

GR: Interior City is my debut album. I generally tell people that it will be a little different from anything they’ve heard before, and it needs to be heard as a whole.  It tells a story, and I don’t think any of the songs work as well out of context.  As for the writing process, I developed quite a stockpile of material prior to properly recording an album.  I had many groups of songs which could be records of their own, all in distinct styles, when I graduated from college.  After graduating, I started writing full time.  Interior City was simply the album which ended up being completed first, perhaps because it was the album I most needed to get out of my system – a therapeutic process.

I started writing some piano parts for Interior City about 10 years ago.  When it came time to put the album together, I had assembled enough sketches with a similarly dark mood that I had a starting point for every song on the album.  For some songs, it was just a matter of taking a piano part and arranging it into a full band song (and perhaps doing some minor restructuring), in which case the challenge was in writing vocal arrangements and lyrics.  Other songs began as piano/vocal snippets which needed to be expanded into full songs.

The album cover depicts a person with no sensory input standing in a beautiful environment – the only thing they can see inside of them is a disgusting and grimy city which represents their worldview.  This is their “Interior City”.  The title also more literally refers to the mental constructs which the main character uses to hide inside of himself.

Gabriel LucasRiI1YN7Qg_mApp1xbRRKbpKFGQ_4InPZU4XgiS2rzZQPEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

GR: I haven’t gotten the opportunity to do a musical tour yet, but I’d love to go anywhere where people want to hear me play.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career?

GR: They’ve been very, very supportive, and I am eternally grateful to them.  My girlfriend, Sophia Uddin, offered endless support in addition to playing violin on the album.  My mother’s cousin, Joseph Borzotta, painted the album cover, and one of my cousins, Matthew Holmes, developed the website.  Most of all, my parents were supportive in every way possible, and it’s only thanks to the them that I was able to create the album the way I did.

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

GR: I cook vegan food and engage in online activism for social change and environmental policy reform.

PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration. Why?

GR: It would be lots of fun to collaborate with Kristoffer Rygg (of Ulver, Head Control System, early Arcturus and Borknagar, and more), since he has a similarly dark aesthetic sense in addition to great versatility.  I would have loved to try collaborating with 20th century Hungarian composer György Ligeti just to see what would happen, but his musical thinking was on another level, and I’m not sure I could meet him there.

PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

GR: Check out the title track from Weightless, the debut album by Becca Stevens Band.  It’s a unique take on folk-jazz, filled with odd time signatures, vocal harmony swells, and cool arrangements.

PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal) what would you do for a career?

GR: I would likely be trying to change farming practices and chemical laws in the US.  I am also interested in wildlife and film making.

PEV: So, what is next for Gabriel Lucas Riccio?

GR: I have some vocal guest spots coming out soon on Being’s Anthropocene and Its Teeth’s Divided EP.  I’ll have another full length coming out (hopefully) this year with Ocuplanes, a progressive rock band from Ridgely, MD.  I am performing all the vocals and some of the keyboards on the record in addition to producing and engineering it, writing the vocal arrangements, and co-writing the lyrics.  I’ve also started recording the next two TGC albums, though I’m taking my time with them.  Lastly, I’m working on a collaborative project with Travis Orbin (the drummer on Interior City).

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