The deluxe version of Rightfield’s stellar LP, One, is out now for fans new and old to jam to, ponder over, and feel musically hypnotized by.
Not a lot of people can say that the pandemic came at the perfect time in their lives, but, surprisingly, genre-bending alternative rock band Rightfield can. Last April, when the world was shutting down, the Rightfield duo buckled in, made a life-changing decision, and went full steam ahead creatively. Sure, their online college classes were put on the backburner more often than not, but they released an album this year. Yes, quite a few of their professors got emails apologizing for their late assignments, yet they are still graduating this year. And so what if the music scene in Arkansas isn’t booming, these guys are using it to their advantage.
Reed Hoelscher and Jack Blocker make up Rightfield and are adamant about making it wholly their own. From branding and writing to recording and releasing, this youthful duo is proactive in their art and all that comes with it. In the most spellbinding way, being hands-on has allowed this band to go from a pre-COVID college dorm to global discovery playlists on Spotify.
You’re from Arkansas, which isn’t quite known for too many bands. How has your surroundings played a role in the way you approach making music?
Jack: I think at the beginning, at least, it did. We’re actually about to graduate from the University of Arkansas. We have both gone to school here for four years. We both grew up in Dallas, we hung out in middle school a little bit, and then kind of reconnected when we both went to school here. Then we started to just kind of make music in our dorm room. We live in Arkansas, Fayetteville, actually. It’s not a very saturated town for bands like us or otherwise, so when we started releasing music a lot of people just locally got really excited about what we were doing, which was cool. I think it was inspiring for us to do and to keep doing it once we started making music. I think that’s played a big role in our trajectory as a band, being able to inspire the area.
Reed: Yeah, and I also think a big part of living in a town where there’s not a lot of music – or even not a lot of music people. When we go to Nashville, it’s like everyone knows every band that everyone listens to. Exactly like Jack said, it’s almost oversaturated, but being in this town, our friends aren’t musicians, our girlfriends aren’t musicians. It’s very much kept the process really easy because we’re not competing with anyone. It’s really nice.
Not only do you maybe not have a lot of competition, but also just in general, you’re culturally sound. There’s not a single genre to place you guys in, which in this day and age, is a welcomed trait to have. Where do you look for influence when diving into creating new songs? Is it what you’re currently listening to and vibing with? Is it songs or artists you grew up with? Your local music scene? The Internet? With so many different sounds and styles, I can imagine it’s a variety of places.
Reed: Yeah, for sure. For our album, just the whole thing sonically, it was basically just an album packing all of our influences together that we grew up with. I grew up listening to a lot of like eighties hair metal and pop punk and stuff like that. That was what I liked. Jack really liked The Avett Brothers and a little bit of nineties hip-hop, but also Mumford and Sons and stuff like that. All of that was basically the album. Then for this EP that we’re currently working on, it’s basically feeling very ‘right now.’ The album was the music we have listened to for the last 20 years. Then for this stuff coming up, this is the music that we want to listen to for another 20 years; the stuff that we’re listening to right now that we think is timeless and not something that’s just a fad. It definitely has to do with our influences at different times and it’s definitely thought out from top to bottom – it’s not crafted just on a whim.
I think it’s so important to have that mindset – and also just be a fan of your own music and not be making it for someone else. Of course you want people to enjoy it, but if you are really just creating it based on your own interests and what you want out of your art, that’s even more special. I think it will help resonate even further with audiences.
Jack: Totally. I think we’ve even just learned that over time writing songs that we can kind of look back on. I don’t think we did that. I think we did things for other people, so that maybe it would satisfy like the pop genre or something specific like that. It’s been a learning process every time for us to become… us.
From just diving into your catalog on my own, I find there’s a surprising in-depth intimacy and vulnerability found among these truly robust musical soundscapes. Is it important to you to showcase a personal side in your music?
Jack: Yeah, absolutely. I think our first goal when writing songs comes sonically. We get so fired up about just the creation a song that’s going to just make people move. We were talking the other day that we just want to make people feel glad that they have ears to a degree,– but also just to make people feel welcomed in relation to the lyrics. Hopefully the lyrics are never too personal to a point where you couldn’t put yourself in a situation and see it out of your own eyes and relate to it. It’s kind of a main goal that through vulnerability we can talk about failure and differences and mistakes and tough situations that we’ve been in and have it come out in our music. I don’t think that these situations are just isolated to us. I mean, they’re usually issues that, on a larger scale, people can relate to and feel understood by. That’s just another really inspiring thing to us about writing and making our songs.
Definitely. I think that the relate-ability aspect and the connection aspect to music is a big part of what can be successful, because it’s less about the musicality sometimes and more just about the story you’re telling. It’s really wonderful that you do think about that when creating these songs. Sticking on this songwriting note, when did you realize that your lyricism skills are worthy of sharing with the world? Because every one of your songs feels just spectacularly mature, but also very entertaining and infectious.
Jack: I still wouldn’t even say that like our lyricism skills are so good that they must be shared with the world, [Laughs] but I mean, that’s not really how I would approach it. I get excited when lyrics come together well, because that’s kind of what hooked me on a lot of my favorite musicians when I listened to it for the second or third or fourth time. I started to realize how the lyrics were piecing together. Even more like that, just the art of songwriting gets me fired up. I wouldn’t say that there was a specific moment where I was like, “Yeah, we’re like so good at this that people need to hear it,” but it’s really just exciting to try and get creative with.
A handful of your tracks have really mesmerizing solos and breakdowns. What is your creative process like in building these songs and planning them out, to me, in almost an orchestrational fashion? It’s immersive from top to bottom, in my perspective.
Reed: That’s honestly how all of our songs start – just the whole track is built out dynamically. That’s a part that I really, really love to do: just think about how if there were no vocals, could this track evoke emotion? Could you feel it? Could it spark change? That’s always really cool. Where are the high points? Where are the low points? That’s why I love our music, because those two things come together and every track has a lot of dynamics – and then the vocals have a lot of dynamics, too. That’s something that in a lot of music I think is missing nowadays. There’s just a pretty bland hip-hop beat and then the vocalist is doing stuff, but then I’m just like listening and thinking, “What if you had a band behind you and you could feel their emotion with you?” I think that about so many different songs. This is something that honestly we’ve learned, because there’s been times where we’ve done that – where we put the really bland instrumentation behind the vocals – and then we were just, “That sucks, man. That is not timeless whatsoever,” you know? Good, interesting instrumentation is something we’re working hard to do even more with our next stuff just to get even more raw – not necessarily from a simple production standpoint, but from an emotional standpoint within our production.
That is so exciting to hear because just from what you’ve already done, I’m so entranced by it. So to take them to another level is just very, very thrilling to hear.
Reed: That’s awesome.
I want to ask a little bit about “Racing,” which is clearly a fan favorite already. There is an air of reminiscence and stillness within this genuinely electric song. What was it like getting this specific track together? And how did you come to releasing it as a single?
Jack: This was after we finished everything. We’re releasing a deluxe album on May 7. There are a few more added songs, including “Racing,” on that version of our album. After we finished the album, we kind of were just like, “Where are we?” We’d been working on that album for probably nine months and releasing it periodically, so it was kind of like, “Where do we go now? We have to keep making songs,” and so we decided that we wanted to add a few to the existing record. We had kind of a framework for “Racing,” so we thought we could finish it up real quick and make a deluxe out of it. Then we just went full steam ahead and basically wrote it in a day.
Reed: You’re being modest, man. That one wasn’t even that simple.
Jack: Honestly, yeah… there’s kind of a funny story about that because we had this one song that we had an actually good framework for. We had to submit for the deluxe album at least the first song by sometime in February. It was like a day or two before that submission was due and we scratched the song we had been working on and insteading started out new with “Racing.” It was definitely a long 36 hours, but it was a good test of our writing abilities and skills under pressure, I would say. I’m excited about all that came out of it. I really, really do enjoy the song. I love playing it live, too, because it’s really fun.
Reed: Yeah. I think it was honestly pretty easy to throw together, but it was just long. We were like, “Well, if we have 36 hours, we might as well do what’s just extremely natural to us,” and so that was kind of fun because every single part that we did, none of it was over thought in any way. We just didn’t have time to overthink it. It was like, “Oh, well, this sounds pretty good,” so we’d roll with it.
Some of the best artwork comes out of that. The more thought, the more you nitpick it, it becomes something else. The fact that it came out the way it did and you guys are fans of it… that’s special.
Jack: It’s funny, too. Literally the day after we finished “Racing” and submitted it – it was a really grueling process – we realized we could finally breathe again. But then we finished the next song the next day. It just came together really quick out of that feeling like, “Ok now that we don’t have any pressure, we can make this happen,” and it did…. And it’s our favorite song yet… dropping next month, too.
Now it’s really important to me that I ask about your artwork and overarching band aesthetic. Every single aspect of Right Field feels so purposeful and heartwarming and the album and single artwork is just the charming icing on the cake. How much do you two work on that side, the artistic branding and releasing side, of your music? Is it in your hands or do you have a creative team? It’s all truly so stunning and endearing and perfectly sets the tone for who you are as people and musicians.
Reed: Jack actually does all of our artwork.
Jack: I do that, yeah. We spend a lot of time together just really narrowing down our branding path basically. We probably do this every few months where we just sort of check in with where we’re at and what we could be doing better to really hone in on this brand that we want to have as a band – and just as individuals. How we make that happen visually on top of the songs that we’re doing is all close knit. I’ll do hands-on merch and album art and show announcements and stuff like that based on our music. It’s definitely a process that we figure out together just in terms of branding and what we want out of it altogether.
It’s really artistic and aesthetically pleasing. I think it matches up with who you guys are and the music you make, which is lovely. I’ve talked to some people over the years who’ve been like, “Oh yeah, my team does it. I just sign off on it,” and you could tell that because it doesn’t mimic their brand, or who they are, the theme of their music. You guys have the complete opposite and I am just so obsessed with it. I really am.
Reed: That’s awesome. Yeah, we don’t let our team touch our brand.
Jack: We’re pretty protective over it, I would say. It’s easily one of my favorite parts of what we do, too. It’s actually just one of the coolest parts about getting to be in a band: getting to do the visual side of it. I always think it’s awesome and creative.
Reed: Yeah. It’s even cool when sometimes you don’t even realize that you have a branding until someone’s like, “Hey, I saw this shirt or I saw this top, it just looks so Rightfield,” and you’re like, “Oh yeah… yeah, it really does.”
Jack: That’s always really exciting to hear.
Rightfield, One (Deluxe) Is Out TODAY On All Streaming Platforms!