On September 1st, right after his set at Subterranean, Rare Candy – the stage name of Alex Wieringa – sat down for an interview with WMXM in the middle of what sounded like an incredibly busy weekend. Gin and tonic in hand, he talked through his most recent release Turnip Head, plans for upcoming releases, and creating an honest dialogue with music. Many thanks to Alex for reconnecting with WMXM!
WMXM: First of all, it’s been like 2 ½ years since you performed at LFC, what would you say has changed the most about performing or just your personal life in those 2 ½ years?
RC: The first time I played at Lake Forest, I was very much, like, starting out Rare Candy, and it was just gaining traction. I’ve been around for a little while and I’ve had multiple releases. I think I had only had one EP out at the time, and at this point I’ve had an EP and then two split releases I’ve done with friends of mine and a second EP. And I’m planning on doing more recording either later this year or early next year and then a full-length sometime mid-next year, so traction’s just rolling. It’s just, like, the natural progression of things has occurred since.
WMXM: Your most recent EP is called Turnip Head. First of all, where’d the name come from?
RC: Turnip Head is a reference from a Hayao Miyazaki film called Howl’s Moving Castle. The reference to Turnip Head is he’s this scarecrow who is following around the lead character Sophie and just being a part of her escapades, he doesn’t say anything and he’s just very in-the-background and lowkey obsessed with her. I just thought it was super cute to make a reference to somebody who’s very much in love and very dedicated to the betterment of the people around them while not having to say anything and just showing it from their actions. That’s a little bit more in-depth than what I first thought of; at first I was definitely like “haha, Turnip Head, like, he’s cute, he loves the princess, that’s way cute.” It’s snowballed a meaning after a while, if that makes sense.
WMXM: What was your favorite part about creating that EP?
RC: I did the record with my friend Roy Rommelly, and working with him is just…I feel like there are people that you work with that kind of get the idea that you’re going for right off the bat. Him and I, when we’re in the recording process, we’ll be spitballing ideas and he’ll have an idea for, say, a vocal part and I’m like “Oh my gosh, you nailed it, it was super awesome.” I feel like he just knows what I want before I even do it, so it’s such a very fluid, organic process. And so just recording it was so much fun.
WMXM: What would you say was the most challenging song to write on that EP? Or any part of creating it?
RC: I think the hardest song was…the opening song, “Feelin’ 17” was really hard. It’s definitely the shortest and I would say arguably the “least technical,” but it started off when I had everything demoed out, which is a very rare process. I normally just go into the studio with a vague idea and we bang it out. Everything else was demoed, almost completely done, and I only had the first half of everything [in “Feelin’ 17”] and then it ended, and I was like “No, I’m gonna add a whole second part to it.” So as we were going, I made it longer, added a whole second part to it, wrote more lyrics for it right there, and made the whole thing cohesive.
WMXM: Throughout the entire EP, what would you say is the lyric that you’re the most proud of? Or just the song that you’re the most proud of?
RC: I am definitely the biggest fan of “Swatch Dogs and Diet Coke Heads.” I think it’s kind of an odd one out in the sense that most of the songs are very upbeat and swingy and dance-y, and “Swatch Dogs” is very laid back and kind of mellow and just kind of bounces. Also it’s a reference to the movie “Heathers” with…I can’t remember, what’s her name from Stranger Things?
WMXM: Winona Ryder?
WMXM: Yeah, alright!
RC: Fantastic movie!
WMXM: Were there any songs that you started off with a certain idea, and then by the end the final product was completely different from that initial idea?
RC: The ending of “If You See Her, Tell Her I’m Over It” was very, very different. I had planned on doing some sort of dreamscape-y, violin kind of thing to it, and that ended up turning into a battling guitar solo with acapella and claps and huge harmonies. It started out – it was just gonna be a very mellow, sort of go-with-the flow kind of tune and that turned into a very huge ending production. Big vocals and claps and singing and dancing and yadda yadda and so on and so forth. That kind of just evolves naturally, too.
WMXM: You’ve had a couple songs like “As Told By Ginger,” “Oliver,” “Paulina Brown.” Are those based on real people you know?
RC: Kinda sorta. I feel like most of my songs are just hodgepodge accumulations of past experiences with relationships and former friends and new people that I’ve met. If you’re talking in reference to the names themselves: “Oliver” is the brand name of the twin size mattress that I reference in the song and I was just looking for a name and it came to mind; Paulina is the Brown Line stop just outside of Roscoe in Lakeview, and I came up with the idea for the song at the Chicago Instrument Exchange that was just off the Paulina Brown Line, so that just kinda stuck; “As Told By Ginger” is just such a convoluted, stretched kind of story, it was just cute and bouncy and I just went for it.
WMXM: Since you’ve been putting music out for a couple of years now, has your songwriting process evolved over those years or has it kind of stayed the same? And if it has evolved, how so?
RC: It kind of rollercoasters. I feel like I’m definitely the kind of person where I have spurts of a lot of creative energy over a couple-week span, and then I’ll burn it out and four or five songs will come out of that, and then I’ll sink back in my jammy, kind of lay-low sort of process. It definitely comes in spurts; I haven’t learned how to harness that in any way, but it comes and I take advantage of it and then it goes.
WMXM: If you’re stuck in that creative rut where [that creative energy] has left, what do you do?
RC: I think breaking out of my daily routine is definitely something that jogs my creative ability. I’m so used to: Wake up, work around the house a little bit, do dishes or sweep or go on a walk or get food, make lunch, go to work, come home, hang with my roommates for a bit, go to bed. Unless I’m going on tour, where it’s just constantly busy. It’s either all work and no play or all play and no work, and once I bust out of that monotonous day-to-day routine is when *snaps* something comes out of it.
WMXM: What’s the most unlikely source of creative inspiration you’ve found?
RC: One time I was watching Rugrats and I wrote a song that was kind of like a lullaby, like an ode to my child that might come to be one day. It was kind of cute but really, really corny, and I haven’t done anything with it yet, but it’s in my list of things that I have in store for the next full-length record I’m putting out. As I come up with songs, I track a demo of it, I kind of get an idea of where it’s going, whether it’s gonna be a big full-band production with horns and drums and all that or if it’s gonna be more laid-back with just acoustic guitar and banjo and tambourine. It’s way cute; it’s definitely gonna be low-key kind of bouncy and sort of ambient, but it’s way cute.
WMXM: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
RC: *claps* If you want something, ask for it!
RC: Nina – who just ran the show – I used to live with her and my friend Cody and they’re both very involved in the music industry, in the management and the merchandise and crew side of things. They once told me that the reason that they get so many good opportunities is ‘cause if they see something they want, they’ll shoot an email or they’ll make a phone call or they’ll reach out to a friend who knows somebody or whatever they need to do to make it happen. If you want something, you ask for it. I feel like you can’t just *think* that things are gonna happen.
WMXM: Are there any songs that are more nerve-wracking to perform than others?
RC: “27 & 10 on 2” is very nerve-wracking to play. It’s very noodly, sort of demanding riff that’s a little bit confusing some times. And it’s definitely one of the more popular songs, everybody knows it, so if I fuck up even the slightest little part, I make a face and everybody knows and they all look right at me and it’s like daggers on me!
WMXM: Do you have any short-term or long-term future plans?
RC: Ukulele EP is next. I want to do a three to five [song] ukulele EP similar to the Split EP but also dissimilar. I released the Split with my friend Phoenix who is Little Crown and she is a primarily ukulele pop artist, and I want to take that a step further. Rather than just writing a couple of ukulele songs and going for it, I want to make them into full products where there’s a pseudo-full-band kind of effect. I feel like that’s something that a lot of people have heard and taken an interest to, but obviously I don’t keep an ukulele with me all the time. So yeah, ukulele EP is next. Hopefully a full-length or a longer EP is in store after that. I kind of book all of my tours for myself right now, so whenever I have downtime from the other band I tour in, I try to make something happen with that. Even at the pace that I’m going, it seems to be progressing slowly but surely, so I’m doing something right, I guess.
WMXM: Ok, these are just a couple of quick questions:
WMXM: What was the first album that made you want to listen to music? Like, it went from passively listening to actively listening.
RC: White Blood Cells by the White Stripes. My dad is a big White Stripes fan and my cousin Dirk is a big White Stripes fan. My cousin Dirk is ten years older than I am, but he has drums and amps and, like, a home studio in his basement, so even as a kid, that’s just where I was going to jam. I have the vinyl of it now, it’s awesome.
WMXM: If you could go back in time and see every show on one tour, what would it be?
RC: The Story So Far, What You Don’t See release tour! Big The Story So Far fan.
WMXM: CDs, vinyl, cassettes, or digital, if you had to pick one?
RC: If I had to pick one for the rest of my life, I’d have to say digital just ‘cause it’s the most convenient, it’s the one I use the most. For sentimental value, I recently just got into vinyl and I have, like, two milk crates at home pretty packed. It’s a good time, it’s like a collectible item!
WMXM: Have you named any of your instruments?
RC: I name almost every single one of my instruments.
WMXM: Alright! Do you have any examples?
RC: The guitar that I played just now is the most expensive guitar that I’ve ever purchased. It’s a Guild Acoustic and I bought it at the Chicago Music Exchange – shout out to Carl! But with acoustics at this level, you need to buy at thing called a Humidipak which is a plastic thing with holes in it with a sponge. You have to dab your sponge, keep your sponge wet, and put it in between the strings of your guitar because it’s nice wood and if it dries out, it’ll become stiff or crack, especially in the dry months, over the winter and the really early spring. Normally the summer’s pretty humid so you don’t necessarily need to do it, but it’s still good. But yeah, I have this Humidipak so I named my guitar “Misty” because I was a water Pokémon starter when I played Pokémon all the time and Misty is the water gym leader and “mist,” water, Humidipak, humidifier…I don’t know. “Misty.”
WMXM: Yeah, makes sense! Um…I think this was like one in the morning when I came up with this.
RC: No that’s totally cool, I’m totally down for the weird ones!
WMXM: If you were a Magic 8 Ball and someone asked you a question, what would be the most likely response to show up?
RC: Um…(pause)…”Try again later”?
WMXM: If you were in The Matrix, would you take the blue pill or the red pill?
RC: I would take them both and just trip balls.
WMXM: Yeah! When was the last time you cried at a movie?
RC: At a movie? Oh man…last time I cried at a movie…
RC: I know for a fact that the *first* movie I remember crying at was “Cheaper By The Dozen” because FedEx, the little ginger kid, his frog died. I was in the movie theater, I saw it with my parents, and I sobbed like a baby. The most recent movie that I cried at? I don’t remember.
WMXM: That’s okay. What’s something that never fails to make you smile?
RC: Fart jokes.
WMXM: What yearbook superlative would best describe you? Like, “Most likely to (blank)”?
RC: Me and my friend Max were trying to win the “Best Friends” one when I was a sophomore in high school. Um…”Best Dressed,” obviously.
WMXM: Do you have any hidden talents?
RC: I can juggle!
RC: I can also do the [two-finger] whistle, like really, really loud: *whistles*
WMXM: Oh, wow!
RC: I had to do it, just so you had it on record!
WMXM: What’s something that somebody wouldn’t know [about you] upon first meeting you?
RC: Something that somebody wouldn’t know that they’d *want* to know? Or that they *wouldn’t* want to know?
WMXM: Either one.
RC: Something that they would want to know…I’m a Leo. People take that as good or bad sometimes. Something that they wouldn’t want to know is that…I don’t know, I love gin. *holds up his drink* Gin is fun, big Gin and Tonic guy.
WMXM: Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?
RC: I don’t know if any of these are guilty because I’m completely unashamed: I’m a big fan of Camila Cabello, the Camila record was f***ing fantastic, cover to cover. Big fan of Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour was amazing, Same Trailer, Different Park. Oh my gosh, I saw Kacey Musgraves at Lollapalooza and it was a straight-up out-of-body experience, a set that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I’m a big fan of Cascada, I think “Every Time We Touch” is the best song that’s ever been recorded in the history of mankind! Those are a couple good ones.
WMXM: Since this is for a radio station, if you were a radio DJ, what would your DJ name be?
RC: DJ Rizzy Crizz!
WMXM: Rizzy Crizz!
RC: ‘Cause I feel like, if Rare Candy is my alter ego, I need to just take that one step further and have an alter-alter ego.
WMXM: You already performed your set, so maybe that’ll help with this: every time you perform, if you could walk off the stage with one message left in the audience’s mind, what would that message be?
RC: Sing about what you feel like singing about. I feel like one thing that I take a lot of pride in – in my artwork and my music that I do – is that it’s very…I don’t want to say “unadulterated,” but “unfiltered.” I feel like one thing that brings people to music is the fact that you can relate to it and the fact that if you find something that you’re into, you want it to be like a conversation between you and whatever you’re listening to. For one example, if you’re listening to music by yourself, it’s in your headphones or it’s in your speakers by yourself in your room or in your kitchen where you’re doing whatever you’re doing, and you want to be able to take it and give back to it and you want it to be like a dialogue, like a back-and-forth kind of thing. I feel like I take a lot of pride in the fact that my writing style is very “I think of it, I say it, I put it on paper, that’s what it is.” It’s not, like, too metaphoric to the point where you have to think super hard into it and people bicker and argue about what it means, it’s just like “I have a story, I felt this way, I wrote it down.” If you feel that way too, you’ll get a lot from it, or you can at least hear it and be like “damn, I feel how he’s feeling.” I feel like people should just take what they have and just make something of it as opposed to trying to do what’s cool or trying to do what they think people are gonna like because what people like is just raw and genuine and natural and organic, you know? So I feel like that’s something I take a lot of pride in. If somebody hears one of my songs and is like “damn, I remember when I was such-and-such years old and this happened to me and he f***in’ put it into words perfectly.” So that’s the goal, I guess.
WMXM: Yeah, very cool! Alright, that’s all the questions I got.
RC: F*** yeah, we knocked it out!
WMXM: Sweet, thank you!