As a longtime Rid of Me fan, I'm actually super excited to finally be writing about the band in a more substantial capacity—especially due to the fact that Access to the Lonely has been one of my most-anticipated releases of 2023. I've been fortunate enough to get an early listen, so I can also report that the album is indeed amongst the best of the year—so much so that it rests firmly in my Top 2 right now. The Philadelphia four-piece continues to elevate noise rock to new heights—heavier and more robust, but also darker, more melodic and exploratory; with a lyrical honesty and intensity that feels increasingly uncommon these days, blending directness with a certain poeticism. Add the striking visual aesthetic to the fact that the majority of the songs also break into an energy that's impactfully catchy, too, and you're in for a ride that's absolutely excellent on every level. As mentioned below, "band-defining," indeed...
Stream "Cut," followed by an interview with guitarist Mike McGinnis and bassist/vocalist Itarya Rosenberg:
I recently saw you all refer to Rid of Me as a Low Dose "offshoot band," which got me thinking that I've always wondered—and don't believe I've ever seen it addressed—how that all came about. If I recall, it seemed like the two bands existed in parallel for a short time, but eventually it just kind of became clear that, "Okay, Low Dose is done and Rid of Me is the primary band now." In a way, though, it was almost like Low Dose morphed into Rid of Me, but maybe that's an incorrect perception from the outside. What's the real story?
Mike: In retrospect, Low Dose ended at a very specific time, we just didn't talk about it. It ended without any hard feelings due to creative and life differences, so I think we kept the door slightly open for possibilities, but it quickly became clear that it wasn't going to continue. Rid of Me started, as a concept, at the very last Low Dose show in November of 2019. Itarya and I later discussed some sounds and vibes we wanted to get across, and I started banking a few rough riff demos. Howard asked to join on drums and we started jamming pretty soon after, probably in December of 2019. We recorded Summer in Baltimore with Nick of Multicult in January of 2020.
I guess in a way there was a little carryover, it would be impossible for there not to be—especially with Itarya being the lead vocalist for both bands. However, we made it a point to make Rid of Me something different, and I think we pulled that off. Now it's come full circle and Jon—who also played in Low Dose—has joined Rid of Me on second guitar, but our chemistry, the way we write songs and think about the sonic aesthetics is far more focused and enjoyable in this project than in previous ones. I still love that Low Dose record, but when looking back it seems perfectly appropriate that it was a band with just one album.
I've been a huge fan going back to the very first Low Dose single in 2018, so while your prior work was in no way "less than" by any means, Access to the Lonely just kind of has that "Whoa." factor right off the bat. It feels like a significant step forward, and that so much likely went into each aspect from the writing to recording to design and the visual aesthetic surrounding everything including the videos, etc. Again, the same was true of your past efforts, but it's "more" this time—enhanced, upgraded... Did anything in particular lead to that?
Mike: I think first and foremost it's because we just click so easily on songwriting that we're able to get some sounds and vibes across that we've only touched on in previous bands. Even the first Rid of Me LP, Traveling, was the band finding itself. I love that album still despite its flaws, but Access to the Lonely is band-defining in our eyes. We carefully crafted the elements contained on it from front-to-back, and it was really just because we were enjoying the process and working with each other so much... so, why not keep pushing it as far as we could?
The other side to that is we worked with a team of close friends that made some leveling-up possible for us. Tracking at Gradwell with Matt Weber was one of the best studio experiences any of us have had. It was positive and everyone encouraged each others' strengths and roles. It really felt like a family experience. Scott Evans mixing the album, despite us not being able to be in the same room for it, had similar vibes. It was clear Scott was enjoying himself, and everything we discussed back-and-forth to get the mix just right made it feel like he was in the band with us. The creation of the artwork and layout went the same way. Mark Diehl has been working with us creatively for years now, but his role in this was crucial. He and Itarya made a loose concept happen with his photography and we found something that really encapsulates the feel of the songs in visual form. I know this isn't a credits section here, but also just have to throw out there that our friend Kate Lowe used Mark's photography and our ideas to design pretty much every visual element you see associated with this album, and working with her was nothing but a pleasure.
The videos... Mark created most of them and was just passionate about making things with us. Ryan Avery made two videos as well and he hadn't worked with any of us for almost 10 years, so it was like old friends just coming back together to make something we all love.
We're premiering "Cut," which was one of many standout tracks for me from the very first spin, with its sort of spacious, swaying dissonance balanced by a churning, mid-paced heaviness. I haven't seen the lyrics, but like the rest of the singles released thus far, would assume there's a similar degree of unabashedly honest intensity involved. What can you share about this particular composition?
Itarya: Hi! Good morning! Thank you for premiering this track and all of your kind words! This song is about being trans. My experience of identifying as a trans man. Part of it. It's a process/I am still figuring a lot out. It's very spiritual for me. It's also confusing and at times incredibly isolating. It doesn't look like one thing/like anything else/but it's so emotional sometimes it's hard to not feel judged. For being trans/for not being trans enough. But I am figuring it out! And I am lucky enough to have a creative outlet for everything, thru this band, with my closest friends.
"Cut" also boasts an uncharacteristically ripping—borderline metal—guitar solo. I can't for the life of me find it now, but I read somewhere that there are a few guest spots on the album. Is this solo one of 'em?
Mike: It is! Harry Lannon, who plays in technical death metal band Cognitive, wrote and recorded this one. Harry is a close friend and has also been one of our fill-in second guitar players. He toured with us in December of 2022 and we were in the process of writing "Cut" during the lead-up to that tour, so we asked him to write a solo for that spot in the song since he would also have the opportunity to play it live with us at those shows. I'm not exactly a shred-type guitar player, so I slowly learned to play it for live shows (which was rad because it expanded a couple ways I think about guitar), and Harry still came into the studio to drop it in while we were tracking. He killed it, it carries some '80s metal vibes while jumping from hook to hook. Not always something you hear in a song like "Cut," which makes us love it even more.
It's awesome because all of the guest spots on the album have their own flavor that we wouldn't have come up with ourselves, and they're all from close friends and fam—including another solo from Alex Cheskis of Sunburster and a vocal appearance from Scott Evans that he tracked while mixing the album. Our friend and engineer from Traveling, Steve Poponi, also contributed vocals to the album, and Matt Weber played some keys while he was tracking us. All some of our closest buds and longtime collaborators.
Rid of Me has been consistently grinding for at least three years now, and it seems like maybe that's starting to "pay off" a bit with the hype around the new LP—whatever that means for underground D.I.Y. lifers. Certainly not without great effort, but has it felt within the band like things are coming together and falling into place in a somehow more "special" manner for this outing?
Mike: Definitely. Maybe not so much on a level that industry people might define as "success," but just from our perspectives it feels beyond special to have something that just clicks on all levels. Beyond that, it connects with people in an organic way, and that doesn't always happen. Hopefully we just made an album that people will remember and continue to listen to for a long time. Again, it just feels band-defining, and that makes us want to make more and share more. It's also, wildly, only the second time any of us have gotten to an LP2 in the same band since Fight Amp's Manners and Praise, and that was back in 2009. There's the cliché that a sophomore LP can either be a slump or band-defining, and I gotta say that the two I've been a part of have checked one or the other of those boxes. This one, absolutely band-defining and special. I'll cite another cliché that people say, that "my current album is my personal favorite." But, it's true, this is the album I think all of us have wanted to make for years.
Out November 3, Access to the Lonely is available for pre-order on opaque red or black vinyl, red or black cassettes, and CD through Knife Hits. Den of Wax has red with green and black splatter vinyl with a slipcase, as well as a tiny number of special test pressings somehow still up for grabs. This is one of the best albums of 2023. You should investigate. You can find more from Rid of Me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.