Russ Rankin recently announced a brand new solo acoustic full-length album Come Together, Fall Apart, so I spoke with him about the material, recording process, veganism, and plans for Good Riddance, Only Crime, and his solo career. Enjoy!
First of all, thank you so much for your time. How have you been? We all witnessed how the pandemic affected the global punk rock scene. Many artists, bands, promoters, and venues called it quits during these troubling times. Is the pandemic somehow affected the activities of Good Riddance and your solo career?
Russ: Yeah, we had to cancel a bunch of shows, as well as a European tour, and I had to cancel a short, California solo tour.
Is it affected you and your activities outside the music scene anyhow?
Russ: Yeah, I am also a hockey scout, and all of the rinks were shut down last year so I was unable to attend any games. My day job at Apple was also affected, as we were closed, and working from home.
The reason why we’re doing this interview today is your upcoming album? Can you share some insights on how you decided to write another solo full-length material?
Russ: Honestly, Stefan at SBÄM was really persistent and told me he really liked my 1st album and my songwriting. Once he had convinced me to do it, I had to start writing some songs.
It’s been a while since you released Farewell Catalonia. Why such a longevous gap between recordings? Can we expect more frequent releases in the future?
Russ: I think that I had just been keeping so busy with Good Riddance, and my other jobs, and I didn’t have a booking agent, so I was only playing sporadically here and there. I have a booking agent now, so I’m hoping to be busier with the solo shows once this album comes out.
So, your brand new material is called Come Together, Fall Apart. Can you elaborate on what this title means to you and what you tried to achieve with your new album?
Russ: I think the title represents the moment we find ourselves in, with everybody so divided over, politics, race, and now even science. That we either have to come together, or we’re going to fall apart. As far as the material, I wanted to take my songwriting and guitar playing to another level, so that hopefully it’s a more mature group of songs.
You’re known for your profoundly intelligent socio-political lyrics. What can we expect from this particular material? Are you following the already proven formula, or have you experimented lyricwise a little bit more?
Russ: I definitely experimented lyrically and took some different approaches to get this group of songs written. I looked to the songwriters who inspire me and tried to dig into their work and best practices.
Judging by your first single, the sound is more luxurious than on Farewell Catalonia. It seems that you added a bit more Americana and indie-folk into your sound. What is your opinion on trying different approaches/genres while writing/composing the acoustic material for an album?
Russ: I wanted to experiment with some different instrumentation on this album, particularly using more drums. I’m not a country artist, so my stuff should still have a punk feel to it, even though it’s quieter and a bit slower than my band.
You have a long-lasting relationship with The Blasting Room, and Come Together, Fall Apart is not an exception. You recorded the majority of Good Riddance full-lengths there, and you also played with Bill Stevenson in Only Crime. How much was his input to this album?
Russ: Bill helped a lot with pre-production, as I was writing and fine-tuning the songs prior to going to the studio. He had access to all my demos and had a lot of notes and suggestions for tightening the songs up, arrangement-wise. He also engineered and produced all the vocals, as he does with Good Riddance, so a lot of help as well with phrasing, melody, etc.
How are you satisfied with how the album turned out?
Russ: I am. I am really excited for people to hear it!
Speaking of Only Crime, are there any plans for reuniting the band and recording some new material?
Russ: We have an ongoing group text, and we all want to write new material. It’s just a matter of time.
It’s been more than two years since Good Riddance released Thoughts And Prayers. What are you guys been up to lately? Any plans for a new album?
Russ: Has it already been two years? Wow. Time flies. I am sure we will start getting into some new music soon. I was starting to demo songs for the band when Stefan hit me up about doing a solo album.
Are there any plans for Good Riddance or a solo tour once the things with pandemics settle down? Is there maybe some European tour in the works?
Russ: Good Riddance is hoping to get back to Europe in June/July 2022. I’d love to tour with my solo stuff too.
You’re also known as an outspoken vegan. Could you please share your backstory of how you became a vegan? What made you decide to switch from an omnivore to a vegan diet?
Russ: I was really into straight-edge hardcore music, and bands like Youth of Today were singing about animal rights. It motivated me to do some research, and once I realized that humans are healthier without animal products and that it’s much more sustainable for the environment, not to mention the horrific abuse and violence attached to meat & dairy, it was an easy decision.
Things are getting better for vegans each day. Could you share the pros and cons of being a vegan back in the day compared to nowadays?
Russ: Yeah, you’re right. It’s just a lot more convenient today. Back then you really had to want it. You had to go without sometimes. I don’t regret anything, and I’d do it again for the animals, but people who switch today have a ton of awesome options, and it’s become more mainstream and easier to find things.
What are your thoughts on veganism today? Do you think the future of veganism lay in the commercialization/industrialization of vegan products and product placement in chain restaurants, or should vegans stray away from those and stick to much healthier options?
Russ: Vegan options at fast-food restaurants are great in the macro view. I think. I don’t really go to those places, but as far as convenience, and raising awareness, I think it’s awesome.
According to some recent studies, each individual could reduce greenhouse emissions by up to 60% by switching on the vegan diet. Do you think the change is possible and how much we’re far away from the goal, in your opinion?
Russ: Of course, it’s possible. It’s just a matter of whether or not people will decide they want to make the change and try to save our planet, or if they want to keep killing and consuming animal products.
What’s currently spinning on your turntable/Spotify playlist lately? Any artists, bands, singles, or albums you would like to recommend to our readers?
Russ: I’m really into a band called Western Settings. I also love The Menzingers. I recently discovered a Spanish band called Ebri Knight, and I love them as well.
That’s it. Thank you so much for your time. Anything you would like to say to our readers at the end of this interview?
Russ: Thanks to everyone who has supported our music over the years, and my new album is out on Jan. 28, 2022.