As The Range, James Hinton created an album that challenges our concept of what it means to “get noticed” on Youtube. Instead of searching for videos that had the most likes, views and comments – Hinton used his gut to discover artists that resonated with him on a deeper level.
His landmark album, Potential, samples vocals from the deep corners of Youtube. The documentary, Superimpose – tells the powerful stories of the artists sampled on the album. Potential opens up the expansive world of the internet while simultaneously connecting us all to a common human experience. That is, of vulnerability, raw talent, and putting yourself out there.
We caught up with The Range to talk about his album, what it’s like to tour with Phantogram, and what we can expect from him in 2017.
Right now you are touring with your album, ‘Potential’. When you created the album, was there a goal in mind? Did you reach your goal yet?
With Potential I was attempting to make with that realized a simultaneous triality: an album that stood alone musically without context, a piece of work that critically reflected contemporary modes of making music, and a personal narrative that held up intra- and extra-song throughout the album. I like to think that goals become increasingly stable as you get nearer to them but I am really proud of the work as it operates very well on all of those levels.
It’s incredible that you were able to carry out that vision. I was particularly moved by the documentary ‘Superimpose’ that you created to accompany the album. It gave me chills because the stories of the artists you sampled are so powerful. How has the project been received by others in the music community?
I’m so happy you got a chance to watch it – it was amazing to work on it and I’m happy it exists to provide an important addendum to Potential. It’s been great to speak with people after they watched it, everyone seems to have a unique take on the documentary, whether it’s about the amazing stories of the people, or the process of putting together the album, or about the supernarrative of what making music like this means in the context of other music being made today. Particularly friends in music are interested in what the process means for future projects, as I think its been eye-opening for some to start to think about the possibilities of working with voices and people that they didn’t know before through the internet as opposed to working in studio.
In that vein, then, the most heartening reactions have been those that didn’t know that the vocals weren’t made with other musicians in the studio. That’s what’s been most fun for me as the documentary shatters lots of expectations at every level – not only do people get to find out about a hopefully interesting new way to make music with the voice, but also, like me, get to discover the amazing stories of the people for the first time alongside the music from the album.
That’s so dope. And now you’re on tour with Phantogram. What is it like to tour and open for them? Any highlights or funny moments on tour yet?
They are wonderful! I had played with them on a few shows in 2014 so I’ve known them from back then, so I was excited to get the chance to go back out on the road with them! The show is really strong and equally important each night – which I know from experience is hard to do when you are in the middle of a long run. They care deeply about their fans in every city which is inspiring to see.
As to highlights its still quite early in tour so I’m sure we’ll top this soon, but one of the best nights for me was at the House of Blues in Boston on the last run. I was still living in Providence and had played a lot of my early shows in Boston, so getting a chance to play on that stage alongside them meant a lot to me. Their fans were really welcoming and it was a really exciting time for me and motivated me a lot for the months afterwards.
It sounds like a perfect fit – you and Phantogram. Who are you listening to now?
Right now I’m on a big kick with Arvo Pärt and Arnold Schoenberg. I have always found Arvo inspiring but Schoenberg is a recent obsession for me – the idea that tone row composition may have been driven by a denial of his love of romantic chromaticism is something I’m finding myself think a lot about lately.
Denial of his love of romantic chromaticism… I love that. I’ve heard you talk about how creating music can be a lonely experience for you – often just you and your computer. What is it about loneliness that inspires you to create?
I think a lot of time it is certainly compulsion and a desire for something you recognize as familiar. Music has been a retreat for me since I started recording so I think loneliness and making music are almost intrinsically linked for me at this point, for both good and bad.
Right now, what are you doing? And what can we expect from you in 2017?
Right now I’m in the studio in LA working on some new songs! I hope to put out a new EP towards the end of the fall so have been busy finishing work on that. In 2017 I will be traveling to a lot of the countries I have missed so far to tour Potential which I am really looking forward to! And I have been making a lot of music so I hope to release new music sporadically throughout the year while I’m working on my next album.
You can catch The Range at the Observatory North Park this Saturday, October 1, 2016. He is signed to Domino Records (which represents Hot Chip, Blood Orange, Animal Collective, and Dan Deacon). Make sure to listen to his album Potential and watch the documentary Superimpose before the show!