Adam Richman hated college biology. As eukaryotes wept for the boy who would never love them back, Richman, usually drumming on his faux-wood desk and drowning out the class lecture, was becoming immersed in a science of his own.
"It?s as educational as it is expressive," says the indie pop whiz kid. "Beyond writing - exploring how to physically document every sound that I imagine is an articulation and a science unto itself."
The sound of Richman?s recorded music is lush and layered as if there was an arsenal of rockers behind him. But there isn?t. Instead, there is just one young, versatile newcomer, playing every instrument and performing the sonic experiments of producer, engineer and mixer - in a suburban basement.
"I?m a mad scientist," says 22-year old Richman, who?s played the guitar and piano since elementary school, and accompanied and recorded himself with computers since the age of 12. "Somewhere in my youth I had a vision of being frozen in front of a computer monitor with a lab coat and goggles, psychotically singing and staring, uninterrupted for weeks."
The story begins with a boy who was stricken with a severe case of pop culture fever. Growing up in the cultural vacuum of Allentown, Pennsylvania, Richman made it through the childhood and teenage years with one ear to the radio and the other to a multi-track tape recorder. In his formative years he drew his inspiration from the Monkees, Nine Inch Nails, Michael Jackson and Nirvana, among others.
After a year of college at the obsessively bureaucratic George Washington University, Richman began pursuing his music career and writing a ream of precociously catchy songs. With an acoustic debut album made in his apartment he quit school, packed up his Geo Prism and toured the country with axe in hand, playing mostly for small college audiences and building an active fan base of student programmers and their roommates, who were usually dragged to the shows.
"It can be demoralizing," Richman recalls. "You?re in the student center, pouring every ounce of yourself into the performance just to try and reach out to a table of soon-to-be grade school teachers who are just trying to eat a sandwich and get out." Two hundred and fifty dates later, with a well-honed set, Richman sought to step it up.
It was only after a large financial investment and nine months of collaborating with a well-established production company and major-label session players that Richman realized he was passing on the reigns of so many of the creative aspects that the result was uncomfortably glossy and impersonal. The project was scrapped. At scratch again, that?s when Richman imagined building his own studio and taking control over everything from arranging to drumming to mixing.
"There is only one successful method to record my exact vision and that is to eliminate any outside, corrupting interpretations between my mind, hands, ears, and the tape," he says.
Production aside, Richman?s songwriting has always been powerful. Though characteristically friendly, his songs almost always control an accelerated bite, a roughness that?s particularly exposed at his live shows.
"The way I connect with people when I?m playing live is by putting my balls to the wall and never letting up. It gets loud, raw, and honest," he says. "It?s a rock show."
Playing for an audience with just a guitar in hand is Richman?s familiar scene. But with a spoonful of millennial-pop sparkles from the studio, the sound is "shiny, synthy and distorted," he says. And the lyrics? Sometimes hurling barbs and sometimes stroking the belly of a kitten, Richman?s lyrics can be angry, serene or exuberant but never half-assed, and never mindless.
"I write about existing in a world where life is entirely encompassed by relating to people," he says. "I write about a state of emotion - both momentary and constant."
Richman?s devotion to creative independence has made his career a decidedly painstaking one, driven by the dangling carrot of musical euphoria. So it?s not surprising that he doesn?t plan to rest on any safe, well-groomed laurels.
"It sounds clich?, but I never want to make the same record twice," he says. "In the long run I don?t intend my name to be synonymous with any particular sound."
Adam?s music isn?t going to fall into any absolute genre. With traces of pop, punk, and rock n roll, he makes records for listeners who steer clear from the skip button. Sure, any of his tracks are excellent on their own, but in series they invariably make up a perfected ebb and flow of mood and style from the frenetic to the tranquil
Adam Richman still hates biology, but he?s quite fond of the science of rock. Taking full creative authority and capitalizing on technological sophistication, Richman is half musician and half "mad scientist".
"I love pop music. I love rock music. I love them as much as I love life," he says, pushing the goggles up to his forehead. "Creating this music of my own is my inexorable passion."