Ry X, otherwise known as Ry Cuming, has undergone something of a musical metamorphosis. Originally from the small town of Angourie in New South Wales, he has been based in LA and Berlin for the last decade. His first album, the self-titled Ry Cuming, seemed like the start of a promising career in sun-soaked indie rock. Yet his 2013 Berlin EP, released after a two-year hiatus, took a noticeably darker turn.
According to Cuming, his transformation has less to do with geography than with coming from a place of honesty.
“I just felt like I’d stripped away all the bullshit and, for me, it was really rad to walk onto stage or walk into a recording studio and do it exactly how I wanted to and not how I thought I needed to,” Cuming says. “I think that, in a way, that was my first real step as an artist – to be exactly true to myself.”
About to embark on a whirlwind European festival circuit, followed by appearances at Splendour In The Grass and Oxford Art Factory, Ry X is definitely accustomed to being on the road. Back in 2010, he supported Maroon 5 for their European tour in a string of shows as Ry Cuming. Not quite the ‘dream come true’ he expected, it triggered a long period of introspection and re-evaluation.
“I guess one of the main things I learned on that tour is that I didn’t necessarily really want to be in the same space, and that was a huge lesson for me. I didn’t really want to be in the pop world… I couldn’t really get onstage and ‘entertain’ people.”
It seems like a cliche for the struggling artist to run away and try to make it in Berlin. But the German city wasn’t always the mecca of hip it is today. Back then its artistic underbelly was less celebrated, making it the perfect place to inspire exploration. It was here that Ry X started to develop Berlin. Noticeably darker, this is the atmosphere he has tried to tap into while recording his full-length album over the last six months. Indeed, an emotional rawness connects all of Ry X’s material – from his work with Frank Wiedemann on ‘Howling’ to UK-based collaboration, The Acid, there is a sense of the extremely personal being divulged. This is partly based on the influence of artists like Jeff Buckley, Nirvana and Pearl Jam, who had a huge bearing on Cuming’s decision to start making music.
“I don’t necessarily sit down and listen to Jeff Buckley anymore, but it’s still part of the thread. It was just like someone offering up this raw emotion and me being like, ‘Fuck yeah, I want that.’”
Achieving the right sense of intimacy in a live show brings its own set of challenges, especially in a festival context, when often curators are looking for an act that can get people jumping around.
“Festivals are hard, to be honest. Sometimes I wonder if it really converts in a festival because it is such an intimate experience. I have really worked hard to make sure Ry X shows are very, very intimate and not trying to change a set or cater to a room to try and get people’s attention.
“In terms of the smaller shows, those things are really, really precious and really intimate. In Europe lately it’s been a lot of old churches and chapels and beautiful old places that are cool in that sense of reverence straight away. It can be hard to bring that to festivals.
“But,” he adds, “it can also be a really, really sacred experience.”
Ry X will be playing Splendour in the Grass alongside The Acid, Outkast, London Grammar, Two Door Cinema club and many more from Friday July 25 until Sunday July 27. Also appearing at Oxford Art Factory on Tuesday July 29 (tickets here) and as part of The Acid at Goodgod Small Club on Wednesday July 23 (tickets here).