Based out of Durham, North Carolina, al Riggs is a hugely prolific creator and sharer of music, both under their own name, as well as louder offerings via the moniker VAXXERS. We tried to count how many albums al has put out since their 2016 debut, Breakdowner and the Hungry Months, and then quickly lost count. Having recently caught our ear with the sublime solo single, Alice, al is now gearing up for the September release of Bile and Bone, a joint release with guitarist, and long-term collaborator, Lauren Francis.
Recorded between various apartments in both New York and Durham, Bile and Bone is the result of a two year recording process, and feels like the most sonically adventurous project al has shared to date. While the trademark, sing-speak vocals and lyrical touchpoints (“horror movies, queer politics and puns”) remain, the whole thing has a much more wide-screen sound; an album that moves quickly from gentle ambience to driving pop, through to folk and then back again. Take the record’s first single, Boyfriend Jacket, Boyfriend Sweater, combining expansive William Tyler-like guitars with a driving percussive fuzz, and al’s warm-hearted lyrical exploration of a relationship slipping perfectly into the sweet spot of excitement and comfort. While nodding to the likes of Elvis Depressedly or a much less prickly Mark Kozelek, ultimately al’s missives on the sometimes bruising, sometimes beautiful world around them feel entirely their own. Bile & Bone shows that in collaboration, a songwriter can often find new ways to express themselves, and counter-intuitively might just be the closest al Riggs has ever got to sharing a piece of themselves with the world.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is al Riggs?
al Riggs is a musician and writer who currently lives in Durham, NC and records and releases too much music for most people to pay attention to. I went on tour with The Mountain Goats a few years ago and that was just a dream come true. I’m non-binary (they/them pronouns) and left-handed, I have Autism, and I can’t get a handle on my weight.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
First show I ever played at a “Rock Venue” was at Local 506 in Chapel Hill in 2012. I was opening for a YouTube Ukulele Person and it was a weirdly packed crowd. My set up at the time was my nylon string guitar, two mics, and a kick drum because this was still when modern folk artists were being swallowed up in the Mumford b/w Sons craze. I can’t remember much about what I played other than closing with a cover of “Born On A Train:” by The Magnetic Fields.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I make music because quite frankly I’m really good at making it and definitely better at writing it. I’ve tried more visual art but I am pretty terrible at it, as you could tell by the fact that most of my music art is either done by more talented people, or a photo, or my Ghosts.
FTR: What can people expect from the al Riggs live show?
When and If we ever get back to a safety level to even think about live performance again, I’d like to tour with my band from the Goats tour again. We have an incredible rhythm section in the form of Owen Fitzgerald (bass) and Justin Ellis (drums), and Lauren Francis (guitar/producer and multi-instrumentalist who recorded and arranged BILE AND BONE) has one of the strongest ears for tone and feeling I’ve heard. And she can translate all of that to some pretty imaginative performing.
I mostly can’t wait to scream songs live I muttered on record.
FTR: What’s next for al Riggs?
Bile and Bone comes out September 18th. I’m in the final stages of tracking a new country album for next year, and there’s some recording sessions I did with Brad Cook (Hiss Golden Messenger, Bon Iver, Megafaun) a while back that will hopefully see the light of day. Again, too much.
They Listen to…
Nina Simone – Suzanne
Michael Hurley – I Stole The Right To Live
The Hidden Cameras – Ode To Self-Publishing Fear Of Zine Failure
Skylar Gudasz – Actress
John Prine – Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
Bile and Bone is out Sepetmber 18th via Horse Complex Records. Click HERE for more information on al Riggs.