On Stage: RKCB comes to Philly tonight

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


Card players who specialize in bridge might get confused if they do a Google search and see that RKCB will be in Philadelphia on February 6. In their world, RKCB is a bridge play that means Roman Key Card Blackwood.

Music fans, however, will not be confused when they see a listing for a concert by RKCB.

They know that RKCB is an LA-based production duo comprised of Riley Knapp and Casey Barth, whose alchemic sound fuses neo-soul, modern electronic R&B and dreamy synth-pop with avant-garde lyrics.

On February 6, RKCB will play Philly as part of the “RKCB & Shoffy: See For Yourself Tour” – an all-ages show at the Voltage Lounge (421 North Seventh Street, Philadelphia, 215- 964-9602, www.voltagelounge.com).

“We both went to the same program at USC (University of Southern California) and met at a master class,” said Knapp, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Dallas, Texas. “Casey was a songwriter and I was a drummer. We actually were both drummers and both did production.

“We had heard of each other but not heard each other. After hearing each other’s stuff at the master class – songs that we had written individually — we decided to work together. In our first session, we wrote ‘Comatose.’ We decided to put it up online, and it took off. The rest is history.”

RKCB makes music that is original, catchy, soulful and, most importantly, genre-spanning.

“We never sat down and said – this is the style of music we want to play,” said Barth. “The blend of genres is a combination of our influences. We both have different musical backgrounds.

“Riley is from Arizona and he was into punk-pop and emo. I’m from Boston and I’ve been into R&B, soul and electro. Brian Eno has been a big influence. My older brother was into experimental music and he turned me on to Eno. The textural sounds we use to introduce ambient music into pop music are influenced by Eno.”

A sense of cohesiveness permeates RKCB’s music.

“When we’re writing songs, it’s usually an in-the-room collaborative process,” said Knapp. “It ends up being more natural. We both do everything – writing, arranging, producing. We have our own studio in Highland Park. Frequently, we go in with nothing and come out with something good.”

Both are accomplished producers and songwriters who have worked with artists such as Tinashe Julia Michaels and Kacy Hill. After spending the majority of 2018 in seclusion in the studio, RKCB returned to the spotlight late last year with the release of two singles, “Alone With You Pt. 2” and “Know Love.” The duo’s new EP “Shores” is coming out on February 22.

“This will be our fourth EP,” said Barth. “We released ‘Short Films’ in 2014, ‘In Contrast’ in 2016 and the ‘B-Sides EP’ in 2017. We’ve also released a variety of singles. We have a good amount of material out there.”

Video link for RKCB – https://youtu.be/HridIKL6fJ0.

The all-ages “RKCB & Shoffy: See For Yourself Tour” concert at the Voltage Lounge, which will start at 8 p.m., also has Satellite Mode as the opener. Tickets are $15.

Thomas Dybdahl

When Thomas Dybdahl plays the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) on February 6, he will be focusing on songs from his new album “All These Things.” The album, which was made with Grammy Award-winning music producer Larry Klein, was written and recorded in Los Angeles in June 2017.

“This album is the second that Larry Klein and I worked on together,” said Dybdahl, during a phone interview Monday morning from a tour stop in New York.

“We worked on my ‘What’s Left Is Forever’ in 2013. We just hit it off and became good friends. I’d help him when he was working with other artists.”

Dybdahl, one of Norway’s most notable musicians, made his U.S. full-length debut with “Songs,” which was released July 2011 on Strange Cargo, a new label created by Klein in partnership with Decca Records/Universal Music Group. In celebration of the release, Dybdahl joined Tori Amos on the U.S. leg of her Night of Hunters tour.

That record was an intimate album of lush, intricately orchestrated pop and Dybdahl was described by the British music newspaper NME as “Norway’s answer to Nick Drake.”

Strange Cargo’s Klein has produced work by Tracy Chapman, Shawn Colvin, Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell and Madeleine Peyroux among others and has won five Grammy awards.

Dybdahl made his Strange Cargo/Manhattan Records debut with “What’s Left Is Forever,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Norwegian album char. The album’s first single, “This Love Is Here To Stay,” climbed to No. 2 on the radio airplay chart in his homeland.

“All These Things” is the next step in Dybdahl’s continued collaboration with Klein.

“We had an idea,” said Dybdahl. “We wanted to do an album that was super old-school – to get the best session musicians available and then go to one of the big room studios left in L.A. We wanted to make a live record. We did it in three days at Sunset Sound. You have to trust your instincts when you’re doing three songs a day in a studio like that.”

The album features a stellar cast of musicians with a discography long enough to fill an encyclopedia – because Klein brought in the absolute best to fit these nine new songs. James Gadson (drums), Dean Parks (guitars), Patrick Warren (keys), Dan Lutz (bass), Brian MacLeod (drums) and David Baerwald (guitar) comprise the main band on the record.
Dybdahl has a CV that can match up with these players. He received the Norwegian “Amanda” award, the highest honor for a film composer. He has also worked as a producer, songwriter and as a front man in the band The National Bank, as well as guesting with other acts ranging from Morcheeba to French singer Melanie Pain all the way to folk icon Judy Collins.

“The players on the record are so versatile – so good at what they do,” said Dybdahl. “They take on an identity. Some of them were on the first record I did with Larry.

“It’s not a super-produced album like my last one. It was a totally different experience. I’m used to doing all the stuff by myself and building songs piece-by-piece. I got so bored working alone. I wanted to get involved with more people.

“Pre-production was more intense. We needed everything blocked out. We wanted a live album, but we didn’t want a jamming album. It was more about the vibe.

“Also, I ended up writing with a bunch of great writers. I get little groups of writers together and block out arrangements. I worked with Lera Lynn, who is an amazing writer – and she was the bar singer in ‘True Detective.’ We co-wrote ‘All These Things.’ Working with her was a real treat.”

Video link for Thomas Dybdahl – https://youtu.be/XJC35ygCTnw.

The show at the World Café Live on February 6 featuring Thomas Dybdahl and Kenny White has Norton Scott Star Vehicle as the opener. The music will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $14.

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