Wallpaper. is a band with a radical new pop-soul sound and sensibility that’s the antipodean opposite of “wallpaper” music (in the classic Muzak sense). Wallpaper.’s major label debut on Epic Records is a uncompromising declaration of intent.
“Wallpaper. represents the eccentric everyman,” says group frontman Ricky Reed, “a blue collar pop band for the other 99%, a twerking class hero who might ACTUALLY show up at your house party – THAT IS WALLPAPER.!”
Direct no-nonsense party music on the surface, Wallpaper., comprised of Arjun Singh and Tom Peyton on drums, Derek Taylor on percussion and Novena Carmel vocals, follows the trajectory of intoxication through the fuck-ups and the hangovers and the adventures and manages to even pinpoint the divine light that strikes for a split-second in the damnedest of places. In the heartbeat of the songs, Wallpaper.’s provocative party anthems open up to celebrate core human values, especially friendship, neccessary for emotional survival.
In “Good For It,” the new Wallpaper. single, Ricky, with a mix of swagger and vulnerability, invokes the essential function of friendship operating the deepest levels in times of real trauma. “It’s describing a real terrible situation that you’re in, without any of the details. There hasn’t been a song about just needing help in a long time,” he says, harkening back to the Beatle’s “Help” and REM’s “Everybody Hurts.”
Where the dynamic of “Drunken Hearts,” is built around “a love song between two train-wrecks,” “The Underdog” champions the long shot, the one you take because you don’t take opportunity for granted. Ricky, whose “parents are not from money or involved in the entertainment industry,” has been making music since he was 16 and strongly identifies with the underdog. It takes a strong work ethic to make it look as easy as Wallpaper. does. “I don’t write a lot of songs,” he confesses, “but I put a lot of work into all the songs I write. I’m not wasting anybody’s time listening to my songs.”
“Ricky Reed Is Real,” Wallpaper.’s “thesis statement,” contains a litany of attributes, concrete and abstract, re-enforcing the persona established on #STUPiDFACEDD, Wallpaper.’s 2011 breakout track (3.3 million YouTube views and counting). The track takes the artist’s identity game to the next level, where “Ricky Reed” is a state-of-mind, an attitude, an idea fused directly with reality (a little like “Elvis,” the concept). From “the song in your head” to “that hungover Sunday” right down to the “last dollar in the duct-taped wallet,” Ricky Reed is in the details, just like God and the Devil.
Born in Berkeley, California, Ricky became obsessed with music at a young age. His mother, a bookkeeper, exposed him to a variety of sounds from the smooth California pop of Steely Dan to the funky sounds of Motown and Sly & the Family Stone. Sly’s daughter, Novena Carmel, is one of the vocalists in Wallpaper.
“I took on West Coast rap when that hit,” Ricky remembers. “I was a young kid listening to Dre and Snoop.” But what really flicked young Ricky’s switch was post-Nirvana mainstream punk like Green Day, Rancid and Operation Ivy. “It came directly hand-fed through the radio. I was the right age and it hit me.” From there, he got into (then) contemporary rock and British bands. “Digging deeper and deeper and then my mom put me onto early Yes. I got into prog rock, ELP, King Crimson, all that insane stuff. That led me to new music and the avant garde, Steve Reich, Boulez, classical music. I had a prog rock band. And then I decided I want to make some simple silly songs.”
The result was Wallpaper.’s debut, 2009’s T REX EP, a collection of two and 1/2 minute satiric pop songs. Influenced by Zapp & Roger and other 70s funk band, Ricky had incorporated Auto-Tune pitch correction into his recordings as a kind of satiric emotional distancing device. Wallpaper.’s debut album, Doodoo Face (also released in 2009), found Ricky reaching into deeper grooves for inspiration. “I started introducing R&B from my childhood into the songs so I could play at house parties and have fun.”
By 2010, Ricky, unsure about the fate of Wallpaper., was honing his musical and songwriting skills doing commercial work. Looking back over the fledgling Wallpaper. catalog, he could feel a “real pop potential in these songs,” but wasn’t sure how to tap that. During the holidays, he found himself alone in a studio for a ten day stretch. “I had this weird epiphany,” he recalls. “I should just do whatever I want.” Giving himself permission to work in a new way opened up a “creative renaissance” that produced #STUPiDFACEDD, a pulse-of-the-culture track that nailed a contemporary ethos as accurately as the Beastie Boys had Fought For The Right To Party a quarter century earlier. The track, and its 21st century Satyricon video, proved pivotal in the Wallpaper. saga. Songwriter and record executive Evan Bogart signed Wallpaper. to Boardwalk Records and helped shepherd #STUPiDFACEDD to the good people at MTV’s “Jersey Shore.”
MTV’s next move was to collaborate with Wallpaper. on an animated video for BEST FUCKING SONG EVERR, a song celebrating friendship and loyalty in a storyline featuring the band members.
One evening in December 2011, Ricky Reed sat down at a grand piano in the auditorium of the Sony Building in Los Angeles and sang “#STUPiDFACEDD Reprise,” a lounge jazz version of Wallpaper.’s signature song, for a small audience that included LA Reid and Tricky Stewart. The evening ended with Wallpaper. signing with Epic Records.
During the recording of the new Wallpaper. album, Ricky’s been dividing his time between his beloved Bay Area and the City of Angels. In the middle of 2012, in the same Echo Park studio that birthed #STUPiDFACEDD, Ricky reached a new creative apotheosis. “Caffeinated and drinking by myself, there’s a magic fuzzy place that I really like,” he admits candidly proffering a glimpse into his creative process, “but I was going way too hard into it and feeling crazy and alone and in a room with no windows.” From which sprang “Puke My Brains Out,” a glorious confrontation with the absolute that’s gnarly, profound and funny. “It was born out of frustration with where I was at. A new journey began and it ends up being the strongest material I’ve ever done. I holed up in the studio in October and rewrote almost the whole album from scratch.”
Ricky and points proudly to one of Wallpaper.’s manifestos, “Puke My Brains Out,” which is “not really a party jam or fully ironic. It’s a general sense of feeling overwhelmed and needing to expel all the noise that’s in your brain. It’s about information overload really.” A lyric video for the song, directed and animated in “90s early internet hell graphics by Ricky Reed,” is currently racking up views on YouTube.
Ricky’s genius is the ability to compress all that information–verbal, rhythmic, melodic, technological, psychological, emotional, mental, physical, spiritual–into pop hooks that strike direct and true and stick to the brain.
For this latest batch of Wallpaper. material, Ricky Reed has “taken all that influence of punk and all that stuff I grew up listening to and all that attitude with the bass and understanding funk and pocket and weight and wrapping into one thing with hooks. If ‘FUCKING BEST SONG EVERR’ is your last reference point, you have no idea where I’m at right now.” The new Wallpaper. album is the way to find out.