Written By Chloé Sautereau
It’s an emotional state of mellow and melodic trance that Richie Quake invites his listener to experience with his song “That’s Not Love!.”
Re-released on June 29th as part of his latest body of work – his debut album I Want Some! – the track is a deep dive into the artist’s musical universe.
From a first track released in 2018 to his second EP, Voyager in 2021, the essence of Quake’s sound was clear from early on: taking his audience on a journey, not through things, but through states of being. The singer-songwriter producer’s latest work continues to say just that, with even more intricacies in how the words and the music come together.
Quake sets the scene in “That’s Not Love!” with a distinctive synth-played motif that reveals itself to be a recurring theme in the song; not only literally, but figuratively too once the artist opens his mouth a couple of bars in:
“Lately, I can’t even cry, you gotta give me somethin’ /
Baby, I don’t wanna die and feel like I did nothin’”
The staccato phrasing is queued with a bass line that is as playful as it is dramatic – two energies Quake wonderfully balances throughout the song. The artist’s sense of urgency is only emphasized by how short the first verse is: he hooks the listener in straight away by leading into the chorus after just those two lines. Going from the deep to the rather mundane, the syncopation into the chorus snaps the listener back to reality as Quake tries to “Gas up his car” and hangs “at the bar”… only the car “won’t run” and the bar’s “not fun”.
From the beginning, he’s associating things that appear unrelated, but are coherent by inducing the same feeling. One of uncertainty, of being lost. A feeling that is further emphasized by the unexpected disconnect we find between the lyrics and music, or more so a delay, that actually serves to tie the song together thematically in a way that is even stronger. Quake has an eye for the greater picture and gives the song its cohesiveness through that very lens. By allowing himself to play with said features, he makes that longing feeling of waiting for somebody both playful and nostalgic; a push-and-pull.
A Brooklyn-bred multi-instrumentalist, Quake seems to infuse his music with the city’s energy: screechy and abrupt sounds contributing to his distinct sonic palette. That key synthetic sound, layered with meticulous guitar lines, and blended with distorted guitar… One at a time, and then all at once. It’s surprising, but somehow cohesive. Indeed, Richie Quake makes a little dissonance easy on the ear. He makes the uncomfortable welcome. In that search for something. A feeling. A connection.
In “That’s Not Love!” he’s calling out a lot of things; naivety and betrayal to name a few perhaps. But, most importantly, if that’s not love, then what should it be?
As he compares the more tangible feeling of a lack of rhythm (“There’s no rhythm”) to that of not feeling anything emotionally, the song goes from its melodic theme that illustrates the “swerving circles” Quake sings about to something that is suddenly very rhythmic, with a phrasing that’s incredibly precise. When they’re there, the drums aren’t shy, ornate by a gated reverb that gives the piece a signature retro vibe. These lush hints and sweeteners support that image of vainly swimming against the tide which Quake articulates both physically and emotionally.
In the last reprise of the post-chorus, the singer’s voice is almost drowned out, losing him – and ourselves – in the unnerving feeling of feeling nothing. Or desperately trying to feel something. And he’s right… that can’t be love!
The train-of-consciousness delivery of his lyrics emphasizes how personal his music is. Indeed the entire album is self-produced, with Quake only collaborating closely with a select few, notably Anna Shoemaker who is featured on the song “Crawl”… and who co-wrote “That’s Not Love!”