Arrica Rose’s music career started as music careers start – when she was a kid, knee-high to a grasshopper, sitting in her room with a Fisher Price record player and a Frank Sinatra disk on the turntable, crooning “New York, New York.” She did, then, what most singers do before they realized they were singers – she got into a red velvet dress and performed Sinatra songs for her parents in the family living room.
It wasn’t just Ol’ Blue Eyes that sparked the young Arrica Rose. It was all the bands and singers her parents were listening to on their own hi-fi stereo system. Dusty Springfield, Dolly Parton and Glen Campbell were just a few of the many iconic singers to the youngster.
Rose has come a long way since that girl in a red velvet dress. She’s making her own albums for hi-fi stereo systems. Wavefunction, released November 4, is her fourth studio album. Backed by “The …” (or “The Dot Dot Dots”), her sound is plaintive and melancholy, mellow and melodic, like a soft Neko Case, Patti Smith, Juliana Hatfield or Shawn Colvin. Arrica Rose is full of soft harmonies and sad hearts.
“I was spending time in Southern California and Northern California in a long-distance relationship,” Rose recalled about the influences of her newest album. “The back and forth was a lot to handle. I was wishing that it could be better integrated; that they could be merged into something more manageable,” she said.
Rose was writing songs at the time—some of them up-tempo numbers; others, slower somber ones. Her producer, Daniel Garcia, suggested to not fight it and embrace the extremes. Garcia and Rose designed the vinyl for her new album so the upbeat songs were on one side and the slow ones are on the other.
Rose sang and played in punk bands as a teenager, turning her attention away from country stars and Big Band singers to edgier groups like Sonic Youth, Unwound and Superchunk. She started to play piano. She started to play the guitar. These instruments stuck with her more than the French horn did in 5th grade. “I think it was the only instrument left over and no one wanted it.” She sang in school choir. She performed in school plays. She sang in musicals. She started to do community theatre. All of this for her love of music. But movies – movies – were her first passion.
Rose recalls watching movies all the time while growing up. “Choosing a favorite movie is impossible,” she says. “I was a kid and loved Children of a Lesser God.” She appreciated John Hughes movies and loved David Lynch films. “I got that soundtrack and just fell in love with it.”
Her love of movies took her to USC’s prestigious film school. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted,” she said on entering college. “I just knew what I loved.” The idea of a music career hadn’t yet stuck with Rose. “It was too personal to me. My music – too private.” But she scored a friend’s film school project. Then she scored another. Then she sang a song for one project, and then another. “I quickly realized I was doing more music in film school than film in film school.”
And so began her shift into a music career, still heavily influenced by movies. “I think visually as I write songs,” Rose says. “Words trigger visuals. These visuals inform stories. These stories I sing. My writing is cinematic because I simply think cinematically.”
And write, and sing, and record, and perform she does. With her own label, pOprOck records, she’s as independent as one can be in today’s music environment. “I just want my work out there in the world. I want it to be honest. I want it to be how I envision it. I have the right circumstances now to do that. I feel very fortunate that I can.”
With the new album she plans to tour at the beginning of 2015. She hopes, with her movie background, that as she sings there will be visual representations of the songs she’s singing. She’s making videos for each song, as well. Each different, but each informed by the album as a whole.
“I’m working on a new record,” Rose confided. “My eyes are always toward what’s next.”
Featured photo by Piper Ferguson; inset photo by Brooke Nipar