Aquarelle: The extended interview

Categories: Q&A

Photo by Stacy Schwartz
By Ray Cummings
At the tender age of 24, St. Paul resident Ryan Potts is living the underground-muso dream: he's married, he runs a small label (Rest + Noise), is on the verge of issuing his second minimalist album as Aquarelle (Slow Circles), and writes occasionally for Skyscraper. In a late September telephone interview -- which we present below in its entirety, though some excerpts appear in the print story -- Potts opens up about Aquarelle, his distain for traditional live performance venues, and why Slow Circles is arriving three years after debut Of Memory and Momentum.

Gimme Noise: Where did the name "Aquarelle" come from?
Ryan Potts: It comes from a French word for a water-color painting. I'm heavily influenced by a number of arts, and wanted that to be represented in my name. Slow Circles was influenced by a lot of photography and a lot of artistic techniques; I'm very happy that everyone pronounces it the way I do!

Gimme Noise: Three years separate Of Memory and Momentum and Slow Circles. What accounts for the wait? I remember that you were planning to put out an album back in 2007.

Ryan Potts: Through all that time, it was one album. My original vision really did not come to fruition until it was done. I thought it was "done" multiple times, but it was never quite right. I focussed on channeling it to be exactly what I wanted it to be. Really wanted to to be fully complete and fully realized. [In those three years,] I got married, moved around, and was still working on Slow Circles every day. I was living in Milwaukee when I started [the album], then moved up to Saint Paul.

I put Momentum together in considerably less time than Slow Circles. I guess I was feeling nostalgic, was interested in how experience and memory stay with you, but are always changing in significance.
Gimme Noise: The most significant difference between Momentum and Circles, to my ears, is that the sound seems thicker -- less delicate and ethereal -- on Circles. Also, there are several almost flamenco guitar accents, plus a lot of circular motifs. What were you aiming for? did you have a different set of goals in mind, this time around?

Ryan Potts: You kind of hit some of the things I was going for. I wanted to bring a broader palette to what I do, which is hard because I'm not technically proficient in much besides effects pedals! (laughs) I definitely wanted a thicker sound, a more balanced sound, to bring more aspects to the music. More instruments, more percussion, a lot more circular ideas that are introduced early on in a piece and come back later. That's really where the title Slow Circles comes from.

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