THE RHYTHMIC RECONNAISSANCE OF ALT R+B ARCHITECT: RINI
BY: COREY GUEVARRA, EDITOR IN CHIEF
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: YUDO KURITA
Just hours before our interview, alt-R&B architect RINI made a huge announcement! In just days, fans were frenzied to expect his highly anticipated forthcoming EP “Ultraviolet”! From the Philippines to Australia to Los Angeles, how exactly did the 25 year old cadencing crooner arrive in such a major way? “Moving from The Philippines to Australia was because of my dad” he instructed. My dad was working as a seaman for 17 years & was offered a job in Australia as a maintenance fitter. He had the choice to either continue on the seas or finally be with his family as he was going to be able to take us all with him. Needless to say, he chose the latter". "I ended up moving to Australia when I was just 12 years old. Growing up as a teenager, I found myself listening to a mixture of music which was kind of how I found my love for making music. Eventually I met friends who were also into making music & that became a huge part of me developing my early career as a musician. So, Australia was really where I began my music career’s foundation. After I released my first EP in 2018, it got some good attention here in the US & honestly it was all history from there! - I got signed in 2019, moved to L.A. & now, here we are”!
“ MUSIQ SOULCHILD’S ‘JUST FRIENDS’ -I WAS PLAYING IT EVERY SINGLE DAY. I REMEMBERED THINKING ‘YO, THIS IS IT! THIS IS THE MUSIC I WANT TO MAKE! ”
Not bad at all for a completely self taught singer/songwriter/guitarist who bet on self, skill & belief! Out of almost nowhere RINI ascended into our sonicspheres, offering an almost unexpected appendix of easy, sultry, sonic journeys that had the sure stuff hits were made of. Out of all available genres, it’s not a lost quandary as to how a Gen-Z’er from a world away gravitated toward American R&B specifically. “I used to listen to a LOT of R&B” he confessed. “I’m talking like Sade, Michael Jackson, Prince. Growing up that was what my dad used to play at home, core R&B plus some rock & roll stuff like Queen as well. When I moved to Australia I had friends that were also into hip-hop & R&B & we would listen to all these rhythmic records following our breakdancing sessions. Mostly very chill vibes to mellow out to & I developed a specific love for neo-soul R&B. As a musician, I grew up playing in church, through the guitar I fell in love with those major 7 chords that a lot of R&B songs house. I knew in those moments that I HAD to learn all of that stuff. I remember learning my first neo-soul R&B song, It was Musiq Soulchild’s ‘Just Friends’ -the chord progression in that, the bassline, I was playing it every single day. I remembered thinking ‘yo, this is it! This is the music that I want to make’. It was like an eye-opening, cathartic experience. Also, the people that I was hanging out with, every time they were gigging & doing music, R&B was kind of the main sound. So, I think from those experiences everything just evolved naturally from there”.
Apparently, musicianship was one thing for RINI, but singing was a completely different beast that he didn’t even know he could tame. “I actually never used to sing”. He revealed. “I’d been playing [guitar] since I was 10, but I didn't start singing until I was about 17. It was actually my dad’s indirect suggestion of ‘you're always playing the guitar why don't you try singing along with it’ that sparked my vocal journey. From there at around age 18 I started doing covers on YouTube”. “I’ll never forget my very first attempt” he laughed, “I tried to cover ‘Payphone’ by Maroon5 & BRO -I had to delete it almost instantly! [LOL]. In the beginning the singing was definitely…. Let’s say…. ‘deleteable’ lol. -But, I LOVED this, so I just kept going, kept honing, kept practicing, kept perfecting. There were so many moments where I was just like ‘yeah, I don't know if this is going to work’. But I just stuck with it & eventually, I found my voice”!
Hearing RINI’s backstory, I instantly gathered that a key element to his vocal acumen was that as a musician., he understood tone & melody & musical choices in a very unique, even advanced way. From that vein his ability to create & literally craft his sound was a million times more liberating, as he wasn’t bound to the usual pre-existing key or chord choices of a pre-made producer’s beat. His musicianship & likely musician’s ear gifted him the ability to literally build, craft & mold his voice around his own music, customized as he heard or felt it specifically.
So when did RINI realize that his career had truly taken off? After a collected pause he replied, “I feel like that moment was when I quit my job. I actually used to work at a shoe store back in Australia mainly to earn money for music gear & stuff. But while I was working, I was also releasing music & once I dropped my first EP [After The Sun] back in 2018, my friends & I decided to put together a little intimate show in Melbourne for about 250 people. By then the EP had been out for maybe a couple months & literally in like 3 days the entire show sold out! So much so that we had to add an additional date to fill the demand! Honestly, my mind was blown, it was my very first headline in my home country & I just did not expect SO much love! Like the fact that people came & they were singing the songs word for word. I was like, yo, I really may be onto something here! Like I just might actually have a place in music”. “Seeing people really gravitate & connect to my art that way, that to me was a HUGE moment”.
Fast forwarding to 2022, have you seen RINI’s numbers? They’re INSANE!! On Spotify ALONE, he boasts 2.3 million monthly listeners with a combined top 10 songs of about 264+ million streams TOTAL. As an artist, I wondered what he imagined as the reason for people connecting to his music in such a way? “I feel like maybe people connect to songs that they can relate to”? He began, “The songs that I write are from actual times in my own life & the things that I’ve been through & maybe people have gone through those things as well? Like one of my now favorites was about a really bad breakup. I was literally balling my eyes out while writing it, but I completed it in like 15 minutes because it was pure emotion. It wasn't fun, but I had to get it out, that was the only way that I could let go of that situation. At the time I’m not sure if I even cared how it sounded, but I knew how it felt & I just had to release it! Of course it ended up becoming a huge song for me. In fact feel like every single song that I write that's based on a true, authentic experience, that’s when the most people gravitate towards it. I think authenticity makes a timeless song. I feel like people will keep coming back to a song that they can relate to emotionally”.
“ I THINK AUTHENTICITY MAKES A TIMELESS SONG. I FEEL LIKE PEOPLE WILL KEEP COMING BACK TO A SONG THAT THEY CAN RELATE TO! ”
On his influences, RINI cites Frank Ocean as his usual #1 contender. “He's the reason why I started writing” RINI confessed. Like I still listen to his early works to this day. -Still sort of listening to learn what makes it all SO good”! Rounding his list are Miguel, Hayley Williams & of course Sade! All of whom make sense when you listen to RINI’s velvety, silky sound that you almost quite literally tend to melt into. Quizzing him a bit on the texture of “Ultraviolet” he excitedly offered it up as a “more of an experimental project” for him. “It's definitely not like what I usually put out. So, it's a little risky. Even the initial single ‘Selfish’, was hella different for me, but I think that was the point of this EP”. “I called it Ultraviolet because ultraviolet kind of means beyond violet or beyond the highest frequency; so it’s kind of like I'm going past what I can [usually] see or [usually] do in my music. -Trying new things basically. There's a lot of hip-hop influence with the beats, but still core R&B singing. Also, it's a little bit more dirty sounding instrumentally, but still very vibey! I guess I would describe it as if you're driving during dusk, during sundown, like when the skies are purple & you’re with your girl, you’re just cruising, you’re just vibing, that's how it feels”!
In 2019 RINI signed to Warner Music after a couple of other false starts during his shopping phase. He still remembers the feeling waiting in the lobby after his first Warner meeting in Los Angeles & from then to now says he can only describe his trajectory as a “dream”. Though COVID temporarily put a pin in some of the early plans, today his career is unfolding in the most befitting, unimaginable ways. In response to if he practices any daily mantras to guide his days he says, “yeah, it may sound cliché, but it's just knowing that ‘whatever happens, happens for a reason’. -I live by that”. “I’ve gone through enough things that have proven that belief to be true for me. I'm a Christian so I believe that God's got plans for all of us & He wouldn't put us in a situation we couldn’t handle. If any struggles show up, I just look at them as lessons & in the future, I almost always see why I had to go through & GROW through whatever the obstacle was”! “I’ve witnessed this several times in my life & it’s changed me, later it’s always like, OH, that's why that happened, I had to go through that to get there! Ever since I understood this lesson, it’s become my go-to perspective”.
Among maybe the most interesting realization during our interview was how genuinely pleasant RINI was! Like RINI is a really [REALLY] nice human being. His personable personality sort of adds a surprising twist to the cocktail of his professionally quasi-stoic aesthetic & already contrasting [next level] smooth sound. “I'm super easygoing” he replied. “I like meeting new people, making friends, I’m [also] the silliest ever. Like no drama, no talking about people, that’s not my vibe. I’m Just trying to be happy in life & enjoy the moments. I'm also a very emotional person, a deep thinker, I really try to understand the reason why people do what they do. I'm a Cancer”.
RINI revealed that as a child his dream job was to become an architect or even an animator both following his love for drawing & sketching. He also threw in his surprising talents with auto-mechanics (BMWs especially) & new found hobby in cooking! “I literally just picked up cooking & I’ve been really enjoying it. I’ve always wanted to get my cooking skills up for like real cultural dishes, like authentic Philippino cuisine”. “My girl loves it” he joked. “Now I want to cook for everybody, sometimes I need to disconnect & reconnect with myself; cooking, reading [when I can] & now hiking have become great restorative past times”.
As we began to wrap up, I remembered RINI’s use of the word, emotional & wondered how he applies & harnesses it to his songwriting processes. What sort of emotional or spiritual reconnaissance did he do when diving into the creation of his work. “Where do I go? A lot of the times I’m kind of just in my head, exploring both actual & ideated scenarios & the what ifs of any situation. I think about things I’d wished I’d said or maybe would say in the future. I also try to think about putting myself in other people's shoes & sometimes a situation or a whole conversation becomes a song”!
“ HUMBLY, IF I’M BEING HONEST, I WANT THE BEST I CAN POSSIBLY ACHIEVE. LIKE I WANT TO WORK TO BECOME AN ICON ONE DAY! ”
Thinking on his future, some 26 years from now RINI says that he would love to have his own family by then. “I’d love to definitely be hanging out with my kids & have a house somewhere peaceful”. “I'll be like 50-something in 26 years & I think I’ll still be in music, but I’d hope to have my own businesses & investments & a stability to just be enjoying life & spending time with my loved ones. Musically, humbly, in a perfect world, If I’m being honest, I want the BEST I can possibly achieve. Like I want be an icon one day, not because of the fame, but I’d love one day to be remembered for being great at what I did. For my music & how it made people FEEL. The same way we now FEEL something when we think about Micheal Jackson or Prince, In my perfect world that’s the legacy I would want to work to achieve”.
In my opinion, this sort of self-talk coupled with [his] drive & determination is exactly what will (& already has) made RINI rise in the way that we’ve seen. The desire to leave legacy, to authentically pour into it & to add light to our collective human experience, is almost above all. If you’re going to go after anything & spend your life doing anything, why not go after the best, biggest, brightest, highest available? To close, I returned to our always asked, often most intriguing, most telling, ’definition of luxury’ inquiry. “Privacy is luxury!” RINI exclaimed. “Like somewhere with land & space & the ability to quiet the noise, being somewhere secluded & peaceful, that sounds like luxury to me”. The consummate lyricist, I can almost already hear RINI composing this very sentiment of peaceful privacy into the type of luxurious love song that only he could relay. With a meteoric career in orbit & iconic goals in tow, I think we’re all an eager audience observing the trails of sonic light that this kind-hearted super nova will surely leave behind.