Some songwriters are happy to tell fans in great detail when their songs mean, reveal the people and experiences who’ve inspired their writing, and all that. Rhye generally prefers that each listener work out for themselves what his work means to them.
“I write from a very personal place, so there’s definitely a deep meaning to it for me — but I don’t like to tell people what it means, because I don’t want to leave a path too constricting,” he said. “I want people to have their own version of it.”
The songwriter and bandleader was making time for a quick telephone call moments before before going out on stage for a concert at the El Plaza Condesa in Mexico City.
“I make personal lyrics for people to take into their own world and then relate to their own lives,” he said.
Rhye, born Mike Milosh and currently the leader of the musical collective also known as Rhye, is coming to Hawaii for a one-nighter Wednesday at The Republik. After that, he’ll be en route to Japan as part of a wide-ranging world tour supporting his just-released album, “Spirit.” The album was released on download and streaming platforms on May 10; pre-orders are being taken for a limited edition vinyl release which will ship on June 28.
The eight-song project continues to spotlight Rhye’s ethereal voice and romantic preoccupations, with instrumental arrangements dominated by acoustic piano. It’s softer and more introspective that his earlier music — showcasing a desire for intimacy refracted though feelings of uncertainty.
“Spirit” includes guest appearances by Icelandic multi-instrumentalist Ólafur Arnalds, Grammy Award- winning producer/song writer Dan Wilson, and singer/pianist Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman).
The album’s inspiration came about when Rhye’s girlfriend decided to “surprise” him with a borrowed piano.
The piano “wasn’t in the best of shape,” he said, but he got into the habit of playing every morning. He describes the experience as “musical meditation.”
“The idea of being able to do a piano record without any ambition of it being anything else, and without any pressure on it, became a meditative process for me to rebuild my interior energy.
“For me it was a meditative healing process, falling in love with playing the piano again, and I wanted to bare my feelings to the word because I thought the feeling should go out.”
In general terms, he says, the songs are about “about love in my life, but also about the love for piano brought back into my life.”
“But why look too much into who I am? Why not have your own experience with it?”
RHYE’S MUSIC videos lend themselves to personal interpretation. Consider “The Fall,” which seems to show a married man at a party with his wife as Rhye somehow imagines that he sees them when they were younger and happier.
“Phoenix” shows a group of apparently extremely bored high-fashion models — one of them in a G-rated dominatrix outfit — doing housework in a glamorous mountain-top hideaway.
And there’s “3 Days,” which juxtaposes lyrics like “I’ll steal your breath/ Twisted thief with a mangled glove/ It’s just my nature/ I ruin love” with what appears to be 1940s-vintage footage of cheerful young women dancing in stage costumes that would have been considered risque 75 years ago.
The story of Rhye begins in 2010 when the Canadian- born Milosh was working in Berlin, and had a deal with an indie record label. Robin Hannibal, a Danish artist whose group was signed to the same label, heard Milosh’s work and suggested a collaboration. A week’s recording in Copenhagen produced three songs for what would eventually become their first project.
After Milosh and Hannibal separately moved to Los Angeles, they formed Rhye as a duo.
They started Rhye as an internet-based mystery act. The first singles were posted online without background information or contact details. Milosh’s soft contralto voice and androgynous singing style added to the mystery — was the singer a male or a female?
What the public noticed was the high quality of the music video versions of two early singles, “Open” and “The Fall.” If anything, the videos captured the imagination of a growing following even as fans traded theories about what was going on between the characters in the videos.
Rhye’s first album, “Woman,” was released in 2013.
Four years later, Rhye became a musical collective consisting of Milosh and a live band. When the second Rhye album, “Blood,” was released early in 2018 Milosh was the primary writer, performer and producer.
“Spirit” is the next musical chapter in the story.
Looking into the future, Rhye likes the thought that modern recording technology will allow people to hear his music — and all music — exactly as it sounds today.
“With classical music from several hundred years ago we can chart things (to see what the composer wrote) but we can’t hear them exactly as they were because the instruments change and technology changes. It’s cool that in our time recording (captures the sound) is exactly the way that we want it to be,” he said.
“It’s kind of fascinating to know that 200 years from now people will look back at this as an golden age.”
Presented by BAMP Project
>> Where: The Republik
>> When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
>> Cost: $35 general admission; $40 day of show
>> Info: All ages accompanied by an adult