REYKO! Dismantles His Demons On ‘INNER MONOLOGUE’
“Music has been something that I’ve turned to for solace and expression but the idea of releasing has really simmered down,” Naarm artist/producer REYKO! says about his new album, INNER MONOLOGUE.
That’s not a sentiment you hear artists express every day. There’s an inherent expectation from music fans and industry people alike that artists are always putting themselves on a path towards stardom — constantly putting out music and content to build their profile as quickly as possible. However, REYKO!’s happy taking the scenic route.
INNER MONOLOGUE was originally written in 2021, during a time when REYKO! was reconnecting with his creative roots; playing acoustic guitar and focusing on the self-fulfilment he got from creating. The result is a project that’s made without “anybody in mind except myself”. So goes the name. INNER MONOLOGUE is a seven-track odyssey that invites listeners to examine REYKO!’s darkest insecurities and fears, and his most powerful hopes and aspirations.
REYKO! entered the Australian music scene as part of the multi-hyphenate collective New Wave Infinity, whose members included acts like MARLOW, Hon3y and Delilah Bloome. The 10-piece group most notably gained traction in 2020 for their full-length debut All Corners, a mammoth collaborative project that harnessed the talents of over 60 Naarm-based artists and producers.
Throughout the years, REYKO! has become a true musical chameleon and a beloved key member of Naarm’s bubbling underground. After New Wave Infinity disbanded so the artists involved could focus on their solo efforts, REYKO! released three mini EPs (BEHIND TIRED EYES, THE LENGTHS WE GO & LOCKDOWN ROCKS) in the span of less than a year, from 2021 to 2022. Compared to the predominantly hip-hop and R&B elements featured in his earlier art, these projects widened his sonic palette to encompass tinges of hyperpop, rock and alternative punk.
He recently ended his eight-month musical hiatus, returning for the first time in 2023 on a stripped back interlude that featured on YNG Martyr’s recent album Lovesick. Originally posted as a demo to his Instagram story, Martyr heard what would become ‘REYKO!’s Interlude (Change Your Mind)’ and immediately reached out. While REYKO! admits this prolonged his return, as the song was always intended as his comeback, he credits it as “a great starting point for me to pivot to INNER MONOLOGUE. It’s one of those things I was unsure on how it would turn out but it turned out in the best way possible”.
Speaking about the track, YNG Martyr says that including REYKO!’s voice on Lovesick helped him finalise his vision for the project. He explains, “REYKO! sent me this song while I was in an Airbnb in Sydney finalising my album. At the time the album was looking like a jigsaw puzzle with one singular piece missing. That piece was ‘REYKO!’s Interlude (Change Your Mind)’. It completed the Lovesick world, and was the final addition I made to the album.”
REYKO!: Creating Vs Releasing
Like many of us, REYKO! reckons the COVID lockdowns fundamentally changed him. He became more “insular” and collaborated less. There was even a point in his release hiatus that he stopped producing and recording. “As a musician, it was weird to me how little I was listening to music and how little I was going to that extra length to find new music or inspiration.”
At the start of 2023, he moved into a new place and built a home studio with Riverine, his roommate and a talented musician in his own right. Despite finishing the masters and final touches to the new project nearly five months ago, REYKO! still wasn’t fully convinced he should drop the album. It took his closest friends — people like Riverine and his partner/New Wave Infinity member Rachel Vowles — sitting him down “basically just intervention style”, and going “‘hey buddy, you’ve got a great project that you’re sitting on, what’re you doing?’”
While he shares that he’s scared to release something that he made without anybody in mind but himself, he believes a lot of the insecurities behind the album are “almost the reason to push through it”.
“I’m so fucking excited and it’s been way too long coming but yeah, it was really just down to homies helping me out and pushing me through it.”
Entering REYKO!’s Inner Monologue
Produced and engineered exclusively by REYKO!, the seven-track album INNER MONOLOGUE was “born from an insatiable need to self-express” and is “a culmination of all these thoughts and ideas that were weighing me down.” The chronologically ordered project manoeuvres through REYKO’s psyche as he addresses themes of depression, anxiety, addiction, sleep paralysis and mortality.
“I hope that people relate to these experiences in their own way, and pick up on some of the things I’m saying and understand that it’s a universal experience.”
Almost every song from REYKO! in the last few years has amalgamated several genres. On the album’s opener, ‘SLEEP PARALYSIS’, he takes inspiration from the “raw emotion” and post-grunge/alternative punk sound by acts like Third Eye Blind, The Cure and The Church. The track ends with REYKO!’s retelling of three different experiences with sleep paralysis. Without warping or adjusting them in Ableton (his DAW of choice), he panned one retelling to the left channel, one to the right channel and left one in the middle. “I left it exactly how it was when I recorded them in the studio. It’s weird but it’s fucking cool.”
As INNER MONOLOGUE continues, further layers of REYKO!’s psyche and soundscape are peeled back. Early on, we’re introduced to his vulnerable and introspective lyricism and hauntingly beautiful vocal range and sonics through the sleep-deprived, stripped-back offerings of ‘WRONG SIDE’ and ‘OUT OF BODY’. Adding to the album’s cohesion, the project is entirely played in an alternate tuning that REYKO! made himself, drawing inspiration from certain math rock bands. “It’s a nice, beautiful opening tuning which leaves a lot of 7ths and 9ths, which are those lush chords that can also be very depressing.”
“It was a different thing for me that unlocked another part of my artistry that I’m really proud of on this album.”
Following the ambient ‘GET ME OUT (interlude)’, REYKO! incorporates more indietronica influences on ‘THOUGHTS’, the album’s moment of honesty and acceptance. Closer ‘WHERE I GO’ is a clear indication of his personal growth and evolved artistry. It’s the project’s most recently made song, and one of his strongest releases to date. In the final track, REYKO! leaves listeners at his most optimistic as he learns to “embrace and be in tune with that part of you”. “It’s always gonna be there, you can’t escape your own shadow.”
REYKO!: Relearning To Reach Out
Following the writing and recording sessions of INNER MONOLOGUE, REYKO! has reconnected with his community in the Naarm music scene. Going to more live events and parties, meeting and catching up with like-minded people has reminded him he’s not alone as an up-and-coming musician. “Having friendships in the Melbourne music scene has been a pivotal thing for all of us to learn and grow.”
Feeling inspired and rejuvenated by his peers, he’s even started collaborating again, adding to the already overflowing REYKO! x Friends’ file on his harddrive, He confirms to Junkee that “my name will be attached to a lot of releases going forward this year”. However, that will only come after he completes the album’s creative vision. Helping him with the visual direction is Noah Sole, “my best mate who’s always been my photographer since the dawn of REYKO!”, and Rachel Vowles, “my girlfriend and the rock in my life” who is “also an amazingly talented producer, director, photographer and videographer”.
One way REYKO! plans to avoid a trap that so many artists fall victim to — only promoting their new music once or twice after release — is through the seven separate visualisers for each track on INNER MONOLOGUE, “all filmed in the same place, same character, same outfit”. The short music videos, cropped and catered to Instagram and TikTok, will be drip fed over the next few weeks. They follow the album’s narrative as REYKO! acts out “the same emotion [I was] in when [I] wrote it”.
Reflecting on the experience, he says that he found acting on camera to be “super scary”. However, Rachel’s deep understanding of his vision helped push him out of his comfort zone when shooting, while her “calm” and “polite” approach kept things moving. Despite the project’s inherently solitary nature, REYKO! recognises the special opportunity of collaborating with his significant other. “I get emotional thinking about it. I don’t know how many other people get a chance to do that with their partners, I can’t give her enough flowers for it.”
Speaking about what he wants people to learn about him as an artist after listening to INNER MONOLOGUE, he says he wants “people to walk away from the album knowing me deeper as an artist but also having a more valuable understanding of dark things and things that are uncomfortable”.
“It may bring something to the surface for some people, it might be just what some people needed to hear, it might be something that you turn off after two songs because you’re not ready to deal with it. All of those things I’m excited to hear from people.”
Looking further ahead at the future of REYKO!, he’s not particularly fussed about achieving mega-star status. He’d much rather connect with people that understand his goals for his music. “I’m not super into the idea of becoming this mega star, but at the end of the day if I can do things for other people and inspire other people and make the art I want to make and push boundaries as well, and work with artists who share that vision… If I’m able to achieve those things, I will be really happy with what I’ve done.”
REYKO!’s new album INNER MONOLOGUE is out now.