Don’t be fooled by Bill Ricchini’s dreamy, sing-song, seemingly whimsical invitations to frolic on the beach.
While there’s an undeniable retro West Coast charm to the singer-songwriter’s new band, Summer Fiction, upon closer listen, this is the Jersey Shore we’re talking about here. And although the self-titled debut album is certainly sun-kissed, it’s rather messily, maybe even regretfully, so.
You see, extensive New York City sabbatical be damned, Ricchini is, thankfully, every bit as Philly as he ever was.
“It was one of those things were I went to college in Philly, I did some traveling, but I never really left. I had a record deal in New York, and I thought, now would be a good time to maybe change it up,” he says of his time spent living and making music in the Lower East Side. “But for me, Philly was always home. I didn’t come home and instantly make a record — I took a couple years off, and it was nice to get off the music treadmill. But then I picked up my guitar again.”
This time, the previously solo artist had a little help from his friends: 30 different musicians contributed to a record that includes harpsichords, accordions, clarinets and a marimba.
But as textured and ambitious as the album obviously is, it never loses its unassuming, pervasive, July-evening charm as it chronicles a summer romance.
“It’s funny how life works — for me, I thought this was going to be a really quirky, instrumental record that I was going to make in isolation,” says Ricchini. “But then, it has this summery, almost Beach Boys sheen to it. It’s a good argument for following your instincts, I guess.”
We’d have to agree.
Most of “Summer Fiction” was recorded in Ricchini’s South Philly rowhome with “a MacBook Pro and really expensive German microphones.” But some particular intricate percussion work called for a session at Penn’s Irvine Auditorium.
Follow Monica Weymouth on Twitter at @MonicaatMetro.