Indie Mixtape 20: Hurray For The Riff Raff’s ‘The Past Is Still Alive’ Isn’t Your Average Americana Album

Alynda Segarra doesn’t write your average Americana music. Their songs, written under the moniker Hurray For The Riff Raff, infuse folk-rock twang with themes of identity, addiction, and revolution. And their upcoming eighth studio album The Past Is Still Alive is no different.

The Past Is Still Alive manages to be both stirring and tranquil. They combine revelations on “Hawkmoon” with warm memories on the rambling “Snake Plant (The Past Is Still Alive),” which acts as a mostly autobiographical retelling of their youthful adventures train-hopping across the country. Overall, The Past Is Still Alive can be considered Segarra most important work to date.

The gripping songs were recorded just a month before the sudden passing of their father. But much of the album itself was penned after opening for Conor Oberst became a creative retreat of sorts, where they were comfortable writing from a place of vulnerability. Ahead of the release of The Past Is Still Alive , Segarra sits down with Uproxx to talk crushing on Madonna, sleeping in a tombstone warehouse, and how Lou Reed taught them not to give a f*ck in our latest Q&A.

What are four words you would use to describe your music?

Nature punk / grief folk.

It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?

I would like it to be a doorway to a remembering of this time, and all of the people and places, and moments that we are building to create opportunities for liberation and beauty in the future. Just a timestamp of what we tried to make with what we had here.

Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?

Lou Reed is my biggest inspiration, I feel him in my lyricism always. He lives in my mind as a guide to truly not giving a f*ck, And yet someone who fiercely loves the outsiders of the world. Also, being that I’m from New York, the Velvet Underground is just a part of my DNA.

Where did you eat the best meal of your life and what was it?

The best meal I’ve ever eaten was in Paris and it was a Japanese restaurant called Ogata. I went there for lunch because the dinner reservations were booked for months. It was a full sensory experience. The other best meal I’ve ever had was at a place called Bar Brutal in Barcelona.

Tell us about the best concert you’ve ever attended.

Special Interest playing a generator show in the parking lot of an abandoned beauty supply store on Mardi Gras night February 2020, right before the world stopped. There were helicopters and security cameras on fire.

What song never fails to make you emotional?

“I’ll Be Seeing You” by Billie Holiday.

What’s the last thing you Googled?

The best cozy video games for Nintendo Switch haha I’m trying to get into video games that are good for my anxiety. Literally, the lowest stakes ever please.

Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?

When I was in my hobo band, we snuck into a warehouse and slept in what looked like a place where they were making tombstones, which we thought was hilarious since we were called the Deadman Street Orchestra.

What’s your favorite city in the world to perform and what’s the city you hope to perform in for the first time?

I love playing anywhere there’s a lot of Puerto Ricans who show up sometimes even with flags. So places like Brooklyn, Chicago, DC. One of the best shows in my life was when I played in Puerto Rico.

I want to play anywhere in Japan so desperately, someone out there book me and make my dreams come true!!

What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?

Dump him for the love of God!!!!!

What’s one of your hidden talents?

I can play the spoons pretty f*cking good. Also, I’m not bad at sewing by hand.

If you had a million dollars to donate to charity, what cause would you support and why?

I would give it all to the New Orleans libraries. Libraries are so f*cking cool, and we’re losing them. They’re free. People of all classes can come together and read and learn. Librarians are tough as f*ck and they’re out here fighting for revolutionary books!

What are your thoughts about AI and the future of music?

My thoughts are it would be great if AI could be trained to stop billionaires from destroying our f*cking planet.

You are throwing a music festival. Give us the dream lineup of 5 artists that will perform with you.

Frank Ocean, Hand Habits, Tracy Chapman, Rage Against the Machine, and NNAMDÏ.

Who’s your favorite person to follow on social media?

Adrienne Maree Brown.

What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?

I got my first tattoo in an apartment in Brooklyn when I was 16 days away from my birthday. I was getting ready to run away and I got a drawing of Frida Kahlo with roses coming out of her mouth. I knew I needed something to carry with me to prepare me for my journey.

What is your pre-show ritual?

A lot of nervous pacing, vocal warm-up, do my makeup, listen to a pump-up playlist. Probably a lot of The Clash.

Who was your first celebrity crush?

Madonna in A League of Their Own.

You have a month off and the resources to take a dream vacation. Where are you going and who is coming with you?

I would go to Thailand, with my best friends and their partners. I want to see the pink dolphins there so badly!

What is your biggest fear?

I have a lot of fears, but I’m learning to make friends with all of them.

The Past Is Still Alive is out 2/23 via Nonesuch. Find more information here.

Hurray For The Riff Raff is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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