As we’ve said many times, Reece Ratliff is one to keep an eye out for. A 17-year-old Delaware native unfurling vivid nostalgia within lush gardens of indie-pop, Ratliff continues to impress with every new single he releases. Checkered Vans is the latest addition to his formidable collection.
Melting neon textures of pop amongst the agonies of heartbreak, the single speaks directly to our retreat into memory during lockdown. Synth-heavy riffs and addictive hooks all wash us toward the songwriter’s message; it’s sonic imagery at its finest. We were lucky enough to catch up with the man himself to chat about the release, his inspirations, and the intricate gem that is Checkered Vans.
Reece Ratliff is an artist unfurling pain within a glistening oasis of indie-pop. We caught up with the singer/songwriter to dive into his most ambitious release yet, Checkered Vans.
HAPPY: Hey Reece, congratulations on the release of Checkered Vans! How does it feel having it out there in the world?
REECE: Thank you so much! After all the time spent recording and promoting, it feels amazing to have the song out there! We passed 1000 streams on Spotify in just under a week, the fastest I’ve ever hit that milestone, and it seems like it’s still slowly picking up speed, so I’m really excited to see it do some damage. Even more importantly than the numbers though, this song represents the beginning of a new era for me and my music, so I’m thrilled to have set the ball rolling and gotten everything in motion for the next couple months.
HAPPY: The story of Checkered Vans centres around some sweeping romantic nostalgia. Could you tell us a bit about the song?
REECE: For sure! So we actually wrote the story for the song just based on the idea of these shoes that so many people have, but we wanted to make sure we brought it all around to the universal feeling of falling in love for the first time. We tried to paint the picture of the perfect teenage relationship; dancing on the hood of a car, kissing in the rain, all the little movie moments that make a first love so special, while also bringing in some aspects of my own experience. For example, the line about the shoes being “buried deep in my closet with the notes you used to write” is inspired by a girl I dated who would always leave these cute little origami notes for me to find. I think that’s one of the things that’s so special about being an artist, you have this opportunity to get across a message that everyone can relate to. In this case, the nostalgia around your first love but you can also sneak in pieces of your own story and make it truly unique to who you are as a person.
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Checkered Vans came out YESTERDAY and we’re already almost at 500 streams🤯🤯🤯let’s see if we can hit 1000 by the end of the week!!! Keep streaming and sharing at the link in my bio, and thank you all so much for the love on this one so far… you guys are amazing❤️❤️ • • • Also, congrats to @evan_lws for winning the presave giveaway, time for another one!!! Share the song to your story and tag me for a chance to win some more free merch :) • • • #checkeredvans #checkeredvanschallenge #indiepop #indie #indiemusic #pop #popmusic #vibes #summervibes #newmusic #newmusicalert #newmusicfriday #newsong #newsongs #newsongalert #stream #spotify #spotifyplaylist #spotifyplaylists #giveaway #happy #excited #lovesongs❤️ #lovesong #share #sharethelove #contest #merch #musicmerch #merchgiveaway
HAPPY: As such a young artist, what has motivated you to get your music career started so early?
REECE: I first started playing guitar when I was two and really just haven’t stopped since then. There was never one single moment where I realised I wanted to chase this dream, music has always been such a big part of my life that it never really made sense for me to do anything else long-term. The main motivation for me at this point, besides the passion and the dream of being able to support myself doing what I love, is proving to everyone who’s supported me so far that this wasn’t just some crazy dream. From my parents letting me drive myself around the country to play a 21-city tour last summer to random friends of friends streaming my music one time, I feel like I owe it to every single person who has helped me make it to this point. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have so many opportunities at a young age and to be able to pursue a career in this industry while still in high school, I’m so grateful for the chance I’ve been given.
HAPPY: You’ve released a few singles over the past year… are these singles a taste of something bigger to come? An album perhaps?
REECE: Yes! Checkered Vans is the first single off my debut full-length record. I’ve been really lucky to work through the process of finding my sound the last couple years – from my first EP to Cruise Control and now to the album – and I’m so excited to get all of the new tracks out there. It’s a completely different sound from anything I’ve ever released before, and Checkered Vans is just the beginning.
HAPPY: Between Delaware and Nashville, did you approach the writing/recording of these tracks differently at all to past material?
REECE: Absolutely, working down in Nashville with writers and producers ingrained in the pop scene there allowed me to find my sound. For years, I had been trying to write like the music I liked to listen to – the alternative and indie-pop artists I had grown up with – but was never able to truly crack the code. In Nashville, every time I got in a writing room with a new person, I moved a little bit closer to the goal and I think the new record really shows the new style I’m aiming for in this new era, both for myself and for the world of music as a whole.
HAPPY: As a big fan of the classics, who were you listening to whilst writing Checkered Vans?
REECE: The inspiration for the new record was much more in the indie-pop world, with artists like Lauv, Smallpools, and Christian French on repeat in the studio. Like I said, I’ve been searching for a way to model my sound after the artists I love to listen to, and I really feel like we accomplished that with this record which I’m so excited about!
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CHECKERED VANS OUT EVERYWHERE NOW • • • Written by me and @discohiker and produced by the incredible @mkass84 • • • 📸: @jeremyryanstudios • • • #newmusic #newmusicalert #checkeredvanschallenge #checkeredvans #outnow #newsong #newsongs #newsongalert #lfg #spotify #spotifyplaylist #applemusicplaylist #applemusic #soundcloud #tiktok
HAPPY: Where do you see yourself in five years?
REECE: Five years from now, I see myself having graduated from Belmont University in Nashville, released a few more albums, and toured the world. I see myself looking to move out to LA to keep exploring and pursuing this dream, to keep recording and playing shows, and to be able to help the next generation of artists get their start in the industry. I love looking to the future and visualising what life could look like years from now; I think that’s always a really important exercise with mindfulness and manifestation, so thank you for the great question.
HAPPY: Without the support of live venues open for bookings, how does the rest of the year look?
REECE: Ideally, I’m hoping to be able to play some sort of live show when I release the record, even if it’s a drive-in or socially distanced event of some sort. But for now, the biggest thing for me is just doing everything I can to get these new songs out there. I miss live music like crazy and I’m really looking forward to all of the festivals and summer tours that will (hopefully) be back next year. But until then, I just have to keep working to make sure I’m ready for the opportunities when they arise. I want to say a quick thank you to everyone reading this, you guys mean the world to me! If you haven’t already, make sure to stream Checkered Vans and follow me on your preferred social media so we can connect! Love you all, thank you so much!
HAPPY: Cheers for the chat!
REECE: Thanks Happy Mag, it’s been a blast!
Check out Checkered Vans below: