Santa Barbara–based singer/songwriter Riorden reminds us the perks of being a weird flower. Both with her debut EP, Weirdflower, and her new song “Madcap Laughs,” the artfully offbeat, deep-feeling performer explores the thin lines of mentality and sanity in a uniquely moving way. Already a master of atmosphere, the powerfully voiced UCSB graduate has emerged this year with a well-crafted, theatrical kind of moonlit, moody folk rock.
Riorden named her March 2019 EP for a line from Jack Kerouac, who said of an offbeat friend, “the madness of Dean had bloomed into a weird flower.” “This EP is about accepting myself. I’ve always felt a little bit weird or an outcast, and maybe everybody does,” Riorden said. “A lot of my songs are straight from my journal.”
“Madcap Laughs” is a haunting, melancholic number that sounds channeled from a beautifully cobwebbed gramophone. “It’s about that thin line between what is conceived of as sanity and insanity: that it is sane to resign your life to be miserable,” Riorden said. “It’s a narrative of myself and this other character, who I call the Madcap, this ordinary person who’s trapped in a gray, 9-5 office job, and it’s grim and lonely and isolated, stuck in a way of life that makes them miserable but [they are] not willing to shift it. In comparison, my life is feeling lost in a completely opposite way — lacking structure, and not really knowing where to go or find fulfillment and being told that your path is not orthodox.”
She hopes in this ambivalence listeners find “the same deep kinds of wounds and suffering but also joy that I feel.” Riorden plays Breakfast Culture Club (711 Chapala St.; breakfastcultureclub.com) on Friday, May 17, and again at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.; sohosb.com) on Wednesday, June 12, with Jamey Geston and Emily Wryn.