Last week (September 22), the 2021 edition of Vans’ Musicians Wanted competition came to a close. Out of thousands of entries from emerging acts across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, one winner was crowned – Northern Ireland’s Lemonade Shoelace.
The rising psych-pop artist was praised by the judging panel – which included 88rising founder Sean Miyashiro, rapper Denzel Curry, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Julia Michaels and British rock star Yungblud – for the distinct sound of the project and the “devotion and dedication [put] into their artistry and their craft”.
Now, as part of the prize, Lemonade Shoelace (aka Ruairí Richman) will receive Vans product, Kramer gear, global music distribution, Spotify and Apple Music playlisting and more. Plus, he and his band will support Yungblud in Mexico City next January. NME caught up with him to find out what the win meant to him and more about Lemonade Shoelace.
Congrats on winning! How did you react when you found out you’d won?
Thanks, it’s pretty mad! Vans actually told me the day before that I’d won – I was staying in a caravan with my girlfriend and I didn’t expect them to call me that early. They were like, ‘I’ve got some news to tell you’ and then the phone kept cutting out. I had already planned an event for the livestream at a club I work in and about 80 people turned up. [When I was announced as the winner], the room was going absolutely nuts.
I was at AVA Festival last Friday and Saturday so I definitely celebrated there, and there lots of people coming up to me and congratulating me – people I didn’t know as well. It was really humbling to see so many supportive people.
What did you think of the judges’ feedback?
It was really good and all super positive. They obviously know a lot within music, but just event to know they’d listened to the songs is enough, but then to hear that they’re actually enjoying it is even better.
You get to support Yungblud next year now – what does that opportunity mean to you?
It’s insane. We actually played our first gig the Friday before last and then we have two more gigs between now and then, and then we go to Mexico. It’s definitely a huge opportunity for the project. I’ve never been to Mexico before and to be going there to play with on the same stage as Yungblud is pretty amazing.
I really like his character – he has such amazing energy. Hopefully, I can bring the same kind of energy to the stage.
How will prizes like new gear and Spotify and Apple Music playlisting help you as an emerging artist?
That’s gonna help me a lot. I haven’t been on any playlists yet so to be put on Vans’ playlists is going to be really, really cool. I’m super excited about that cos I’m always keeping track of my streams and since winning Musicians Wanted, it’s just gone up and up already. I’m excited to see where it goes.
Tell us about your journey so far – who or what inspired you to start making music and how long have you been doing this for?
I started producing a couple of years ago when I was studying at BIMM. I went to BIMM Dublin as a guitarist but then I found out that everyone there was insane at guitar so I had to find something else that I was good at. So I went down the production side, but in the past two years, I took it a bit more seriously. I always made weird, trippy music anyway but I started making actual songs and they were very inspired by Tame Impala – they’re probably my biggest inspiration. Since lockdown, I took it very seriously and I was able to find time to keep making as many songs as possible. I came out of lockdown with an album’s worth of material so it was the most invaluable time to me.
What makes a good song for you?
It has to have a really good bassline for a start, but the melodies are also extremely important. The texture in between the melody and bassline is important as well, but mainly it’s the melody. I always think that if you can play it on a music box – which is just a very simple melody – in your head and it sounds cool, then it’s going to be a good song.
You play with a live band – how did you bring them all together?
I was part of a mentorship programme at the Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast called Scratch My Progress last year. As part of the course, you had to get up on stage and perform and being a producer, I didn’t have a band. My drummer was on the course as well and then I found everyone else through word of mouth. It’s insane how good they are – they’re the best instrumentalists in Belfast. I couldn’t be luckier.
What’s your vision for Lemonade Shoelace?
I have a lot of ideas. I don’t want to just be associated with music, I want to branch out and make it a culture in a way – like in art and fashion. I want to start my own clothing label as part of it, like Rat Boy did with Scum or [Tyler, The Creator’s] Golf Wang.
You like to put positive messages in your lyrics – why is that important to you?
I think that’s the main theme of the whole project – to brighten up anyone’s day with those messages. I think that’s important for music to carry a certain message, or something that’s uplifting or connects with someone in a broad sense. I want to take that to the next level and incorporate a bit of spirituality and openness to the lyrics.
What kind of artist do you want to be remembered as in decades to come?
As just a goofy guy with a bucket hat that still has a message behind the songs. That’d be great.