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The Rakes interview

| September 29, 2006

The Rakes
If It All Ends Tomorrow

The story behind London’s The Rakes is one that has been written countless times before. The group built major U.K. buzz and scored an international record deal after about a year of touring. Upon being imported to America, they lit up the CMJ Festival in New York followed by this spring’s South By Southwest in Austin, playing to packed houses and leaving hundreds of badge holders lingering on the streets. Before all this, the members met one another at work and through mutual friends, another tale taken to the well a time or two (thousand). So how in the world have The Rakes stood out in the clutter?


Peruse the band’s debut, Capture/Release (V2), or catch one of their provocative live shows and it’s clear the gang are more than the latest Bloc Party or cheap Franz Ferdinand rip off. While they may have shared similar patterns as those predecessors (along with the same stage on more than one occasion), there’s an underlying eloquence to their rippling dance rock explosions and series of electrified anthems.

“CMJ was our first foray into America and getting good reviews with that started to get us going in America,” says guitarist Matthew Swinnerton, kicking up his feet on the band’s tour bus outside the Double Door after a sound check. “Before that we had done a lot of support tours in the U.K. with Bloc Party, the Buzzcocks, and Franz, which is a good way to get yourself heard and maintain civil relations with one another. Nowadays bands seem to be a lot nicer to each other, unlike the ’80s when we heard stories of bands being cutthroat. What we did is rehearsed a lot, played the gigs, and gained a confidence to not feel like we were going against anyone else.”

If Swinnerton is indeed telling the truth, it sounds as though the days of Oasis vs. Blur are long over and left perpetuated through urban legend. Yet with so many choices that all sound remotely similar and are all being backed by major label budgets, how can a music lover truly wade through the rubbish and cut to the quality? For starters, the critical community has thus far been favorable to The Rakes, which is a step in the right direction, while the band have earned a tremendous word-of-mouth following (including one group of fans who trucked from Kansas City all the way to the Windy City for this particular gig).

“There have been a lot of cool comments and comparisons like David Bowie or Franz or the Buzzcocks, which are less for us and really more for people who haven’t heard us,” offers drummer Lasse Petersen, resting his elbow against the bus’ window pane. “It’s really the way bands arrive with a few pointers as to what sort of genre they are and the assumption that people who like those artists will find you in generally the same range. One person might pick up on Bowie simply because in an interview we might have said he was an influence. With Franz, we maybe have the raw elements of danceability in our music and one thing I’ve always liked about them is they like to make music girls could dance to as well as guys. I like when we’re playing shows with a good mix of people — girls and guys who are not all about head banging and moshing. We have a sweet edge to it, but still pretty uncompromising energy on stage.”

They aren’t ashamed of their somewhat unexciting conception, suggesting the lack of some sensational story helps lend credibility to their cause. There was no prefabricated design, no reality show tryout, and no disposition toward good looks or trendy dress, but rather talented players who just so happened to be pals dealing with the daily working grind — using artistry as an escape mechanism.

“We didn’t go straight from school to music full time — there were a couple years in between where we all worked other jobs,” explains Swinnerton. “Once we got signed, we worked up to [breaking away from our day gigs]. [Singer] Alan [Donohoe] actually had a job a couple months into us having a deal since it’s not like you get signed and the heavens open up and money falls into your pocket. We’re all quite realistic about it, and probably at some point, go back to having a normal job, but let’s hope we won’t have to be working in a mini-mart tomorrow! We’ve all had to finish work, sound check, do a gig, get drunk and wake up the next morning to work again. That’s a sledgehammer of reality we don’t want to deal with anytime soon!”

— Andy Argyrakis

For the rest of The Rakes’ intercontinental story, grab the October issue of Illinois Entertainer, available throughout Chicagoland.

Category: Features, Monthly

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