There aren't many bands whose singer started off singing
Bob Marley songs in Karaoke, who write songs about internet murders, play
gigs with Neighbours Dr Karl Kennedy and then end up on an arena tour with
Franz Ferdinand. You could say that The Rakes are one of a kind and that's
become increasing obvious with each successive release since "22 Grand
Job". Designer Magazine met up with The Rakes in Preston earlier in the
year where they played the aforementioned gig with Karl Kennedy and also
the Cazals. Read below for our interview with Alan before we brought the
rest of the band together for a cultural exchange with the Aussie soapstar.
Q: Every single time I check the listings I'm always
seeing The Rakes listed. Are you permanently on tour?
A: Yeah. We're very busy. I think this part of the tour was rescheduled for reasons outside our control. We started touring at the beginning of last month going to Japan with Bloc Party, spending 3 or 4 days there and then coming back for one day off before doing the European tour with them before arriving back in the UK for our own tour. Actually I tell a lie, we had four hours off last Sunday evening where we had nothing to do (laughs).
Q: How is it supporting Bloc Party - for the life of
me despite the fact they're playing 2 sold out dates at the Manchester
Apollo I can't help but see them as this small time indie band
A: They've gone stellar. They've just rocketed suddenly. It's great because they work hard. We supported them at the London Astoria and they invited us out to France and Japan and each date went pretty well. We're similar bands so I think a lot of fans seemed to like us as well.
Q: It must be good to get out of the UK because there
is a sense of bands having a small amount of success here and not venturing
out any further?
A: Yeah I guess so. That's a bit of a business question. We're just trying to do the job to the best of our possibilities and that's writing and recording songs really. We don't have big ideas about touring conquering the world, that's at a managerial level and it's not for us pawns in the game as it were. I think do want to get out of the little corner that's know as the UK though.
Q: Do you find it strange that you've been lumped in
with this disparate London scene which can take in anything from Babyshambles
to Bloc Party to Neils Children?
A: To a certain extent I guess it's helped us. When we started we weren't mates with any of these bands or had even heard of them. We weren't part of this homelands or New Cross scene, but one day we ended up supporting Bloc Party at a little tiny venue, and we're still supporting them, it's just that this time it's across the other side of the world. This whole scene, there's not much connecting these band that much.
Q: How did the Rakes all come together?
A: I was mates with Jamie the bass player from years ago when we met at Uni. He had a job at a clothes shop near Covent Gardens and that's where he met Matty and all it sort of went from there.
This is the first band i've been in and i'd only really done karoake a couple of months before I joined the Rakes and that was just to get used to singing and be bolshy enough to get up on stage. My Karaoke song was Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff" and the embarrassing thing was I did it in Australia. At the time most places has refugee camps and there was one refugee camp called Wumera so I changed the lyrics to make it pseudo political like "I shot the sheriff, I did not shoot the refugee of Wumera Camp" and that didn't go down well. And the other song I always used to do was "Beautiful Day" by U2.
The funny thing was they didn't even have a Karaoke machine so they'd just play the CD and turn the treble down so the volume laid off it and you just sang off the mike - there were no lyrics so it was just blah blah blah cos you didn't know half of it.
Q: Tonight must be the weirdest gig for you guys -
Neighbours Karl Kennedy meets the Rakes?
A: I've actually met Karl Kennedy before. When I was in Australia all the British backpackers do a Meet The Neighbours night and I met Toadfish, Holly Valance and Karl Kennedy. It was good. There was this pub quiz and are team won the quiz.
Q: You're 3 singles in, the albums already mastered.
Are the singles representative of the album?
A: To a certain extent. The first single "22 Grand Job" was really ltd edition and we've re-recorded that just to make it a bit more polished. The singles are the first 3 tracks on the album and I think we've got more complicated musically as time as gone on because the singles were the first things we wrote together. With the album we went in a country studio for 2 weeks, which isn't that long, but we only had to record another 8 songs. There's a lot more depth to these songs but they haven't taken away from the edge of the singles.
Q: What I noticed about one of your B-sides, "Dark
Clouds", is that it sounded like Blur covering Duran Duran's "Girls On
A: Oh really. I wasn't aware of it. It's interesting because that songs a rip off, or a tribute to, a Jamaican reggae guy called Leeroy Parkes. Matthew got the tune and we changed it around a fair bit and played with the vocal melodies, but pretty much used his track as the basis for the song. The subject matter is quite dark, it starts as a bit of a love story at the beginning, it starts off with this 50s Teen Movie thing like Leader Of The Pack, but ends up a twisted story of attempted murder. It's a true story that actually happened in Manchester. It was these 2 kids that met on an internet chatroom and one of them made up the story
Q: That was where I live in Altrincham. I know the
place where the actual stabbing happened
A: Right. That's really surreal. I wrote all the characters that the guy had made up and tried to incorporate it into the song. So the songs written from the perspective of the older guy who committed the attempted murder.
When I heard about it there was this arts festival on
in London and I was up about 5.30 in the morning when the Broadsheets first
got delivered and this story was frontpage news. I just read it and thought
that's crazy. It must have been interesting living where it happened.
Q: The thing was when the stabbing first got announced
it was just announced as a random attack and it wasn't until a year later
that it came out about the whole story. That was quite a unique story to
take as an influence for your lyrics. Do you take influences from everywhere
A: Yeah. We haven't really got any rules. Lyrically it can be something like that in a paper or it might be something a bit more philosophical. It really varies.
Q: The thing about The Rakes is there's two duel forces
at work - you're a punk band that write really pop melodies and then there's
the bookish elements mixed with rock'n'roll
A: There somewhere in the spectrum floating around whole. I think like many bands we've never really had a preconceived idea about what we wanted to appear like to anyone outside us. I think someone who was intellectual would like to read books, but at the same time you still go on the weekend bender to f**k it all off and get over the week at work.
When we're on tour I'm quite happy to not go crazy drinking
myself silly whereas the other guys find a bottle of vodka somewhere and
stay up till six. I have got a bookish element to me, but I like to live
life as well.
Q: You're vegan, write about murders and read books
while the rest of the band are downing bottles of vodka. Are you the Morrissey
of the band?
A: No (laughs). I don't really like Morrissey. He's a bit pretentious and is love with himself. But not at all, i'm not the bookish one. That's just one aspect of my personality, i've also got a bad alcohol problem.
The Rakes tour the UK in February 2006
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