I’m going to have to start off by asking a really clever question: What’s the “rationale” for the band’s name? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
Dave: Actually, we just really wanted to be filed just before RATT in the record store bins. Problem is, by the time all was said and done, there were very few record stores left, and less still that carry RATT.
Why should TWRY readers check out your debut EP, “The Going and The Gone?”
Dave: It’s relatively short and sweet, so it’s a limited investment for the listener. If you like it, it’s 20 minutes of music you can listen to over and over and get deeper into… but if not… well, it was only 20 minutes. That’s less work than eating a Bit-O-Honey.
Kevin: I always love to hear an EP of a band before a full album. I think it’s the best way to introduce a band to the world. In our particular case, I think that on first listen, you’ll have a couple of tracks grab you and have the melodies get stuck in your head for a couple of days. But after a few listens, you hear a lot more and have an appreciation for the overall depth of the songs.
Did you have an overall concept for the EP in mind when you began the recording process?
Dave: In all seriousness, it was quite a journey, both for the project and the band. When we started recording, we were still a three-piece — Brian on drums, Matt on bass, and myself. We cut the basic tracks and were aiming to just do a short, quick demo to use to get gigs and recruit a keys player and a second guitarist. As we recorded more and more and Kevin came on board, it was clear that it was going to be better in quality than a demo. So we shifted focus and began looking at it as a great representation of what the band does. Then we asked some friends to contribute parts, quit recording at home, and booked some studio time to finish it off.
Take us through a few of your favorite tracks on the record.
Kevin: “Guardrail” is the first one that comes to mind. I think it demonstrates a lot of what we’re after. There are lots of layered guitars and strong melodies — some atmospheric sounds going on. It’s probably the best lyric on the album too. “Far Away” and “On the Vine” are favorites of mine as well. Again, there is lots of instrumentation on both tracks, and stacks of vocals that we all took part in, both in the studio and now, onstage.
What’s the songwriting process like for the band?
Dave: It’s an evolving process — which I like. We started out on this EP with the batch of new songs that I was working on at the time. So, more or less, I’d bring in the song — and we’d work on an arrangement as a band. As people have come aboard and we’ve all gotten comfortable with each other, everyone in the band is now sharing their writing. Brian has a bunch of songs that we’re starting to tap into, and Kevin, Matt, and John all have great tracks that they’re taking turns fronting the band on. So now, everyone is bringing in what they have. The next step I’m looking forward to is getting to the point where we’re sitting down writing together collaboratively.
Kevin: It’s interesting to be in a band where everyone can write. Expect a KISS-esque string of solo albums by 2012.
Dave: That’s actually what the Mayans were warning about.
The Rationales’ sound has been described by some as power pop. Would you agree that that’s accurate, or does it seem like too neat of a label, considering your many other influences?
Dave: I’m happy enough to have anyone notice the disc that they can label it whatever they want. We were initially surprised, because we think of ourselves as more rootsy rock — but power pop is such a broad term, we’ll take it. We don’t mind the idea of being accessible.
Kevin: I agree. I was a bit surprised at first to see and hear that categorization. But at the end of the day, it’s great that people are responding well and liking the tunes.
I know that before the band came together, Dave had been recording solo cds at home for quite a while. How has he adjusted to being part of a group effort? I mean, when you’re singing lead, does he glare at you resentfully?
Kevin: Dave’s songwriting is really impressive. He’s very diligent in that he finishes his tunes and brings in fully realized ideas. He doesn’t leave off that last verse or mail in the bridge on anything. But, like he said, everyone is writing now, and it’s really cool that we’re able to do that. We all look to Dave for approval on anything that we bring in… and I think we’re all 100% comfortable on getting that nod of approval. Most importantly, I get more of a jealous scowl from Dave when singing lead.
Dave: Hey! I didn’t approve that answer!
Pretty much everyone in the band is a multi-instrumentalist. Was it difficult deciding who would play what role?
Dave: Initially, we spent 6 months looking for a keys player who could play keys as well as our bassist could. Once we came to the realization that our bassist was the keys player we’d been looking for, we moved Matt over to keys and brought in John (Maloney) on bass. It pretty much just fell into place. We don’t really switch off too much, as we want things streamlined live. It’s more in the studio where things stretch out — Kevin on piano, Matt on mandolin, etc. There will be shows from time to time where we’ll all rotate off of our primary instrument, but in general, we do what we do.
Kevin: It’s definitely a luxury to be able to move around and do different things. There’s a chance that we’ll add some lap steel guitar fairly shortly, and that could shake things up for a song or two. Matt could probably play a French horn if we put it in front of him.
Please describe what fans can expect from a Rationales show in three words.
Dave: Earnest. Sweaty. Terrible banter.
What do you enjoy most about playing live?
Dave: The movement of energy between the band and the people in the room, and the feeling that comes from having what you do hopefully be a positive part of someone else’s night out.
Does the band have any special pre-show rituals?
Kevin: Working out the logistics for getting gear and people to shows has been trumping any thoughts of starting a ritual. Unless we can consider beer a ritual. Beer is good.
Meeting what artist would reduce you to a swooning fanboy?
Kevin: Most of my idols are reclusive, curmudgeon types. The others are dead. I bet Bob Pollard is fun to hang with though.
What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing a new band such as yourselves?
Dave: Just grabbing whatever small share of people’s attention they can spare. The rock scene is supportive and great. People will notice you when you cross their paths, and will like you if you’re doing something they like. But breaking beyond that to find a way to bring yourself to the attention of the other people out there, who don’t have time to go to rock shows on a regular basis and who might like what your band is doing if they heard it and had time to absorb it… that’s the tough part.
What’s The Rationales’ number one goal for 2008?
Dave: Personally, I’m happy to see us continue to have the fun we’ve been having playing together and to continue to grow creatively. I love the way it sounds when we’re all in a room or on a stage making music together. In terms of the band’s progress, I’d be thrilled if at the end of the year, more people know about and like our music than at the end of last year.
Kevin: It’s really just about getting as many new fans as possible. I think we’ll be playing as many shows as we can in front of diverse groups of people. We’re all pretty excited about the latter half of ’08.