Getting to Know: Ragdoll
Australia and rock n’ roll have gone hand in hand for decades – AC/DC, Jet, and Wolfmother (among countless others) have all hailed from the land down under. And the continent has another hard rocking contender on their hands, Ragdoll. Comprised of members Ryan Rafferty (lead vocals, bass), Leon Todd (guitar), and Cam Barrett (drums), the trio has a new album, ‘Ragdoll Rewound’ that was released on May 23rd, and also recently had a successful performance at Rocklahoma on May 25th on the Retrospect Records Stage, which was part of a string of dates mostly in the Midwest and south.
Ragdoll Rewound is a compilation of Ragdoll’s first two releases (Ragdoll Rock and Here Today) plus four live recordings, one of which is a new composition, “Rewind Your Mind.” The trio revisited the first EP and had it remixed and polished the way they had always wanted to hear it. Any issues the band may have had with the original Here Today master have been fully rectified here too; while the new master of “Tell Me” in particular is a lot more dynamic and more true to the original mix. I caught up Leon Todd recently and got the full lowdown.
Interviewed by Roger Scales
For those unfamiliar with Ragdoll can you give our readers a little bit of a history lesson about how and when the band started and who came up with the name?
We are from Australia and we all grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Rush, Whitesnake and those types of bands. We have been together a little over three years now as this lineup. The name Ragdoll doesn’t have a particularly cool rock n roll story attached to it. Cam came up with Ragdoll after his cat walked into the room when we were tossing around ideas for the name of the band. We kind of all agreed and just stuck with it. Fans kept asking us “Hey, did you take the name from the Aerosmith song?” That was just a nice coincidence. I guess it would be an easy transition if ever wanted to start an Aerosmith tribute band! Just learn a few songs and practice a few moves, oh and add two members!
Has the band always been a power trio?
Essentially yes. I’ve been playing with our drummer Cam for about 8 years now. We had always been on a quest to start that ideal band. Playing in other bands previous we had never really been satisfied. The three of us have been playing with lineups for 4 or 5 years but it wasn’t until about 2011 that we meshed as Ragdoll.
Let’s talk about your newest release Ragdoll Rewound a bit. Great idea to give new fans that may have missed your earlier recordings a chance to hear your first two EP’s which are virtually unavailable at this point?
Yea. That was the general idea. When Ragdoll Rock was first released back in 2011 it was a promotional only recording. There was never really any intent to release that we pretty much gave them out at our early shows. We were unaware what the market for our band would be at that point. That EP ended up in the hands of a promoter here in the US. He loved it and wanted to promote us here in the states. We put out another release at that point called Here Today to coincide with that tour. Ragdoll Rewound is a collection of those two EP’s. We had recorded a third EP in 2013 called All I Want Is Everything which pretty much put us on the radar with rock fans in America so than rather go back and record a whole batch of new songs we wanted to revisit the two EP’s that basically got the ball rolling for us. I think we really found our sound on the All I Want EP so we wanted to essentially update the first two and get it in line with that release. Also do have a definitive Ragdoll package for newer fans like yourself to have and hopefully latch on to it.
Now you have been touring in the US since early May correct?
Correct. We are currently finishing up the “Rewind Your Mind” tour that started on May 16 in Ventura CA and ending on June 13 in Las Vegas. We were lucky to get an opening spot opening for Skid Row at The Whisky A Go Go in LA. That was a great show. Love those west coast crowds!
Looks like the dates in 2014 are all mid west and west coast. Why no east coast dates?
Funny because a lot of the bands we have been playing with here in the US that originate from there keep telling us ‘you have to get up and play on the east coast. You play music that angry people will enjoy and those areas have a lot of angry people!’ Next time we play in the US we will make sure we try and hit the east coast. There are so many iconic venues up there I have only read about and seen in videos that I want to hopefully one day play.
What was playing Rocklahoma like this year?
This is our third time playing this festival. We got invited by the promoter right after the release of Ragdoll Rock who basically told us about 6 weeks prior to the gig that if we could get on a plane and get here he promised us a good spot on that bill. That really got the ball rolling for us then and generated a lot of buzz. For us coming from one of the most isolated cities in the world where we would play a single show every two to three months playing to such a captive audience at Rocklahoma who don’t have to paid to be convinced that they like rock music that was really huge for us. We planned this tour around that one great big gig and I think we will always look at that show as a turning point for us as a band.
Now you have a new video for the song “Tell Me” which almost makes you guys comic book characters. Tell me who came up with that concept?
Basically as we travel and we are essentially strangers in a strange land we take a lot of photos when we are on the road. When you let loose three young guys in a van touring America we basically look at this country as the land of plenty. Walmart to us is fascinating. We wanted to share that with the fans a lot of the photos that we took across the country. We wanted this video to be more lighthearted and had some humor with it. We wanted to push the song “Tell Me” as the first single and get it some exposure. How do we take all of these photos with the song and make it something fun? Cam came up with the idea of the comic strip style approach and throw all the photos together and see what happens. We approached a good friend of ours, who also happens to be a kick ass drummer in his own right, Chris Reeve to come up with something based on our idea. Within a week he had it 80% finished. We made a few little suggestions and basically not long afterward had the finished product. The feedback we have received so far the fans all seem to love it and I’m glad.
Are you working on new material currently for a new album?
We are playing a few new songs on this tour that we decided to roll out and get a real live feel to them. It looks as if the industry is changing and evolving to the point where bands are not always touring to support a new release but are now starting the reverse process. Having the opportunity to play them live gives us the opportunity to mold the songs into shape while taking the fans reactions to them during the show as part of the creative process. When I’m home I have my own small studio where you will often find me creating and writing new music. Not everything gets put out on a Ragdoll record but I have it. We plan to go home and continue promotion for the “Ragdoll Rewound” release and do some more touring. I mean even back home not everyone had the chance to own our first two EP’s so they are also getting the opportunity to pick them up as well. Hopefully by early 2015 put together another tour package for here in the states and play some different places as well.