Interview The Rakes

In between Alan telling us about his sisters’ floor-laying plans (or ‘real DIY’ as he put it) and declaring his love for members of Bloc Party, we got them to answer some questions.

The Rakes

are due to release new album ‘Ten New Messages’ on 19th March, with lead single ‘We Danced Together’ out a week earlier. DIY caught up with them at the rather plush offices of record label V2 (this may be in comparison to our ‘BBC Broom Cupboard’ style lodgings). In between Alan telling us about his sisters’ floor-laying plans (or ‘real DIY’ as he put it) and declaring his love for members of Bloc Party, we got them to answer some questions.

Why ‘Ten New Messages’?
Matthew: Ten songs!
Alan: We were thinking of using a lyric from one of the songs as the title, and the opening lyric from the first song is ‘I’ve got ten new messages on my phone’. We also unconsciously kept referring to mobile phones throughout the album - on the first song, the middle song, and the final song. So it all fitted in pretty well.
Lasse: When we named the first album, the first title we had was ‘Captured And Released’, and we were like ‘we can’t use that’, because it sounds like a cheesy film title. There’d been a film that was called something like that, or similar so that’s why there’s a slash in there.
M: We wanted to call it ‘Mission Impossible 2’, but we didn’t think we’d get away with it.

Given that ‘Capture/Release’ was such a ‘grower’, did you feel this meant there wasn’t the pressure to come up with an ‘instant’ album this time around?
A: I don’t know how much we really think about the commercial stuff, our job is to make the songs. [Sarcastically] So we write the songs, and the evil record company man comes down and says ‘no, no no. It has to be slow, that one’s far too catchy, you’re singing about something a bit obscure, and have Track Three needs to be singing about something intimate, to get the girls going. Track Four can be about you going down the pub and then going to work, is that OK?’ So yeah, Evil Record Company Man’s had a big hand in that. No, our job’s just to write the songs, and we’ve never really felt the pressure that much. It’s hard to say, we’ve only really been in this band. This record company are really supportive of people doing their own thing, it’s a large independent so it’s not an evil, monolithic machine that churns out pop acts.
M: It’s only a medium sized evil machine!
L: It’s not like we’ve got a million pound record deal, there aren’t bill posters everywhere, so we’ve not got that expectation on us to sell half a million records.

What’s your favourite song on the record?
L: To jog to, to listen when in a club?
DIY: Actually, what happens to when you’re in a club and one of your songs comes on?
A: I think we run to the toilet!
M: It’s happened when I’ve been in a shop once. I was in Virgin Megastore, looking for a Christmas present, and ‘22 Grand Job’ came on. Instantly, I [mimes playing guitar]. I was walking around, all the time, and noone even noticed!
A: That’s funny ‘cause I’d be like this [points at himself with both hands], wearing a Rakes t-shirt, with a big sign like they have for golf sales! It’s funny, ‘cause I’ve got my sister’s birthday do tomorrow, and she asked ‘do you mind if I bring The Rakes’ album?, and the DJ will play one or two of the songs’. I went ‘well, it’s your birthday and everything, but please don’t. It’s not like we revel in people coming up to us. It’s a bit weird.
L: In Japan, though, it’s a bit different. For some reason it’s quite funny, when people come up to you for a picture. But yeah, it does get a bit weird.
A: We certainly don’t dance to it, we generally just go to the bar or the toilets. And wait for The View to come on again…

Do you expect to get in trouble with the Scientologists? (one of the tracks on ‘Ten New Messages’ is called ‘When Tom Cruise Cries’)
A: It’s not really anti- though, is it?
M: It just uses his name as a reference.
A: We did check with our publishers, Warner Chappell, whether we could be sued, and they looked through the lyrics and said it was safe. Are Scientologists dangerous? I doubt we’ll get in trouble with them, I’m sure they’re all nice people.

Describe the album in under five words.
L: It is pretty darn good.
[Matthew and Alan proceed to count the words on their fingers.]
A: Can it be five, or does it have to be under five? It’s pretty darn good… album?
M: Just one? Nice.
A: Yeah, on posters it’ll be ‘NME - Album of the year’, ‘Q - Album of the Century’, ‘This Is Fake DIY - Nice’.

You’re about to head out on tour. Brixton Academy - excited or scared?
L: We’ve played there before, but it’s the first time we’re headlining, I think we’re pretty excited.
M: It’s great, I mean, what a place?! We’ve all seen bands there, and yes we’ve already played there, but only in support at an NME show, but to go there and do your own gig… There’s always a bit of nerves before we go on.
A: Whether it’s the Brixton Windmill or the Brixton Academy… It’s very exciting, ‘cause as far as I was concerned, this is still quite good fun, and we started off together in very small venues, but Brixton Academy, that’s where ‘proper’ bands play.
L: But after we’ve played that, we’ll be like ‘Wembley Arena, that’s where the ‘real’ bands play’!
M: It’s a bit of a surreal experience, you’re in a band, doing your day to day things, and suddenly you’re going to play Brixton Academy. It doesn’t really sink in half the time, but objectively, it’s a really big place to play.
L: In two year’s time we’ll be playing at Wembley Stadium.

What does it feel like to be thought of as ‘fashion icons’? Is it something you’ve thought about yourselves before?
M: [Immediately, sarcastically] Since the age of five, I’ve always wanted to be a fashion icon.
A: What, like black Dior drainpipe dungarees?
M: We never set out to be fashion icons.
Jamie: Do we look like fashion icons?
A: We get all our stuff from Topman free. [Subsequently, the four work out none of them are actually wearing any Topman]
A: No, we didn’t ask to be style icons, but we were trying to be sex symbols.
M: And that’s gone down the pan so we’re settling for second best.
L: But you might recognise this face [points at Alan] from, er, Farmer’s Monthly.
A: From Crimewatch.

In this so-called ‘digital age’, you’re one band who are praised for bothering to make great B-sides. Do you think B-sides are a dying art?
M: I think that’s a very flattering thing to say, that we’ve got good B-sides. When we started out, we never had a set programme, in terms of ‘all these songs are going on the album’. At first we wrote all our songs for the album, so when we got the chance to do our first single, we put our really good songs on it, because those were the two that were fully formed at the time. It’s only probably coming on to this second album, or maybe the tail end of the last one that we’re consciously writing B-sides when going in to the studio. We recognise that a good B-side is really an asset for a band, just to show it’s not something you’ve just shoved together in two minutes, that you’ve thought about it a little bit. I think we’ve got a good selection of songs there.
L: Also, we’ve always seen it as a chance to do something a bit different. Something not quite like the album. We were doing a B-side the other day and it sounds like something we’ve never done before.
A: B-sides are a bit of fun really, because there’s no pressure, you can experiment a bit. I don’t know how relevant B-sides will be soon, when you just download tracks from an album - I certainly would never buy a single if I liked one song. If I wanted a Nelly Furtado song I’d just buy ‘Maneater’ from iTunes, and that’s done.

Your remixes are also known for being good - are you fans of someone else putting together your songs in a different way?
A: I like the last two, Jape’s and Sebastian’s remixes of ‘We Danced Together’.
L: It’s sleaze, you know, almost ‘club’ music. I guess ‘cause we’re quite a tight band, it lends itself to that music, because it’s also tight. You can’t really remix something like The Libertines, they can’t even play together!
A: It’s quite interesting, because on Lethal Bizzle’s new album, the producer Statik has got samples from Libertines tracks, and they’re looped. It’s not really ‘remixed’, but it’s got Lethal Bizzle doing stuff on top. It sounds really good. His lyrics leave somewhat to the imagination, though. It’s an interesting style of music.

A lot seems to be made of the fact that you’re ‘intelligent’. Do you think this affects the way in which people approach your music?
M: I don’t think it matters at all. It might matter at some point for our writing, our discussions about songs, but in terms of a person coming to listen to The Rakes, I don’t think it’s a factor they would consider.
A: It’s interesting that a lot of journalists, who are university-educated people, definitely what would probably get called ‘middle class’, big up how ‘authentic’ rock music has to be working class, like Arctic Monkeys or Oasis.
L: I didn’t go to University, but I suppose in ‘We Are All Animals’ there’s a bit of the Biology in there.
A: Well, in ‘22 Grand Job’ there’s ‘did we do the same degree?’, so that sort of gives the game away as well! I suppose it comes across in some interviews that people think we’re ‘intelligent’, but like drinking as well. That’s just a state of permanent studentness! A drunk, smart person. So, The Rakes are just a bunch of overgrown students.

You’ve been compared to a list of bands as long as a piece of string. Which are you most flattered by, and which do you find the most ridiculous?
M: Oh, I know which one’s ridiculous! We were in Amsterdam, this person was certainly ‘worse for wear’, a little bit out of his mind. He was deadly serious ‘I saw Dr. Hook here in ‘76, you guys rocked just like that’. That was quite odd. Flattering, I don’t know.
L: It’s probably the same!

Finally, a lot of bands like to say nasty things about each other. So is there a band you’d like to be nice about?
L: There’s loads of bands we’re nice about! There’s always bands you like, or don’t like, but every time you meet people, they’re really nice, whether you like their music or not.
M: When we went on that big tour with Franz Ferdinand, those guys were a really big band, had a hectic touring schedule, and we were the first band on in the UK, but they were really welcoming, weren’t they? They were really accommodating, made you feel a part of it, not just like ‘oh you’re just the little band starting off’. To our credit, we played really well on that tour, and to big audiences. I think we got a lot of fans from that, so those guys are great. Really down to earth.
A: When we were doing interviews around that tour, people would always ask us what Franz Ferdinand were like. We did this chorus [all count] 1, 2, 3 - ‘really down to earth’. So, we’d never ever say a bad thing about Franz Ferdinand. Pretty much every band we’ve met, Bloc Party, Editors, they’ve all been lovely. I think the singer in The Others is a dickhead.
J: I think it’s just him, and a couple of members of British Sea Power who were pretty grumpy. Apart from that everyone’s been nice.
A: And I want to say, for the record, I’m in love with Matt Tong.

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