Sunday, 31 March 2013

It's My Kind of Interview - The Raffaellas

If there's an emerging Australian band you should be keeping your eyes and ears on, it's this Melbourne four-piece. The Raffaellas certainly won us over with their new track 'Words' and what will come next has left us deeply curious. We virtually sat down for a chat with the lads about their year ahead, the zombie apocalypse and more. Enjoy!

Interview by Matt Bond

Here's an ice-breaker of sorts... The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?

TR: Sometimes you wish The Beatles had a little more edge, that’s for sure. They’re like a beach ball. But at the end of the day, they really changed the game – for us it’s all in the ‘lesser-knowns’ and B-Sides: ‘She’s a Woman’, ‘Rocky Raccoon’, ‘Dig a Pony’, and everything they did by Little Richard. (We do cover Stones’ ‘Heart of Stone’ though…its killer).

Here's another ice-breaker of sorts... Who exactly are The Raffaellas? Introduce yourselves as if nobody in this (imaginary) room knows who you are, or what you bring to the table with your music.

TR: Well there are four of us – two guitars, bass and drums. Doug Ross is to lead guitar what Brian May was…to lead guitar…though Doug, a mid-to-well seasoned classical guitarist, knows the instrument backways and brings a certain classical finesse that really has no place in the band at all but we have all come to tolerate and maybe, one day, will grow to love. Michael Ratten is similarly technically gifted on the kit, with a jazz-drummer flare for emphases and ghost notes (which he swears are there but no one else can hear), though his comically burdensome height means that by the time stick hits skin, there’s sufficient force to really test out some of the better live sound systems in Melbourne. Best thing about James’ bass playing (that’s James Raimondo for those playing at home) is that he’s not a bass player. He plays keys…which we don’t have… it’s confused, but his musical genesis is in writing songs and melodies which makes for really melodic bass lines- it’s a plus. Plus, he does know his way around a ‘fret’. Pat Santamaria backs the whole operation up on rhythm guitar and puts his best foot forward behind the mic. Though, generally speaking, it is singing, he has been told he croons a lot and other times just does a lot of yelling in tune (put that down to his love of Little Richard). Match that up with James’ mid-tenor pipes and Doug’s groin-shattering, freight train of a bass voice (at least 3 octaves below Barry White) and you’ve got yourself a harmony, which we like doing too.

We've really enjoyed your new song 'Words.' When can we expect to hear a debut album from you and what's your upcoming touring schedule?

TR: We actually are sorting out launch dates for ‘Words’ as we speak, we will start with Melbourne (our home) and Sydney and see if we can get ourselves further north on the back of those shows. Brissy would be nice.

When we recorded ‘Words’ with producer Lindsay Gravina (who’s a soft genius) we tracked another single at the same time to be the preludes to a release at the end of the year. We immediately took a shine to ‘Words’ and how it came off in the recording but we spent about one eighth as much time on it as we did the other single, coming out in a month or two. So it’ll be interesting to see if they are received differently and all…We think an album is something we might look at early next year, it’ll depend on how the year goes for us. However - we have been known to lock ourselves in a studio for days at a time and track songs live take-after-take (the way it used to be) so there may be a live LP or something in the mix before we really get working on a debut album.

I see you've mentioned before that you all used to be part of a big band performing Ray Charles and Paul Simon covers, before breaking free. Did that give you your appreciation of older music? What's the most embarrassing song you had to perform? Was it  'You Can Call Me Al'? Please say it was 'You Can Call Me Al'?

TR: Yeah we are all over the older music anyway, Pat sometimes says the simple 12-bar-blues (think ‘Hound Dog’ or ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’) is the highpoint of pop music, and everything else has been fun but probably not as good. Worst part is ‘You Can Call Me Al’ is by no means the most embarrassing we played (and we did play it), there may even be the slightest possibility that maybe, on some off chance, that we maybe, might have played ‘Waterloo’ by Abba…but who really remembers.

Who's the most exciting act in Australian music right now, other than yourselves of course, and why?

TR: Well Peter Combe is back on the campaign trail which we find encouraging, but we are big fans of City Calm Down – who do the electro thing live (and well), which is no mean feat – we love Cloud Control – they are onto an awesome sound – a band called Kins, Chet Faker is phat, we’ve loved The Vasco Era for ages, and a great country group called Luke Legs and the Midnight Specials. They all bring home the honey.

Guess what? The zombie apocalypse has begun! The world is considerably f'd right now, but you're about to be evacuated to a safe zone. Most of civilization has been destroyed and where you're going there'll be no records of the world that was. iPod's and all that fancy stuff don't work in the new world - I don't know why, but they just don't, so stop questioning it. Anyway, you've been placed in charge of securing music's legacy for future generations. Arriving at a desolate JB Hi-Fi, you've got about enough time to run around and pick ten albums. What are the ten albums you feel the world will need to hear in this post-apocalyptic world and why? Yes... iPods aren't around, but CD's can still be played somehow. Logic isn't my strong point, but just go with it...

TR: Shit… in no particular order.

1. CCR – Cosmo’s Factory – just so hard to find a band like them – something really swampy that you don’t get anywhere else (and a lot of 12 bar blues, see ‘Travelin’ Band’)

2. Bob Dylan – Freewhelin – probably one of the best Bob’s on the basis of ‘Girl from the North Country’ alone

3. The Beatles – Live at the BBC – its live, its comprehensive and also full of covers, you get a great idea of what they were listening to (and too hard to pick a studio album- except it would probably be ‘Please Please Me’ – the whole thing was recorded live in about 8 hours and its worth listening to ‘Twist and Shout’ with this in mind – it was the last track and Lennon’s vocals are barely holding on…gold.

4. The Sonics – Psycho-Sonic – so good.

5. Jeff Buckley – Grace – probably cliché? But cliché for a reason, some seriously affecting song-writing throughout the whole album, but you also get a bit of the 90’s grunge feel and you also get his voice

6. Johnny Cash – Live at Folsom – best way to listen to the guy: feat. a whole bunch of fairly rowdy inmates.

7. Stones – Exile on Main St … or Forty Licks or something… just to be able to explain the Beatles/Stones quandary

8. Little Richard – any best of – the guy’s a maniac: his voice manages to turn what is essentially one song into about 30

9. Sam Cooke – Portrait of a Legend – to cover soul post-apocalypse. He’s miles better than Otis not as good as Aretha but this record has everything

10. Something Australian: maybe The Triffids, early early Powderfinger… how about The Seekers?

That question was probably annoying, so here's something a little easier (maybe); what's the worst song that's out right now?

TR: That really young fat kid that sings the R’n’B songs with the autotune, or anything by ‘Glee’ if ‘Glee’ is a person…its more just nausea, tuned to absolute perfection. We at The Raffaellas guarantee substantially less-than-good pitch every time or your money back.


Where do you see yourselves in five years time?

TR: Doing this probably – we imagine the context will change, and are hopeful that more people will be interested in what we are doing but, at the same time, we can’t see that what we do will change all that substantially. We actually really hang out for shows and get all cabin-fever/kooked-up when we don’t play for a while (maybe just because our rehearsal studio aint so large) so, if all else fails, we’ll be playing shows. Hope to see you at one soon.

Thanks to The Raffaellas! We're looking forward to hearing a whole lot more from them - hopefully soon. Keep your eyes on their Facebook page for when they post 2013 tour dates.

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