It makes sense that The Rakes’ newest release, Klang, recorded in a Communist radio station in East Berlin, was a precise piece of work that was edited and re-edited until the band felt it was just right. The Rakes make hyper-smart songs brimming with bits from history and daily life and always manage to seek out the extraordinary within the mundane. No wonder they found the atmosphere in that stark German space, far from the madding crowds of London, the perfect backdrop for exacting, creative weeks of work. I sat down with The Rakes’ bassist Jamie and drummer Lasse Petersen during their recent jaunt to the States to welcome them back to New York City and chat with them about their time as a band and of course, their much-anticipated third album.
How did you meet and how was the band formed?
Jamie: I went to college with Alan and Brian, and we all lived together for a while. Separate rooms–
Lasse: Separate pillows.
Jamie: I moved back to London and worked in a clothes shop with Matthew (Swinnerton, guitarist), who was talking about putting a band together. We all fancied Lasse’s sister, who also worked with us. She said, “Can you do me a favor and talk to my brother? He plays drums.” She basically asked us to put him in the band. We all agreed even though we didn’t like him. [laughs] Six years later, he’s still with us and we still don’t really like him. [laughs]
Your new album, Klang, dropped March 23rd on V2. What are some of your biggest musical influences for this album?
Lasse: We wanted to try to capture the energy on record that we get when we play live. We didn’t do that the past two albums, and we wanted to have closure on all that. [For Klang], it was more about the style of recording. Lyrically, it’s massively due to Alan, but some of the songs are about “sex and having a good time.”
Jamie: When you get to your third album, you can go two ways, there’s the big cliché to add glockenspiel and string sections, which is sort of predictable, or do something simple. We thought we would do the opposite this time. We wanted to do something stripped down and raw, just the four of us. We thought this album should be more about atmosphere. I mean, it was just us playing in a communist radio station. We just wanted to concentrate on the song writing, really.
Klang was recorded in Berlin, away from the London scene you’re familiar with. How did it shape this album?
Jamie: Yeah, it was definitely influenced in a positive way, being away from the scene. This album, for us, is slightly less accessible. And recording live like that, some people might think it’s not cool, but it’s what we’re good at, it’s what we like.
Lasse: It’s good to be a bit more raw. You don’t always have to cater to the masses.
What is the band’s creative process? how do the songs come together?
Jamie: It’s a group thing, but Matt and Alan usually come in with some basic ideas for songs… then we all get together as a band to get the songs rolling.
It’s been two years since the release of your sophomore album, Ten New Messages. Besides recording the new record, what else have you been up to?
Jamie: I moved to Brazil for a bit, did some artwork out there. Matthew was getting his Masters in philosophy, Lasse played with some other bands.
Lasse: Yeah, I actually played in the band of the guy that married my sister. [laughs] Did a few other little side projects as well. It’s good to do other things, you go a bit mad after awhile. You know playing with the same stupid three people all the time [laughs].
Both bands I’ve been playing with are so different from The Rakes; American Royalty, which is almost psychedelic, and my brother’s band, Dead Pixels, which is electronic and sort of regimented.
Last year, Hedi Slimane, who designs for Dior, based one of his collections on your killer style and you also penned “The World is a Mess, But His Hair Was Perfect” for the catwalk. Any plans of collaborating with the fashion industry again this year?
Lasse: We did that song almost two years ago. We’re not planning on more fashion collaborating, it was just a one-off thing. We actually tried to get out of it, because we were so busy at the time, but Hedi was nice enough to work with us and get it done. We finally did it, and it was a good track that led us into the second album. It’s funny that people seem to think that we’re a fashion band, but we’re really not.
Jamie: I mean, the free clothes are great but we’re not. We have lots of friends in bigger bands that are always jealous of us because we get all the good clothes [laughs].
Klang clocks in at just under thirty minutes, with songs that push observation of the extraordinary in the ordinary. What’s your favorite song on this record?
Lasse: “Shackelton,” just cause it’s a bit different than we’ve done before. It’s like a ten-minute Television song in two and a half minutes.
Jamie: We’re very careful to edit the songs on this album. If there was a bar of a song that wasn’t doing anything, we took it out. Every second of the song had to have a purpose.
Lasse: Trim the fat..
Jamie: Yeah, trim the fat!
Lasse: We did that to a very great extent on this album. It was a bit different on the second album, Ten New Messages, which was more of a studio record, but this time we wanted to mix it up a bit.
You had a recent show at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom. What’s your favorite thing about playing in New York City?
Jamie: Well somebody told me Bowery Ballroom is quite a respectful venue. Is that right?
Jamie: We’ve played New York three times now and every time we’ve played Bowery Ballroom, so it feels like a second home. When I think of NYC, I think of Bowery Ballroom.
Lasse: Our last gig in NYC was at Knitting Factory. We haven’t played the US in about three years. We just came back from LA a few days ago, and now we’re here, so we just gonna enjoy doing these shows.
–Aishah Roberts, Photos by Scott Irvine (http://scottirvine.net)