Music Interviews

Interview: The Rakes

The post-Libertines fallout has seen a large number of new London based punk rock bands emerge on to the scene.

One of these are The Rakes, who have been creating quite a buzz of late with their charged up, often electrifying tales of everyday life in the capital.

After a handful of rabble rousing singles, they’re set to release their debut album in August on V2 and are currently on a European tour to promote it.
We’re sitting in a busy caf at the ICA in London, which is currently hosting a Moshi Moshi records night where The Rakes are sharing the stage with fellow Londoners Clor and Battle, as well as Aussie electro rockers Cut Copy. After fetching a beer from the dressing room, front man Alan Donohue sat down to face the musicOMH inquisition.

Firstly I asked him to give us a brief history of the band. “Yeah, okay…The Rakes, The Rakes,” he ponders, looking slightly lost.

“Myself and the drummer had never been in a band before, but Jamie the bass player and Matthew the guitarist had been in bands before, so it’s relatively fresh for some of us, jading for others…I’ve been mates with Jamie for quite a few years, he was working in a clothes shop in London, and that’s where we met Matthew and Lasse, they used to work there as well. And that was maybe two and a half years ago…time creeps on, maybe in total three years, you never know!”

He continues, going on to talk about how and why they actually formed, insisting it was all in the name of good fun.

“I think the other guys tried jamming together – Jamie had always played bass, and Matthew had played guitar, and Lasse thought he could play drums. I was mates with Jamie; I’d been away in Australia. I came back, and they wanted someone who didn’t mind being a bit of a dickhead on stage, so I gave it a go! It wasn’t like a time to express your demons, or anything like that sort of rubbish!”

“That song was written as celebrating if you had that much money!”
– Alan’s still hoping to land that elusive 22 grand job…

I went on to ask about the band’s creative process, and how exactly their songs come together. Alan explains the whole thing is quite a spontaneous affair.

“We sort of write songs collaboratively, so it varies a lot. Jamie’s quite into stuff like dance and hip hop rhythms. Myself, sometimes songs might come just like that, just working on the rhythm. Other times I’ve written loads of lyrics, and I’ve got a melody that I want to go up a bit, like a Dexys Midnight Runners sort of chorus, or verse into chorus – just vague ideas like that.”

Their material has drawn a lot of attention for being insightful tales of day to day life in England – 9-5 culture, Wetherspoon’s pubs, clubbing, violent brawls and one night stands are all subjects that get tackled.

“I think it really varies, I don’t think we’ve got any rules like that,” he muses. “Some of our songs are about everyday sort of stuff, but that’s through no conscious effort, it’s just something that you naturally write about. Again, there are no real rules, so other times we write stuff with made up fictitious characters, almost like a bit of a film or a story, a narrative.”

They’ve got a song called 22 Grand Job, which was also their first ever release – does this speak of a personal experience?

“No…no,” he chuckles. “Our guitarist used to have a 22 grand job, but I wrote that song about a job I almost got, a 22 grand job. That would have been the most I’d ever earned. I’ve never ever earned anything near there, I’m always, always broke, it’s really annoying – I hate being poor. That song was written as celebrating if you had that much money!”

Most of these songs can be found on the band’s long awaited debut album, Capture/Release, which is out on the 15th August. Was their any specific thinking or reasoning behind the title?

“People bought us presents like chopsticks, and met us outside the hotel – it was very surreal. So I felt really famous!”
– Alan on the band’s warm reception from their Japanese fans.

“Originally it was going to be called Captured and Released, because I think the album’s quite eclectic and so it’s hard to put a title that captures every theme on the album, because not everything’s just about day to day stuff like Retreat or 22 Grand Job, or relatively political statements like Strasbourg, or philosophical stuff like We Are All Animals. So it’s really broad, and we realised that no title would ever do it justice and include everything – so we captured and released…” he declares, hardly pausing for breath.

He continues: “But this sounded a bit too cheesy, a bit souly! So we cut it down a bit to make it sound a bit sharper…and just the idea of recording an album and releasing it out like a germ!”

And not content with creating hype just in this country, Alan tells me that the reception overseas to date has been remarkably positive.

“France has been amazing, really good. We did a festival in France a couple of months ago, and it went down really well, they just seemed to like us. I think maybe word has spread a little bit that we’re alright live! We supported Bloc Party through France, and Bloc Party are very big in France – and our music isn’t that dissimilar.”

On their recent trip to Japan: “Again we were supporting Bloc Party – in Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo. A lot of people liked our stuff, people bought us presents like chopsticks, and met us outside the hotel – it was very surreal. So I felt really famous! A lot of our music is perhaps a bit England specific – we sing about Wetherspoon’s pubs and Old Street, stuff like that. So the Japanese obviously don’t understand any of the lyrics, but they still like the music, so that’s good!”

With that comment, the interview draws to a close – Alan will shortly join his band mates and take to the stage here at a packed ICA to begin yet another one of their energetic, adrenaline fuelled performances – which before too long, should go some way to ensure that it’s not only in the Far East where they get treated like superstars.

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More on The Rakes
The Rakes – Klang
The Rakes – Ten New Messages
The Rakes – Capture/Release
The Rakes + Battle @ Mean Fiddler, London
Interview: The Rakes