The Rakers are a musically combustible bunch. It's true! Part of the excitement and the pleasure of listening to their peerless albums, like 2019s Number Five, is their often beautifully exhausting brand of guitar edginess that their records exude each time you put them on. Every listen is like watching No Country For Old Men for the umpteenth time and hoping for a happier ending for your character. There is jeopardy. Beyond kitchen-swamp lyricism that would give Sierra Ferrell a run for her money, beyond the guitar voices that would chime in a gods ear and make them reconsider... And beyond the drums that sound like drums because someone kept the noise gate off the snare. There, where Every primrose path leads to an aftermath in the Endless Blue, there is some hope and there is some redemption. It's not absolute, it's not total, but you know and I know they'll pull through.
The Rakers, featuring Leon LeJeune, Anna Byars, Lance Porter, Alex V. Cook and Lewis Roussel, are readying an LP for the fall, meanwhile their new single, Endless Blue, is a gorgeous understated swing time delight that has me wondering just how they pulled that together in the lockdown, just how they pulled that together at anytime. I am mesmerised. Alex has said that the enforced hiatus gave him time with his very evident pedal steel guitar and Michael Nesmith country reords. And also, his watercolors for the songs' pitch perfect video. Lance Porter, guitarist and singer, talked to us about how it all came together.
OUTSIDELEFT: Endless Blue is beautiful and very controlled. Like, if a song is the contents of a box this one is escaping together and nothing is being left behind. It’s sort of dazzling and seamless without being entirely beholden to the rules. Was that interwoven looseness, I mean, how did you do that in a lockdown. How did it begin and how did you know it was the end?
LANCE PORTER: Thanks! I like that analogy. We first recorded a demo of that song on some janky software that folks were using at the beginning of the pandemic that allowed each band member to record a video part on a phone, so the audio wasn’t great with the headphone microphone. I had to really push the tone of my guitar to get it to show up, so that influenced the sound we ultimately used on the eventual recording. We put that one together over just a few days as we were all stuck at home. We did a few songs that way, but this one really stood out. Eventually, we went into our practice space and recorded it in pieces as we socially distanced there. So the looseness you hear is probably us figuring out how to play in this new way.
OUTSIDELEFT: I love the waltz time but I love how it is understated, as are the gorgeous sounding lead guitars.
LANCE PORTER: Thanks. Leon usually handles the clean parts, and I dirty things up when I can.
OUTSIDELEFT: When will The Rakers new full length come out? What is it called? What impact has the last year had on your music personally, your creativity, and your ability to work together as a band?
LANCE PORTER: We are planning the release the record in the fall, and it’s called The Morality of Heart Transplants, which comes from a line in one of our songs that our bassist Lewis Roussel wrote for this record. This is our first record with one of his songs, and we all loved that line. In terms of the last year, I’ve struggled mightily to hold my head up during the pandemic. I lost two close friends during this time, so writing and recording has provided some solace for me during a difficult year. Alex and I decided we wanted to experiment on this record. The Clash’s Sandanista turned 41 during the lockdown, and we both loved the messy experimentation on that record, so we were inspired to do something similar.
Weirdly enough, I think this time apart has actually brought the band closer. We’ve all had to work on our parts on our own, which is completely different from hashing things out live in the practice space, our usual method. In the past, we’ve rehearsed the hell out of our songs before going into the studio and working with an engineer on paid time. This time we recorded ourselves, learning the software along the way and then put them together. We really had to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones to make this record.
OUTSIDELEFT: I think, while here in the UK we've been totally locked down in terms of live music for a year, I've been to one socially distanced outdoor show. Luckily, I had a mask - to keep my face warm as much as anything.
Your live show on May 22nd is a return of sorts but events seem to have been happening the entire time? How will it feel to be back onstage with the band?
LANCE PORTER: I can’t tell you how excited I am to get on the stage with my band in New Orleans at one of the coolest venues in town. We played an outdoor and socially distanced show back in June, and that was super fun, but that’s been almost a year ago now. We are going to be hyped up, and it should be a fun show.
OUTSIDELEFT: Alex sent a Rakers image over, maybe from a barbershop? Lance, which Raker are you?
LANCE PORTER: I’m the guy in the middle sitting down.
The Rakers (l-r) Leon LeJeune, Anna Byars, Lance Porter, Alex V. Cook, Lewis Roussel