Heather Johansson: How would you describe your sound?
Peat Rains: I would describe us as experimental post-rock. It has elements of classical music, as well as metal, prog and funk. I guess it also depends on who you’re talking to. I’ll have to make a snap judgment sometimes when we get asked that. If they’re wearing a Rush shirt I’m more inclined to delve into specifics, but if I’m in line at Duane Reade buying an iced tea and the cashier sees my gear and asks if I’m a “rock and roller” then I’ll say just say yes. I’ll spare her the gory details that lead to this nerdy niche band. Or maybe I’m wrong and Duane Reade has a sick underground music scene that I don’t know about?
Can you tell us how your band was formed? Are you all from New York City originally?
The band was formed as an extension of my solo bass work. I was writing and performing a lot, but I wasn’t growing as a musician. You need some trusted comrades around you to tell you if those songs are sounding the same or if that stage direction for live shows is “douchey” or not. I wanted to start a band with no guitar and no vocals. So when I was offered an art show to perform at, instead of treating it like any other show, I challenged myself and told them I would have a band there. We had 12 days or something like that to throw a set together. It was just myself and a drummer at that point. I brought the stage masks in from my solo shows. My drummer brought the actual ability to read music and make the music accessible. I was also still fairly new to the city. So he also brought out a huge foundation of friends. It made it feel like a legit show. All 6 songs and very obvious jamming to fill time. Then we auditioned for the Music Under New York program and were accepted in 2010.
As far as origins, I’m originally from Kentucky and Pennsylvania. Our current drummer KC is from outside of Boston.
You perform in the subway while people are passing by and commuting through underground tunnels on high-speed trains. Can tell you tell us more about that?
Well, I should clarify that we don’t play in the actual train cars or on platforms. Usually, images of mariachi bands with bitchin’ boots or acrobatic breakdancers come to mind when we tell people what we do. We play on the mezzanines inside entrances to subway hubs. We don’t wanna trap anyone on their way from Point A to Point Q. The subway is an ever evolving tube of emotions and energies. I don’t mean to sound so hippie-dippie about it. Good or bad, it’s just more honest down there. If someone doesn’t dig your stuff, they don’t have to listen. You get immediate feedback if a song is good or not. You learn to be a better performer and humanitarian. You see some awful shit down there, but that’s small comparatively to the positive and supportive atmosphere that can be there. We’re forced to be there like every other real New Yorker. We aren’t Donald-Fucking-Asshole-Trump and can’t afford limos and cabs to traverse this city. We aren’t the Mayor taking his yearly subway photo op down there. We straphang every day. If we can make someone’s day better with a soundtrack, then you can be assured we’ll do just that. It’s better than dealing with a venue, or lazy booker where you have to get a certain amount of people there, fight to get paid, plead with a disgruntled sound guy and maybe sit through terrible bands that drive out the crowds before you play. It’s more work for sure, but it’s our lifeblood as workhorses so it’s a part of us now.
Donning masks have become a signature mystique for your band, what made you decide to do that?
This is like that genre question. I’ll assume you’re wearing a Rush shirt whilst asking and give you the in-depth answer that we rarely dole out. There’s a few reasons. First is a theatrical aspect. Being instrumental can leave people wanting a narrative and the masks help that. It also snags someone’s visual attention when you have less than a second to interrupt their commute. The really pretentious answer that I don’t really admit to out of fear of blindness-inducing eye-rolling and asthma-producing sighing is that I feel like we are conduits for these songs. You still with me? Don’t take a toaster bath… Hear me out. They mean something deep and immense to me as the songwriter, but they can mean ANYTHING to you, the audience. The masks represent that to me. I’m a vessel for them and they aren’t mine anymore. A song that was written out of turmoil for me can represent hope to someone else. The expressionless masks faces are unbiased in your interpretation.
So, what made you decide to skip the addition of vocals?
Because of the inherent tendency for lyrics to pigeonhole a song into one meaning, it never appealed to me. At least not for what we are trying to do. Trust me, I know we’re shooting ourselves in the butt-hole here by not having vocals. It’s not an easy sell to labels or A&R people. And sometimes people just want a vapid, good and ultimately meaningless chorus to sing along to. That’s why the Black Eyed Peas exist. Our songs have narrative hooks that get stuck in your head too. I just cringe at the thought of someone whining about their breakup over our music. If it were to happen, I think it would be more like Battles or Sigur Ros’s music where the voice is an instrument as well and indecipherable to the audience. I’m not opposed to it, but the thought of adding another member and all their scheduling bullshit makes me want to commit seppuku.
Troma Films are prominent in the underground B-movie genre and you were asked to score an upcoming feature film. How did you get hooked up with Troma?
Well, this is one of the few instances of pure and serendipitously benign circumstances came together. This was 6 years ago when we first started out as a band. We had just added our first cellist. We had just finished a subway gig and got a call from a friend that had to drop off a bill later that night. The show was in Queens so we took it. It was no pay but we were told it would be a lot of people because it was for TROMA. I was the only one in the band that was nerdy enough to know who they were so I was extra stoked. Our cellist couldn’t even make the short notice gig and there were about 7 people in the audience. But I spent most of the night geeking out on bad movies with some of the TROMA people. I felt like I had prepared my entire adolescent and young adult life for this one informal interview. They were impressed with my knowledge of awful cinema that they invited me to tour their facilities. They even let me in their ‘vault’ which contains all the movies sent to them that are TOO AWFUL for them to even distribute. They told me to take a few and I felt like a kid on a Nickelodeon Toy Run. So they asked us if we’d be interested in scoring an upcoming film and maybe getting a death cameo. Fuck yeah, we would.
How would you describe the process that goes into creating this type of score?
Creating scores are different for each project. Depending on budget and director/writer/producer vision, you’re sorta at the whim of someone else and their incoherent ideas about how the composition should sound. We’ve done independent films where we have the entire rough cut of the film. We watch it and decide where WE think there should be music and then compare it with the producers who have their own idea and find a middle ground. We write themes that will repeat and call-back throughout the film. Sometimes we only have a trailer to watch or dailies when they are approved. Right now we are scoring an audio-book, which leads us to have a lot of different interpretations since that’s the nature of a book. It’s a horror novel so it’s right up our alley. I’m excited for people to hear it and to read the book. Maybe we can score the next “50 Shades of Grey” book and I can make orgasm and crying sounds.
What’s next for your band?
We are currently booking two tours while prepping for our 26 city album tour coming up in May. It’s a new phase for us as a band and after 7 years of a grinding and almost 1,000 shows, we are finally gaining traction. We’re going to smash this fucking ceiling above us that we keep hitting. We’re going to start sleeping with the right people so we can finally get ahead in this crazy business.
Here is the latest song released by: You Bred Raptors? entitled “Hyperbole”