Read on for our interview with Luke Rathborne about his most recent album Soft, his upcoming cassette imprint, and being a minimalist.
After The Show: Can you describe the recording process you used to achieve the crisp yet slightly fuzzy guitar sound on “Wanna Be You”?
Well, I use a fender deluxe amplifier. I recently heard Johnny Marr talking about the amp. It breaks up in a beautiful way. Not too fuzzy, just a little bit of what you’re talking about. If it’s good enough for Johnny Marr.. A certified genius..
So you run your True Believer label, with distribution through French Kiss. As an indie label, how important or necessary is that distribution for you?
Right now the future of True Believer is changing. Were taking on a heavier load of records, and putting out artists we love in the next few years from all varieties of genres. I’m also starting a cassette imprint called, ‘ARE YOU PUNK!’ which is releasing different artists doing punk material whom you wouldn’t expect to be doing that kind of material. Basically it’s saying we are all, and we are all not, in fact punk. That’s cool to be doing new things, and the distribution will probably change.
A lot of people get stuck on a certain sound or way of doing things. How did you get the courage to move forward from your quieter solo songs to the louder, faster Rathborne sound?
Well I met this kid who played the drums in a way that gave me a heart attack. It was something I wanted to do, become out of control. I’m really glad things exploded, it was hard at first, for sure. But you should make a sound in this world, whatever is inside you, and put it out there. At that time it was just coming out loud.
“Pantomine Fear” was on After Dark, and you recorded it again in a real studio for the Dog Years EP. What do you like or dislike about each version of the song?
I don’t like the Dog Years EP version of ‘Pantomime Fear’. Think I got that right when I was 16. That being said, I like the horns arrangement I wrote for that. That was fun!
I like the things on After Dark because they inevitably teach me about myself before anyone believed in anything. I was just 16 and operating on what little self belief I could muster, and that’s special to think about in terms of courage.
How disappointed were you when Kenny’s Castaways closed?
It’s funny, I never went inside Kenny’s. I do remember a story from years ago. A friend had gotten in touch with the booker at Kenny’s Castaways and went through the routine booking questions. He promised to get, ‘over a 100 people through the door.’
Cut to the scene of them showing up to an empty bar on the night of the gig, the Kenny’s guy is refusing to let them in, ‘where are all the people!?’ Them: ‘I guess they didn’t show!’ And back and forth. The stand off ended with them looking inside the dead bar and saying, ‘so what? You’d rather just have nothing playing?’ Eventually they convinced the guy to let them play to a few people standing at the bar.
How’d you get into running the venue Live at the Pyramids in Williamsburg? What did you learn from that experience?
I learned never to do that again. What a nightmare! We got out of that business right before everyone went to jail.
In retrospect, which of the following was best for getting the most exposure and reaching a new, receptive audience?
a. Recording a Buzzsession for The Wild Honey Pie
b. Being Vogue’s artist of the week last year
c. Opening for The Strokes at SXSW 2011
d. Being a guest on Boy Crazy Radio
I think everything should add up to something fun you’re proud of. Press is always a great way to communicate, but nothing beats playing in front of living, breathing bodies. That is truly where there is magic.
Do you consider yourself a minimalist?
I have a certain resentment for possessions. When I was living at Live at the Pyramids, I became surrounded by things. I didn’t like that feeling. I think I respond best to removing those elements from my life.
When you’re with someone you love and they start using your phone or watching TV, it’s fine, but sometimes I feel like I’m losing time with them. Too many things crowding around can do that too.