Rackets like doing things a bit differently, and have done since the band’s inception in 2009. There was the release of two debut albums on the same day back in 2010, backed up with a 42-date national tour alongside Alizarin Lizard. Since then there have been two more EPs, and another album in 2011. Mid-2015 found the Auckland three-piece back on the hustings with their fourth album, again produced by Bob Frisbee and again a whirlwind of upbeat, tongue-in-cheek indie rock. Eddie Dawn-McCurdy caught up with Rackets’ guitarist Jeremy Potts to ask him about ‘Walking The Skeleton’.
Launching their fourth album in July, Rackets played an impressive 21 shows in a single week. That’s an incredibly demanding schedule for any band, but especially so for one as up-tempo and energetic as Rackets. ‘Walking The Skeleton’ has enjoyed good responses (debuting at #16 of the NZ Top 40, and #7 in the Top 20 NZ Albums), but guitarist Jeremy Potts acknowledges that, without major label support, getting people’s attention is a struggle.
“I honestly think this album could be huge, it’s just a matter of getting people to listen to it. We’ve always had this problem where it’s like we’re banging our head against a brick wall,” he says. “I mean, of course we’d say this, but we think the tunes are really good. We’ve just never had the industry dudes to back us up.
“That’s why we have to do publicity stunts like the 21 shows, because we don’t really have anyone there for us going, ‘Alright, here’s $31,000 to promote your album’ – we gotta make a splash the only way we know how. We don’t have that corporate engine behind us, so we have to make our own publicity. We really really want this to work out, basically. We’ve always been really ambitious.”
Rackets (Potts plus Oscar Davies-Kay and Vince Nairn) have been together for six years and by now the way they work is instinctively sympathetic.
“The groove’s right there and no matter what we do it almost always sounds heavy, just ’cause of the groove factor. We pick up each others’ ideas really quickly – it’s almost like telepathy or something. We don’t sit down and go, ‘Alright, we’ll do eight bars of this, six bars of this,’ it just happens. It’s super organic, and that’s just ’cause we’ve been doing it for so long”.
The first time the band jammed, he says, they wrote about six songs.
“Straight off the bat there was definitely something there. Every time we jam we write more and more songs – we can’t stop doing it, they just sort of spill out of us. It’s cool. I think it’s really unique, actually. I’ll hear other bands and it’s like they’ll have one song that they just go super hard on, and then they’ll practice their set… and we sometimes bum ourselves out like, ‘Let’s just chill out and focus on a song and get it perfect,’ as opposed to, ‘Oh shit, well there we go, we’ve written three more songs.…’
“It can kind’a feel like a waste of time but that’s just our process, I guess. But I was reading an interview with John Legend, I think he writes about 200 songs per album –– so we’re kind of on the John Legend buzz, I guess. We’ve got that feedback quite a bit. People go, ‘Oh you guys sound like John Legend’. And I go, ‘Thanks mate, I am a bit of a legend, eh?’ because I mishear them.”
While Rackets’ music might have that same sense of casual fun and spontaneity, the band works hard at it.
“Oh yeah, definitely. We don’t take ourselves seriously but we definitely take our music very seriously. There’s no ‘joke’ songs, we’re not Weird Al Yankovic or something. But we can definitely laugh at ourselves, which I think is alright.”
As the photo reveals, Potts has a penchant for getting his kit off in inappropriate situations. Rackets are one of only two bands to get fully nude on bFM’s Freak The Sheep show – what started as a live performance in the studio becoming an unannounced radio strip review.
“We’ve done it a few times. We often used to get nude. We had a song – which was a joke song, actually – which is the closest we’ve got to Weird Al Yankovic, called Fucking Christians, and it was kind of a black metal song. And Oscar used to get completely nude… but after a while I think he got really sick of it. And me and Vinnie would just go, ‘Come on, you gotta do it, man, the crowd wants it’. And he’d go, ‘No, I don’t want to get nude anymore!’ Because, I mean, a really strange thing happens when you’re on stage. If you try to get your penis out – it actually shrinks. If you’ve got a whole crowd of people it does get shy.”
Nude or not, the band plays often, and has done so for years.
“We’re trying to do less of that, actually. But we’ve got a real problem saying no to playing shows. But we love playing live, and that’s definitely where we thrive, I think. So it’s hard to say no, and get out of that mentality of playing shows at PR Bar on a Tuesday night too, like, two dying alcoholics.”
Despite all the live performance activity they seem to find plenty of time to write new material, Potts claiming they’ve already demoed 60-odd songs for a next album –– to the point that they need to stop writing more.
“We’ve always had this problem where every time we jam we’ll write something new. I’m not saying it’s always good, but there’s always something new. So now we’re sort of doing eliminations. Just honing them down and getting our 10 best, 12 best, and then going in. I think we want to approach it quite differently. We want… maybe more of a representation of how we play live, more of the heaviness and the ruckusness.”
“I’d probably be a musician in a worse band,” Potts laughs in answering the question of what he might be doing if Rackets had never met up.
“I mean, I’ve got a WINZ meeting after this. I’m not gonna become a telemarketer… it’s definitely every egg in one basket with me. This kind of just has to work out, because if it doesn’t I’m gonna go live at my mum’s house, basically. And I’ll still be making music, I’ll just be even more of a loser than I am now.
“Personally, for me, I won’t ever do anything else, I think. I’ve had… I’ve tried to have jobs before, and it only really lasts about a month before I go, ‘Aww, this is just awful.’ It’s so depressing, I don’t know how anyone does it. So yeah, buy the album ’cause if this doesn’t work out for me I’ll have to move to Dargaville and make candles for a living.”