It’s been a busy year for the Sheffield based 4 piece band The Ratells. They’ve been recording, they released a single, Twitcammed (somewhat shamefully unsuccessfully), sent three million hundred tweets, drank a small ocean of rum and to top that off they’re preparing to pack up their instruments (and leather jackets) to embark on their first headline tour.
The week ahead will see the boys (comprising of Ash, Ben, Danny and Sam) living life on the round again. The tour begins in Leeds and then continues on to a show in a different city every day for a week (concluding in Glasgow on the 27th) to audiences including some of their 7500+ strong Twitter following.
I was lucky enough for the boys to take some time out of their busy schedule of drawing up plans for world domination at The Ratells HQ to answer a few questions…
GGS: For those who don’t know you, who are The Ratells?
TR: We’re four guys who have played in bands for around five years now, but only really spent the last 18 months together as we are today. We love drinking rum & playing as many gigs, in as many places (be it a venue, in a train station or on a tram) as we possibly can.
GGS: As musicians, who has influenced you as musicians over the years and who’s influencing you right now?
TR: I think when bands answer this question directly with other bands it becomes particularly easy to pigeonhole yourself; it’s also not strictly true to say you’re influenced by band X or artist Y. I guess the most honest answer would be that we are influenced by our pasts, our upbringings and, perhaps most of all, by each other and our complex relationships with each other. Not simply some other band we’re trying to sound like or emulate.
GGS: Whats your song writing process, do you dedicate specific sessions to sitting down to write or are you forever writing and making notes?
TR: It tends to be more of the latter. Y’know, lyrics come to you at the strangest times, but most often when you’re alone and usually late at night. Musical ideas can be the same. We have a massive board in our room full of ideas and bits of songs, many of which never get past the four walls they are created within, which I guess is a shame, but it does mean we set the standards as high as we possibly can; it means whatever we release, we’ re proud of it. We’re ridiculously hard on ourselves, but I think that’s a good thing.
GGS: Of the songs on your EP’s, which are you most proud of?
TR: That linked together nicely, didn’t it? I think it would be hard for us to not say F∆CES. We could have never expected the reaction we’ve had to that song; it’s unbelievable. I think for any musicians though you’re always going to favour your most recently written material. Although, I think Legacy still has a special place in our hearts, it’s a song that still gives us ‘that feeling’ whenever we play it, perhaps that’s partly due to the subject matter, too. We’ve been back in the studio recently though and we’re excited for our next release towards the end of this year.
GGS: The amount of time and effort you put into your social media presence is admirable. With some of the biggest acts of our generation coming up in the ranks via the likes of Myspace and Youtube, are you concious of the time you dedicate to growing your online fanbase?
TR: I was saying to so many people on this last tour, and I think it’s so true; the music can sometimes be secondary when you’re out touring, because you’re presented with this fantastic opportunity that you wouldn’t normally have, to visit cities and meet people you never usually would and that often comes first because it’s not an everyday opportunity. Online though it’s ended up been pretty much the same, you get the chance to chat with so many people and they’re all so lovely it’s unbelievable for us that there is that much interest surrounding our little band. It’s important to us that we don’t lose that personal touch we currently have, it has begun to define us as a band and that’s really cool. It’s really tough at the minute though; we’re in a transitional phase where we are all beginning to do this full time, and, as many people know, we have no outside support; it is us four doing everything ourselves and therefore there becomes a point where we consciously have to remember we’re a band and can’t spend all our time at a desk. Fortunately, we can type fast.
GGS: After a whirlwind July tour with Room 94, you’re setting off on your headline tour this month – how important is touring to you?
TR: Oh, massively so. We’ve really consciously tried to put a lot of effort into getting up and down the country this year and we figured out the other day that we will have done a gig, on average, every 6 days, and covered around something crazy like seven or eight thousand miles, by the end of this year. Don’t get me wrong; there are times when it’s tough and can be disheartening, all bands have played those gigs where they’ve driven for what seems like forever and ended up playing to just the bar staff and, if they’re lucky, one or two unassuming passersby who might be finishing a drink. We played a show in London at the start of the year to just the sound man and I don’t even believe he was there for half the set. It’s those sort of gigs though where we’ve cut our teeth, improved as an entity, become more like brothers and less like friends and honed our live performance (learnt the ropes, if you will). It makes you appreciate the growth we’ve achieved, though, and it’s once you understand how hard we’ve worked to make sure we don’t play to empty rooms any more that you start to realise why we think it’s important to connect with everyone on an individual level, be it through Twitter, an email, or outside after a show, it matters to us. This year has been fantastic and hopefully we’ll top this year’s record, next year; we’re really keen to get over to a few other European countries and get exploring.
GGS: You said on Twitter that you’re going to be back in the studio soon (excited face) can we expect a similiar sound to that of the last couple of EPs?
TR: Yeah, it was refreshing to get back in the studio after not writing or recording for so long. We’re already planning next year sessions and getting excited and we haven’t even finished the most recent recordings yet. As for the sound, I think it’s important to appreciate we’re still a seriously ‘young’ band. I mean, we’ve only spent the last 18 months like this and we’ve had very limited amounts of time to spend writing. What I mean by that is I think our sound still has a lot of room left for growth, whether that leads to massive change in this next release remains to be seen, but I don’t think it will be too large a departure from our most recent release, not just yet anyway.
GGS: Besides getting back in the studio, what’s next for The Ratells? Whats the dream?
TR: We’ve got this tour starting at the end of this week which we’re literally itching to start, it feels like it’s been so long since we last played a full gig so we’re excited. We’re also amazed by the reaction we’ve had and the ticket sales, this is just our little band yet people want to see us in cities as far away as Glasgow or Brighton, what’s that about? It’s awesome and we must say to each other every day how it still surprises us. God knows if that feeling ever subsides, hopefully it won’t. After that, we’ve got our next release planned, some very very special christmas events (some of these are that ridiculous and out there that I can’t believe we’ve all agreed to them, at the same time, I can’t wait), and two final end of year gigs to celebrate what has become an unbelievable year for our little band.