CULTURE- Interview: Getting physical: The Rapture want you to move!
Say it slowly: Luke Jenner was part of the first wave of the second wave of New Wave. His sort-of rock band The Rapture furthered the ongoing stylistic frappé that is modern popular music with their 2003 album Echoes, which consisted largely of minimalist synthesizers and drum programming punctuated by aggressive guitar stabs. Other '80s-inspired techno-rockers began trickling out shortly thereafter.
The Rapture released the follow-up Pieces Of The People We Love last fall, having finally decided to face the risk of the dreaded sophomore slump. The bar is set pretty high: Echoes clocked in at #1 on Pitchfork Media's list of the top albums of 2003. While that's just more proof that the critics responsible had completely lost their marbles– remember, that's the year that also birthed Jay-Z's Black Album and Radiohead's latest– it's still worth a look when the band shows up at Starr Hill Tuesday.
The Hook: What prompted you to introduce electronics after having previously existed as a more typical rock band?
Luke Jenner: We had electronics from the beginning. The real shift was when we started to get into dance music, house and techno, or even disco.
The Hook: When did that happen?
Luke Jenner: When we moved to New York. New York is one of only two cities in the U.S. with any sort of dance music scene. There's really only New York and Chicago.
The Hook: What's unique about the dance music scene there?
Luke Jenner: There's actually a history. There isn't as much of a history anywhere else. There are people who know about it. It's kind of like punk rock, [which] never happened anywhere but New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.
The Hook: And you've toured all over the place yourself. Where are people reacting most favorably to what you're doing?
Luke Jenner: It's been a good reaction everywhere. I think one of the nice things about our band is that it's really international. We can go to Brazil and play for the same kind of people as we're playing for in New York. Or, we're going to Singapore. People like our music equally all around the world.
The Hook: How important do you think dancing is to rock music? Why do you think the two diverged in the first place?
Luke Jenner: I think we live in an age where there's so much information that people overly categorize everything because it makes them feel comfortable. In the '50s, rock and roll started out as dance music. I think we got away from that when things got overly classified. These days, there are 47 different categories, even within dance music. Who cares? Is the record good or not? Does it make people dance? The British press is really great at coming up with new genres; it makes people feel like something new is happening, and that's great. But the flip side is it makes people think they don't like something. There's no genre of music for which I don't like at least one record.
The Hook: So is the degree of ass shaking the ultimate measure of success for you guys?
Luke Jenner: In a way. The majority of what we do can be classified as dance music. We all DJ, and I don't want to go see a DJ who doesn't make people dance. We try to transfer that to when we make music. That's a really important part of music– the motion. What I like about dance music is the same thing I like about metal: the same kind of physical aspects.
The Hook: And you're expected to move on stage as the performers, to put on a show. So what happens when there's a synergy of motion between the audience and the performers?
Luke Jenner: Fun happens. I don't know. When we got started, it was the tail end of the Tortoise era, laptop producers. We were really reacting to that. I hated going to shows and watching people not move. Even in the Nirvana days, people killed each other at shows, and that was preferable to not moving.
The Hook: How important is context to what you do? Would you have been successful in 1986?
Luke Jenner: '86? Geez, I don't know. I was nine years old, so I think the band would have been interesting. When we came along, cowbell was really not cool, and now everyone uses it. I think context is important. We were reacting to what was happened in our world. In 1986, I don't know, I might have been in a hair metal band. But either way, I would have been blown away since I was nine.
The Hook: Do you think you're helping bring back the sounds of the '80s?
Luke Jenner: I think the younger generation is really looking to that, because they think the earlier '60s and '70s stuff is played out. Black Sabbath and the Beatles are great, but I think Depeche Mode and the Cure are great too. They're just as great as the Beatles. You can't just regurgitate the same thing forever.
The Hook: You've gotta regurgitate something new?
Luke Jenner: We just set up in a room and play, and we've gotta have a really good groove. Everyone wants to feel involved; how much fun is it to be in a band where someone comes in with all the songs ready? We are trying to be a democracy. Most bands have a dictator guy. Kurt Cobain used to actually get behind the drum set and tell his drummer what to play. I used to do that, but it made me really sad. Being a dictator is not an emotionally fun place to be. You're being a d*ck to your friends all the time. Most musicians come from broken families, and they create another broken family where they're the a**hole dad.
The Rapture and Under The Influence of Giants at Starr Hill Tuesday, January 30. $18/$15, 8pm.