New York post-rock act You Bred Raptors? have just released the track “Hyperbole” from their aptly named album International Genetics, due for summer release. Seasoned and well-loved metro buskers, the band has played over 800 subway shows and toured nearly forty North American cities.
The instrumentation of this erudite ensemble includes an eight-string bass, cello, glockenspiel, and drums. Their instrumental tracks have found devoted followings among filmmakers, serious music fans, and circus performers, among many others. They’ve performed with Yoko Ono at her One Woman Show at the Museum of Modern Art, have spoken on TED Talks, were the house band for ADULT SWIM at Comic Con, and have worked on soundtracks for TROMA Pictures. They’ve been lauded in such stellar journals as The Economist and the Atlantic. Next month they’re going to begin touring the United States, giving fans a taste of the new album before its release. Recently Peat Rains, who plays 8-string bass, kinderklavier, and glockenspiel in the band and writes most of the songs, took the time to talk to us about the blessings and hazards of the DIY music career.
What role did music play in your lives while you were growing up?
It’s going to sound cliché to say we have diverse musical backgrounds, but here I am saying just that. During long hours in a tour van there might be maybe two or three bands we can all agree on listening to for any extended period of time. Those are usually Pink Floyd, RATATAT, and Russian Circles.
I personally grew up with hippie parents and was exposed to jam band and Celtic music growing up. I rebelled against that when I could and got into punk rock, but eventually came back to instrumental music. As a band, we don’t make any sense on paper and our musical tastes just exacerbate that.
Queen is probably my favorite band and I play in a band without guitars or vocals. Music has always been and always will be my escape and the only facility that makes sense to me, however difficult and frustrating it is to make a reality.
What or who in your musical training had the most?and best?influence on you, as musicians and as a human being?
My father was a bass player and my mother was also very musical. They taught us the importance of seeing live music. I’m mostly self-taught, outside of a year of guitar lessons in seventh grade. But even that was a huge influence. I was lucky to get a local teacher named Tim Warman who saw and respected that I colored outside the lines.
He told me after a year that I didn’t seem like I was having fun learning other people’s songs. He encouraged me to not only write my own songs but to lead my own band.
I can probably speak for the whole band here and say that the collective straphanger on the subway has had a huge impact on us. While It’s more abstract, seeing so many demographics and classes all descending upon the same transportation system is really reflective. We can barely survive as artists in this city but coming in contact with so many people that are struggling even more and against some pretty heavy shit has made us better humanitarians for sure. The mob mentality also helps you hone your craft. If they don’t like your music, you’ll know. And you learn to not just perform your songs but to be a performer.
What were some of your most amazing musical experiences?
Some of the most amazing experiences performing have happened in the subway. It’s just more honest down there. You don’t have to deal with sometimes shitty bands or fighting to get paid or grumpy sound guys or bringing enough people in the door. If people like your music they stop and listen and if they don’t they tell you that you suck. At least there’s no industry bullshit in that transaction.
I’ve also been blown away by live performances in my life. Seeing GWAR in college made me realize you can put on a show with theatrics and lots of crowd interaction, that you can break the fourth wall and not be a pretentious sadsack on stage singing about a breakup.
I also remember seeing Russian Circles open for a really big band in DC around the same time. They played four songs for 20 minutes and I’d never heard of them. I left after that. There was no way that any band could top what I’d just seen.
Where did you pick up that band name?
Oh, we 100% stole this band name from Jurassic Park. we’ll keep it until we get a “Cease and Desist” letter from Universal Pictures.
If you had to give your music a genre, what would you call it?
I suppose our genre is “prehistoric post-rock,” but That’s a made-up genre. Maybe That’s why we don’t have a record label or manager. We aren’t easily categorized. There are elements of experimental, but we aren’t masturbatory. There are elements of prog, but we aren’t mathy enough. There are elements of metal, but we aren’t heavy enough. we’ll never fit in, and we’re okay with that.
You’re based in the borough that spawned The Ramones, Cyndi Lauper, and John Williams, among many other notables. Does that intimidate or inspire you?
I can’t convey how much of a dork I am other than to say I got more excited about John Williams than the Ramones. NYC is intimidating with its roster, but that was a different time. I’ll go out on a limb and say that most of the musicians that “made it” yesteryear couldn’t hack it today. And That’s not a slight; It’s just a fact that they were musical geniuses who weren’t too keen on social interaction, let alone social media interaction. They didn’t have to worry about how many retweets they received or how many Hearts they scored during an inane Periscope feed.
The music industry is in limbo. There are still remnants of a very industry-controlled past and a bleak future of YouTube cover bands and regurgitated, vapid pop music. I have plenty of integrity and confidence in our music. I know it has merit and something to offer. The business and politics is tough to stomach. Just tell me whom to sleep with and I’ll do it. Seriously? line ?em up.
How do you, with your acoustic instruments, find so many rapt audiences in a musical world now steeped in loop pedals, synthetic beats, and other electronica?
I find myself biting my tongue with this question a lot. I personally hate a lot of electronica and DJ culture. But I’ve been told (repeatedly) that some DJs are actually pretty cool and care about their craft. Again, I’ll refrain from deepthroating my foot but I can’t help but wince when bands bring laptops onstage or play to backing tracks. I know industry people love it because It’s predictable and idiot-proof. But It’s just such a slight to the audience.
I’d rather see some improvisation or some wavering tempos running congruent with the energy of the room. I use a looping pedal, but it doesn’t have a quantizer. Hell, It’s not even a looping pedal? It’s a Delay pedal that I wildly misuse. And when I fuck up and am off by half a beat, then by Jesus, we just roll with it and everyone suffers with us. Mistakes are an integral part of our live shows.
What’s the story behind “Hyperbole?”
I was personally sick of people calling me a fake bass player for having 8 strings and sometimes playing with a pick. We were also sort of burned out between tours and wanted to write something upbeat and challenging to play but accessible to an audience.
We were opening for legendary bassist Stu Hamm and I was more than intimidated about looking like a no-talent-ass-clown in front of him. I wanted to write a song that would let me hold my ground in front of such a master of the arena. Usually my songs have deep meaning, but this one was more of an experiment to see if the three of us could get together and write something on the spot.
It came together rather quickly and was arranged, phrased, and concluded pretty naturally. Being in the key of G can lead to lots of unnecessary solos and self-serving parts, so I’m glad we kept it pretty simple and to the point.
What do you like best about International Genetics so far?
I want all our albums to sound diverse but to still have a working narrative. Each album has a theme and part of me wants to completely break from that so we don’t get stuck in a cyclical loop of things only partly working. But this recording was probably the longest we’ve done in this band. From conception to pressing, It’s spanned about five drummers and three years. Despite that, it has a cohesive arc. Each album has us coming into our own a bit more. This one feels the most personal to me as the primary songwriter. I hope it makes you cry and ruins your makeup.
Do you have any funny or bizarre stories to tell about your subway performances?
We’ve seen people get engaged, break up, get arrested, and have memories seared into their hippocampus while we’ve played in the subway. It’s gratifying to be the soundtrack to people’s lives, whether they want us there or not.
we’re constantly on guard for people trying to steal from us or for junkies fucking with us. It happens less than it did when we were greenhorns in this life. We had one obviously very mentally ill person throwing blood and urine soaked trash at us at Herald Square a few years ago.
We usually try to ignore that as most times they get bored and find something else to do. But in the process of trying to power through it, we noticed that amongst the biohazard level trash, he was also throwing money at us. To him, it was all the same. Strips of newspaper held the same value as the five and ten dollar bills. So we just kept playing and mentally counted about $85 soaked in bodily fluids that I suppose were for us? Then he left. He might have floated away or melted into the floor, I’m not totally sure.
What conditions do you require in your life to go on being creative?
Haha, this is a hilarious notion. I can’t remember the last time I was comfortable. The only ones that can claim that in NYC are probably boring rich people. On one hand I want to say that you need to have discomfort and hardship in order to truly creatively thrive. But maybe That’s just something that being poor for so long has taught me to reflexively say.
Trying to maintain a band after you hit 30 years old is plenty difficult. It’s not something most people can hack. It really draws the line between lifer and hobbyist. It’s just constant rejection and wading through political bullshit. It’s not all doom and gloom but the returns are so rare compared to tedious amount of thankless work. And when you don’t have a label, or management or booking agency backing you up, then It’s up to you.
Creativity isn’t waiting on a small hill for a zephyr to graze your cheek. It’s feeling completely kneecapped after an A&R person tells you that you can’t support a national touring band, even though the band wants you on the bill, because you don’t have a tested female draw and still finding it inside to write some music based on that feeling. True story.
Are there any books, films, or albums that have deeply influenced your development as an artist?
Fahrenheit 451 [by Ray Bradbury] was the first book I encountered in school that flipped the switch for me. I enjoyed reading it and the arc of the book made me terrified about losing that freedom. I fell in love with reading after that. And with that, I also fell for music that I would put on while reading. Instrumental music was always a part of my life, but the two shared a symbiosis for me. I also sometimes read erotic fan fiction based on ?80s television shows. It gives me weird boners.
As artists do you feel any desire to straighten out the world a little with the art you make?
I feel It’s important to be a producer with our short time on earth. I get massively annoyed living in a city this small with so many people and seeing most of them just be consumers. Artists can barely survive here and yet people are flocking for this idealistic and archaic view of New York. we’re doing our part to leave the earth better than how we found it. It’s not an easy task when the deck is stacked against the working class and those in power work diligently to defund the arts and creativity.
If you had an artistic mission statement, what would it be?
This endeavor is akin to climbing an avalanche. Every inch of progress you make up is compounded with falling down dozens of feet under sheeting ice to certain death. In a business run by wealth, nepotism, connections, fake handshakes and toeing the party line, It’s important to be smart but stay aligned with what sets you apart. Your entire career will have people telling you to do things differently until there is one person that finally gets it.
On the flipside, you have to play their game and adhere to the archaic dogma at times. Listen to the criticism and extrapolate ideas to constantly rework and retool. Best advice I have to offer is to hone your craft. Get good at it and never stop learning and improving.
Perform in front of actual people. Get the fuck off Instagram and YouTube and see how it feels to perform in front of beating hearts. Leave your comfort zone and grind it out. Get booed and bomb. Shed the thin skin and quit acting like an amateur when things go wrong and especially when things go right.
There hasn’t been one day that has gone by that I haven’t spent the majority of it fixated on making this a reality. Never get complacent. Never rest on your laurels. don’t get lazy. don’t get cocky. Respect your art enough not to make it a cliché.
Tell us about your current and upcoming projects.
Our new album is releasing in mid June after a 29-city tour that I booked by myself. Please come out and validate my life choices and reward the insanely hard work of DIY touring.
we’ll have some bass playthroughs, music videos, sheet music, and other cool stuff to offer for our Patreon users. we’ll also be doing some amazing tours in the Fall that I can’t talk about yet, including some overseas stuff. we’re currently scoring an audiobook from a horror writer and doing some filming for Adult Swim down in Atlanta in early summer.
Do you have anything else to add?
Let us score the new Jurassic Park film. Let’s get a petition started. Hold on to your butts.
Wanda also writes the blog The Mindful Bard:The Care and Feeding of the Creative Self.