THERE are few bands that have the personality, sound and magic of…
London’s Experimental/Soul-Surf clan, Brothers Rasputin. Frontman Mitch gave up his time and was keen to chat about the band. I was eager to learn about their origins and sound- who influences it and how their creative process comes together. The guys have just got back from a tour of Eastern Europe and are in no mood to rest yet. New single Been Meaning to Say is entwined with ‘Britpop’ vibes: it investigates the turmoil and bustle of London; how easy it is to get lost among the rabble. With all this in mind- a new E.P. will follow this year- I was excited to hear what Mitch had to say; what the band had in mind for the remainder of 2016…
Hey. How has your week been? What are you up to at the moment?
Great thanks. Just got back from our Eastern Europe tour: great people, great weather and dirt-cheap booze. A recipe for success!
For those unfamiliar with Brothers Rasputin; can you tell us how you guys came together?
I was a solo artist, a child Rasputin: using loops and I met Rommy when I got in his face during a performance. Obviously, he was instantly hooked. Rommy started drumming with me, but we found that using only loops was a bit constricting. Nick is a sound engineer in a studio, and a bass player (and my brother) so was the obvious choice. From there we were able to take the live looping, but open it out into more complex songs.
Your music is a blend of Funk and Soul; you have been described (affectionately) as “London’s favourite Funk-Soul sociopaths”. Is this a fair description? Which bands or albums have influenced your sound?
Well, it may seem like we’re sociopaths on stage, and I certainly have some kind of pathology, but there’s no lack of conscience. I just (always) loved bands and performers who react to the crowd and get people involved in the show. I think there’s a duty to entertain if you’re on a stage so it seems natural to get with the people and cajole them into a reaction. Plus, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
Music-wise, I’m a huge Prince fan (gutted when I heard; even though he hadn’t made a good record in over 25 years. The world’s a sadder place) and definitely take inspiration from his stage antics. We all have a love of old classic Funk: Bootsy, Sly, Clinton; but I also come from an American guitar background, so love Janes Addiction and the Butthole Surfers. Hopefully, this motley mix comes together as a ramshackle whole somehow.
The vocals of Brother Rapsutin are full of richness; high-pitched and beautiful. Which singers have been inspirations; did that vocal came naturally?
As I said, Prince is huge for me: the most expressive singer, with no boundaries of what’s acceptable. But also, Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle) has been a big influence- particularly his solo stuff. He uses the voice as an instrument, and can make the most unlikely noises; just amazing. There’s a cartoon quality to his stuff that I love. I love all the sound effects on the old Warner Brothers cartoons, and that comes into what we do, I think.
Been Meaning to Say looks at the rush and turbulence of the city: being chewed and spat out; buried under the stress. Being based in London; did anything particular compel the song? What is life like (in London) for a modern-day band?
Well, there’s no use complaining, as we love making music, so will do it whether or not we get monetary compensation- but it is tough, especially a city like London; a bit pricey to say the least. Saying that, though; London’s buzzing with bands and venues and, though it gets a bit saturated, there isn’t a better place for getting gigs and going to discover new bands. I’ve lived in Paris and there’s definitely not the music scene there is here- which is reflected in the amount of good music that comes out of England. (Saw some great bands in Paris too, though-Catholic Spray and The Idiots to name a couple)
London has so many positives for musicians. What are the best things about living in the city? Any particular venues or spots you guys are especially fond of?
One of my favourite places at the moment is Cafe Oto in Stoke Newington. I’ve seen some great shows there- Sun Araw, Neil Hagerty; Thurston Moore. It’s a real intimate place with a community vibe. I much prefer smaller venues as you really get to feel part of the show. Seen some great stuff at the Old Blue Last too. White Denim were mind-blowing there.
That’s the great thing about London: it’s 24/7 every day; the weekend, and there’s always something going on. You know if someone you like is touring that they’ll be playing in London. Have to give my favourite restaurant Tayyabs a shout-out too. The food is great in Paris, but you can’t get a good curry. The chops at ‘abs are unbeatable.
The single melts ‘Britpop’-sounding anthemics and rousing Hammond organ. Was it important to give the song a positive vibe; keep it from being too tense?
We’re positive people. I like to sing about dark stuff, but you have to laugh at it too. There’s obviously a place for brooding introspective stuff but I think joy is a harder emotion to channel than melancholy. The world’s a dark place these days, but there’s always humour to be found. Brighten up!
You guys have a new E.P. out this year. What can you tell us about that?
We never really stop recording, so E.P.s seem the best format as you can just get them out and move on. After releasing the Get Over It E.P. last year we just carried on recording. We are lucky enough to have (a kind of) fourth member in Mike McEvoy: a real legend and great keys player; funky as hell. He has a rich history and managed to hook us up with some of the horn players from The Mingus Big Band. Lucky for us they had a few gigs at Ronnie Scott’s’ while we were recording, so came in and recorded on a couple of tracks (which Mike scored). A great experience and so good to hear a great horn section on our tracks.
Having Mike onboard really fills things out, so we were able to cut the other tracks live which give the E.P. a great feel. So, we’re currently finishing up mixes with that and the whole thing has come out with a real live, party feel to it.
After that (the E.P. release) the band heads to Eastern Europe. Are you looking forward to that? Will it be your first time over there?
We just got back! But, no, we went a couple of years ago too. Rommy is from Slovakia (used to drum in legendary Slovak Punk band Konflict) and we hooked up with some great people who asked us back. Life’s harder over there- so people party even harder- and are just really responsive-give them a good show and they give back!
I am always keen to see which artists are most important to a musician. Which acts/albums were influential to you growing up?
Yeah, we’ve all been obsessed with music from an early age. For me, I could choose any Prince album between ‘81 and ’88. But, if I had to choose, it’d be The Black Album; it was huge for me. Locust Abortion Technician by the Buttholes, Ritual by Janes Addiction; Check Your Head by the Beasties. I’m also a Harco Pront fanatic: his album Jibberish is amazing. I’ve been trying to track him down for the last ten years; he totally disappeared. The last few years I’ve been hooked on Bootsy: Player of the Year is the cream.
Are there any current acts- either mainstream or niche- that you would recommend to people?
Like I said; I saw Sun Araw at ‘Oto; also caught him at Corsica Studios in Elephant’- great little venue, and he totally blew me away. Like a lot of people, I was awestruck with Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly album; through that, I discovered Thundercat and Flying Lotus. Right now I’ve got Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead on repeat: beautiful and a great mix of the organic and electronic. Also liking the L.A. Priest album. I’d never heard of his band Late of the Pier but I found the track Oino online and got hooked from there.
For those who do not know much about you; could you tell us a secret- something nobody knows about you?
Me and Nick are distantly related to Andy Taylor from Duran Duran. My nan met him at a family wedding but unfortunately we haven’t collaborated. Yet.
As a band; what has been your career highlights so far?
The Mingus Big Band horn session was a definite highlight. Working with musicians of that calibre is humbling but amazing, really pushes you to work harder. We love playing live so just playing shows; especially with Mike (is just good times). Rockscape in Slovakia was brilliant: it’s great to go somewhere you’re playing to just strangers. Jam Cafe in Notts. was a real pleasant surprise and a great party.
Do you have any advice for any musicians coming through; those who are not sure if they have what it takes?
Well, what does it take? Seriously, you have to have a genuine and forceful passion for it. You have to make a lot of sacrifices along the way. But, if you love what you’re doing, you’ll do it regardless. So, my advice really is: if you don’t fundamentally love it, at some point, you’ll run out of steam. If you do, then it doesn’t matter how known or unknown you are; it’s just a buzz doing it. If it feels right, it generally is. The process is the point, not necessarily the result.
Finally- and for being a good sport- you can select any song (and I’ll include it here) – why is it special to you?
The Big Ship by Brian Eno. Very different to all the stuff I’ve listed in this interview, but just beautiful- and I can’t listen to it without getting a lump in my throat. So, introspective and melancholy- I’m totally contradicting myself here! Hopefully, that’s what you get with Brothers Rasputin- a laugh, a cry; a panic attack…and a good night out!
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