Hailing from Rotterdam in The Netherlands, Rats On Rafts appeared on my radar at Eurosonic through Dutch Impact, an organisation promoting Dutch bands abroad. Aside from that, they bring acts through in the form of showcase parties and events at all major music conventions worldwide. Events such as SXSW, The Great Escape, c/o Pop, and Reeperbahn Festival, which all have great reputations as do the acts that play them. So when news came through that the four-piece Dutch outfit were bound for Irish shows, we managed to chat together as the band ride the waves of breakthrough.
The journey for the band started when three of them went to school together about 11 years ago, admittedly falling into playing music and later naming themselves Rats on Rafts, “We intended to change the name somewhere along the way but for some reason we still wear it” says frontman David Fagan.
Their hometown is equally important for the band, proudly name checking it and others from the city, “We still live in Rotterdam, the city has always been very important to us. We grew up there. We have always been quite isolated from other groups in Rotterdam though. But there are definitely some great bands that came from our city like de Rondos, Kiem, Harry Merry… And so on”
Their latest release, “Tape Hiss” propelled them to feature in Mojo’s talent section also,being described as “Hotly tipped as ones to watch across all corners of the music press the ‘Rotterdam awkwardists.” Their second album is out almost a year now since signing to Fire Records in 2015, during which they abandoned any digital equipment in favour of more old school style tape recorders, “The result is that the LP sounds way better than we thought it would . Another very important part was to record most of it live. The B side contains 4 songs which we recorded in one take. We had to cut the tapes loose to mix them though and stick them back together when done. It took a long time to finish.”
The process for which their sound was created with also asks what influenced their sound. Their snarling and rich textured tracks have a unique composition after all, “At the moment we enjoy listening to stuff like Van Dyke Parks, Lee Hazlewood, Scott Walker & Moondog. This could be different tomorrow though! Personally I’m looking forward to going home and playing my copy of Odyshape by the Raincoats.”
Having played Cork’s Crane Lane last night, with two dates lined up in Whelan’s and Kasbah Social in Limerick, we stumble into a fascinating bit of info from David’s side when previewing their shows here. “I am half Irish,” he says. “I was born and raised in Rotterdam but my mother is from Donabate in Ireland. So we grew up with a lot of Irish traditions including a yearly summer holiday in Donabate. I remember going to see the Butthole Surfers once when I was over. I don’t expect too much as it is our first time we make the crossing, but I’m sure we are going to have a great time!”
So apart from David’s unexpected Irish ancestors, I ask if what is next for the band after their show both here and in Europe over the coming weeks? “On the 14 October we will be releasing a new record. It is a collaboration with another Dutch group called de Kift. So will continue touring through Holland with them for the remainder of this year and in the meantime we will be working on new songs.”
Rats on Rafts play Upstairs at Whelan’s on 27 September and Kasbah Social Club on 28 September.