Interview with Racebannon

Perhaps the most frightening yet talented band ever to assault your ears, Racebannon hail from the unsuspecting city of Bloomington, Indiana. Finding an even more unlikely home on Bloomington’s own Secretly Canadian Records (alongside Songs: Ohia, Scout Niblett, Early Day Miners, and June Panic to name a few), Racebannon has found a more widespread audience for their own brand of chaotic and experimental hardcore.

And that’s what it is, really: experimental. As bassist Chris Saligue says, each time the band plays a song, it’s a new interpretation of that song, resulting in their live shows being much more of a setting for these tracks than their albums. Yet they get experimental on their albums, too, from incorporating haunting noises to the assault on their first LP to the rock opera of sorts of their latest release, Satan’s Kickin’ Yr Dick In.

In between touring and playing with a half-dozen or so other bands, Saligue took time to handwrite his answers to some questions sent via e-mail (and how hardcore is that?). He discusses the evolution of Racebannon, their unique style, and the assorted other bands the members play in to expel other types of musical demons. He even brings up the plans for Scout Niblett to cover Racebannon. Read on.

Delusions of Adequacy: Give me some history of Racebannon. How long have you been together, and have you played in any other bands prior (I’m asking about other bands you’re in now later on…)

Chris Saligue: Racebannon is in its seventh year now. I joined around the first anniversary. Prior to this band, Mike and I were in jaded and The Watercolour, amongst other less notable bands. James played in Switchstance, and Brad had a band called Mourning Orchard. Dave sang for Emotion Zero. We either met through school or by playing shows together.

DOA: Racebannon is perhaps the most chaotic and crazy band I’ve ever heard. How do you describe the band’s sound when asked, and what are your goals in creating music?

CS: I’d personally say that our songs are the immediate and aggressive combination of most styles of music and sound that we’ve ever heard and embraced (fueled by individual personalities and egos, of course). Rock, metal, hip-hop, jazz, noise, classical, blues, hardcore, etc. Nuances from any style can be transposed on another in ways that communicate on a deeper level. There are plenty of non-musical influences as well. Whoever the train conductor was that rolled through Bloomington last night blew his whistle amazingly…

DOA: Most reviews of your music talk about it being an assault on the senses and frightening. Is that intentional, or do you think those comments are sometimes overstated?

CS: I always keep in mind that reviewers are dealing with a unique recording of our songs. The songs are never played the exact same way twice. Our sensibilities change constantly, so “attacking the senses” is only fitting. We develop an outline for a song and then interpret the performance by the moment. Reviewers can turn their stereos down, though. The recording isn’t half the assault of a live show.

DOA: Early in the band’s history, the sound was a lot less cohesive in terms of straight songs and used a lot of odd (and scary) sounds. Your later stuff is more song-based (if not less scary). Is that intentional, a development of your sound?

CS: I don’t think development in the sound is as intentional as it is inevitable. It was decided at the beginning that this band was in it for the long haul. We may or may not make our influences so obvious. Scariness is subjective.

DOA: What are your influences, particularly in the hardcore area?

CS: Honeywell, Angel Hair, Antioch Arrow, the Melvins, Melt Banana, Karp, Sonic Youth, Ice Nine.

DOA: How did you guys connect with Secretly Canadian? I mean, I know you’re from the same hometown, but a lot of people see that as a very strange connection. How has it worked out for you?

CS: The guys at Secretly Canadian had seen us at shows for a while before there were any talks about us being on the label. It was kind of a business experiment on both sides. We’d seen a lot of people who didn’t want to submit time or effort to us (live or on record), though there were still avid supporters here and there. Chris Swanson just said he wanted to put out records that people will listen to in 20 or 30 years. It was interesting to us to have a more widespread distribution and better recordings.

(Rant alert) We’re a very difficult band to record well. We’ve recorded enough times that we know what we want, but it’s a struggle trying to get the right sound. James and I worked, respectively, in an excellent studio in Indianapolis. Despite our experience there and with Racebannon, lots of engineers still fight us on the “best techniques,” many of which don’t apply the way we do things. Since James and I do the large majority of our mixing, our combined forces will continue to improve future Racebannon records.

DOA: Do you think the band has suffered at all from not being on a more “hardcore” label, or has it maybe helped you find fans who might not normally listen?

CS: Even since we’ve been on SC, we’ve put out records with other labels – more “hardcore” labels. But we don’t make music for anybody, hardcore kids or not. We’ll just do it with longevity in hopes that people who don’t leave the room actually get it.

DOA: You’ve done quite a few 7″s and splits or comps on much more traditional hardcore labels. Do you have a favorite, and what do you think of vinyl releases versus CD? (I personally always related the best hardcore with the 7″ format.)

CS: Of course, Witching Hour was fun. It was good to have been the birth of it with the Jaded 7″, then to do the first Racebannon 7″ and split 7″. Vinyl rules. We basically haven’t done a CD that wasn’t available on vinyl. Even Satan’s Kickin’ Yr Dick In was split up on three 7″s from different recordings to provide an alternative.

DOA: How did the concept album come about? Is Satan’s… the Tommy of the new millennium, ya think? Who wrote it, and what’s wrong with them? Were drugs involved? (Inquiring minds want to know!)

CS: Rodney Dangerfield! We were trying to come up with new shirt designs, and one idea was to have a bust of Rodney Dangerfield wearing a Racebannon shirt, all bug-eyed and shrugging with a bubble that would include, “Hey, Satan’s kickin’ yr dick in!” Later we decided to write a hardcore rock opera, and hell, it might as well be inspired by a true master.

Drugs? I like responsibility and productivity, whatever the lifestyle. Pet the plastic.

DOA: Were you always intending for this album to be released as one full album, or were you going to spread the songs around? I know you did a few on 7″s and split EPs before releasing the full-length.

CS: Satan’s… was always intended to be one piece. The vinyl versions allowed us to fulfill agreements with other labels and hopefully get more records to people who like ’em.

DOA: You’ve mentioned a few times some side projects the Racebannon members are in. Tell me about that (and what those bands are), and do you work out your less chaotic side in these side projects?

CS: Mike and myself are also in Rapider than Horsepower, an alter ego of sorts to Racebannon. Mike A. sings, I play guitar, Mike Dixon (Hoosier Illusion Studio, Here in Our House) plays guitar, and rob Smith (The Watercolour, Jaded) plays drums. It’s fun and cute. Dave Britts currently sings in Feast of Harod, staying true to his metal/grind roots. James is working out more solo material, which might come out on Liquid Death Records. Bands have their own egos by default or on purpose. Ours are meant to be the way they are.

I sometimes play with Early Day Miners (cinematic and mellow). Dave also spins as DJ Lickey Ballz. Myself and Pete Schreiner (The Coke Dares) are the band behind Scout Niblett. She’s a singer/songwriter from Nottingham. Scout and Early Day are both on Secretly Canadian.

DOA: Any other bands you’re digging right now, especially from your part of Indiana?

CS: The Coke Dares fucking rule! Majhas fucking destroys! The Impossible Shapes are fucking fun!

DOA: Any plans for another concept album? Or what is down the pipe for the Bannon, like new releases, touring, etc.?

CS: We’ll be touring for a few weeks in June and then again in July and August. As far as records go, we’re doing an improv noise 10″, a split 7″ with Majhas, and we’re covering two Swearing at Motorists songs for the Secretly Canadian 100th release, where their acts cover one another. Scout Niblett got Racebannon! After that, we’ll work on Racebannon 4, the next album, in line with the first two LPs.

DOA: Anything else you’d like to talk about that I forgot to ask or whatever? War in the middle East? Porn? Rant away!

CS: I’m glad our roommate Mat will actually come home after basic training. Maybe then he can borrow one of the Playboy lingerie mags that level the shelving in our kitchen. Those things suck! (That’s why they’re there.)