Dig deep enough, and you’ll find examples of where the philosophy, ‘less is more’ takes on new meaning. With that in mind, Everything Is Noise is privileged to hook up with Rattle, a UK duo consisting of Katherine Eira Brown and Theresa Wrigley, drummers for Kogumaza and Fists, respectively. Their premise is basic in one respect, as their soundscape consists solely of drums, the occasional vocals, and nothing else. But you are defied not to listen to one of their records and not be hypnotized on some level or another. Katherine Eira Brown was kind enough to explain some of the band’s processes and history, starting with how this interesting idea originally came about.
‘It wasn’t a planned thing – we didn’t plan to start a band just using vocals and drums. Rattle began as we got together to swap drum lessons for guitar lessons. (I play the guitar) That didn’t happen, but Rattle did! We were both playing in other bands, Tez in too many really to entertain the idea of playing in any more. But luckily the sounds we were making were too enticing for her, so she agreed to be in another band. Rattle was very much a “side project” at the start, and very much a “project”, rather than a band.’
And with musical intuition being high-up, there was a clear advantage to having two drum kits that the two musicians were able to utilize, particularly for Katherine, whose previous experience was largely on the guitar.
‘For me (and this is more about writing songs on the drums than writing as two drummers) I was suddenly free of the fretboard and the shapes I usually made on the fretboard. I could concentrate entirely on rhythm and not have to compromise that for melody as I would when writing a guitar ‘riff’. You are not limited by scales or ‘proper’ notes, you don’t have to sing in tune with the guitar. I can use semitones and tune myself to the drums.
‘In terms of having two drummers, it’s definitely an exercise in restraint as much as anything else. Because you are playing an instrument that isn’t inherently subtle or delicate, you have to be really careful and thoughtful about what you add, so it doesn’t sound like someone dropping a tray of glasses and silverware in the middle of a funeral service. Or even worse, someone starting up a beatbox and flexing their muscles. But it can be fun to play with that too, having elements of cross purpose that come together.’
Anyone familiar with Rattle‘s work will understand that their music is a fairly abstract undertaking, with the concept of theme being at the behest of the listener. ‘There are things that I find myself thinking about or musing over a lot which make their way into the few lyrics we have,’ explains Katherine. ‘But I like them to be abstract and not to paint too definite a picture so that they can be interpreted by the listener in whatever way the listener chooses.’
But in terms of influence, the list is great:
‘Personally I find it strange when people have different influences for different projects that they do. I’ve never been comfortable with that. For me, everything I do will be influenced by all the things I like and have liked. I can’t imagine planning to start a project based on a specific set of influences. But at the time we started Rattle, I was listening to a lot to Moondog, Public Image Limited, ESG, B52s, The Wipers, Arvo Pärt, Link Wray … and I think you can hear those things in there.
‘Tez (Theresa) has a completely different set of influences, which is great I think, and really fortunate, as it means you don’t end up sounding exactly like the bands you like, as you both like different things.’
Rattle‘s popularity has steadily increased since their beginnings in 2014. As one might imagine, their music is a great fit for the live stage. Most recently, they gained a new fanbase touring in the US.
‘We just had an amazing time playing with Protomartyr and Preoccupations in the US and Canada. Of that tour, we had a particularly great time playing in Columbus, Ohio, even though we arrived at the venue about 15 mins before we were due to play. Often we find those gigs the most fun, having to just pile everything on stage, no time for planning or reflection or to get nervous or overthink anything. We had the same experience playing the Tatty Seaside Town festival in Brighton a few years ago. That rush, nervous energy, the joy of having made it just in time…’
And with drums being virtually the sole element in Rattle, with nothing for it to hide behind, there is zero margin for error during their live performances. And when considering that more than one of their songs is over ten minutes running time, the challenges must be numerous… including the small matter of stamina.
‘We have some songs that require more stamina and mental and physical concentration than others, so we’ll make sure we put together a set that balances those songs with songs that are more relaxed and fun to play, so we can balance out the tension. I’m always really excited and keen to try out new songs live, perhaps when they aren’t really quite ready. We play a fair bit in Nottingham and use those gigs to try out new songs. When you are playing a new song live, it’s a bit like listening to your favourite music with your parents in the car: You suddenly hear it differently, through another person’s ears, and I find that can inform the writing process.’
All in all, the future is looking solid for this unique and wonderful project. And fans can be reassured that Rattle are not done yet. Not by a long shot…
‘We’re currently writing music for our third album, we’ll concentrate on that after Christmas. We’re playing a couple of gigs supporting The Messthetics in January, and as part of the Upset The Rhythm Birthday tour at the end of March, which is exciting. We are also playing at the release party of our friends Bilge Pump’s new album at the Brudenell on 2nd March.
‘We had an amazing time touring in the US and would love to do more touring in 2019 … fingers crossed!’