Analogue Music | Michigan Rattlers

Michigan Rattlers

By Matt Conner

Absence (from the road) has made their hearts grow fonder.

For a band who describes themselves as road warriors, the last year or more has featured a lot of confusion and soul-searching for the Michigan Rattlers, like it has for everyone in the entertainment industry. Together, the quartet wondered when and how to release an album of new songs—the excellent new LP, That Kind of Life—as they hoped to weather the global pandemic as well as anyone could.

What they learned over the last 12-14 months will serve them well in the years to come. They practiced their craft. They learned a lot about how they want to approach new releases and craft inventive ways to support them. But more than anything, they learned they're made for the road—to connect with fans in meaningful ways, to take in the sights and sounds of a diverse world, to channel all of that into meaningful new art.

The Rattlers recently let us interrupt an early rehearsal for some forthcoming tour dates in order to hear more about the lessons learned in a new year and to hear more about a stunning new album that fans should be excited to hear.

Analogue: The release is just in the rearview mirror. How does it feel to get the new album out given the world in which we’ve all been living in?

Graham Young: I think mostly there’s a little bit of relief to it, that it’s finally happening. We were pretty prepared to get this out over a year ago, so we’ve been sitting on this finished thing for a year. Our last record came out in 2018, so it’s been three years without bringing anything new.

It’s been weird, too, because it’s been so long. I really didn’t remember the feeling of how it felt to release something new and have people talking about it.

Christian Wilder: Yeah, when it came out, it was a surreal experience, because we’d started working on these songs in 2019 and recorded over several months. We’ve lived and breathed them for quite a while. It’s cool, then, to release them over time and see people’s reactions to what, to me, felt like old songs but they were brand new songs for them.

"Just from an emotional standpoint, last night was the first night we actually plugged in all of our instruments together in person in months. Just that initial excitement was so much fun." -Christian Wilder

Analogue: Was there some discussion of putting it out there despite the pandemic just to get something out there? Or were you committed to waiting and giving the songs the support you wanted?

Graham: There was a bit of both. We’re a road band. We play a lot of shows and that’s what we do. So it made sense to hold off on releasing anything until we could actually support it. But four months in, it was like, ‘This sucks. Let’s just put this out. What’s the sense in waiting?’ But then we thought about it and it makes a lot more sense for us as a band and who we are to be able to properly go out and support a record.

Analogue: Since you’d been sitting on these songs in particular, how did you spend the pandemic creatively?

Graham: I think we all were pretty creative during the pandemic. We’re demoing and working on new songs, and we still had some stuff to do with this record. We made a couple videos. Adam [Reed] worked on some cool merch we’ll have for these tours. We weren’t out playing, but in a way, it freed up some time to come up with supplemental stuff for this record, some stuff that we’ll put out later down the road.

Christian: I think it allowed us to slow down, too, and think of certain aesthetic decisions in terms of how we wanted to release it and stuff—the overall vibe of the album and how we can better craft a world around it. Usually we’re just touring so hard that it’s hard for us to slow down and find the time for us to think about those things. So it felt very liberating creatively to work on that and try to make those decisions.

Analogue: Does that alter how you’ll approach things in the future—like you’ll want that space around an album to give it what it needs?

Graham: Yeah, we’ll never have this amount of time again, so we’ll have to work within what we can get, but I think we definitely have a much better idea of how to approach future releases and how to have a cohesive approach and fire on all cylinders for the next release.

Analogue: I know I’m interrupting rehearsal to make this interview happen. How has that been to come back together and even start to practice again?

Graham: I’m personally excited, especially with these new songs. We’ve sat with these recordings for so long and we’re honestly re-learning and figuring out how to play them as a band live. Sometimes it feels like you’re treating it like a cover song almost. But for me, it’s exciting to get to actually play these songs now after sitting on them for so long.

Tony Audia: With all the downtime, there was some growing and maturity, so coming back to the old stuff, there’s a whole new vibe and different approach to how we’re playing them. We started up one of the old songs today and it was a completely different tempo, completely different feel and then it just turned into a jam. So there are new elements coming into our set and our playing, which is really interesting.

Christian: Just from an emotional standpoint, last night was the first night we actually plugged in all of our instruments together in person in months. Just that initial excitement was so much fun. It was sloppy and it was terrible. But even stumbling over songs I used to know like the back of my hand felt so much fun to be in the room again with your friends playing loud.

Analogue: You described yourselves as road warriors, so I want to ask one more about the pandemic. Since that whole side of being a band was shut down for you, what do you learn about it in the last year? Does it reinforce that love? Do you realize you like being at home more?

Adam Reed: The constant movement fed my creativity and I never really realized how important it was until we stopped doing it. I’d say for this band that we wouldn’t want to keep doing this if we couldn’t tour. The constant movement, the street signs, the diners—every place we stop all feeds into the art. Once we stopped moving, it became obvious that it was all part of the deal.

Tony: The first month, maybe, it was like, ‘Oh my god, I can rest for a few seconds. I can sleep in my bed.’ Then it becomes a comfort zone. We would meet up and start talking about the road again—all the funny stories, all the stuff. Looking back, those were hard moments sometimes to get through, but doing them together made it the best thing ever. I am dying to get back on the road and so is everyone else:

All: Yeah!

Graham: Yeah, we’re all on the same page about getting out to play shows again. But as we said earlier, this time did give us a moment to reflect on how we play live and how we act as a band and how we go through the world, which is good. Getting back and rehearsing the last two days, there’s definitely some maturity and growth that has taken place in the last year.

That Kind of Life
That Kind of Life

Analogue: Obviously I want to ask about the new record. Specifically I want to start with “The Storm,” which is not only such a great track but it seems like a very intriguing way to open the record. I’d love to hear about the song itself and even the decision to make that the first track.

Graham: In terms of it being the first track on the record, our hands were forced since there were only eight songs on the record. Shuffling tracks around in different sequences, it just didn’t seem to work any other way than having that one open the record.

But I do think it is a very cool way to open the record. I think a lot of the time, it is something that hits you out of the gate. But having “The Storm,” you’re kind of wading in, which is cool.

That song took me a couple years to finish. I had the first verse and chorus for a long time and just couldn’t figure out what to do with it. Then finally, it came together. For me, it’s about two people meeting and entering into this journey where they have no idea what’s about to happen—how exciting and how frightening and how changing that kind of experience can be.

Analogue: What are you guys most proud of on this set of songs—even personally?

Christian: For me, it’s how deliberate some of the parts are on this record. Evergreen has a lot more jammy elements and that was how we felt at the time. That was the zone we were in. For this record, when we set out, we knew Evergreen had these solo sections and jams, so we asked, ‘What if we strip that back and deliberately seek the mood of these songs?’ I personally really wanted to get that going and I think “The Storm” is a great example of that. I’m really happy how that song turned out.

Just listening to you talk about it, I think back to when we first started working on this record. I think that was the first song we started working on in terms of this collection. That song, to me, just feels really indicative of the mood of the record as a whole. It sets the tone. It’s almost as if working on that first informed where we went when we started working on the following songs.

Tony: We all grew up together then we all went away and came back. Putting together all the ideas between the four of us, I think is really cool. There’s a diversity of ideas and grooves. Each of our ideas played into even the rehearsal of building the songs. That’s what I’m proud of is the four ideas coming together. I found that very interesting.

Adam: We’re not some hot shit studio band but we’re a lot better than we were when we recorded Evergreen.

Graham: Yeah, that’s true.

Adam: That’s big for me.

Analogue: So how are your expectations for all of this given what we’ve discussed?

Christian: More than anything, we’re glad to have it out and have people connect with it. Then just the fact that we’re getting back out there and get to experience that in person with people for the first time playing these new songs and taking to people after the show… I love meeting people and hearing what they have to say and feel that personal connection, that human connection that we’ve been missing.

VISIT: Michigan Rattlers