Tim Rakel | Bad Folk

"The name originated from the bass player lamenting that we were awful, and it became more of a decent joke than a bad joke."



For the past few years, Bad Folk has gone through a variety of musicians, with songwriter, vocalist, and banjo player Tim Rakel the primary, central element of this intriguing local combo.

In late June, the band is organizing Bad Folk Art, a collaborative project that’ll take place in the Cherokee arts corridor, near the corner of Cherokee and Compton. Involving both an art show at Typo, 3159 Cherokee, and at Radio Cherokee, 3227 Cherokee, the musicians of Bad Folk, along with some associates, will offer up their nonmusical artwork in two very interesting spaces. They’ll also offer sonic art, with Bad Folk playing Radio Cherokee, along with two affiliated outfits, the Harmony Band and Peck of Dirt.
The event—held June 23–25—and his band were the topics we discussed with Tim Rakel, over a morning cup of coffee at the Hartford Community Café.

How did this project come together?

Initially, we were trying to get money together to tour Europe. And we came up with a scheme to come up with a show that would raise more money than a usual gig at a bar. We figured everybody in the band has some type of artwork that we do, but we don’t have venues or other channels to show it, so we’d do it ourselves. And maybe recruit some people in a similar boat to join us. There’re two other bands involved; Sherman [S. Sherman], who was in the Good Griefs, and Kevin Buckley, who was with Bad Folk, are both in with new bands. We’re hoping to get some art friends involved, as well, putting out a limited call for other artists to come in, too.

You’ve got a pretty good alumni group now.
Yeah, there are probably as many ex–band members as band members.

What was the idea of the band initially?
The current thing started around the idea of people playing instruments that they wouldn’t normally play in the band they were in. The name originated from the bass player lamenting that we were awful, and it became more of a decent joke than a bad joke. The incarnation of the current band is Anne [Tkach] playing drums and she’s normally a bass player. I play banjo and I have no idea what I’m doing with that. Joey [Gavin] is playing pedal steel, which he’s learned a lot about playing in this band; he’s normally a lead guitar player. Adam Hesed plays accordion and he’s usually a guitar player, too. Bruk Longbottom’s our bass player; he replaced a bassist who was a keyboard player. We’ve shifted everyone around from what they’d normally do. It’s not as bad as it could be.

You’ve settled into a certain core of places to play?
Yeah, Lemmons, the Way Out, Mangia. But with Frederick’s going and other music clubs coming, going or selling, we thought that by doing something at another venue ourselves, that would be low-key, would be more of a thing for people to come out to, not just a night out for drinking.

What do you like about these spaces?

It’s sort of the do-it-yourself/punk-rock aesthetic going on. I guess we’re trying to do a little bit of that. Radio Cherokee’s our venue and it’s pretty small, but because they have only a few shows every month, people perk up with them. It is a neat place to see a show, I think. And the old Way Out, now the Tin Ceiling Theatre’s add-on lobby is a really nice space. There was a show there in January that Anne and I went to and we were looking around thinking, “This is the space we should do it in.” It won’t be the kind of show where there’s two feet of drywall between art; it’s gonna look more like a garage sale, with as many artists as we can cram into those spaces. And, hopefully, selling art at a decent prices. Certainly more affordable than at a typical show.

How’s your songwriting changed working with all these different people?

I wrote most of the songs initially. I throw ideas out first to Joey or Anne and they sort of develop the music. Joey’s been writing more music lately. It is much more of a band than my just playing with people.

Is there a typical reaction—if there is such a thing—of people seeing you for the first time?
I think people that do come out and see us for the first time; we tend to pull off something different. That seems the only thing that I’m going for when seeing live bands. It’s kinda boring to see guitar, bass, and drums in the same fashion that everyone’s playing. I think people are taken aback by seeing accordion, pedal steel, and banjo. And we’re sort of playing rock music, at the same time.

I definitely had a reaction to the saw…
Oh, the saw. The saw is on vacation. That’s the same idea of doing something different, which is how we’re approaching this art show. We’ll have some photographs and paintings that you’d ordinarily see at an art show. But there’ll also be things that are sewn and knitted, crafts sort of things. I’ve never been to the Rock ’n’ Roll Craft Show, but it might be similar in some ways, where people are making things that they’d normally have to buy, making creative versions of things. But there will also be art in the conventional sense, too.
| More information: www.badfolkbybadfolk.com, www.radiocherokee.net

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