It’s safe to dance again, and you can thank The Rapture for the privilege.
The unspoken laws of coolness that have anchored indie rock crowds to their small, standing plots of floor, tight as Christmas trees strapped to the tops of station wagons, are the ones in which The Rapture have never believed. Going against all that has been scientifically proven, this New York quartet has made it their life’s work to refute the postulate that dance moves are neither created nor destroyed. It’s a theory that has been so determined to remain unquestioned and unanimously ignored that, until now, few bands even attempted to induce foot-tapping for fear that it could, disagreeably, bring on a pit stain and embarrassingly dehydrate members of the audience.
Ah, to hell with convention and immobility. For close to a decade, the only person openly dancing at an American rock ’n’ roll show was that extra member of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The world was sick, but with the disease now quarantined, the color is coming back into its blue and green face.
It’s safe to dance again, and you can thank The Rapture for the privilege. Their latest album, Echoes, is chock-full of tracks that offer anyone who listens the grandiose illusions of nimbleness. “I Need Your Love” could be more appropriately titled, “I Need Your Glow-Sticks, Another Long Island Iced Tea, and This Song to Keep Going Since My Body Seems to Have Gone Haywire and I’m Having Such a Good Time Because of it.”
You will move—with creative options. You can create your own moves or destroy those of another, choreographing your own hybrid of twisting and shucking. If you feel like sprinkles, give your happy feet sprinkles…and hot fudge, with a maraschino cherry on top. Feel like shaking all over and not just because you decided to check the mailbox, bare-chested, in the deep dates of January? Be The Rapture’s guest. They will even grease the gears a bit for you if you’re unsure of which foot goes where, how long it should stay there, and exactly what the rest of the body should be doing while this is all going on. They will be your seeing-eye band, taking you along very gently before shoving you right in the small of your back, sending you into the fire—for which, trust me, you’ll thank them later.
But can this band of mere mortals make these packs of sarcastically disheveled audience members keep dancing throughout an entire evening? Yes, “unless things go horribly wrong,” Rapture drummer Vito Roccoforte affirms (the band is rounded out by singer/guitarist Luke Jenner, bassist Matty Safer, and keyboardist Gabe Andruzzi). “It used to be that nodding your head was all that people did at shows. I was one of those people. I did that, too.”
There has been a recent shift in what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate to do at a show. Dancing is in. It’s so in.
When The Rapture last made a swipe through the United States in May, they noticed the war between shoegazing and soft-shoeing tilting in the favor of the latter. The battle lines had been breached and the dancers were on the make, much to Roccoforte’s appreciative view from behind his kit.
“We all love to dance and go out to clubs,” he said. “Growing up on indie rock in the ’90s, people really weren’t moving much. On the last U.S. tour we did, everyone was dancing and going for it. It was really cool.”
Marketing a band that has as much of a premonition to clobber you with the rock ’n’ roll as they do in making you tumble around in front of a stage, striking moves that no longer need pre-approval, is a very difficult thing. Most people don’t mix the two. It’s how a bowl of salted Frosted Flakes would be viewed by most: You either go sweet or salty. And you either love rock or you love dance.
Well, it used to be that way. Now, you’ve got Andre 3000 of Outkast trashing the boundaries of everything with “Hey Ya,” and The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” working into DJ booths at dance clubs around the world.
“[‘Seven Nation Army’] is the ‘Louie Louie’ of our generation,” Roccoforte said. “I feel like that song was just the right song at the right time. It’s simple and it can be played on the radio. DJs play it. When it comes on, people just go ape shit.”
And it’s about time The Rapture got a little piece of a reaction like that.
Right now, you might be thinking, “Hey, wait a minute. It was a while ago that I saw that Serena Altschul ‘You Hear It First’ feature about The Rapture on MTV News.” There’s very good reason for the flashback: the October release of Echoes came a whopping 17 months after the record had actually been completed. A painstaking drama filled with label searching, label finding, label re-searching, financial dealings, and other hurry-up-and-wait matriculations slowly worked itself out before the album was given a birth.
And because of all of that boardroom work, it may look like The Rapture showed up to Halloween 2003 dressed in Alf costumes, well behind the times and having missed the massive “resurgence” of New York City rock. But, if catching on with the multitudes was only reliying on hitting a fashionable date on a calendar or attaching to a trend like a barnacle onto the hull of an oceanliner, The Rapture would have been better off keeping these songs to themselves. They should have locked the master recordings in a vault and swallowed the key, because the world wouldn’t have deserved them anyway.
“People were telling us that [Echoes] should have come out six months ago. They said, ‘You missed the wave. You missed the boat,’” Roccoforte admits. “To be honest, it’s never concerned me a lot. If we missed the boat in terms of hype, that’s too bad. We could have rushed and put it out six months ago, and maybe it wouldn’t have mattered.
“But it was frustrating, having this album, liking it, and wanting to get it out there to people.”
As little slices of the finished record, in the form of U.K. singles for “House of Jealous Lovers” and “Olio”—two of the most intriguing tracks on the new record—were pressed and released in early 2002, The Rapture began to twist ears. Those two tracks spurred gobs of questions about the arrival of the full-length. Even with the attention, Roccoforte doesn’t know if the world’s exactly primed for The Rapture.
“I don’t see us as a band really crossing over into the mainstream,” he said. “It’s going to take people coming to us. It’s going to take a lot of growing. We don’t really sound like a lot of stuff on the radio right now. But I think a lot of the stuff on the radio is crap.”
Roccoforte assured me they’ll never try to sound like that crap on the radio. With the production team of DFA (Death From Above)—Tim Goldsworthy and James Murphy—in their corner, brainstorming along with them, there’s really no threat of The Rapture losing its jones for blitzing guitars or the tunes of the soothing Robert Smith, the Cure leader who, according to a recent issue of Rolling Stone, has Echoes slipped into his car stereo.
“We’re never going to say, ‘Those guitars are too harsh,’ or, ‘Luke, sing more normal,’” Roccoforte said. “I don’t think we’re ever going to do that.”
Sticking to their guns would be a smart move, especially with Smith as an early fan of the group. Having one of their heroes digging what they’re about was a pleasant surprise for the band. It’s also one of the infrequent times they’ve discovered a well-known individual having either taken to their music or shown up at a gig. They think maybe some touch-ups to their shaky rock-star reputations might get a few more Paris Hilton–types backstage.
“We have never really attracted celebrity fans,” Roccoforte said. “Everybody’s drinking with the Kings of Leon. We’re just not cool-looking dudes that like to party.”
What if Smith, in the flesh, came up to them post-show?
“I’d probably be one of those people who couldn’t talk,” Roccoforte admitted.
A more important question seems to be this: Why does Robert Smith like a band who, at times, sound like a his own band, bent on fitting in best where the strobe lights are the brightest and most dizzying? No one really likes a band that sounds like his own, does he? It’s as incongruous as alternately sipping Coca-Cola and Pepsi and feeling truthful to oneself.
This either leads one to believe that The Rapture don’t sound a damn thing like The Cure, or they are taking such a parallel path creatively, that Smith feels a kinship to these mop-tops. I like to think the parallel path theory suits the spirit of the band a little more than the first. It’s the feeling Roccoforte gets from Jenner and his other mates that drew him to drumming, not anything off of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Mixed Up, or Disintegration.
“They really get me inspired, just playing part of a song or a riff from a new song,” Roccoforte said. And music’s all that he does.
“I really like film [he was a student at San Francisco State], but I’ve kind of realized—and it’s kind of sad—that music takes up a large part of my life,” he said. “I’m kind of nerdy about it. When I look at my life, I’ll either be listening to music or trying to play music. It pretty much ties in and runs through everything.”
It’s a good, unintentional description of what The Rapture do themselves. They knot their influences together. They melt genres and force attention. They also make it difficult to stand still, and there’s no use fighting it.