Roz and the Rice Cakes may not yet be famous worldwide, but in the hearts of those that have gotten to know their music—particularly via one of their engaging, high energy live gigs—they hold a very special place. In fact it was the band’s super loyal fan base that foot the bill for the production of their latest album Need to Feed, as well as music videos, limited-edition vinyl, and a slew of merchandise to accompany the new release. When was the last time you heard of a fan pledging $1,000 just to have his or her favorite local band record a new album? Thanks to such donors, Roz and the Rice Cakes had ample resources to put to work in the historic Columbus Theatre in Providence, where they recorded the new album with the frontmen of The Low Anthem at the soundboard.
Need to Feed is a departure in aesthetic tone from the band’s earlier, more lo-fi recordings but it remains totally faithful to their fearless, experimental approach. The new record plunges into the simultaneously angsty, emotional and colorful world of The Rice Cakes.
In the wake of the new release, Roz Raskin opens up about the creative process behind Need to Feed, shares her feelings on the Providence music scene, and gives THE BOMBER JACKET a list of some of her favorite up and coming bands.
TBJ: First off, congrats on the success of your Kickstarter campaign! Why did you decide to take that route to funding your new album and what was that experience like?
Thanks so much! We’d done a Kickstarter campaign for a music video a few years back that was very successful so we figured why not go for it again since we definitely didn’t have the funds to afford all the vinyl, videos, and everything in between. It was very inspiring to have so many people care about the project and really help to bring it to life. A lot of the people we didn’t even know!
How’s the release of Need to Feed been going for you?
It’s been kickass. I was a little nervous about releasing material like this because I think I’m always excited and a little frightened by change and progression. But, we’ve been getting so many positive responses, I’m stoked. We’ve been doing record release shows in a bunch of cities that have been going well too.
Can you describe your relationship with the Columbus Cooperative and tell us what it was like recording at that historic venue with The Low Anthem at the helm?
Well, I met Ben Knox Miller and Jeff Prystowsky when I was 17 and just starting to play out for the first time and The Low Anthem had been playing for a few years. I went to see them play a few times and Ben offered to record some of my solo stuff. Since then they’ve been great friends and when the opportunity arose to record with them at the theatre we went for it. They are both true artists and funny dudes.
How much of a producer’s hand did The Low Anthem lend to the project? In what way do you think the final mix on the album is colored by that collaboration?
Having Ben and Jeff co-produce the album definitely had a huge affect on the album, perhaps in more ways than I know just yet. Some of the songs weren’t even finished being written when we brought them into the studio. Each song on the album isn’t quite like the one before and with a band like us, we don’t go into the studio saying, “We would like to sound like this. Help make us sound like this.” So without the confines of a genre, it’s easy to get lost in the music, and it was often difficult to decide what we wanted the end product to sound like, which was exhausting but also very exciting. There was a lot of experimentation (and sometimes frustration) but it was worth it in the end. Ben and Jeff were very patient with us and I appreciate that so much, love those dudes. We also mixed half the album and mastered it with Keith Souza and Seth Manchester from Machines with Magnets. They were helpful in organizing the sounds, bringing us back to reality and putting a polish on the whole thing.
You mentioned in other interviews that the theme of the new album is hunger. Can you elaborate on that?
I think we are hungry as a band in various senses and some how that stuck in our brains and became a big thematic element on this album. We are all surrounded by instant gratification, the Internet, everything at our fingertips, and people take full advantage of that, over consumption, feeding on everything, humans are like a brutal virus on the Earth. [Laughs] That’s sounding pretty heavy but I think it’s pretty darn true.
The album starts off with “Birds,” which sets a dreamy, heavy psych tone. Would it be accurate to say that The Rice Cakes seem to be riding on a recent wave of psychedelia in pop culture, as expressed in the rise of bands like Tame Impala and others?
I feel like [we] are definitely influenced by other people’s music but I almost feel like it’s more localized since we see more local bands than anything else as a group. I don’t know much Tame Impala but I do see the bigger connection to psychedelic elements to the music scene as a whole. We’re all so high! [Laughs]
Which song on the album do you think comes closest to expressing the new musical ideas you are exploring on Need to Feed?
Collectively we all dig “The Birds” as being a step in a direction and a favorite track from the album. Ben, Jeff, and Justin were a huge part of that one too pushing us to try out the more atmospheric parts of our sound. I think it was a big step in a cool direction for us.
You say you’ve had the opportunity to record sounds you’ve never before achieved. What are those exactly, and how long have you been dreaming of those sounds before finally being able to put them down on wax?
Recording in the Columbus Theatre was rad not just because the space is cool, but because they have so many cool instruments at their fingertips. They have an incredible organ in the main theatre that Justin used a bit, new kinds of vocal effects, new amps, the list is endless.
Why such a long break between full-length albums?
We were touring and doing so much over the past few years that we hadn’t been in one place long enough to successfully write a whole album. A lot of these songs were written during a time last year that we specifically set aside to write. It was the first time we’d done that, it felt good.
Many have said that the new album is your best work so far. You’ve evolved as artists. What importance does evolution have in the life of the modern artist?
I think evolution is key to everything. We are always striving for change and new sounds. I would hate to see us ever typecast as a certain kind of band. We’re to all over the place for that.
Can you talk to us about your approach to writing your vocals? What are your major influences or points of reference for writing both melody and lyrics?
I think my voice has changed a bit over the years. On this new record in particular I took a different approach to capturing them in studio and The Low Anthem dudes and Casey and Justin were big help with that giving me feedback. In terms of influences, some of my favorite singers are: Billie Holiday, Gwen Stefani, Lauryn Hill, Destiny’s Child, Ella Fitzgerald. I was always able to feel something so intense from all of their voices and I think I hope that my voice connects with people like that, really makes ‘em feel something. Lyrically, I tend to dabble in the more surreal as being reflective of real life. Casey and I wrote some of the lyrics together on this one too and he took the helm with “Simile Like Me.” I love how simple yet poignant those lyrics are, some of my favorite on the album.
In the era of mass diffusion of music on the web via Soundcloud, YouTube, Spotify, etc., what does it mean to you to be so involved in a thriving local music scene?
We’re all really stoked about how many awesome bands are coming out of Providence right now. There are so many creative and hungry people, so many good friends making good music, makes me feel very inspired.
What are your feelings on Spotify?
I think any way people are hearing music for the first time is cool in the same way we aren’t against people pirating music per say. But I do think it’s lame how much music companies of all kinds make off bands without the bands seeing very music of the returns. I’m stoked on the new efforts from Smith&Weeden, Death Vessel, Gymshorts, and Tapestries.
What does performing live mean to you?
A huge part of this band is playing live. We’ve been D.I.Y. touring for over four years and it’s been such a radical way to connect with people all over the country.
Any new collaborations with other local Providence artists in the works?
Yes! I’m going to be throwing down some vocals with hip-hop artist B. Dolan in the next few weeks and as a band we are going to be scoring for an independent film called “Para La Pez,” which we have already begun writing for. It’s gonna be a busy year doing all that and touring.
Can you talk to us about the creative relationship that’s been formed between you and CrashBoomBangMedia for the filming of your videos? Did you take part in the building of the monster in “Magma” for your six-song release Monster Man?
The whole relationship with CrashBoomBang Media has been awesome over the years. Adam Depalma, Jeff Fernandes, and Paul Medeiros all have such creative and interesting ways of interpreting music for the scene. Adam filmed another video for a song of ours called “Like Ass” years ago and then he started working with Paul and Jeff. Paul and I were dating at the time so I think that was helpful to the whole process as well. We also worked with an awesome puppeteer, Brett Sylvia, who designed the puppet and we enlisted the help of friends, family, and fans to build the whole thing. Casey, Justin, and Brett were inside the puppet all day puppeteering that big monster. It was also a very hot day, over 100 degrees. We also got donations from local businesses like the pizza shop Nice Slice to feed the extras the day of the shoot. It was a pretty magical experience. We are working with them on a couple of videos now actually, soon to be released!
What’s in store for multi-media projects related to the new record release?
I can’t say too much just yet but we do have things in the works. Look out!
And finally, a special question for Roz from an anonymous fan: What’s with the insanely cute jogging-in-place thing you do when onstage at your keyboard?
[Laughs] Welp, it’s hard to rock a keyboard because people can’t really see what your doing the way you can see a guitar player shred. I guess I’m shredding with my entire body, moving in a way that feels natural to me.