RACKETT have become notorious for having a raucous, raw, riot of a live show. Their career trajectory over the last year and a half can be measured akin to their performances; crazy, loud, fast-paced, and yet still focused.
Having already begun their Rockin’ The Puburbs tour – which they achieved through winning the competition of the same name – RACKETT continues to go from strength to strength, showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. As I interviewed the band’s lead singer Rebecca Callander over the phone, I could hear the passion she holds for music oozing out of her voice.
The girls share a special bond, they were drawn to one another by the same dream. Over time the music industry brought them to the right place at the right time.
“We are very well connected by an ambition to ‘make it’,” Rebecca explains, “to make this dream a reality. So everything else that’s around that is really driven by this shared belief in ourselves. In terms of musicality, we like the same music and in terms of live performances, we can all feel when someone’s slipped up – we all smile at each other. There’s a sense of camaraderie on stage.”
Callander is optimistic about their opportunities as women in rock’n’roll, “Quite the contrary – we’ve had an abundance of opportunities because we entered the scene when the demand for women became very apparent. That meant that with this controversial gender equality issue, festivals and venues were forced to increase their female quota and that allowed us to slip right into places that we see as a favourable position for us.
“We don’t like to focus on the gender of the band, we like to focus on how well they can play their guitars – are they engaging? Are they entertaining? So, from what we’ve seen there is a flipside to having a quota, it means that there should also be, as much as there is a gender quota there should be a quota for proficiency as well.
“Sometimes you find that females are just put on the bill to fill the quota but their level of skill set isn’t to the level of the position that they are being put in. They might not be able to play as well as a guy band, but because their girls they’ve been offered more presence in the industry. All our take on it is; let the best musicians, male or female, be at the forefront of the scene.”
A little less than a year ago, RACKETT played amongst the all-female line-up of Electric Lady. With the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands, unbeknownst to her fellow band members, lead singer Rebecca Callander would go on to make a proud, bold statement by shaving her head on stage. This would translate into an intentional persona shift.
“The main motive was that I was tired of my material identity,” she explains of the bold move.
“I had long, bleached hair and with that comes the kind of Barbie doll, sexual icon-style connotations. I wanted to get rid of that and I wanted to replace that with something neutral to really understand what our fans are attracted to. Is it the blonde Barbie girl playing music or is it that they actually like the music? Is it that we are actually entertaining?”
Over one’s lifespan, we tend to reform our identity more than a few times, such is the ever-changing nature of our surroundings. Regardless of the reasons behind an identity change, it comes from within and puts us in the best possible position to tackle the following timeframe of our lives.
Callander went on to further explain that she “wanted to strip those aesthetical things away and see what was left. I wanted to get rid of the bells and whistles in terms of my look. It’s just like an identity change. We all can understand what it’s like to redefine yourself.”
RACKETT’s latest single, Alive, is a reference to that identity change. Leaning towards the sphere of psychedelic rock, with lyrics “You must leave your past behind / Destroy your great disguise.” It is the musical embodiment of the decision Callander made to shave her head, bare, on stage for fans to witness.
Alive is also the first release from the band they produced on their own, in its entirety. Band members Astrid Holz (drums) and Kat Ayala (lead guitar) are producers, studio/mixing engineers who have a studio in Marrickville, so it makes sense that the band would move towards producing their own tracks without any outside interference, in turn pushing forward the real die hard, DIY nature of punk.
“We’ve been doing a lot of our own production. The songs are now going through a process whereby I’ll create a vocal demo, take it to them and then we’ll all co-produce the arrangement and the composition. It definitely helps with morale when we’ve all contributed.”
RACKETT’s influences span far and wide, most publicised are The Spice Girls and Black Sabbath, however, it was the Black Flag and Frank Zappa records – which make a cameo in the music video for Bats – that enticed me. After watching that music video, along with listening to the single, I was intrigued to say the least.
I have well and truly caught on to their punk attitude, RACKETT never settle. They are always trying to kick down the next door, break through and create their own opportunities. That said, it was the way the band seamlessly meld genres, from shoegaze to psychedelic rock, while remaining punky that really caught my ear.
“The music that we write is so diverse, we’ve got everything from country ballads to more psych-rock songs, we’ve got standard rock and blues songs and Ally is a jazz musician so she’s got a lot of swing feels. We’re just trying to open up our fans, without deterring them, to the possibility of having numerous genres. But it is difficult because the market demands a signature sound, a label genre. ‘They make rock, they make this [they make that].’ So we’re just trying to figure out where we sit and how we can create a label, but not be limited to that.”
Mental clarity and forward thinking are two necessities when it comes to being successful in the music industry. Especially when you are an independent band who has to do it all yourself, regardless of whether it is by choice or not. Hours spent in front of the computer, covering anything from social media to accounting require focus and the ability to be level-headed. Such tasks are not apparent to the casual music fan; the daily grind of being an independent musician is hard to stay on top of.
It definitely helps to “Try to stay away from the stigmas associated with our industry. You don’t need to be rock’n’roll, drugs and alcohol. That stigma is not useful and I’ve fallen into that trap of thinking, ‘I’m a musician it’s a part of my job to be drinking and taking drugs and things like that.’ But it’s just a big waste of time and that’s just my opinion… You don’t need it, you should try and approach your music like a business… you wouldn’t go to work drunk or stoned.”
RACKETT have been causing just that, so do yourself a favour and go see their wicked, wild live show for yourself, or catch them at Big Pineapple at the end of May – you won’t leave disappointed!
That said… you may leave drenched in your own sweat, or someone else’s.
23 March, FBI Fundraiser, Sydney
24 March, Dicey Riley’s, Wollongong
29 March, Small Ballroom – Gateway Hotel, Mayfield
31 March, The Captain Cook Hotel, Paddington
7 April, Frankie’s Pizza, Sydney
13 May, The Squeeze, Sydney
26 May, Big Pineapple Music Festival, Big Pineapple Complex, The Sunshine Coast