I was colossally late, rare form for an appointment that holds crucial meaning (like a cover story). Frantically searching for parking on an icy street, I eventually stumbled across the lawn. Finally making my way to the door of a small enclosed sun-room, a stylistic trend in suburban architecture that has long since past, into the same realm as conversation pits and suspended fireplaces; smelling an all too familiar scent of stale cigarettes. I knock cordially three times on the large wood paneled door. Through a small stained glass window, I expected to see blurry figures approach to relieve me of the dreadful Colorado winter. Muffled sounds could be heard inside without any movement. The minutes passed, and soon enough I decided to take a chance and barge in. A creaking door revealed a darkened living room, a solitary kitchen light ablaze with the sounds of people buzzing from its direction. Following my ears, I eventually made my way through the kitchen and into the basement, where the band was awaiting me. Suddenly, coming to terms that I was not meeting with a banker or a notary, my lateness had, in fact, gone completely unnoticed.
The band to be interviewed, Rat Doctor, is unabashed in their youthful and exuberant willingness to be probed and prodded. Yet, in exchange, we must eat, drink, and jam together all in one night at the dimly lit corner house, otherwise known to members of the community with a certain disposition to DIY shows as the “SnugHouse”.
Immediately there is a sense that the organizational backbone of the band rests on the lead singer Terrah. In a subtle tone that many would struggle to balance, that exists somewhere on the fine line between optimistic and patronistic, she gracefully nudges the conversation and keeps the other four members on task for the night. After the band posed for portraits, and I indulged in some familiar comforts of rye whiskey, we finally settled in the upstairs living room.
Dylan, the bassist and band-proclaimed ‘groovemaster’ surreptitiously started the album “My First Car” by the band Vulfpeck. The sudden arrival of such savory tunes in the midst of a conversational lull prompted a spark of shared connection and energy.
Terrah began I think that Vulfpeck is one of those bands that __ Dylan suddenly proclaims from the kitchen Terrah! Do you even know the name of this song?! Dylan’s tone could rival game show quizmasters and newsreaders of old. The nearly rhetorical question, however, would remain unanswered only for a moment, as myself and the other members of Rat Doctor blurted out the answer without a misstep. After some more gushing over our mutual adoration, Terrah added-
I think overall they are one of the most influential bands for us, more than just music – stylistically and branding-wise there is so much more…you hear or see a Vulfpeck song and you know who it is immediately.
Rat Doctor is a relatively young band, at just over a year old. Now entering a relatively dynamic Colorado scene, my main opening questions are mainly focused on the challenges that lie ahead. How can a band living and working in the current economic realities of our region make a successful body of work without dying of exhaustion or exposure?
[For us] it seems that you need to create new and original music, there is a lot of pressure to continue to do that…However, there are some major practical constraints, mainly that it takes time to create this music. So the question really is – how do you accelerate the creative process?
Adding to this response from Dom (keys) the rest of the band chimed in to expand on to the original idea. From this point on, our conversation began to develop far too quickly to split up into individual quotes. Luckily, however, Rat Doctor collectively reached a natural conclusion before prompted to move on to the next topic, therefore it only makes sense that you will be reading an amalgamation of responses from Rat Doctor as a whole below in italics:
I think if we make enough music, to create a sound that no one has really heard before in Fort Collins, that could create a draw for us…our minds are not really on the economic side of it…we have been playing the same set for a while and I think that we have played it for long enough that we know where we want to go. We know that we aren’t completely satisfied with where we are, so there is this really intense personal drive to make more interesting art to satisfy the desire to find some truth in art…Not that we haven’t thought of the economic side before, but [we] truly think that if we can satisfy our artistic vision the rest will fall into place.
When further questioned on how to fully realize their collective artistic vision the near term with the amenities they have available to as a band right now:
I think it would be nice to regionally pinpoint where we are going to go, bring a crowd out, and play music to people who have no idea who we are…There is something to be said about the alternate ways we have managed to get attention, throwing house shows and DIY pop up shows… I think one of the great opportunities about being able to play Arise Music Festival, is being able to play our music in front of a bunch of people who may not otherwise attend one of our local shows as well as other bands… if a small tour is going to happen, it’s probably going to happen because of a shared connection with another, more established, band.
…It’s really the double edge sword of the internet however because it’s easier to get music out there, but it’s also easier for everyone else to get their music out as well.
Navigating certain subjects and sore spots in any band, young or old, is always a challenge. Differing opinions and lack of communication usually turn these topics into taboos, only in the tensest situations to be used as ammunition in an unwinnable argument. However, it seems that our dearest Rat Doctor has lamented, repeated and revisited these topics regularly to ensure everyone is on the same page. Knowing their financial and social limits, I asked an almost un-askable question in today’s day and age, “Have you [Rat Doctor] thought about deleting your social media accounts?”
We have thought about it, and unfortunately, it is kind of a necessary evil… I mean a venue isn’t going to book us if we have nothing online. In a pragmatic sense, we do need social media to some degree even if we don’t like it… to bring it back to before – a band like Vulfpeck has all of this content other than Facebook that serves an ancillary purpose, especially with campaigns like Sleepify, that were brilliant…We definitely plan on bringing that level of creativity to the table when it comes to alternative content in video or written form[s] – like this interview in a print magazine.
The only alternative, we collectively concluded, is that one could make a truly DIY scene work with a higher population density. Even if there are multiple different bands, swearing off social media entirely, their vying for attention would be, at least, about the music and the art behind it shining through, rather than a fight for likes and shares. Admittedly, it is an almost naively utopian scenario suggested by myself to extract a solution or truth from Rat Doctor. One of my final questions revolves more around what we can be improving in our community to encourage these tributary streams of art to flow into the right ocean.
There needs to be something people can look towards, a credible source that is full of local things that are happening. We need more publications… there has always been something hip about having a Zine or a publication of some kind, these days anyone can make a Facebook page… and realistically there is nothing credible about Facebook.
After a few hours of roundhouse tangents and a productive unraveling of the topics at hand, Rat Doctor invited me back down to their basement, which functions as their creative studio space – where they write, record, and polish their set. What feels like something out of a 70s opium den with just a hint of residual college-boy design aesthetic, they plugged into their amps, took their spots behind the appropriate instruments and asked if they could play one of their newest songs, “Vibin”, for me before we concluded our evening. They asked that I give honest feedback, stating that criticism is truly one of the things a new band can use the most. I happily obliged and took a seat in a high backed, rose colored-velour parlor chair, with open ears and slight whiskey buzz.
Over the next four minutes, Rat Doctor swept me into a swirl of what I can only describe as something you have to see for yourselves.