Here in Columbus, I have the pleasure of seeing so many small bands that are fantastically talented but never decide to leave the friendly confines of the great state of Ohio. Be it for financial reasons, family, or other obligations, they simply stick to what they’re good at (rocking local) and never branch out to become something that could possibly be bigger.
It’s no flaw, but… The Raquels do not want to be that band.
“We’re all very serious about this band, and we want to tour,” says drummer Tyler Birch. “We want to make that leap. We said, you know what, for 40 days we’re not going to have jobs and we’re just going to make this happen.”
“It’s interesting – we’ve been a band for two years and we’re about to play twice as many shows in two months than we’ve played over that previous time-span,” adds guitarist/vocalist Gabe Ritz.
Starting on July 25, the band will head out to play 28 shows before closing things out at The Trolley Shop on September 1. It’s a rather ambitious plan for a band that only came together in 2016.
“I don’t know if we can do it,” admits singer/guitarist Derrick Walter. “I don’t even think we can do it. But we’re gonna do it.”
“You’re so pessimistic! We WILL do it!” emphasizes Birch. “We’ve made the music, we’ve built the brand, and we’re going to put our money where our mouths are and show people how serious we are!”
You can see the band one more time on June 23 at the Spacebar opening for Digisaurus before they head out on the road. Before we get into that, I’m sure you’d like to get to know The Raquels a little bit better.
The band came together between Birch and Ritz when they were living together in 2016. They both were coming out of bands that they felt weren’t serious enough about music. In living together, they knew that they both took things with equal sincerity, and recruited classmate David Butler to play keys and synth-bass. Walter was at the tail end of his time with Sam and the Barbers when he booked the trio to play their first show, and immediately fell in love.
“I begged them to let me join,” laughed Walter.
“He was the missing piece of the puzzle,” adds Ritz. “We had already kind of wanted him to sing with us and it all just came together.”
The group liked the idea of giving a “boy band”… a girl’s name. And thus, The Raquels were born. Birch referenced Raquel Welch’s look in “One Million Years BC” as being “powerful, defiant and alone” and deciding that since they all liked the name, that’s what they stuck with. As far as their sound, well, that’s a little more complicated.
“When we started the group, we were seeing a lot of bands with tons of guitars, lots of machismo and attitude,” explains Birch. “We wanted to be something a little different.”
“We didn’t set out with a specific objective as far as what we wanted to sound like, or who our target audience was,” says Ritz. “It’s really all just kind of came together as we’ve been playing.”
On their Facebook page, the band’s bio claims to be “new-new wave; synthesized pop rock.” Birch says he likes to call them a “DIY boy band,” even if that might make people think that they are akin to N*Sync or Backstreet Boys. Between the four of them they have an astonishing range of musical influences, from Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones, to Pharrell and Timbaland, Keane, St. Vincent, Chris Isaak, R.E.M and Shania Twain. Quite a mixed bag, I’d say.
Currently the band has three songs on the internet, led by 1982, a song that Walter had written when he was with his previous band. He said that when he joined The Raquels he wanted to put their unique sound on it, and it just happened to work out in their favor.
“1982 is an in-between breakup song, talking about how flawed I was and how delusional I was at the time about a relationship I was in,” he explains. “I wanted to change everything about her… when it turns out she was already a fantastic person.”
The boys explained that the title 1982 was originally done ironically, mocking the ubiquitous 80’s revival that seemed to be happening at the time. It’s more of an amusement to them now, since the band uses heavy doses of synthesizers and has an almost retro sound.
“Even still, we’re trying to push the boundaries of things,” adds Birch.
Their second single, Just A Txt, was written by Ritz, specifically when a girl he knew told him that he looked like Vance Joy. He knew the name, but hadn’t really listened to the music. When he finally did, he was quite perturbed and decided he was going to go out and write a song that was better than anything that Joy could write. Talk about ambitious.
“At its core, the song is about ghosting somebody, knowing you’re doing it and being somewhat ashamed about it,” says Birch.
“It’s something that we’ve all done at one point or another in our lives,” describes Ritz. “It just perplexed me that no one had ever written a song about it before.”
It’s interesting looking at music as it comes out now and how it deals with the rapid onset of technology, especially in terms of social media, Facebook, Instagram, etc. It seems inevitable that all of these things will percolate into popular music, so it seems that The Raquels have jumped ahead of the trend on that one.
It was in fact Just A Txt that first drew me to the band. When I initially heard the song, I was shocked by the fact that this was a small local band that had only played a few shows who was making this recording. The song has so much polish and poise, you’d swear it come from someone so much bigger.
“We never wanna sound like… well, like a band that you’d go to see because it was your friends band,” shares Birch. “We want people to come and see us because we sound fantastic. We want our music to stand alone regardless of whether you know us or not.”
In my opinion, I’d say they’ve accomplished that mission. Their most recent song is Two Fingers, and I’ll let you make your own estimations on what that song is about. This Friday, the group is dropping another single, Cartoons. The band plans to put those four songs onto an EP so that they’ll have something physical to sell and give away on their upcoming tour.
“We’ll need something else to put on our merch table next to The Raquels lipstick and our Raquels-logo Panini press,” humors Birch.
The upcoming tour takes them from Ohio, out along the east coast to Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania. The band will then head south through Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida, before coming back up through New Orleans, Alabama, and Nashville. Even more than the stops along the way, the band is most excited about the cuisine they will be able to sample on their trek.
“We love food!” explains Walter. “We’ve already mapped out several locations that we want to eat at. We’re most excited about trying seafood in New Orleans, and peaches in Georgia.”
“I LOVE peaches!” Ritz interrupts. “Peach pie, peach ice cream… just a bucket of peaches dripping that sweet juice all over my face.
“We’re honestly most excited to play down there because it’s so far away. There’s a certain point, approximately 323 miles away, where you take a breath and it just smells different.”
Despite their light-hearted demeanor, I could tell that these guys were one-hundred percent committed to making this tour an absolute success. I know I will be looking forward to their updates from the road, and I’m equally excited to cover them next week for their aforementioned final hometown show at The Spacebar, June 23.
The Raquels – 1982