It’s been two years since I first wrote about Rat Motel. Since then they’ve worked to evolve their sound, refine their techniques, and, well, grow up a little.
After all, front-man Seth Peacock was only 16-years-old when he started the band. He was impressionable, full of flair, and ready to set the world on fire. A lot can change in two years, but Peacock’s ardor for music definitely has not dulled. You can surely feel the passion in the band’s most recent EP, Old Man Winkle, of which we did a review.
“A lot of those songs are actually a few years old. We’ve just tweaked and played with them so much that they’re almost unrecognizable from the original product,” explains Seth.
The band originally started out as a four-piece, but a few lineup changes and some maturation brought them to their current two-piece form of Seth and his brother Clayton, who plays drums. Seth says that originally they thought about finding replacements, but it actually ended up working out better for them to just go as a duo.
“Personally, I wanted to challenge myself to make more catchy and enjoyable music. Stuff that could just be enjoyed on one or two instruments. I wanted to make myself a better songwriter.”
“Because it’s just the two of us, we have a lot of room to play around and find ways to fill space when recording,” echoes Clayton. “Plus, being brothers we’re always linked together.”
Oasis. Van Halen. Pantera. AC/DC. The Beach Boys. The history of rock-n-roll is littered with bands that featured brothers with an almost other-worldly connection. While they don’t always get along, there’s always a mental connection that seems to help strengthen the musical side of things in their music.
I’m not saying that Rat Motel is quite on the level of the bands listed above, but they definitely have a cohesion that might not be present otherwise.
It also helps that the band isn’t looking to rush things in life. Clayton is currently working towards a PhD in Physics, while Seth has helped mix records for other local acts and plays drums with Columbus’ RADATTACK.
“Even though we have other things going on, we still focus on what we do together,” says Seth. “If it ever became too much, we’d just put it down and come back to it later.”
The band calls their sound Buzz Rock, a term that Seth admittedly made up because he thought it sounded cool, and he couldn’t think of a better way to describe the band.
“There’s some garage sounds, some psychedelia, some pop… especially on the new record, there’s a little bit of everything,” explains Seth. “But because I listen to most things, I didn’t want to stick us in one specific genre. It gives me more room to explore when I’m making music.”
“I feel like bands aren’t really shackled by a genre, at least as much as fans might think,” he continues. “It’s just that every band has a sound they enjoy and want to create.”
Genres can be stiff, binding, and sometimes moronic. But, they’re far too practical to disperse. Despite any negative connotations, they help to further the musical discussion between fans, and help outsiders find things they may not have expected in certain musicians.
“You honestly don’t run the risk of being pigeon-holed until you’re talking to someone who can profit off of your genre,” adds Clayton. “And then it becomes more of an annoyance because people expect certain things from you, when you’re just trying to make your music.”
To follow up Old Man Winkle, they say they have a lot of ideas. Primarily, Seth wants to take a step back and let someone else handle a few of the reins.
“One of the issues we ran into with the most recent EP is that I was trying to do too much,” he revealed. “It became a little stressful trying to make sure everything was in the right position. I think for our next record we’re going to let someone else handle the recording and mastering aspects, that way we can just play and enjoy it.”
He also says that he loves the idea of concept records, and has a few notions kicking around in his head that could make for a great story. In spite of that, he recognizes the need for bands to have stand-alone singles, at least from a marketing standpoint.
“It would be foolish of us not to give the fans something to latch onto.”
“From an outsider standpoint, the very least you can expect someone to do is listen to one song,” adds Clayton. “If they like it, then you can talk about the record. At the very least, you need to try to have a good single.”
“That’s not to say that any of our songs are bad,” laughed Seth. “I definitely wouldn’t be making the music if I thought it was bad!”
As far as being called “Rat Motel” goes, the brothers struggled to give me a solid origin story.
“A lot of times when I’m writing music, I just dig into my head and grab the first two words that stick out for me,” admits Seth. “The most recent piece of music I wrote, its working title is Seventh Whale… but it really doesn’t have anything to do with whales.”
“Looking back on it, we probably could’ve gotten better hits on the internet if we used something like Cat Hotel,” mused Clayton. “But there’s something catchy about Rat Motel. It’s short, easy to say, and has a heavy emphasis on the letter T. RaT MoTel… it just sticks with you.”
“Honestly, when we started the band I was in that teenage phase where I started realizing how real death is,” confessed Seth. “The first name I came up with was Dead Ram, but that was a little too morbid. But I definitely wanted it to be something related to animals, and so Rat Motel was born.”
Regardless of where they go from a musical standpoint, both of the brothers agree that fame isn’t what their aim is. In fact, if the band doesn’t work out for them, they both know they have a solid fallback to work with.
“Well, Clayton obviously is working towards his PhD. More recently, I’ve started working on fixing (effects) pedals,” Seth revealed. “My true dream is to get to the point where I can build my own, and create my own sound. Right now I’m at the point where I can work off of other people’s schematics, and if what I make doesn’t work, I know how to fix it.”
It’s definitely refreshing to see a younger band be so level-headed about their lives. Just based on talent alone I think they’ll always have a place in the Columbus scene. Their next show is August 23 with The High Definitions at Misfit Manor.