Quirky, folky and fun are the words I would use to describe Badass Band 24! It is about time I venture to a smaller city for a band to get you music lovers bouncin’ and this one hails from Santa Cruz. If I had to compare them to any bands, I would say they are the folk tunes baby of Cake and Modest Mouse. The band is called Rat Trap and the talent of these guys, along with last week’s band, Rags to Radio, have me thinking I wasted the hell out of my teenage years!
I truly do not have much recollection of how I heard about Rat Trap, I am pretty sure it was one of those where a friend randomly shot me a message to check them out. I do remember looking them up on Facebook and the first song I listened to was ‘Animals’. It was one of those songs that you instantly just fucking dig. I immediately went and bought their entire album ‘The Western Boundary’. One of the best things about this band is the utter garage-like simplicity of their tunes. They’re just good, well-written, simple tunes. These guys clearly have a grasp at what makes a kick ass sound that anyone can dig on no matter their typical musical taste.
Rat Trap is made up of Grant Simmons- Guitar, Mandolin, Piano, Banjo, Vocals, Aaron Stevens- Bass, Backup Vocals, Ben Humy- Drums, Sean Hoban- Guitar, and Oliver Tuescher- Violin. Another great thing about these guys is the fact that they incorporate so many instruments but still keep the simple sound, it doesn’t sound confusing or to get to be too much to listen to at once. Again, their album out last year, ‘The Western Boundary’ boasts ten of these excellent songs, some of the more notable ones would be ‘Untitled’, ‘What We Live’, and ‘Songbirds’. The major underlying message seems to be ‘Stop trying to tell us how to live’ and who can’t relate to that?! These guys play shows constantly around Santa Cruz and the Bay Area, so get out there and check ‘em out!
The guys of Rat Trap were kind enough to answer some questions for BBB so continue reading below to find out about them getting naked and eating dirt before a show, why they make music because that’s just what friends do together, and when their new album will be out!
When and why did each of you start playing?
Grant: I wanted to play guitar when I was 9 years old but my parents wouldn’t have none of that shit and they made me take classical piano lessons. It kind of turned me off from playing music seriously for awhile. When I was 12, I picked up the guitar and started teaching myself how to play it. Learning the piano beforehand really helped. With this I started teaching myself other instruments – drums, mandolin, banjo, bass, ect. After that, I began writing songs when I was around thirteen, many of which would appear on The Western Boundary.
Oliver: I had previously only played fiddle, jazz and classicle. Playing indie rock just sounded like it could be really fun.
Ben: I decided to learn how to be a percussionist in 5th grade for band. I literally told my band teacher, “trumpet,” and before he could write it down I said, “No, wait, I’ll do drums.” Best decision of my life. Of course I was just smacking triangles and playing snare and whatnot, but it led to me to actually taking drum set lessons a couple years later.
How did you all meet?
Grant: I went to elementary school with Sean and still kept in touch with him. After jamming with him on a Joshua Tree trip, I asked him to join the band. I went to middle school with Aaron and asked him if he played bass one day. He said no. I let him into the band and taught him bass as we went. Oliver I met through a jazz summer camp and originally I intended him to just be a studio member contributing violin to a couple tracks, but we liked him so much we made him a full time member. Our original drummer, Parker, I knew through sports. When that didn’t work out, Ben, who I knew through mutual friends, joined the band.
Ben: I’m the latest addition to the band. Rat Trap’s previous drummer was Parker Langston, but there was this one day where he suddenly flaked at this gig at Scotts Valley High School, so Grant quickly called me and I came over. I barely knew Grant at that point. I forget when we first legitimately met. And then I met the rest of the members through Rat Trap.
Oliver: I met Grant and Ben at the kuumbwa jazz camp and I met the rest of the band through them.
Do you ever feel any animosity towards you from a crowd or other bands being so young and all?
Grant: I can tell some people don’t take us as seriously when they know were like, fifteen, right off the bat, so we generally don’t tell anyone that unless we have to. We get the whole “that’s cute, they play music” thing sometimes. On the other hand, people who listen to our music and like it are even more impressed once they learn we’re high schoolers.
Ben: Kinda sometimes. But we don’t take ourselves too seriously on stage, so if they hate us, they’re being negative nancies.
Explain your name, Rat Trap. Did you picking the name have anything to do with the 70’s punk band with the same name?
Grant: Honestly, I don’t really know where the name came from. Definitely not from the 70s punk band, I’m actually just learning about that now. I would say It’s from the Decemberists song “On The Bus Mall”, one of my favorite songs ever, but I didn’t hear that song until after I formed the band. Pretty sure the name was just a random thing that sounded cool to two thirteen year olds playing shitty punk music.
Ben: But we ARE that punk band from the 70’s.
Which musicians do you idolize? Why?
Grant: One of my biggest influences has to be Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse. If my tutor in seventh grade had never shown me Modest Mouse, I don’t even know if I’d be in a band now. In eighth grade I was the biggest MM freak ever. I bought all the albums, posters, and spent hours finding all the weird random bootlegs of unreleased stuff on the internet. Looking now, I have over two hundred songs of theirs in my iTunes library. Why? I don’t really know. My thirteen year old self had never really heard anything like it all. It ultimately led me to becoming a musician.
Oliver: Right now I am a great fan of Ben Cooper and Baths.
Ben: I’m a huge fan of the Shins. I think James Mercer is an extremely talented guy. Other names I can think of right now would be the Pixies, Built to Spill, Dr. Dog, and other stuff. They’re all just great. It’s hard to explain why in a few sentences.
Do you get nervous before a performance?
Grant: Our first couple shows I think we can honestly say we were pretty nervous. Being thirteen didn’t help. I remember the first one I ever played, an acoustic show with just me and Aaron, I had a tambourine on my foot that I had to kick off halfway through the set because I was shaking so much. Now, were totally comfortable, but those first few I remember induced a lot more stress than they should have.
Oliver: Sometimes, depends on the venue.
Ben: Sometimes. Less often now. I’m just glad my part in the band allows me to hit stuff with sticks.
Any rituals before a show?
Ben:We get naked and eat dirt.
Describe your show visually & musically for those who have never been.
Grant: Musically, were way more on top of our shit than ever. When we first started, our shows were pretty boring. No one ever moved. Ever. After we took a break for the summer and came back, I decided I wanted our shows to be more entertaining. Now, every show just seems to get funner than the last one. We have this whole routine for a new song where every member drops their instruments and picks up a percussion instrument while Ben solos. Last show, we went nuts, wall of sounded our last song and I jumped on my guitar.
Ben: It’s usually pretty straightforward. But every now and then Grant will pull some shit like smacking a tambourine on the edge of the stage and throwing it into the air at the end of the song, and I’ll just roll with it and go nuts. Unfortunately, you can only do that with certain venues.
If you had the opportunity to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
Ben: All the music that people go clubbing to and stuff? Gone.
Oliver: No auto tuning.
How does your creative process typically work? What inspires you?
Grant: My process is a little weird. Usually, I’ll arrange an instrumental song and then add the lyrics. Recording a demo and organizing my ideas like that always help songs get closer to the ‘completed’ stage.
Oliver: I normally mess around until I get myself into a sort of trance.
Ben: My drumming is partially inspired by jazz. I use a light touch and I try to keep in mind what the rest of the band is playing when adding variation.
What do you think you biggest break or greatest opportunity has been in your career so far?
Grant: We were played on KGO, one of the state’s biggest radio stations back in December which was cool. Our biggest show ever was at Don Quixotes in Felton to celebrate the release of our album, The Western Boundary, back in March. There were like over a hundred people there and it was awesome. Can’t wait to make a new album and do it again.
What are you working on now, and what can we expect from you in the coming year?
Grant: Were currently writing new songs and recording demos at the moment. We have more than enough material for a new album. We should begin recording it in the actual studio sometime in the next two months. The new album will be a loose concept album. It is much more rock influenced than The Western Boundary and even better, I think. That album should be out by the end of year, maybe fall. Other than that, music videos are being made for Animals, Songbirds and others. Those will be out soon. Our side bands The Perfectly Adequate Whales and Bird Sounds (both which feature members of RT) have very exciting stuff coming up. PAW has a new EP, plus a rap album (we all have whale rapper names. Mine is “MC Marine Mammal”) which will be out soon. There are even plans for a ten piece ensemble “The Perfectly Adequate Orcastra” which will be totally nuts and accompany Rat Trap on any shows they can.
Why should people listen to your band? What makes you unique? If your band had a slogan, what would it be?
Grant: We definitely have a distinct style. Our lyric minimalism, subject matter, unusual yet accessible song structures and coverage over many genres make us unique, at least in my mind. Knowing us, our slogan would probably be something stupid and ridiculous.
Ben: Ahhh! Tough question. Well it seems like a lot of young bands today get started because they wanna write a bunch of ultimate pop hits with cliché riffs and lyrics, and then they end up sounding kinda fake. But Rat Trap started as Grant and Parker waaaay back in the day, making a bunch of shitty, punk demos in Grant’s garage because that’s what good friends do together. Even Grant knew the demos were shitty, but Grant wasn’t afraid to make music that sucked as long as it was wasn’t cheesy, and I think that attitude eventually made Grant a good, original songwriter. If we had a slogan, I don’t know what it would be.
One song you never get tired of.
Grant: ‘Things’ by Frightened Rabbit.
Oliver:Coldest Hands by Patients.
Ben: Strange – Built to Spill
What is the best live show you have ever gone to?
Grant: Baths was one of the funnest. Maybe Death Cab For Cutie. That show was ssswweett.
Oliver: The Punch Brothers.
Ben: Last Bridge School Benefit Concert. It was epic, especially Arcade Fire.
Grant: Shawshank Redemption. I’m going to say that’s my final answer before I change my mind. Actually maybe Silence of The Lambs. Office Space is my favorite comedy. OK I’m done here.
Oliver: Run Lola Run.
Ben: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Super underrated. Super good.
Grant: Mystic River by Dennis Lehane.
Ben: It’s been a while since I’ve read a book from start to end. I don’t really know.
Favorite things to do NOT musically related.
Grant: Photography (I finally got a good camera), drawing, biking/hiking, blowing up shit, playing Super Smash.
Ben: Hunt for mushrooms, play Super Smash Bros, ski, watch 5-second films, shoot clays, draw stupid stuff.
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be?
Oliver: A muppet of some kind.
Grant: Like, that rabbit dude from Hoodwinked.
Ben: Merry Poppins?
Best prank you have ever pulled?
Ben: I’ve never pulled anything elaborate, but I do get kicks out of scaring the crap out of people.
Ben:Listening to music through the speakers built into a laptop for long periods of time.
Oliver: When my friends shirts are incorrectly buttoned.
Grant: Dumb bitches.
What is something no one knows about you but you wish more people did know?
Grant: I’m a two time nationally ranked junior Olympian which I always thought was kinda cool. Also, I’m white.
Find Rat Trap here: