Q&A: Rakunk

The holidays are right around the corner, and what’s a better way to celebrate and wrap up the year than a charity show at one of Chicago’s iconic venues? On December 13th, House of Blues will be hosting Let’s Rock The Bells: A Holiday Benefit Concert. Audience members are encouraged to bring a toy to donate to the Marine’s Toys For Tots while enjoying a mix of rock performances from local  bands including Chicago’s own Rakunk.

The four piece band has spent the past year working to perfect a unique sound that dances somewhere between modern rock and pop. Their first EP Rakunk is compiled of rock heavy tunes such as “Writing With A Knife” and “Banged Up”. Since then the band has blended with the realm of pop with catchy singles “Trillionaire” and “Turn the Power On”. With plans to release a few new compilations, the band sat down to share some secrets on writing captivating song and developing a signature sound. Plus, they were generous enough to give some tips on picking up chicks (it includes business cards and great facial hair, obviously).

Listen Live and Local: So you guys are working on new material.

Jonathan McIntire: We’re working on putting out our next EP and then we’re going to immediately start on another record. We’re like one track away. I think our sound, the new songs we’re doing, it’s like, do those really fit with these EP songs? Do we expand that EP or do we bring those songs that we initially had for that EP to the next record? I think we’re leaning toward using those songs for the next record and just getting the record started as quickly as possible.

Bryan Dunk: We recorded four songs for it with the intent of adding two more and haven’t finished everything for those songs. It’s been long enough that we’re kind of reconsidering how they all fit together and we’ve kind of written some new stuff since then that we would rather put out. So that’s where it’s sitting right now. Incomplete and possibly never complete.

LLL: What’s the song writing process like?

Dunk: I was the kid in college with his acoustic guitar trying to woo women. That was the last time I sat down and wrote full songs. Jonathan is a prolific songwriter. He’s got a massive back catalog of song ideas. Some he’ll bring to us and we’ll work for a couple weeks and nothing comes from it. Some of them we’ve kept the chord progression but completely changed the style, but they pretty much all start in his head. I’ll listen to the demos he makes and just have a lot of “What if we try this here,” or “Cut that part out and put it here”. It’s more of a shaping the things that he puts out. I really enjoy being able to come in and work with the skeletons he puts together.

McIntire: If this was a radio interview, we’d play the demo of this last song we put out called “Turn the Power On”. Bryan changed that song almost, maybe not 180, but like 100. [He] adjusted the first chorus and the way [he] did the drums. We had a disagreement at first but Bryan stuck to his guns, and it was the right move. It would sound completely different had it gone the demo way, and the demo way is never the final by any means. It’s just the sketch of what we can do.

LLL: You guys have gotten a lot of attention for your song “Trillionaire”. What do you think makes that song stick out?

McIntire: It starts with the chorus in the first 30 seconds. A lot of times [people’s] attention spans are short [and] they need to have it immediate. I don’t know why else that one would be picked over more. A lot of people wanted [a music video] or something for “Trillionaire”. Our manager Cierra, thank God for her, she’s been constantly getting on our case about doing a video. It’s weird. We’re not the most extroverted, but I think it’s just a time issue. Once you write the songs, you practice the songs and it’s like, when do you have the time to put together a really good video? We are talking to producers, editors [and] directors to see if we can come up with something we think will represent the song.

Dunk: It pulls in a lot of pop sensibilities, especially compared to the first EP which had a lot of bigger rock songs. This one, and I think on purpose, was made to be a bit more on the pop side. We, not to do it in a pompous way, but compared ourselves to Muse where they seem to be able to be a big rock band, but still work into the popular music genre.

McIntire: I think some of the production stuff I’ve been doing with the songs up to this point [have] almost been a little too pop or melded in with pop production, and that was kind of the intent. But we’ve been talking about making our live show more organic sounding. I think that’s going to blend quite a bit into the next set of records [if] we can do live as a band instead of having some backing tracks playing.

LLL: A lot of bands now days are very DIY when it comes to recording, especially in Chicago. Do you guys produce your music or do you go to a studio?

McIntire: [We record at] a place called Kingsize Sound Labs. It’s run by Mike Hagler and [John Abbey]. I was checking out everything at the time [we were looking for a studio] and Mike Hagler just sounded the best, really. He also has a great setup of amps and stuff you can pull of the wall and use. And he’s been in it for so long. He’s really knowledgeable. He loves doing rock and was really into what we were doing. If you’re asking me, I want the full studio treatment, you know? The idea of this band was to merge mega pop production with mega rock and see where it ends up. A lot of bands these days seem to be taking from classic rock a little too much, and I was like, “What if we didn’t do that? What if we sort of took rock as it is in 2016 with all the treatments that pop gets?”

LLL: What are some venues you guys enjoy playing in Chicago?

Dunk: I grew up in the suburbs and all my punk shows growing up were at the Metro. I saw the Alkaline Trio there several times. Matt Skiba’s dad took out my wisdom teeth. [He’s] an oral surgeon. He said he was going to get me a signed CD and he didn’t. But yeah, the Metro was one of those bucket list places which was just awesome to play.

Mike Maneechote: Same for me. I’m the newest of the band and that was my debut so that had an extra special meaning. My first show there was when I was 13 and I went to go see Kill Hannah. It’s one of those places where you’ve seen it so many times and you feel something supernatural once you’re actually on stage. Even when we were doing sound check I [got] that fucking feeling like holy shit I’m about to play at the fucking Metro.

McIntire: Yeah, you just walked right onto the Metro stage. [Mike’s] probably too good for this band but he does tolerate us. He use to have an amazing mustache. Why don’t you tell us why you shaved your mustache?

Maneechote: I mean, I’m semi notorious for shaving on the fly and changing up my look all the time. But the real answer is, my passport expires in a couple weeks and I didn’t necessarily want that to be my picture for ten next years.

McIntire: I was hanging out with Mike the other night and we were walking away from the bar and a girl walks up to him and she’s like “that’s an amazing mustache”. He produces a card on the fly that has a mustache graphic and he hands it to her. Mike Maneechote and a big mustache. I was like “how will she ever forget that?” Sorry, is that embarrassing?

Maneechote: She hasn’t call yet by the way….. :/

Rakunk’s next performance will be on Tuesday, December 13th at House of Blues at 7:00PM. The night will also include performances by White Mystery, Zoofunkyou, Friday Pilot’s Club and Bonelang.

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