I was sent a press release for a band called Michigan Rattlers. In it, there was linked a song, “Illinois Sky”. As it came up on SoundCloud, I was transported to a time of cassette mix tapes and sincere facial hair. On my mix tape, I would have put a long song like “Illiois Sky” between The Traveling Wilburys and Ryan Adams. When something this new sounds this familiar, you can’t ignore it. True nostalgia is addictive, and music like this sparks memories rekindles the longing for those good old days. When a musician can tap into that kind of emotion and can give new life to a genre that some may claim has run its course, you’ve stumbled upon an oasis in desert. As I listen to more of their repertoire, songs like “Sweet Diane” and “Last Week” lingered in my head, proving to me that the Michigan Rattlers have the kind of magic that is able to remind me of how thirsty I’ve been for something new that’s rooted in the past. It is as refreshing as a cold beer from a cooler in that oasis.
Blurred Culture was lucky enough to meet the midwestern boys Graham Young and Adam Reed as they came through New York City and talk a little about their story so far.
What’s your first musical memory?
Graham Young : I remember elementary school, I was the one playing the recorder and playing goofy stuff like that. I think I had a fake little plastic guitar, that I’d try to pretend and play. I asked my mom for a real one and she said,”You can just use that one.” and I like freaked out, I was like “I NEED A REAL ONE!” [to Adam] Do you have a specific one?
Adam Reed : No, but they were always around the house. My whole family plays something, everybody plays something more or less and there are tons of instruments around. My parents are definitely instrument enthusiasts, so we had a piano around, a violin in the house, and a clarinet and a guitar and they were always encouraging me for forever, like if you want to play it, pick it up and play it and practice. It was always there.
When you say instrument enthusiasts, what does that mean exactly?
Reed : I think both my parents they’re career people and they didn’t have a lot of time or parents who would of let them do something like I’m doing right now and so they invest a lot of their energy in looking and they love instruments. It’s kind of a funny thing.
What do you hope people take away from your music?
Young : I don’t know, I hope people feel good when they listen to the music, I think a word that is used is nostalgic, so maybe I hope that people reflect on their own life and maybe just times that they had that the sounds might reminds them of. If they don’t take away anything, that’s fine. (laughs).
What’s your favorite song to play live?
Young : Right now it’s a new one, I think it’s my favorite, I’m excited about –
Reed : It tends to be the new ones, always the new ones are the most exciting.
Young : “Strain of Cancer” is a good one to play live, people like that one. I like it, good story.
What’s the story?
Young : It’s just about a guy who had a kid with a girl and they got divorced and then was really down on his luck and ….. jumps off a bridge. [we laugh].
That got dark fast (laughs) Was this inspired by true events?
Young : Somewhat.
So when you right your music, where do you find the stories to tell?
Young : I think sometimes it’s from my own life, or somebody else’s life that I kinda see from a distance and then … yeah I embellish it, some of the facts obviously … kinda all around. It’s not like I have one specific place to take the stories from.
Does inspiration come for you, or do you have to go looking?
Young : I’ve kinda had both experiences, where I’ll just be sitting there and all of a sudden I have to pick up a guitar right now and then there are instances where I’ve got something and it’s just not coming, where I’m –
Reed : – chip away –
Young : I’m not going to bed until I force something out of it. And that’s usually a mistake and nothing good ever happens and I just piss myself off and want to break the guitar into a million pieces. So I’d say most of the time the good songs come to you.
How long does it normally take you to write a song?
Young : A while, not a while, I mean there are a few right now that I haven’t finished. They are waiting on like … one line, and probably now I’ll never finish them because I’ve been busy … I don’t know, three months? I think it took me six months […] to finalize “Illinois Sky”. But then other instances, three days and it will come out. But six months, I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a song for longer then that.
Reed : Things change too… Play a song a bunch of times and then one night something goes differently, and you change stuff on the fly. [Laughs]
Is there an example of that?
Young : I think he just means in the way of playing it.
Reed : Absolutely yeah, definitely.
Young : The full song is there and there are different embellishments that you make earlier in the day or the night before.
How have you guys been building your fan base?
Young : I think a lot of it’s been friends of friends and word of mouth I think that way.
Reed : That’s our biggest thing, word of mouth.
Young : We’ve been lucky enough, I mean we had the Rolling Stone thing which obviously, tons of people saw that, which was cool but I think the majority of the people that listen […] are people that have happened upon us and seen us play I think they dig it and they are fans that way.
What’s your best day as a band?
Reed : Probably wasn’t yesterday or today. [the guys laugh]
You know I have to follow that up? How bad was it?
Reed : New York is kicking our asses.
Young : It’s just walking around all over the city with a big ass bass. it’s difficult and –
Reed : We’re sick.
Young : We’ve both been battling a little bit of a cold. that’s really all, nothing tragic or terrible has happened… I don’t know what our best day as a band, I don’t know if there was one specific day. I think one of the best days, for me personally, was when we got our EP. Like the physical vinyl of the EP and held it and it was like dam man. It’s got your picture on it and the songs and it’s like this is real. It’s cool to have your songs up on Spotify or iTunes or whatever, but when you hold that ten inch vinyl record, it’s a totally weird and awesome experience.
Reed : I agree, best day. It’s what it’s all about.
Plans for the future?
Reed : Get on the road as soon as possible.
Young : I think try to find an opening spot for a band and get out there and really start pushing this EP and getting a bigger fan base.
Is there anything you want to tell your fans?
Young : Thank you for all the support, we rise and fall together. [laughs]
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