Tomorrow night, Burlington, VT jammers RAQ will return to the stage at Nectar’s in their hometown for the first of two shows this weekend. “Taking it kind of old school” as RAQ’s keyboardist Todd Stoops puts it, the band will look to carry its momentum from standout performances at Catskill Chill into these gigs, something Stoops says shouldn’t be a problem.
This is an interesting time for the members of RAQ. Stoops has garnered rising success with his new project Kung Fu while guitarist Chris Michetti is finding his groove with part-Disco Biscuits side project Conspirator. With so much outside noise clouding the RAQ revival, how much stock can we really put into it? Evidently enough. The band has already announced two late night shows at Brooklyn Bowl in January as well as a supporting gig for The Disco Biscuits in February, and it appears there should be more to come.
One of the most overwhelming aspects of this interview was the true sincerity and excitement in Stoops’ voice throughout. He is clearly a guy who is excited about the here and now, but also the possibilities of the future. Read on for all things RAQ and what the future holds for the band as well as some tidbits on touring, Kung Fu, coming up in the festival scene and much more.
RAQ is playing two big shows in Burlington, your hometown, so tell me about how you’re feeling going into those; what can fans expect?
You know, we’re taking it kind of old-school, we had the choice to either go to the Higher Ground Ballroom—which we were playing before the band took a break—but the band kind of started at Nectar’s. We used to do residences there and we’d play all different nights a week. So we had an opportunity to do something a little more old-school, I suppose. So we grabbed that opportunity and we’re going to play Nectar’s for a couple nights.
The band is pretty dialed-in right now. We’re in constant communication even though we all live in different places. The last set we played was at the Catskill Chill and it was a blowout. It was one of the most favorite RAQ sets that I’ve played. You know, I talked to [guitarist Chris] Michetti afterwards and we were both pretty dialed-in that it was one of the best shows we’ve played in a long time. We’re kind of harnessing that energy and taking that with us into these two shows. That’s kind of the mentality going into it. We’re gonna keep it loose; kind of keep that vibe rolling that we have from Catskill Chill. We definitely jammed a lot; I think we played like seven songs for 90 minutes—so it was definitely more of an improvisational adventure.
What’s the key to keeping that momentum going into these Burlington gigs?
Well, we’re best friends. I talk to Michetti a couple times a week, and not just about music. You know, we’re just buddies so we’re always in communication. And Adrian [Tramantano], our drummer for RAQ now, is also our drummer for Kung Fu. So I’m with him and we just finished a 20-day east coast tour, so when we have off-time on the road we’ll talk about stuff for RAQ or even go over some things at soundcheck. So that kind of keeps it tight, and we all obviously talk to Jay [Burwick] as well.
In 2013 now we can Skype and Facetime and all that stuff and do some cyber-rehearsing and talk about the ideas we have for the material to keep it fresh. And then the day before the next few shows we’ll roll into Burlington a day early and rehearse for a while. So, actually the RAQ material is so ingrained in us all by now that we don’t have to get together and rehears so much as we just have to hang out for a little while. It’s that kind of vibe.
As far as improv goes, you seem like you don’t need that much time, it just sort of flows naturally; the chemistry is there.
Absolutely, that will never go away. But some of the RAQ tunes are difficult; they have some hard passages and you don’t want to screw those up. If the band is playing six to eight shows a year, you really don’t want to fuck up your songs. (laughs) You know, the fans really don’t want to be like, “Hey I flew all the way from North Carolina to Burlington to see you guys play but wait…you screwed up “Beauregard.” [Laughter.] So, you know, that’s not really an option. So we write some setlists in advance, and then we all do our homework at home and go over parts that might be challenging and then we’ll get together and iron out that stuff. But the improv is easy, that’s like turning on a faucet.
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