Photo by Scott Harris
RAQ returns to the East Coast next week for a five-night Halloween run, marking the band’s first mini-tour since last fall. Natives of Burlington, Vermont, the quartet is known for its unique progressive compositions and high-energy live performances.
In addition to building a loyal following as RAQ since their formation in the early 2000s, band members Jay Burwick (bass/vocals), Chris Michetti (guitar/vocals), Todd Stoops (keys/vocals), and recent addition Scotty Zwang (drums), are known individually for being involved in a variety of other musical projects, which has kept the band from touring as rigorously over the past few years.
The forthcoming East Coast run will include a special “Foo-Q-Azi”-themed Halloween performance in Washington, DC—in what should prove to be a bizarre fusion of the music of Fugazi, the Foo Fighters and RAQ—followed by stops in Stanhope, NJ, Harrisburg, PA, Albany, NY, and Hartford, CT.
As Todd Stoops emphasized during our recent conversation, “RAQ is fun … And fun is coming!” In the following, Stoops shares his thoughts on RAQ’s upcoming Halloween run, playing musical chairs with Dopapod, maintaining a healthy musical diet, and recording their first studio album in over a decade.
You guys are known for being prolific—at any given point you’re involved in a variety of projects. Could talk a little about what the guys in RAQ have been up to recently.
Todd Stoops: Sure! I’ve been working and performing with Reed Mathis, Jay Lane, and Clay Welch in Electric Beethoven for the past year and a half. The band is an instrumental project that uses Beethoven’s forms to create new improvisations—it’s been pretty wild! Scotty is in a bunch of different things—I know he was on tour with a country artist, and he has a duo called McZwang on the East Coast. Jay has a couple bands in Denver; I’m actually here with him now working on the new RAQ album. Michetti has produced and toured with Conspirator, as well as worked on commercial music and a few other things…he’s also producing our new RAQ album, which we’ve been working on for the last month or so. So, we’ve all been keeping busy. But we’re going to focus some energy on RAQ and make this album the best it can possibly sound…and hopefully engage our old fans and impress some new ones!
I want to get to the album in a minute, but speaking of Scotty, you guys seem to be playing musical chairs with Dopapod. Scotty replaced Dopapod’s original drummer, Neal “Fro” Evans, and then Neal joined RAQ. Now, Scotty is joining RAQ and Neal is returning to Dopapod, correct?
Todd: [laughs] We like to refer to ourselves [RAQ] as being the “home of the wayward Dopapod drummer.” But no, it was more of a coincidence. I’m good friends with the Dopapod guys—I’ve known them for a while and we’re all pretty close. When Neal departed from RAQ to rejoin Dopapod, it seemed like a natural thing to take Scotty in. He’s a rocker and he fit the bill immediately. Scotty and I have had a project called BangBang for years, and he also played with Conspirator—so we’ve known him forever and it turned out to be a great fit.
You mentioned Scotty playing with people like Dopapod and Conspirator, and the other projects inhabited by the RAQ guys—Michetti’s work with Conspirator and your work with Electric Beethoven and others like Oktopus… How does that collective experience fuse back into the RAQ sphere?
Todd: Good question! RAQ is always there… It’s like an application on your phone that’s running in the background at all times. RAQ is how we got our start in this scene—it’s how we ground our teeth, from the early 2000s onward. It also informed us as to what we like musically, etc. So when we come back to RAQ, it’s like coming home from College for Thanksgiving or Christmas. It’s a great feeling. There are no curveballs; we know what to expect from each other!
In terms of the current incarnation of RAQ, this lineup has performed live a handful of times together already…
Todd: Yes, we’ve done a bunch of shows with Scotty! He’s a solid human being, and one of the most solid drummers I’ve ever played with. The old adage that your personality matches your playing—just listen to the guy!
I have to ask about the “Foo-Q-Azi” theme for the upcoming Halloween show. What was the inspiration behind that…blending the music of the Foo Fighters and Fugazi with RAQ?
Todd: When we were in college, Fugazi was our skiing soundtrack. We even covered them some in my college band. It’s energetic and aggressive, and we relate well to that kind of music with an edge. Same with Foo Fighters. Sometimes it’s fun to throw on a musical costume for Halloween! There aren’t many nights out of the year that you get to do something like that. I think that if we did that in say, April, people would be like, “Huh?”
I’m picturing you guys playing “Waiting Room,” and it seems like a pretty epic evening in the works…
Todd: [laughs] There’s a pretty, pretty, pretty good chance we might be playing that song… I can neither confirm nor deny.
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