Rackula’s Oves of Steel
It’s been a long hard five years for Rackula but one of Hamilton’s pioneering all female bands endure regardless of many trials and tribulations and announce their return, galvanized by their fight, with their latest collection of songs dubbed Oves of Steel.
Singer/guitarist Alyssa Nicole had just celebrated her eighteenth birthday when she started playing with drummer Patty “Wacks” Reece. They’ve since developed a bond that goes beyond simple band mates.
“It was just after I had officially become a woman and I felt amazing being up on stage and playing guitar and writing songs with some really cool musicians,” remembers Nicole on joining forces with a woman she had previously looked up to in other bands.
Rackula was born in 2008 as a quartet and quickly released their first CDEP shortly thereafter — followed by an explosive call to arms two years later with their debut full–length CD, Up the Chix. Punk met grunge with a distinctly female perspective and the fierce females got a fare bit of attention for the music, the politics and for actually being women playing in a band. One of their own songs could have foreshadowed events, as “Be Careful What You Wish For” laid heavy on some members and the band slowly lost collective goals.
“That’s the reason I will never quit,” exclaims Reece on the difficulties of being a woman playing loud, aggressive music. “There are no other girl bands in Hamilton. I’ve experienced enough misogyny first hand, in just the way this band is treated, that I have to be a feminist now. I only want to play with women because I want them to know that they can play.”
Rackula not only courted their feminine wiles but also at times flaunted them, painting the band’s name across their one photo in View Magazine but this kind of bearing was meant to be empowering.
“I consider it a pre–emptive strike because no matter what we do, our breasts are going to be the focus anyway,” reasons Reece. “That’s the way I choose to take control of that and it’s a sex positive message. I like my tits, we like our tits. They’re fine and there’s no reason I can’t show them.
Bassist “The Lisa” left shortly after the CD release, and guitarist Molly Darling left in 2011. Now pruned to a trio Rackula return stronger than ever perhaps with latest addition Lindsay “Lucy Fur” Campbell on bass.
Playing bass since she was 12, the Etobicoke born, Grimsby raised and now Hamilton resident had done more band photography probably but was exploring her creative musical muse since taking on the role of door person at This Ain’t Hollywood nearly three years ago.
“I heard they were looking for a bassist and I emailed them saying that I was a little more Dee Dee Ramone than Geddy Lee,” smiles Campbell on her first discussions on joining Rackula.
“When I first heard Lindsay play, I was totally impressed,” offers Nicole. “She’s the only bass player I know that only does down picks all the time, heavy. She has such control over that bass and she’s changed our sound now, we’re much heavier now. We’re much more solid as a three piece and the music that we’re writing is tight, strong and heavy because of what Lindsay has added.”
Musically heavier, the lyrics offer as much of a powerful punch on their four new songs on Rackula’s latest vinyl 7–inch. Russia’s Pussy Riot gained headlines across the world in 2012 and inspired Rackula to don their own ovary symbols in tribute. Rackula’s ovaries are galvanized in their plight and hence you get their Oves of Steel.
“The last three years have been about a lot of loss and re–growth, not only for us as a band, as a family, as sisters but also for the world,” offers Nicole. “There’s a lot of anger, as there will always be with Rackula music. We definitely want to remind people that we’re women and we want to make a difference. This is about Hamilton, politics, feminism and sex.
“Any musician can tell you, that it’s an issue around the world,” interjects Campbell on the inspiration culled from Russia’s Pussy Riot that made headlines in 2012. “Any artist, poet or musician being censored for speaking out against their government is just wrong.”
“It’s a feminist thing that says we’re women, we have ovaries, this is our symbol,” adds Nicole on the hand gesture displayed on the artwork. “When Pussy Riot happened, it inspired a lot more discussion about feminism around the world and we want to represent our city. There’s been a steep decline in Hamilton and the surrounding areas for women playing in bands. We provide the masses something to listen to that’s made up of female energy.”
With their new 45 in hand, Rackula return not looking for fame or fortune. They will probably incite as they always have, but more importantly, Rackula wants to inspire.
“For us to play to a younger crowd is a great thing,” says Reece on this weekend’s all ages 7–inch release party. “We want to make new fans and the younger kids are important. We want girls to come out and be inspired. Obviously, if this was about winning Junos or even getting played on the radio, we’d change our name and what we write about. For me, this is more about the relationship I have with Alyssa – mentoring other women and letting them know what they can achieve.”
Rackula plays this Sunday February at This Ain’t Hollywood for an all ages matinee with Sluts On 45, Sista Fista, and Hooker Spit. Doors are at 2:30pm and $6 gets you in. Click on rackula.ca
City and the Sea’s Action Figures
While Nick Cino has been a mainstay on local stages for a decade, it seems almost every time we’ve had the chance to speak with him of late, he’s with a different band. This time out, City and the Sea is the band Cino has fronted for the last few years but with a new line up of players so at least the name is the same. While fans maybe familiar with their regular gigs at the Lazy Flamingo, this weekend City and the Sea offer their latest collection of songs, Action Figures that perhaps harkens back to Cino’s old all ages days some fifteen years ago.
“It's funny because with this new record, I feel like it carries a lot of the same spirit and enthusiasm for music that I had when I was a teenager,” muses Cino. “It's only recently dawned on me that I've been doing this for close to 15 years now and I've found that things come full circle. Over the years, I've done every style of music from blues to soul and country, and I've found hard rock and alternative is where my heart is. I feel like my songwriting and our work as a band is at a level we haven't reached before. In many ways Action Figures is the same kid from all those years ago making music, but hopefully I've gotten a little better at it.”
“The vibe and sound we had on previous releases was great, but I always felt a little restrained by the music we were playing,” he adds. “I envied seeing bands live that could just rock, you know? I missed my electric guitar and my distortion pedal, so the last three years was spent writing a lot songs and finding our voice as a band.”
Enlisting long time bassist Dave Marini and newest members guitarist Jon Daly and drummer Joe Piccolo, Cino and company offer up polished modern rock with a little Steeltown grit indubitably inextricable from Cino’s Hamilton upbringing. While Cino’s soaring vocals over a harder guitar sound seem like a definite return to his late ‘90s musical roots, it also might be at least partially inspired by his day job as a radio announcer on Hamilton’s Y108.
“When we had the new line up in place, it was a no–brainer that we were going to turn up the amps a little bit and get a little more modern,” notes Cino. “I definitely feel it has a connection to what we did back in high school, it has the same spirit. I've always said our ambition back then outweighed our talent, but nowadays I feel like the two have caught up with each other. These five songs represent a new starting point for us; we consider it ground zero for the band. Music should always be fun, but I think this record is a little more angsty, for lack of a better term. I think the lyrics reflect my worldview moving into my 30s, they're probably the most personal lyrics I've ever put on a record.
“When I was younger I wasn't sure that I would still be making music when I was 30, but it makes more sense to me now than it ever did,” adds Cino. “I'm lucky because both of my jobs involve rock and roll, so it's a win win for me. I used to record my own radio shows on my TalkBoy as a kid, even before I learned guitar and started singing. So it feels natural to go on the radio and talk about the music I love, and it only makes me appreciate the band even more. If anything the focus on the music has increased, because I listen to great rock and roll music all day at work, and I want us to reach that high level; to make songs that people will remember and stand up to the test of time.”
City and the Sea play this Friday, February 22 at Club Absinthe with the Great Machine and Electric Sleep. Doors at 9pm and $10 gets you in with a CDEP. Click on www.cityandthesea.com
Two Peace Extra Spicy’s Sophia
One of the newest acts on the local stage might include some of its youngest members and with their band name that offers a pun to sum up their intent. TwoPeaceExtraSpicy are a rock/blues duo featuring eighteen–year–old James Guarascia on guitar and fifteen–year–old brother Ryan Guarascia on drums. Forming the band during their time at Sherwood High School, they had their first gig before they officially had a name but since June 2012, TwoPeaceExtraSpicy have been turning heads. Rather than catching onto what’s hip in music videos or the local new rock radio station, the band seems more in tune with music from a different era and this weekend, they offer their own debut CDEP of zesty rock dubbed Sophia.
“We don’t really have friends at school who are in bands or are really into our type of music however, since being a part of the music scene we have become friends with a lot of kids our age who are doing the same thing,” offers James Guarascia. “We believe that we are a part of a growing young scene, we think more young kids want to hear something they can relate to from kids their age.
“White Stripes and Black Keys definitely are huge influences for us but my love for this type of music goes further back to bands like Flat Duo Jets and Howlin’ Wolf who I am even more influenced by,” adds Guarascia. “The attraction for us is the raw unfiltered element of a two–piece band. We love the challenge of making a full sound with only two instruments and a voice. We both share the same passion for this music, which allows us to put our all into it and produce what we think it should be. While the more popular bands like Nickelback and Arcade Fire are good and they appeal to a lot of people, they don’t appeal to us. We like to put us out there, who we are as people regardless of who might be popular. We play with emotion – this is who we are, this is what we produce and hope that people will connect with it.”
Their debut recording offers enough grit and growl, with the two teens channelling the blues of a few generations ago but with a modern flair kids should definitely find palatable. Growing up as fans of Arkells, Young Rival and perhaps more recently of kindred spirits Beard, TPES wanted to capture properly the rawness of their music with the right kind of production.
“We tried the route of recording ourselves and using our own computer, in our own basement and didn’t produce the sound we wanted,” recalls Guarascia. “We met with Steve [Bigas] and [Roman] Marcone and from the minute we walked into Porcelain Records [recording studio] there was a vibe and it just felt right we knew that was the right place for the band. Porcelain Records was the perfect match — vintage gear, no frills, just plug in and go. They were exactly what we were looking for. We wanted raw and unfiltered and Porcelain Records gave us that. With our young age and inexperience, it wasn’t just a studio to record in Steve and Marcone offered advice and guidance that the band needed.”
With their new recording in hand, the band is at the top of the bill for their CD release — less than a year after their first gig — but however quickly their rise in the scene, TwoPeaceExtraSpicy seem prepared to take on even more.
“We have no plans of stopping anytime soon we will always be who we are and make the music we want regardless of where it takes us,” says Guarascia. “There will always be fear and anxiety just before and when we step out on stage, but once we hit the first few notes we remember why we are there and it all disappears and it’s like we are in our basement, in our zone and just do our thing — loud, raw, sweaty and giving it all we got. Being at the top of the bill is what everyone wants right? This is our chance to prove ourselves and that’s what we plan to do.” V
TwoPeaceExtraSpicy play this Sunday February 24 at the Casbah with Rex Mundus, Jonny Debt and Cooper Black. Doors open at 8pm and $10 gets you in. www.twopeaceextraspicy.com