"You're either on the bus, or you're off the bus." -- author Ken Kesey's metaphor for his Acid Tests, circa 1966.
.....RantMusic is clearly on the bus -- in more ways than one.Not long after their formation in 2000, this whirling dervish of a group was eating, sleeping and living on a re-fashioned school bus. From the the outside, it was a means of travel for the band. But on the ever-so comfy inside, the bus was a home on wheels for the six members of RantMusic.
.....Temporary nomadic life is a rite of passage for young bands hoping to sustain an existence, but for RantMusic, who spent their first fifteen months together traveling Canada and the Pacific Northwest of the United States in their self-styled caravan, it was integral to their bond as a musical family as well.
.....The sextet has since taken up residence in a house in Victoria, B.C., but the philosophy and camaraderie fostered on the bus remains tantamount to the direction of Ramsey Reid (vocals), Sara Hart (fiddle, background vocals), Rob Larsen (mandolin, bouzouki), Will Koltai (bass, backing vocals), Marco Bozenich (acoustic and electric guitars, background vocals) and Stephen Geerlof (drums)."It's an expression of our uniqueness as individuals and as a whole, living our lives in our self-made community," Larsen said."RantMusic gives us freedom. Freedom from the norms of society and the freedom to create and express our feelings, views and our experiences of the world around us.
.....And what a freedom train they've been riding since forming, under the name McGnarley's Rant, for a one-off St. Patrick's Day gig three years ago.Thrown together quickly for the performance in their then-hometown of Nelson, B.C., the band culled together a lengthy set of originals and covers, most of which celebrated beer drinking and wayward fishermen -- befitting of a gig on the Irish holiday, they thought at the time.
.....The stroke of marketing genius worked: The six members, then music students at a Selkirk College, drew the biggest crowd to the venue in over a decade. "It went so well that we decided to continue as a band and didn't return to school the following year," Larsen says with a sly laugh.
.....But as the group quickly expanded upon its early sound to include everything from punk to jazz, they found the Celtic-inspired name a touch misleading. After much deliberation, RantMusic was eventually born."The 'Mc' stereotyped us as a Celtic band, and we were often billed as a Celtic band," Bozenich says. "Our music has evolved and we're not as Celtic influenced as we once were." Perhaps fittingly, it was before a hefty crowd in early 2003 in Dranouter, Belgium, that they announced their name-change to the world.
.....RantMusic has been incredibly well-received in Europe, playing large-scale festivals and their own headlining gigs everywhere from Austria, Italy and Switzerland to Belgium and Holland.In three short years, they've played over 500 shows worldwide, each and every one punctuated by their never-say-die stage show and their outrageously original music, which pairs power-folk with worldly influences such as punk, jazz and the occasional kitchen sink.
.....The six musicians are admittedly hard-pressed to describe their own creation, offering the interesting idiom of "Tom Waits meets the Dead Kennedys in Eastern Europe" as an easy out instead. It's an apt description to say the least, and one that is fully captured on their second album, "Kamikaze Syllables."The band's first release, "Fisherman's Pride," was recorded in a blurrry two days just six months after the formation of the band, and it mined the Celtic territory RantMusic now seems miles away from artistically.
.....If "Fisherman's Pride" was their adolescence, then "Kamikaze Syllables" is their effortless slide into adulthood.The songs range in style from the Pink Floyd-esque ballad/freakout "Instill" to the Gypsy rock of "Staring at the Stars," a perfect example of the frenzied beauty Reid and Hart create when they sing together.Perhaps the album's signature moment comes during the title track, a psychedelic journey that crashes headfirst into itself after five minutes of high-tech wizardry, spit-in-your-face punk and hypnotic cacophony. In one revelatory blast the track manages to further confound the walking identity crisis that is RantMusic -- in the best possible way.
.....The album was produced by the legendary Hugh McMillan, founding bassist for Vancouver's Spirit of the West, who led the band into uncharted territory on "Kamikaze Syllables." Reid said the fast friendship that formed was integral to getting the sound both sides wanted."He was stern, but he brought out the best from us in the demanding environment of the studio." he explained. "He brought an outside ear to us that heard new and slightly different musical ideas, and he pretty much let us do our thing. It's a CD that we're all going to be very happy with."
.....The long days ride into tomorrow should be an interesting journey for RantMusic, buoyed by the release of their sophomore album and the months of touring required to support it. But more than that, this group of merry pranksters is planting new roots on a family tree that just keeps getting better with age.