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Rag N’ Bone are stronger than ever

Rag N’ Bone are one of the most consistent bands in Perth – in a live setting, they’re frenzied and full of energy, and over time, they’ve released a number of studio singles and an EP in a fashion where each work has sounded like it was building towards something bigger. The last couple of years has seen the group celebrated at an industry level for their work – they were nominated for four WA Music awards last year, and vocalist Kiera Owen won the Best Live Voice Award at the National Live Music Awards for WA.

Now, Rag N Bone have taken that next step, having just released their debut album A Handful Of Ash. Guitarist Axel Carrington explains the new work has been a long time coming. “I think the first song was written maybe early 2015, and it didn’t really take shape until this time last year, I guess, where we figured out we had a bunch of songs, and we thought maybe we could them onto an EP, or maybe to a single, or do a live thing. We ended up realising that all the songs were thematically linked and worked well together as a group, and thought we’d put it all together into one work, and I think it paid off.”

The album explores a number of different concepts and issues faced within the local music scene and beyond. While it was not something the band had planned prior to writing, creating dialogue around these issues has always been important to Rag N’ Bone. “From my perspective, writing the lyrics, I would just think about writing so many things at once, that was my concept for this record and my perception of what the band is able to do, is convey so much information and emotion at once, so the social aspects of it are just because we all feel the same way and we all want to express the same ideas about those issues and things that come up. Especially with tracks like I Don’t Feel At Home… which is as much to do with gender identity and a sense of place as it is to do about refugees and our treatment of Indigenous people here in Australia, they sort of… to me it’s all sort of one big thing, and the record is our attempt of working that out and trying to express it as coherently as we can.”

Empathy is probably at the forefront of what we do.

Being a Perth artist within a communal music scene also plays a unique part, as we’re beginning to see more and more people getting called out for unsociable behaviour. Carrington encourages creative people to highlight issues they consider to be important in their work. “I think just from my perspective as a local artist and making local art, I think people in Perth who are making art are being a lot more politicised, and I think even with the push for safer venues and inclusivity, there’s really been a push for that sort of thing. I think art should be politicised and it should come from a place of great feeling and action because for me, all I can do at this point is make my feelings and views known through my art. Empathy is probably at the forefront of what we do.”

While Carrington wrote most of the lyrics for A Handful Of Ash, there was a lot of collaboration involved in the creation of the music. “All the lyrics were written by me beforehand, but musically it’s written by all of us. Someone would come in with an idea and ask whether or not it’s something worth working on, or if we could morph it into something else, so we all sort of collaborate together, and I know if I come up with a drum beat or something, I’m not going to be able to play it as well as Jamie [Gallacher, drums] can, or he’s gonna come up with something way more interesting. There’s always a lot of collaboration in the studio, and we play the songs until we can do it with our eyes closed and hands behind our backs.”

The band were fortunate enough to work with producer Dave Parkin, who allowed them the freedom to experiment in all manners weird and wonderful while steering them down the right path. It make the recording and production process much smoother. “It was really easy, we’d sort of workshop things with him. We’d do like a scratch take, and Dave would say ‘What about adding a bit here?’ or ‘Let’s cut this out.’ I know for example in Mon Coeur… that little intro thing that we do, that was just a little iPhone recording thing we did in the rehearsal room, and he sort of pricked his ears up and went, ‘Hey, that’s cool, let’s put it in the intro!’ We had no qualms with changing things up that we’d been playing, in some cases, up to two years before we recorded it, as long as it services the song and services the record. The last EP we did was all tracked live, and we wanted to retain that live feel, but we also wanted to experiment a bit and Dave was just perfect for that because he would not say no.”

The band’s launch is taking place this Saturday night at Jack Rabbit Slim’s with a handful of solid music supports and some live art installations to compliment them. Carrington is all too excited to see how it all comes together. “We’re going to have artists live draw or paint, whatever they choose. We have mixed mediums so Dan Crossley’s going to be painting for Last Quokka, Richard En is doing sketches for HUSSY, and Han Atcheson is going to be doing her really detailed cross-stitch drawings for Dream Rimmy. I think it’s just going to be projected behind the bands as they play at Jack Rabbit’s and I think it’s just going to really enhance the experience of watching the bands play, as well as keeping the artists on their toes too. Yeah, it’s gonna be awesome.”

A Handful Of Ash is out now.

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