The Rapture Return From a Land Down Under
You’re probably wondering where they’ve been, the Rapture, the band whose skittering high hats, steroidal, 4/4 kick-drum thwump, cowbell clang and swooping, shrieking vocals helped launch the dance-punk revolution back in 1998. You may have watched as the career of their one-time producer James Murphy arced skyward, and as his own elaborately staged denouement at Madison Square Garden unfolded, pumping out music that wouldn’t have existed without the Rapture.
They were Down Under, that’s all.
“We do really well in Australia,” explains singer Luke Jenner. “We toured there a couple of times the past five years, and Pieces of the People We Love did better there than the first album. The song ‘No Sex for Ben’ was a massive hit there too. And, you know, it’s sunny all the time, no worries, didgeridoos, everything about it says party.”
Jenner’s joking, but when you’re one of few groups that helped the world revolt against the hegemony of the DJ pulpit and bring instruments — real instruments — back to the dance floor, you’ve earned the right to choose your stages.
“For me, being 36 and having a five-year-old kid and being married for 10 years, I just look at life a lot differently now,” says Jenner. “Having a really good meal is really way more important than getting shit-faced.”
And putting out the right album is more important than just putting out the next album.
For a band that’s made it big (or big enough to end up in sitcom and Grand Theft Auto soundtracks and opening for Daft Punk, anyway), it’s far easier to flame out, or to break up only to return for an All Tomorrow’s Parties reunion tour featuring old albums in their entirety, than it is to stick it out and to evolve as a band as you do as individuals. It’s the latter kind of band that’s rare.
For the Rapture, their hiatus of sorts was a welcome respite, and a natural step away from the hoary industry narrative that threatened to chew them up after recording Pieces of the People on Universal in 2006. Their new album, In the Grace of Your Love, found them back with Murphy on DFA Records — prodigal sons, in a way.
After an initial week spent laying down raw material in Brooklyn, the Rapture wrapped overdubs and added polish to each track in Paris with Phoenix producer Philippe Zdar, whose stable of vintage keyboards and patient ear helped add élan to the mix, whatever the hell élan is.
The romance of Paris itself seeps through on the album’s tracks, which range from the grind-inducing first single, “How Deep Is Your Love,” to the contemplative closer, “It Takes Time to Be a Man.”
The cowbells are still there, the plaintive calls to action, the so-simple-they’re-deep lyrics, but somehow the whole thing just seems more...mature.
“Philippe saw us play 10 years ago and really liked it,” says Jenner. “We had about 300 friends in common, so someone set us up. It’s kind of like getting back to being in a community.”
In Paris, the hilly Montmartre neighborhood turned into a home for Jenner, long-time drummer Vito Roccoforte, multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Andruzzi, and sound whiz Jonathan Gaskin. “We rented a big house on the hill and just walked down to the studio every day, past the fruit store, the bread spot, the meat market and so on,” says Andruzzi. Montmartre is an artist’s neighborhood, a former haunt to Dalí, Picasso, Monet and van Gogh, among others.
“You would just cruise down and get to know the shopkeepers, a 10-minute walk,” says Andruzzi. “That’s just a really nice way to live your life.”
All that’s in the rear-view as the trio winds up to tour for In the Grace, a phantasmagoric road show that oughta be chugging through a town near you while you read this.
“We’re going to blow your mind with things you didn’t even know existed. We played after the Flaming Lips in France. For months afterward, we were pulling the confetti out of our keyboards,” Andruzzi says.
Past jaunts haven’t left much time for sleep, let alone sightseeing. Maybe it’s the whole grown-up thing, but this time around, the Rapture might actually stop and smell the roses.
“We’re taking over Indonesia,” Jenner says. “That’s our plan. We just got a tweet from a radio station in Palembang, in Sumatra, and it’s the second-biggest city in Indonesia.”
“Maybe we’ll see the temples,” Roccoforte says.
“They have temples?” Andruzzi says.
(This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of ANTENNA.)