"There’s a certain amount of pressure when you play guitar rock music. You come up with an idea that you think is kind of cool, but there’s also a really thin line between it being really lame and really cool." That's what Michael Rault, an unusually self-aware musician, tells me over the phone recently. It's a somewhat admirable statement, because this is an era in which it's extremely difficult for bands to stand out, considering most dudes with guitars seem to be singing about pizza and beer while simultenously releasing music videos with the aesthetic of a VHS tape from 1993.
Michael Rault has been making music for his entire life. He comes from a family full of musicans, often performs with his sister, and recently recorded an album with his cousin. After releasing a number of self-produced jams and "cassingles" on a few Canadian indie labels, Rault is releasing his psychedelic and fuzzy new record titled Living Daylight via garage-rock power house Burger Records.
Despite his self-awareness, Rault is what you would expect from a dude who crafts guitar rock: He has long hair, wears denim, sometimes rocks a mustache, and definitely shares the same size jeans as me. Although it's easy to blend into the crowded, fuzzy family portrait that is Burger's roster, Rault stands out—primarily because of his skill as a multi-instrumentalist. He wrote and performed his 2014 cassingle Still Not Sad / Nothing Means Nothing entirely solo. What's more is that these skills translate flawlessly to the live stage. I was welcomed into the world of Rault during one of his performances at Hotel Vegas in Austin during SXSW this past March. He played to a packed crowd of nearly 100 smiling, dancing, sweaty people who were shoulder to shoulder, all trying to fit inside of one of the gritty indoor bar stages. Each song was perfect garage-pop; his buzz-tinged croon gliding over titanic guitars blended with a lot of feedback. In short, the dude basically looked like a garage-rock Elvis.
In anticipation of the release of Living Daylight (out today!), we spoke with him while he was down in LA to talk about the new record, being a part of the Burger Records family, and writing up-beat music in an introspective state of mind. We're also premiering his slick new video for the second track off of Living Daylight titled “Too Bad So Sad,” below.
Noisey: So you’re probably pretty excited to have your album finally out there and finished. Talk to me a little bit about Living Daylight and if there’s a certain theme within the album, and what we can expect to hear.
Michael: It’s interesting talking about the album because I made this album a long time ago. I recorded it probably two and a half years ago or something. It ended up just taking a really roundabout way to now finally being released world-wide, and I’m really excited that it ended up happening. Basically, I made it for a label in Canada and you’re supposed to try and find a release outside of Canada. That never really happened, so we kind of put it out last summer as an EP. Eventually, Burger Records heard it and things kept getting put off. They’d been meaning to put it out this whole time, but now it’s finally coming out.
The theme… it’s funny having to throw my mind back into where I was when I made the record. But I guess at that time, I was pretty freshly moved to Toronto from my hometown of Edmonton, and I don’t think it’s literally about moving to a new city, but I think the whole vibe is influenced by it. I started working in my bedroom, my home studio, and was kind of in a period of time where I was alone a lot working on the record and also not super integrated into the new city I was in. I had a lot of time to sit around and think about a lot of stuff. It’s kind of an interesting record, I guess. There’s a few dance-y jams on there that I guess don’t really lend themselves to that vibe. But that’s kind of what it is: a light psychedelic pop record made in a bedroom. Done in a bedroom, anyways, and finished in a studio.
That’s interesting to have an introspective record that sounds like it came from an extroverted place.
I think that lyrically it’s introspective and there are some slower jams on there that came about because of the introspective approach to the album. But there are some up-tempo songs on there. I just like to play that kind of stuff, even when I’m alone in my bedroom. Even if I’m thinking about an introspective idea, it still turns into some up-tempo rockers.
That’s definitely what I got when I saw you guys at SXSW. Happy vibes all around! With the record coming out on Burger (Records), I wanted to talk to you about being a part of the Burger family. I feel like it’s kind of like in a club.
Or a cult…
Like a denim-cult. But do you think being part of that label has benefitted you?
Oh yeah, definitely. I think it’s been kind of night and day. It’s interesting, coming from Canada, to see how much having an American label changes stuff for you. On top of that, having a label that has their own following built in and a bit of a buzz around them already. That’s a bonus. I’m very happy to be involved with the family-cult thing. They’ve been great to us, and have been excited about the record since day one. As I said, the record was already recorded when they heard it, but they were so excited about it. Sometimes record labels are hot and cold, but they were so into it that it was a no brainer. I think they’re incredibly unique; they started out from their own record store, they lived there, and then started putting out cassette runs. Now it’s taken off and has a life of its own. Being down at SXSW and seeing the turn out when they would throw a party was insane.
Do you have any favorite bands on Burger?
Yeah, I do. I have to think… One of the things they put out recently that I’ve been really into would be that Curtis Harding record. Whenever anybody asks me about bands that I’ve been listening to, whether it’s on my label or not, I always clam up in an interview and I can’t remember what I’ve been listening to…
I do the same exact thing. If anything comes to mind, just chime in. A lot of people fail miserably at making music like you do, but you definitely stand out. Do you ever find it hard to stand out being a guitar rock artist in the year 2015?
I do kind of know what you mean. There’s a certain amount of pressure when you play guitar rock music. It’s like, you come up with an idea that you think is kind of cool, but there’s also a really thin line between it being really lame and really cool. It’s like, cool, yeah, I’m going to just rip this crazy guitar solo. But if it’s not the right production style and execution, it’ll sound really cheesy and dumb. That is sort of the danger that everyone is playing with when they try to make a guitar rock inspired record.
Do you have any influences from the 60s or 70s that you’ve drawn from?
There are tons. There’s a huge mix of all of them. I guess I don’t really try to recreate any particular bands very closely…
That’s a good thing.
Some people I know work more conceptually like that. They almost are pretty conscious of like, “I’m going to take this element from this band’s sound,” and make a new mix. I don’t think consciously of that stuff, I just kind of pay attention to a bunch of records that I like. It’s not like I’m thinking of anyone else’s stuff when I’m doing what I’m doing. But I mean, I love Gary Glitter, and cheesy glam stuff. I also love Neil Young and that sort of weird line between folky and fuzzy shredding weirdness. And obviously I’m a really huge Beatles fan, I don’t even really have to point that out. But when I get into working on my records, I’m usually not too consciously pulling elements from those bands.
Is there a big garage scene in Canada?
Yeah, totally. There’s a lot of great stuff coming from Canada. I don’t think there’s a centralized scene or anything, but there’s a lot of cool stuff coming out of different places. I worked on the Living Daylight record with Renny Wilson, who has his own stuff, too. The record was getting written about and somebody pointed out that it kind of sounds like a Faith Healer record, which is the record that Renny produced in Edmonton as well. I guess people are noticing the similarities in his production style. My cousin produced both of those records! They have a lot of softer, psych elements. I also love the band Slim Twig. I play bass in the band, so I’m being slightly self-serving. Those are the two bands: Faith Healer, and Slim Twig… also my cousin’s punk band Renny Wilson’s Punk Explosion is really fucking sick.
Fri. May 22 – Montreal, QC @ Brasserie Beaubien
Sat. May 23 – Toronto, ON @ Silver Dollar
Sat. June 13 – Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right (Panache Northside Showcase)
Sun. July 12 – Allston, MA @ Great Scott w/ Happyness
Wed. July 15 – Cleveland, OH @ Happy Dog w/ Happyness
Thu. July 16 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot And Saddle w/ Happyness
Fri. July 17 – Washington, DC @ Tropicalia w/ Happyness
Sat. July 18 – Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506 w/ Happyness
Sun. July 19 – Asheville, NC @ Tiger Mountain w/ Happyness
Mon. July 20 – Athens, GA @ Georgia Theatre Rooftop w/ Happyness
Tue. July 21 – Atlanta, GA @ 529 w/ Happyness
Wed. July 22 – Nashville, TN @ The End w/ Happyness
Thu. July 23 – Columbus, OH @ Ace Of Cups w/ Happyness
Fri. July 24 – Chicago, IL @ Beat Kitchen w/ Happyness
Sun. July 26 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry w/ Happyness