Tarot Rats are an exciting new rock band from Kent. Their debut EP, “Minor Arcana”, is due to be released this month, and they have a launch gig on April 27th at The Forum, Tunbridge Wells. (More details on the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/987197111348101/)
Check out the EP preview on Soundcloud:
Sounds good, doesn’t it? I’m looking forward to hearing the full EP. The band have a couple of acoustic videos on Youtube that you can check out:
I was keen to interview the band to find out more about them and the new music.
Interview with Tarot Rats
Introduce us to the band members and tell us a bit about your musical backgrounds.
Tim (the dandy) Hill – vocals/piano
Started learning piano when I was about 8, got taught by an awesome jazz blues pianist by the name of Perry White. Started messing around in friends’ houses and garages, learning how to play live with other musicians and writing songs. It’s all I remember doing through my teens.
So after a dodgy few years not achieving a great deal in dead end day jobs and excessive weekend antics the planets aligned in such a way for me to discover things like Jeff Buckley, and Kate Bush, who challenged me to sing better, play better, feel better. And also to come across two wonderful human beings, Johnny and Ben, and they seemed to like what I could do.
Johnny (riff wizard) Hammond – Guitars
Johnny brings old school riffs and blues from the likes of SRV, Iommi and Hendrix. All through good friends Wooki, Martyn and Nev.
After studying at BIMM he spent time working in various studios writing commercial music and learning a lot about all aspects of the industry, as a player and business. Guided all the way by great blues playing dad Johnny’s Blues tends to get pretty heavy given the chance but it has given the Rats that vintage sound.
Ian Wheeler – Bass (the big E)
Ian was born …. the rest of the band know how lucky they are. Ian’s all about feel more than play. Playing bass can rumble the soul.
Ben (gold top) Jackson – Guitars
Born in Brighton, home grown in Kent, then headed back to Brighton to study at BIMM. Ben loves the outdoors, good people, food, wine, and the odd bottle of gold top milk!
Mentored by a local musician Barry, inspiring, experienced in life and general incredible human being, who introduced Ben to Johnny.
Ben loves listening and playing different styles of music and instruments from around the world and through time.
Lewis (9 arms) Archer – Drums/producer
I come into music where the fun starts, dedicated myself from an early age. I’ve always been the type to push limits with everything!
For me it’s always been about my evolution as an artist, connection with the listeners, and passion for creation.
Drugs are bad, kids are innocent, and war is dumb. Peace.
Great bios and I love the nicknames 😀
How and when did the band get together?
A long story short, a previous project breakdown left Johnny, Ian, and Ben with a clean slate. This led to Johnny and Ian writing together in their spare time and potentially, maybe, a little too much red wine ……. the idea of forming a new band began, and it was at this stage that the name and imagery took place. Having worked with Ben before, not only as a guitarist, but as co-writer it was the obvious next step in forming Tarot Rats.
Tim, who is a long time friend, came to a rehearsal and instantly gave the lyric ideas life and brought his individual tone and style. Lewis was last to join, but by no means least. Ben introduced Lewis to Johnny and instantly the right direction was taken and with Lewis came his ability not only to produce the EP, but drum like a horse with ten legs.
Who are your musical heroes?
Where on earth do you even start …. We as Rats all have a huge range of inspirations. All of the Rats love the birth of blues, Led Belly, Albert King, etc. – funk, soul, Motown all the way up to modern bands like Tesseract. It’s all the bits in between that vary.
Johnny is Black Sabbath, Rory Gallagher to Muse. Ian’s a big Floyd fan, Fleetwood Mac and AC/DC. Tim’s influences range from Led Zeppelin to Portishead to Bach. Lewis is, Peter Gabriel, Prince, and Geoff Lynn. Ben loves Tom Waites, Amy Winehouse… The list is endless.
Who usually writes the songs or is it a collaboration between all band members?
The original songs came from early jams, but others have come from ideas that any one of us seem to wake up with in our heads, and we’re all quite close so we share stuff all day, some of it not overly music related but it’s fun to bounce ideas around so easily and as such it’s been a really organic way of evolving to make the EP.
We all have our strengths, but it’s great when they all collide. Lew is good at melodies for example and knowing of creative ways to section change; Johnny stinks of riffs… Ian’s conceptual lyrics around some Tarot cards have not only brought imagery but also seem to suit Tim’s gin soaked bluesy approach. Ben’s style of rhythm guitar is loose, sassy with bluesy undertones. His avant-garde approach to rhythm brings fresh tone and has evolved the Rats’ sound even further.
What inspires the lyrics for your songs?
Tarot Cards, old tattoos, love, lots of hard lessons, and future hope.
What usually comes first for you, the lyrics or the music?
Songwriting is usually an organic thing for us; ideas seem to fly in from all directions, so many of the songs are fusions of a few ideas, whatever we’re rolling with at the time.
You have an EP, “Minor Arcana”, coming out soon. Tell us about the songs on that.
The EP tracks mark the start of the Tarot Rats. Our writing style has evolved the more we write together. The album is shaping up beautifully.
We’ve included a live acoustic take of “Temperance” on the EP recorded at Amp Records UK; it’s a song that we’ve really enjoyed playing live and has a particularly poignant meaning to the band. It also includes “Rats get fat while brave men die”, which at one point was going to be the title track on the album, the second half of which was a massive turning point in the band and was an awesome recording session, we all remember that one well.
Do you have any gigs/tours planned?
We’ve got the EP launch at the Tunbridge Wells Forum on the 27th of April, and plan on filling up the summer with as many festival slots as possible. There are lots of London dates being confirmed over the next few weeks to keep an eye out for. As for touring, our aim this year is to get on a tour as a support act for someone already established with dates and venues, etc. We love playing live and enjoy learning with every show; you never stop learning I guess.
What are some of the challenges facing bands just starting out?
There’s so many variables to this question but I guess the biggest challenge is making sure that everyone involved is ready and wanting the same end goal. It’s such an important part of the process, even if you only want to be a pub band, focus and drive as a unit will still be better than five minds in five different directions.
Being heard is probably another big challenge. Although a lot easier than it was 20 years ago with social media sites in everyone’s pockets nowadays, it’s still hard trying to be heard by those people that can give you more exposure to get you to that next level.
Which are your favourite social media sites, and why?
Real Rock and Roll, obviously…
Of course 😉
Again though, this world’s changed so much over the years but the big players still have the best platforms for social reach out.
If you could write/compose a song with a musician (dead or alive), who would you choose and why?
This might just have to be a list of names for each of us … three each, how’s that?
Sounds good to me 🙂
– Hendrix. Its an obvious choice, but just to work with a mind like that could only be good surely.
– Reign Wolf. Loving this guys approach to modern bluesy tones and expression.
– Muse. I just don’t think that there’s much better out there at the moment in the way that Matt uses stonking riffs with beautiful melodies and even classical undertones to a lot of there songs, they would be awesome to write with, you’d have a full pallet of frequency and colour.
– Kate Bush, just because I’d learn so much;
– Otis Redding, for the purest soul experience;
– Joss Stone, er, not necessarily completely for musical endeavours, bit of a crush. (Smut aside; she is an incredible performer, and her stagecraft is hugely underrated, just to add).
Oh and I’m going to break the 3 each rule and say Amy Winehouse as well; such a unique talent and sorely missed.
– Peter Gabriel, focusing on how he uses music and the arts to break the language barrier, what he’s done for the truth and of course his discography
– Prince – needless to say this is a no brainer for any aspiring song writer/multi-musician/producers. Not really a great deal this man can’t do with music. He gets it.
– Geoff Lynn. He’s a purest, a perfectionist, and a true audio Explorer; his sheer work ethic and lifestyle should be an example for any artist pushing to succeed for the right reasons.
Damn it, Tim, you took ma girl Amy! Here’s three in the radar at the moment for me:
– I would like to share a bottle in a Smokey bar with Tom Waits and write NOT love songs.
– Gogol Bordello- These guys are nuts ! I like that!
– Prince- A massive human force with undeniable talent and for whom I have a lot of time.
– Roger Waters, an icon for Pink Floyd and a lyrical superstar. He puts so much emotion into his words. Like me 🙂
– Bon Scott. The godfather of classic rock and roll. If it wasn’t about sex, booze, or rock, it wasn’t worth doing.
– Barry Gibb. I know this seems strange because I’m a rock head but I can not help but have admiration for the amount of lyrics and music this man has written.
What have been some of the band’s highlights so far?
We’ve been very blessed with our closest friends and family and have enjoyed so many good things already with the beautiful #ratsfamily. Highlights so far though have to be our Granary Studio session with Guy Denning: absolute legend and a studio well worth using; had a fantastic weekend there recording and writing. The stripped back acoustic gig we played at the Milkhouse was also another great night to remember. All the #ratsfamily turned out and made it a fantastic night, it was great to strip the music back too for that one off gig. We played at the David Bowie tribute night at the The Forum, Tunbridge Wells too; apart from being welcomed by everyone there so nicely it was just the best night to have the pleasure of being part of. It confirmed in our heads too exactly where we wanted to do an EP launch this end; great venue and the next highlight will definitely be the 27th of April. Number one roady and band photographer Craig Marshall stopping the Rats convoy on our Rooz Studio gig night (for a lost high heel) was also a highlight, another great night too … that comes with its own backstory for another time though.
Ha, ha! 🙂
If you could tour with any other band, who would you choose and why?
I think we’d probably all answer this one differently too, but any band that are serious about what they are doing and have that genuine following and successful outlook, would be great to tour with; we could learn lots from bands like that in a sense of how to deal with those extra pressures or how to react to certain environments.
Any other news for your fans?
Definitely watch this space; this year is gonna see the album release and many, many gigs too. There’s music videos coming out and all the other beautiful things like merchandise, etc. too, so it’ll be an exciting year indeed as it unfolds. Come and find us, become part of the #ratsfamily @tarot_rats
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions! Good luck with the EP launch. Can’t wait to hear the EP and album! 🙂
Follow the band: