Music: Give Pieces a Chance

Dance Rock's guiding lights The Rapture tighten the focus

 
Michael Lavine


Bucking Rock tradition, The Rapture's sophomore CD is better than its debut.



There's a lot of truth to the old music industry maxim about artists taking 25 years to make their first album and nine months to make their second. More often than not, bands go into a studio with their oldest and most rehearsed songs for their first albums, whereas second efforts are often written and recorded quickly to capitalize on the success of its predecessor or to advance a big tour.

The Rapture did things a little differently. Although the band has been together for close to nine years (with vocalist/ guitarist Luke Jenner and drummer Vito Roccoforte the only constants), the majority of their early Art Punk work bore little resemblance to the Dance-fueled Indie Rock of their 2003 major label debut Echoes and its follow-up, last fall's Pieces of the People We Love. The band's evolution from Punk to Dance/Funk had only just begun when they teamed with production aces Death From Above for the Out of the Races and Onto the Tracks EP and their breakout 2002 club hit, "House of Jealous Lovers."

By the time The Rapture reconnected with DFA for 2003's Echoes, they were faced with the pressure of following up a smash single while still coming to grips with how to create the new sound they'd fashioned. Although the album garnered generally positive reviews, the band realized it hadn't been created in the most productive environment.

"It was the first album we'd ever made, and we were a lot newer band in terms of (bassist) Mattie (Safer) being in the band and (keyboardist) Gabe (Andruzzi) just came in at the end and played on stuff," says drummer Roccoforte. "I think there were just a lot of growing pains and learning how to work in a studio on a full album. We're all happy with the way Echoes turned out, but this time we wanted to make sure the process was a little more enjoyable."

To that end, the band tended to be bit more laissez faire in their approach to writing and recording Pieces, a big departure from the meddling free-for-all of Echoes. They also made a critical decision to take their time, a decision backed up by their new production team of Ewan Pearson and Paul Epworth.

"We gave each other a little more space, because on Echoes we tended to get in each other's shit a lot more, and this time we didn't do that," Roccoforte says. "We also wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to write. With Echoes we didn't have all the songs written, so there was a lot of pressure toward the end to finish the album."

By the time the Rapture had finished Echoes, "House of Jealous Lovers" had exploded worldwide, which led to a European tour offer. As roadwork almost completely occupied their time over the next couple of years, the band had little opportunity to critique their first real recording experience.

"Things just snowballed for two years, and I don't think we really had time to reflect on the process of Echoes," Roccoforte says. "We didn't even have time to decompress from it. It was after we finished touring Echoes that we took some time off, and when we came back we made the conscious effort to do things differently."

Giving themselves the time and space to focus on songwriting, The Rapture was able to more effectively work on their stated goal of fusing Indie Rock with Dance and Funk, something they'd accomplished well on "House of Jealous Lovers."

"We really wanted to concentrate on the songwriting on this album," Roccoforte says. "We've always been a pretty collaborative band, but it was even more collaborative this time around. Everybody was able to have the room they needed to give their input and be happy artistically."

One of the big differences in Pieces of the People We Love is that the album is much more cohesive than Echoes, where The Rapture moved from style to style across the entire album. With Pieces, the band was determined to keep things Dance-oriented.

"We still all really love Dance music — that was a common ground we all shared — and we wanted to keep it in that realm," Roccoforte says. "We wanted to focus things from Echoes a little more. Every album we've made, we've tried to push things as far as we can at the time, and with Echoes we tried to push in a lot of different directions. There were a lot of ballads and slower songs.

"On this album, we wanted to refine the dancier stuff and try to make an album that was more focused in terms of that but keep the energy of songs like 'House' or 'Olio.' Plus we had like 30 songs to choose from, so it was a lot easier to choose cohesive songs that worked together."

The strategy clearly paid off, as Pieces has been largely hailed as the more successful of the two albums. Given the methodology of how the two albums were created, it's almost as if The Rapture made their sophomore album first and their debut album second.

"There was a broader spectrum and a different energy but, you know, when we sequenced it we wanted to put it together like you would put together a mix tape," Roccoforte says. "When you get a mix tape, the first time you hear it it sounds like a bunch of different songs but by the third or fourth time it all makes sense together."

In fact, the very diversity that was displayed throughout Echoes was actually just as evident in the Pieces sessions, but because The Rapture had so much material to choose from they were able to steer the album in a consistent direction. Those wild stylistic swings still bubble below The Rapture's surface.

"Some of that material (left off the album) turned out really good and some of it we used as B-sides," Roccoforte says. "There's a lot of stuff left over that we could still use. That was just how it worked this time around. I have no idea what will happen next time."



THE RAPTURE performs Friday at 20th Century Theater.

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