A Band without a Decent Tragedy

Kari Petrie

The Rakes are a band that likes to play rock music, drink beer and play loud. And that’s about as interesting as they get.

Not to say that the Rakes are a bad band, because they aren’t. It is just they fit into nearly every rock cliche you have ever heard: They want to bring back rock (though it’s unclear where it went); they aren’t impressed by critical acclaim; and they claim to drink like fish.

The only element of rockdom The Rakes are missing is a great tragedy to overcome. But, who knows, with the way they go on about drinking they may someday have a guitarist in rehab – one song on their latest album, Pass the Lies, is called “Whiskey Porch” and their album artwork includes numerous images of bottles and cans.

That aside, the music is the real story of the Rakes. Pass the Lies is a collection of bar rock songs brimming with heavy guitars, an aggressive rhythm section and lead singer Aaron Pruitt’s strained vocals.

“We’re trying to make the statement that rock ‘n roll is not dead,” the lanky, dark-eyed Pruitt says in an interview with the Daily. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel or anything.”

Even with the lack of musical innovation, each song on Pass the Lies is a solid and true testament to every rock star’s favorite subject: the joys and torments of relationships.

As an example, the album’s title track is about recovering from mutual deception in order to save a relationship. Pruitt sings, “And when you pass the lies / I’ll take my share / Is it your turn now to swallow them whole/ When I pass the lies?”

In “Wrecked Machine,” Pruitt looks back at the love between a “tortured soul and loss girl” and wonders how good their relationship really was for them. He sings, “Our lives are like a wrecked machine / We tore it down and put it back together again / Was it better when we started?”

Despite occasional outbursts from bassist Jon Sawyer and the band’s reputation for being “drunk and rowdy,” as Pruitt puts it, The Rakes are pretty mellow in person. Listening to Pruitt talk about his music demonstrates the band’s true passion. He speaks earnestly, rarely making eye contact. But, when you catch his gaze, his eyes stay there, focused on you.

“The Rakes are not throw-away at all. If you listen to the record … we try to get pretty deep,” Pruitt says.

To make sure nobody is confused about their propensity for partying and “rockin’ out,” Sawyer explains his attitude towards the craft of songwriting: “It doesn’t mean shit to me.”

“Jon doesn’t give a damn about anything but playing loud,” Pruitt adds.

By comparison, Pruitt seems to care a great deal about the songs he writes with Sawyer, guitarist Steve Dupuis and drummer Brian Mondl.

Pruitt explains the band’s writing process as “a singular genesis, but then it’s a group revelation.”

Being poetic isn’t always the goal, though.

“I don’t try to write a sonnet every time, you know?” Pruitt says. “The straightforward lyric, for me, is many times more powerful. What really turns me on, what I really enjoy doing the most, is trying to solve a new musical problem.”

Despite just releasing Pass the Lies, Pruitt says the band would like to go back into the studio to record a new batch of songs.

“What’s my favorite piece?” he says. “The one I’m working on now. Once it’s finished, it’s finished. I don’t really need to look back at it,” he says.