Interview: Roz And The Rice Cakes on touring DIY, playing SXSW, and their ambitious ‘Need To Feed’ album video

Ever since starting out in the late 2000s, Providence indie-pop trio Roz and The Rice Cakes have thrived on doing things on their own terms. Next week they’ll be embarking on another tour which includes a few stops at SXSW, a few house shows, and a handful of weird venues — but they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Recently Vanyaland chatted with band ringleader Roz Raskin about the upcoming tour, their experiences and expectations playing that Austin music festival later this month, and their striking new album video for Need To Feed, which adds visuals to their latest LP, out now on Team Love Records. In an age of YouTube singles and short-attention-span video clips, Roz And The Rice Cakes have unveiled 45 minutes of synced-up imagery to complement their album.

Fire up Need To Feed via YouTube below, and get full details on their tour after the Q&A…

Rob Duguay: This upcoming tour that you guys will be venturing out on includes a few dates at SXSW. I’ve heard from some people that they love getting to go see some underground acts up close and center that you wouldn’t normally see while others call it a complete corporate record label shitshow. For a musician who has gone to SXSW for the past couple of years, how would you describe your experience?

Roz Raskin: I would describe it as a mix between Cancun spring break and the best music festival you’ve ever been to in your entire life. That’s how I would describe it. It has gotten to a point from being a smaller festival where people would just go and see incredible music and being a hidden gem of sorts to now due to the corporate side of things it has gotten to be huge. I don’t know how many people they’re expecting to be there this year and Austin is a tiny town, it’s not that big of a place. Everything that happens is part of the official thing they have worked out within a two block radius.

It all happens on one street pretty much, right?

Right, expect for now there are tons of things happening all over the city. For example, all of the showcases that we’re playing are all unofficial and they’re all around Austin where we’ll be playing five shows within three days.

What would you say is the best showcase you been on so far at SXSW?

It’s hard to say what the best showcase we’ve been on is but the best experience we’ve had at SXSW is actually pretty crazy. At the last minute, a friend of ours Joel Garcia (who is a pedicabber down in Austin) told us that his shop wanted to have a show at 3 a.m. going on until 5 a.m. after everybody gets out from pedicabbing. Everyone who was pedicabbing in the town would come down to this one shop and party until the early hours of the morning. We had a case of beer and we said “Screw it, let’s do it,” we were so tired from playing gigs all day along from the past few days leaving us exhausted. It was super intense and there were so many people, the whole day was kind of overwhelming. So then we get there and we play this incredible show at this pedicab shop with between 100 to 150 people who were all dancing and they were all super into it. Everyone was getting wasted and you have to understand that all these people didn’t get the chance to see music all week, they’ve been riding people around in their pedicabs. We were the first band they’ve actually seen all week and everyone just freaked the fuck out, we freaked out, they freaked out. We were partying with all of these people and we’ve been going back there to play Jose’s shop ever since, so we’re playing that show again and it’s going to awesome again.

One thing that is very unique about when you guys go on tour is that you mix it between playing bona fide music venues while also playing a bunch of DIY house shows. Do you have a personal preference between playing in a music venue versus playing someone’s basement?

The reason why we were doing house shows and we continue to do them is because they bring out the best in a lot of crowds of people for the kind of shows that we like to play. There can be a bunch of people going super hard at a show and sometimes it can be super low key and really chill and really awesome and really beautiful and lovely, it sort of depends on the occasion but it allows for us to really meet people in these cities that we go to because not only are we playing a show but we get to hang out with them after and meet people in the communities that we play in. Therefore, it makes more sense for us to go play something like that as opposed to going to play a venue in Asheville, N.C. or a venue in Athens, GA or someplace where people don’t even know who you are after seeing you play for the first time. It’s cool for us to go play a house show and then go back and play a venue or a bunch of house shows leading up to playing at a venue depending on the environment, but there are also some really great venues that we’ve played at that we continue to go back to just from all over the board. In Greenville, S.C. we play a place called The Radio Room and in Rochester, N.Y. we play a place called The Bug Jar and they are these independent, really awesome spots that are run by great people who just want to throw great shows with great bands and help out a touring band that they like who happens to be us or whoever else.

As long as the vibe is right any place can be pretty awesome to play a show at.

It totally could be, but I guess there is something about houses that we just all love so much. Anyone who has been to a house show knows that how incredible they can be.

It can be a lot more communal.

They can also sometimes be too crazy, some house shows have been legitimately too crazy. For the most part is just a really cool way to play music to the people.

Would you consider yourself a musician that feels more comfortable playing with a crowd surrounding her than playing on top of a stage and looking down on people?

Yes, absolutely. For all of us, I think it’s kind of funny when anytime we play a higher stage because we spend so much time playing to people’s faces and having people almost knock down our equipment. Sometimes my keyboard does fly off but there’s always someone in the audience who’s there to catch it. We played a show in Richmond, VA where it was so packed and people were dancing so hard that two dudes just posted up in front of my keyboard to catch it if it fell and they stayed there for five songs being ready to catch it if it dropped off. Where can you have a connection with people quite like that if it’s not a house?

With all of these places that you’ve mentioned playing at while on tour, what are other places would you say are a must to jot down on the calendar every time Roz and The Rice Cakes head out on the road?

I would say probably Keene, N.H., Buffalo, N.Y., Greensboro, N.C. and a lot of southern areas, that where we’ve had a lot of great shows before.

Are there any cities that you want to go play in that you haven’t been to yet?

A city that we just started getting into is Nashville. I’m really psyched on that place, I think there is potential for us to maybe fit in somewhere down there.

I don’t think you guys would have a problem getting with the folks down there. Now let’s talk about this video you guys are premiering in relation to your latest release, Need To Feed, that came out nearly a year ago. Your bandmates Justin Foster and Casey Belisle made it and I’ve watched it, I find it to be weird in a really cool way because you have all of this ’50s-era black and white visuals with some of them being kind of creepy while others seem kind of normal. While watching it at times I felt I was watching a lost episode of Leave It To Beaver and then it would be something that seems like it would be something that John Waters would watch. It’s very diverse while going along with the streaming of the album. What made you guys decide to put a video like this out? Was there an exact vision you guys had while putting together the video or was it all just on a whim?

We were deciding how we would do a listening party for the album for the people who had donated to our Kickstarter campaign. We decided to do it at The Columbus Theatre in Providence, it was in the studio where we recorded the album and we were thinking that it would be cool to have some sort of visual to accompany the entire album. So we were trying to think of what would be the easiest way to get some amazing footage and there are a bunch of free archives online of old footage from all different kinds of subject matter all over the board, there’s just tons of it. Since it would take us forever to film something of our own to be as long as Need To Feed they figured it would be cool to arrange footage in a way we thought was very fitting. Casey and Justin actually spent time to really go through and make sure that all the footage was matching sonically with what was going on and at the listening party it was pretty magical.

Kind of like your own version of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wizard Of Oz.

Yea, that’s exactly it. So we decided that it would be a really interesting way for people to hear and see the album and then it became what it is.

I can definitely see what you guys were going for, especially with certain parts of the video being rhythmically syncopated with the streaming of the album. The way Roz and The Rice Cakes have released their material is fairly interesting. Most recently you’ve put out a single for a movie which is a rendition of The Zombies’ “Time Of The Season” for the film Para La Paz (For Peace) along with other numerous releases.

I actually have a few more collaborations coming up that I think are going to be pretty cool.

Well, let’s talk about it!

I don’t know how much I can say about a lot of them, one I can say is this band called Moon Tooth from Long Island, NY who are blowing up right now in the metal world and they have a new album coming out that I’m singing on which should be really cool. The other ones I can’t say yet because they’re not set in stone.

Will The Rice Cakes be releasing an EP, another full length or just a single? It could be anything from you guys now because you’re all over the map with your releases.

R.R.: I can tell you that there is definitely going to be a release of an A side/B side of something this summer and it’s going to be with Team Love Records. I can’t tell you exactly what it’s going to be just yet but I’m really psyched about what it can possibly be.

Roz tour