Saturday, April 4, 2020
April 4, 2020

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Raveonettes shaking things up again

Duo's sound is certainly recognizable, but it's anything but static

The Columbian
Published:

If you go

What: The Raveonettes, in concert.

When: 9 p.m. May 12.

Where: Wonder Ballroom, 128 N.E. Russell St., Portland.

Cost: $20.70 through Ticketmaster, 800-745-3000 or http://ticketmaster.com. For adults 21 and over.

Information: http://wonderballroom.com.

Over a decade-long career, the Raveonettes have created one of rock’s most identifiable sounds, with such signature elements as a fondness for 1950s and ‘60s pop and rock, frequent use of surf rock beats and perhaps most of all, waves of fuzz guitar that rough up an otherwise poppy sound.

These elements have become so associated with the Raveonettes that the band is widely credited with influencing a new generation of bands that are updating how beach rock sounds, such as Wavves, Best Coast and the Vivian Girls.

But when Raveonettes guitarist/singer Sune Rose Wagner looks back over the band’s career, he sees five albums (plus several EPs) that have covered a wide range of stylistic ground and often have contrasted starkly with the preceding release.

“I think people sometimes are a little bit too quick to judge things. Like you could have one person who might have heard (the 2001 debut EP) ‘Whip It On’ and thought, ‘I don’t like these little short songs and they’re always in the same key and they’re a little too noisy,’” Wagner said. “But that person might love (the 2005 CD) ‘Pretty in Black,’ for instance, which is a completely different album. … I don’t think a lot of people are aware of the ground that we’ve covered.”

If you go

What: The Raveonettes, in concert.

When: 9 p.m. May 12.

Where: Wonder Ballroom, 128 N.E. Russell St., Portland.

Cost: $20.70 through Ticketmaster, 800-745-3000 or http://ticketmaster.com. For adults 21 and over.

Information: http://wonderballroom.com.

“Pretty in Black” is a prime illustration of Wagner’s point. After “Whip It On” and the 2003 CD, “Chain Gang of Love,” the Raveonettes virtually did away with fuzzed-out guitars on “Pretty in Black” to create a notably different sound.

The Raveonettes’ new album, “Raven in the Grave,” is another example of the group’s willingness to react to its previous work and expand the scope of its music.

For the previous release, “In and Out of Control,” Wagner and his band mate, bassist/singer Sharin Foo, completely changed their approach to creating a full-length album. Where songs for previous CDs had been written in advance by Wagner and Foo, the group went into the recording of “In and Out of Control” with no songs written.

The duo also welcomed producer Tom Troelsen into the song-writing process, and he co-wrote many of the songs on the album.

“In and Out of Control” retained some of the expected Raveonettes signatures, such as the fuzzy pop-rooted sound. But it changed things up by emphasizing more-conventional song structures and highlighting big pop melodies.

“I think on ‘In and Out of Control,’ we wanted it to be sort of our Ramones album,” Wagner said. “They’re really melodic pop songs that are just blasting through the stereo. And so that was definitely our intention when we got into it, and we wanted to have the big choruses and more classic song structures and that kind of stuff because we don’t really do that so much.”

Coming off of that album, Wagner and Foo decided to shake things up again. The duo returned to writing their own songs well ahead of heading to the studio to record “Raven in the Grave,” which they self produced. The music that emerged includes stark contrasts to the duo’s previous work.

Fuzz falls away

For one thing, Wagner and Foo dialed way back on the guitars and the fuzz. Instead, washes of icy synthesizers are often featured in the album’s nine songs, as decidedly fuzz-less guitars take more of a back seat in the instrumental mix. What’s more, the new CD is devoid of surf beats. And while there has always been a dark element to the Raveonettes’ music, on “Raven in the Grave,” the sunny bounce that has also characterized the group’s songs is replaced by more of an atmospheric chill.

The sound of the new CD “was probably a reaction to the previous album we did, ‘In and Out of Control,’ which was a much more produced album with a lot of layers of synths and guitars and a lot of vocals, all kinds of stuff,” Wagner said. “So for this one, it was definitely a little more stripped down. We tried to keep it kind of simple and minimal in the production.”

With the Raveonettes tour this spring, Wagner said, he and Foo are trying to maintain the excitement they feel creatively by getting a bit daring with the set lists.

“We definitely want to try out some songs that we haven’t played for years and even some songs that we’ve never played (live). So we’re kind of like being a little adventurous about it,” Wagner said. “We only chose songs that we really know that we’re going to love playing. We just want to feel comfortable up there and show people that we’re a really great live band.”

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