The Rare Occasions just released a new single “Call Me When You Get There” and have a new album Big Whoop coming this June. We got the chance to talk to vocalist and guitarist Brian about the band’s recent projects and experience over the past year.
A good song is usually accompanied by a passionate musician. We all start somewhere on that path to find what gives us that opportunity to express ourselves. Lucky for us, people have found music at the end of their road, waiting for them to take it and run with its limitless possibilities. As a hobby or as a career, what inspired you to decide music was the right path for you?
A: All three of us have been completely obsessed with music from a very young age. Writing songs is something we’ve just always done. I don’t think any of us could stop doing it if we wanted to; the songs would still come. It’s not that we’ve necessarily chosen to pursue this career path, we’ve just chosen to put in the little extra effort it takes to make our song ideas more complete and then record them. We all have jobs in music outside of the band as well, which definitely took more of a conscious effort to piece together. Luke works as a film/TV composer, Jeremy is a music teacher, and I work as a loudspeaker/electroacoustics engineer. I think if I tried to work in a field that wasn’t at least tangentially related to music, I would have a tough time staying interested.
Being driven to create by passion rather than the idea of fame or wealth is what separates artists from the people who just make music. And I can only imagine how great it must feel to meet other people who share that same vision. So, what is this band’s origin story?
A: Luke and I grew up together in Rhode Island. We played in a few bands together during high school and found that we really resonated creatively. We were both headed up to the Boston area during college, so we decided to keep playing, and eventually started writing new material again with a rotating cast of friends from our respective schools. Eventually, the lineup stabilized and we called ourselves The Rare Occasions for our first show at Tufts University. We played more and more shows and recorded demos as a band and realized that we had something special with our bassist Jeremy and our old guitarist Peter, so we just continued to make new things and improve incrementally along the way.
As a band, you experience so much of your life together from the moment you decide, “yes, let’s do this.” I am sure that has led you to sharing some incredible memories with each other. What is one of the best memories you have from performing live?
A: The local radio station in Rhode Island, WBRU, was very supportive of the band and had us play as openers at some pretty big shows. Having grown up listening to the station, it was just so surreal to be a part of it as an artist. Probably our two favorite memories from that were headlining the Providence Summer Concert Series at Waterplace Park and opening for Rome and Dirty Heads at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel (now called The Strand). We’ll always be so grateful to Wendell and the folks at that station for giving us such great opportunities as we were starting out. Unfortunately, the frequency was sold off a couple of years ago, but WBRU still exists as an online college radio station.
Skipping ahead to the present, even in these challenging times, the band is releasing music. You’ve got an album on the way this June and a single that arrived on May 7th. Tell us a little more about “Call Me When You Get There”.
A: “Call Me When You Get There” was a conscious effort to produce a loud rock song that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It started simply as one of those earworm hooks that get stuck in your head, and we let our imaginations run wild with the song’s arrangement. The back-and-forth vocal hocketing effect in the intro sets the tone, while the percussive groove was made by Luke striking various household items like my washing machine and kitchen cabinets. From there the song bursts into a fun stadium rock anthem, complete with Queen-inspired vocal harmonies and various telephone sound effects. Ultimately the song is about someone forgetting to pick up their significant other from the airport, and the general stress involved in navigating busy transit hubs like LAX. The goal was to make this song super random, catchy, and fun in order to balance out the more dramatic songs on the album, and I think it works, especially when paired with the music video.
What was it like making music during the pandemic? Did you work virtually or quarantine together?
A: Luckily we had just finished recording a batch of songs right before everything shut down, so I spent the first few months at home finishing lyrics, tracking vocals, and then mixing those tracks. We didn’t see each other for several months at the start of the pandemic but still met virtually. We had finished about 7 tracks by June 2020 and made the decision around that time to keep writing and turn this collection of songs into an album. There were a couple song fragments we had been messing with before the pandemic and a few ideas that we came up with during quarantine. We started ironing out those ideas virtually throughout the spring and summer. By late summer, we felt safe enough to hold band practices again, essentially treating the three members of the band and our significant others as one family unit and agreeing not to see anyone else outside that unit. We finished writing the remaining five songs and recorded them in the fall, finishing the mixing process in January. This whole album was recorded and mixed entirely at home by us.
Accompanying the new song is a colorful, fun music video. Connecting and/or creating visuals along with your music is another layer of the process that brings the whole project to the next level. Where do you get your ideas for these visual pieces?
A: We’ve been really lucky to have such creative friends to collaborate with. Kenneth Bauer directed this music video, and it was great working with him. We showed him the track and Kenny was immediately inspired to create this colorful world and a story loosely based on the lyrics of the song. The same happened with our previous video for “Stay”; the director Chelsea Lutz heard the song and let it inform her creative vision. Kenny was also the cinematographer on that. We had been inspired by 3D images, and Kenny took that and came up with the idea of flipping between multiple cameras to create a 3D effect. The only recent video we made ourselves was “Set It Right” – I had this idea of singing the song while riding around California on a 5ft tall unicycle. We shot it in a day with a GoPro strapped to the car as we were riding. It was super fun but not on the same level of production as our projects with Kenny and Chelsea.
So, the new album… art always reflects the time in which it was created. Going off of that, what does Big Whoop say about you as artists?
A: The whole idea behind Big Whoop was to bring the energy of our live show to a full-length album, while also rejecting the notion of needing to project a certain image. We wanted to make music that is fun and expresses who we are, and we happen to be three decidedly uncool music nerds. So much of indie rock takes itself very seriously, and it’s no wonder why folks have tended to gravitate more and more towards other genres that are, frankly, more fun. This record does not shy away from some serious topics, but it also doesn’t bury itself into a hole of introspection.
What is your favorite song from the album?
A: My favorite from a sonic perspective is definitely “Origami” – it’s got all the elements of the album tied into one song and is overall a great-sounding track. From the songwriting perspective, I think “Sparrow” is our best work to date. One of Luke’s favorites is “The Fold” because of its cinematic nature and the opportunity it presented for him to flex his orchestral string arranging muscles. Jeremy isn’t known for choosing favorites but “Control” and “The Fold” are both tunes that get him amped for different reasons; “Control” slowly builds to a final uproar while “The Fold” meanders dynamically.
I know that when I am listening to new music I always look at the album art. It provides a look into the song without actually listening to anything, so it is important to make an impression that reflects the music. What is the story behind the artwork for Big Whoop?
A: We had this idea of creating some sort of colorful diorama for the album, and Luke got inspired one day and started constructing this thing in his living room. It has little objects to represent certain songs or aspects of the album. We didn’t want any text overlayed on the front, so my partner Deanna stitched our logo into Luke’s sock and drew the album title on a whoopie cushion. I went over and took a picture with my camera while Luke was posing with his foot about to step on the whoopie cushion. We wanted the album art to give off the fun vibe of the songs we were making, and I think it achieved that.
Is there a song you’ve been playing all quarantine?
A: Mine is “Not” by Big Thief, Luke’s is “Kyoto” by Phoebe Bridgers, Jeremy’s is “Cold Little Heart” by Michael Kiwanuka!
Follow The Rare Occasions on Instagram here and listen to “Call Me When You Get There” below: