Patchwork Rattlebag are based in Salford, UK. They mix up a variety of musical, artistic and performance genres to make music that can be challenging, entrancing and unique. Their most recent single, On My Own was released on 24th April 2017, and we caught up with the band for a chat.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. What’s the story behind Patchwork Rattlebag and how would you describe your sound?
We began a little over two years ago now. Initially, we wanted to found a project that wasn’t restricted by the idea of what a musician is ‘supposed to do’. For example, each of our three core members has produced guitar/singer-songwriter music, electronic dance music, electroacoustic music and instrumental music in various guises, and the general attitude amongst musicians is that you have to keep these things separate, restrict them to side projects and so on. To me that seemed artificial because when you think about it, who is to say that you should be doing things this way or that way? The best course of action in any individual circumstance is best decided by that person then and there. Don’t worry about these sages of music commerce or even the folk-wisdom of career-based common sense. We all come across it repeatedly and it really does count for nothing. Anyway, we began working on the premise that all of our creative output should sit next to each other, and over time we have brought all of these elements closer together. So whereas, for example, we originally envisioned a piece of sound art sitting brazenly next to an acoustic song, we are now getting closer to the point of simply blending and juxtaposing methods when our style demands it.
What motivates you to create music and what inspires it, your aesthetic and vibe?
Our music is all about ideas. When I found a suitably serious occasion, I often used to say something like ‘music is part of the general philosophical endeavour’, and silently wonder whether there was any way in which I could justify making such a bold statement. Being stubborn, I’ve thought about that constantly, and I’m quite sure that there are ways that music can consciously make practical philosophical contributions (not to mention the fact that it probably always naturally makes a contribution – artistic style is developed in a way similar to living language). We’ll be working on these conscious applications over the next couple of years in some new compositions (you saw it here first Adam!); so currently there’s at least one definite trajectory that our method is following. That being said, the idea is to juxtapose and blend, so we’ll probably be using lots of other ideas too – but I’m currently obsessed with phenomenology, social inequality and the inability and historical failure of authority to justify itself… Oh and we also like music!
I can usually come up with a quick pitch to get across to others what I think a band is about. With you guys I have to admit I failed. What kind of feedback do you get to your music from fans and peers?
Mostly that Chantelle makes the room seem like it is moving and that I sing like a girl (true story!). In fact, here is an actual fan quote about the new single… “WOW, and I’m straight” – we’re still not quite sure what that means, but it is in the press pack!
As far as I can tell, the people that have found most affinity with what we do are people that understand the idea of having a fluid membership and being as open as we can to different ideas, both musical and otherwise.
The visuals are synonymous with our sound and people comment on that. We feel that the artwork is as important as the music and we’re sharing visuals all the time. The ‘On my Own’ music video is conceptual in the same way that the track is and it adds another dimension to the experience. A selection of Chantelle’s Patchwork Rattlebag visuals are being featured at the Misugo London event at Manchester’s Whitworth Gallery tomorrow (27th April).
Your live shows have developed a bit of a reputation – without giving away too much, what is it about them that people seem to love so much?
I think that wherever we go, and whatever type of gig we play, we are always doing something a bit different. We’ve done everything from straight-up acoustic sets to electroacoustic performances and, more often than either of these, some kind of mixture of styles. For example, we’re heading to Glasgow on the 29th April to play what we call a Live PA set. On this occasion Chantelle is triggering beats, playing samples and contributing general sound design, whilst I am singing and playing electric guitar. This is what we do for an upbeat occasion. When we played at Other Sounds last month however, we played a much more psychedelic set between Chantelle, Brandon and myself – keeping the beats to a minimum. The vocals are effected in real-time, so there’s often quite a psychedelic effect happening with a level of detail that I’m not sure anybody else is getting. We have a show at Resonant Edge Contemporary Music Festival coming up on Saturday 17th June (Ormskirk). We are excited about that one because we’ll be doing the electronica-song material such as ‘On my Own’ alongside parts of Fragments of the Ship Canal Project, which is an acousmatic song-cycle. We’re getting closer and closer to the patchworked set that we have envisioned.
There’s a growing belief that the musical centre of gravity here is moving west from Manchester to Salford. Would you agree with that? Do you think the two cities are musically different?
To be honest, if that feeling is in the air then it is probably true. There are too many artists and they’re often too good for me to follow the current. I sometimes get different feelings from the cities, but lots of things go on under my radar. We’ve recently come across a group DJs and VJs in Manchester that completely changed my idea of what was going on there, and we’ve been getting involved in that. I’ve been part of the Salford scene for a long time and I’ve always supported the people that strive to build it up. If the musical gravity is shifting then it is testament to their efforts.
Finally, what does the future have in store for Patchwork Rattlebag – gigs, releases, new ventures?
The big thing for us recently has been this single release. We’re available on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Deezer, HMV and the rest, and we think that all of the tracks on this release (‘On my Own’, ‘Bokononist’ and ‘Remember what the Fish Ignored – Rattlebag Remix’) tell the story of the group’s development. It’s a good short summary of our output so far. We have at least another 12 under construction, and on top of that there is a whole new idea that we are going to be working on – the one that I mentioned earlier. I’m not going to give too much away, but there will be experimental performances across the North West in areas you wouldn’t necessarily expect. That is a set project that will take up quite a bit of time over the next couple of years. So busy as usual!