Toilet Rats IV, by Toilet Rats, is the album I wanted in high school to be cooler than the rest of the 80s babies. If I close my eyes and listen, I could swear I was in middle of a John Hughes movie looking pretty in pink. So much fun!
Please tell us about Toilet Rats and your music
Toilet Rats is what it might sound like if your gothy/punky older sister made you a mixtape in 1987.
Have you ever played on the Square Pegs show? I’m kidding (and you may need to look it up) but your sound takes me back to the days of the New Wave Punk mashup. It’s fun with an edge. Do you have any specific influences? I can hear everything from Gary Neuman, The Replacements and the Ramones.
If they figure out time travel and make it commercially available, I’d like to go back and play on Square Pegs. You are a keen observer because I’m a fan of the bands you mentioned, particularly The Ramones. Their music is timeless and they have weird lyrics. They’re the first punk band I fell in love with as a kid and I still love them just as much today. I also like some of the new wave/post-punk stuff like Siekiera, The Cure, and The Chameleons + newer stuff like Rosegarden Funeral Party and Soft Kill. And some ’90s stuff like Jawbreaker and Fugazi.
You are a one-man-band from start to finish, which is amazing. What is the process for getting everything done and how long does it take?
I actually work much faster and more efficiently alone. I really enjoy playing in bands, too, but with this project I just get into my zone and start hammering out an idea; I don’t have to have a discussion with three people about a guitar part or shape a song through several band rehearsals. And I’m not knocking that. It’s just a different process. I’ll usually start with a guitar or synth part and start building around it. Once I have the music framework in place, I’ll listen on headphones while running errands and just hum along looking for melodies. Once the song gives me a certain vibe, that’s where I take the lyrics. Then I’ll add vocals. I’ll step away for a few days and come back to see what the song needs/doesn’t need. Usually, I subtract. A good rock song rarely needs extra bells and whistles. I try to be economic, play what serves the song, and get to the point. One can probably gather from the band name this is a fun project, so the lyrics dig into nostalgia like old movies. But I take having fun seriously and put effort into making sure that while the material is silly, it’s not a total joke. I want it to be good and memorable.
I am a huge fan of Carol Kane, especially in her role at Simka on Taxi, what inspired you to write a song about her? And more broadly, where do you get ideas for songs?
The song “Carol Kane” is based on the movie When A Stranger Calls. I’ve always liked the classic trope of THE CALLS ARE COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE! That was so scary as a kid. I thought I’d give a proper shout-out to the film’s lead. She did such a good job in that role. And her name Carol Kane just sounds cool, ya know?
Most of the ideas for the songs for this particular album came from old scary movies. Funny as it sounds, the themes bring people together over a common interest. There are people from various walks of life who dig old scary movies because maybe it reminds them of growing up or their older siblings or whatnot. I’ve had a number of people find Toilet Rats who don’t normally listen to punk-adjacent music because of this, which is a lot of fun. I dunno. The world is really screwed up right now and I wanna provide an outlet for people to have a little fun and take a breather from the real horror show.
What makes you most excited about your upcoming album? And where is the best place for folks to find you? Will you be playing any live shows?
I almost did back flips when Steadfast Records offered to release the album on cassette. Everyone likes vinyl but I drive an old Camry with a working tape player, so I always buy tapes from other bands! Anyway, Steadfast is a super cool little label and I’ve bought numerous items from them over the years. The guy who runs the label used to be in a great band called Brandtson who I’ve seen perform eleventy-million times back in the day. I’m probably more excited to do a boutique pressing or two of the album with Steadfast than if, like, Sony or Warner Brothers had made me an offer. Sweet Cheetah PR also got on board and those guys also know each other because they’re both in Ohio, so it all just made sense. I have a cool little team. We get each other amped up. It’s super fun. It’s hard to make friends as an adult because everyone has so much shit going on and other obligations. So, working w/ my little crew and pushing each other has the same energy as being in, like, a high school band or something. Maybe we will expand the team a little if I end up doing syncs or something. We’ll see. I’ve done the whole bigger label/PR/managers/industry machine when I was younger and this is just way more fun and organic. I’m having fun.
The best place to find me is on BandCamp (It’s BandCamp Friday!) because I can use that $ to purchase more plug-ins and keep making stuff. If the project can mostly pay for itself, that is always a win. I’m not made of money! I’ll also be on all of the usual streaming platforms, and for the collectors, steadfastrecords.net has tapes + they have vinyl and goodies of other bands you should check out. I haven’t figured out live shows, yet. I might get a couple buddies to learn the songs and set up a couple huge bass amps behind the drums and just blast some tracks through it and set up on the floor and play like a punk band. If I have to use tracks live, I want to treat them like another instrument and not run them all clean through the PA. I don’t like overly controlled live sound. I want it to be obnoxious. I am also toying with the idea of making a mix of the songs that’s all electronic, but grimey. So, if I can hop on something last minute or if I travel, I could perform sets by myself. I’m also really getting into video editing, so I’d like to have super fun videos synced up with the music. I have ideas. I’ll figure it out!