Alana Summers: How was California? How did your shows go?
Rachael Cantu: California was great. It was the first time in a long time that I was glad to be back home. I got to see a lot of friends and spend a lot of time in LA. The shows were great. One was a benefit show for the Audrey Hepburn Children's fund. It was hosted by this great comedian Chris Hardwick. You may remember him as the host of the hit MTV show, "singled out" with Jenny Mccarthy. Yeah. It was fun.
AS: How do you deal with the temperature differences between growing up in California and moving to Massachusetts?
RC: See, in California, there are no seasons. That gets very boring. After 21 years of no seasons, snow everything else is welcomed. Although, my car broke down yesterday and I had to walk home in the slush/snow and that wasn't so fun. I would never raise children in the snow. Growing up at the beach and being able to be there everyday of the summer was too surreal. Plus, I'd be too lazy to bundle my kids up, and they'd probably die.
AS: Tell me a little bit about your new CD.
RC: My new CD is just an EP. I was lucky enough to record with some musicians that I have much respect for. One of the tracks, "summer of cycling" was recorded with Kori Gardner of Mates of State. Kori played piano, organ and sang some backup vocals on the track. We recorded it in her apartment on her 4 track. It's the most lo-fi recording on the CD, but my favorite. Tony Goddess (of Papas Fritas) lent his talents to the recording of the song "blood laughs", playing organ, and adding some other strange sounds. It was originally recorded for a movie, but was bumped off for a song by the Flaming Lips. I can never win. The other two tracks were recorded by Jason Gnewikow (of the Promise Ring) in his New York apartment. The songs are really stripped down. Just vocals and guitar. We were going to add more, but I couldn't get back to New York, and Jason got a day job. Life. It was an honor recording with Jason. I grew up listening to the Promise Ring. They were a huge influence on me.
AS: Who are your other influences?
RC: I have many influences. They change from day to day. Radiohead, Bjork and PJ Harvey are huge ones. David Bowie, XTC, Tom Waits, Marvin Gaye, Ella Fitzgerald... I have worked in record stores for over 5 years, so I have heard almost everything. Music in general has quite an influence on me.
AS: Does working in a record store help inspire you, or do you just like the discount? : )
RC: It's definitely inspiring. I get to hear everything. My influence range is huge now. And all the customers that come in are huge record geeks, so I learn a lot. The store that I worked at (it has since closed in the last week after 20 years) was exactly like the movie High Fidelity. Very fun. i was the only girl, and everyone else was pretty much over 40. I loved it. Last week, we had a huge party at a venue down the street from the store and a lot of people from the store played, including me. Al Kooper (one of the giants of 60's rock, played on some of the most influential records, including a lot of Bob Dylan, he discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd) played a set also. Those are the kind of customers we would get. It was amazing.
AS: What have you been listening to lately?
RC: The Arcade Fire CD is amazing. I saw them recently while I was in Vancouver and they blew me away. While I was in California, I had two records with me: The Arcade Fire and Tegan and Sara. I thought that I would get sick of them and want to throw up all over them both by the time I had to come back to Boston, but I still listen to them all the time.
AS: Any crazy tour stories from being on the road with Tegan and Sara?
RC: Oh God, where do I start? It was hell. Just kidding. When Tegan and I weren't having Bible studies on our bench (of the van), she was bribing me with money to sleep on the floor so that she could stretch out. Sometimes, towards the end of the long drive, Sara would go crazy and disco dance in the back seat while Emy flicked the light on and off. Rob and I were roomies in the hotels. He was very sweet and read me bedtime stories. Although, it was very nice of him, the Da Vinci Code is kind of a hard book to fall asleep to. Something I will never forgive is when Tegan, Sara, Emy and Chris went on the roller coaster (in the Mall of America) without me. We were all walking around the mall, just walking in and out of stores and being bored and so I was like, "hey guys, I'm gonna go buy a book, I'll meet you at the movie" and of course the second I left, they ran off and got on the roller coaster and screamed like little girls. I got to the movie and they were like, "you shouldn't have left! We had the best time ever!" Since then, I have not spoken to a single one of them. I hope they had fun.
AS: How long have you been playing the guitar?
RC: I've been playing since I was about 16 or 17. I have no idea why I even started. I really had no influences. I played piano for 5 years, but hated taking lessons. Now, I wish that I had stuck with it because I think the piano is much prettier than the guitar, but whatever. One year, my grandmother gave me a guitar that, pretty much, didn't work. I still used it and loved it. Then, an uncle gave me one that did work and I got a book of chords, sat in my room with the door locked, and played until my fingers bled. I'm still amazed that I ever did that. I had no idea I wanted to play guitar until those moments.
AS: How did you know that music was what you wanted to do?
RC: In high school, I had a friend who could play Tori Amos songs by ear, and beautifully at that. Her, another friend and I used to stand around the piano doing three part harmonies to Tori Amos songs. I have to say, we effing rocked. I also had no idea, until then, that I could sing at all. Even then, I didn't think about it, I just thought that it was fun. Then I got a guitar and put the two together and here I am.
AS: What have you learned about the music business that has surprised you the most?
RC: Well, I learned this a long time ago, but it's so true: It's all about who you know. After that comes how much you are willing to let yourself go. How much skin you are willing to show. And if not, you better be damn good. So, I'm just going to show lots of skin, maybe I'll even wear shorts or something. We'll see...
AS: You've been in the music business since 1998. Where can we find old Rachael releases?
RC: I fronted a band, Quite Satellite, for two years. We released two 7" records. I actually got an email from someone the other day who found it in a record store. Also, I found one for sale on Ebay once. They show up here and there. I doubt anyone will ever find another. I hope that no one finds another (haha). Other recordings were all self released and only sold at shows. Very rare...sometimes, if people ask me nicely, I send burned copies of old stuff...but most of the time not.
AS: What's going on for you in 2005?
RC: Pretty much I'm just trying to play as many shows as possible and get back on the road as soon as possible. I am currently recording a Bob Dylan song for a tribute album to be released by Doghouse Records. Other bands on the tribute album are Sparta, TV on the Radio, Limbeck, the Honorary Title, and more...