Noartist likes getting pigeonholed in a specific genre. Flatly denying all labels attached to you is one way to thwart categorisation. But perhaps a more effective route is to combine elements from a myriad of loosely connected styles. The compositions of Sydney four-piece Bootleg Rascal fuse together dub, reggae, roots/folk, hip hop and disco, and thus escape easy classification.
“You couldn’t really put a genre on it because a lot of our stuff varies a lot,” says drummer Jack Gray. “A lot of it comes down to just giving it a go and seeing how it sounds – just trying different things and seeing what fits and moving forward from that.”
It’s one thing to harness a mishmash of influences, but blending them together to produce something legible is a more demanding task. If this tack is mismanaged you’re likely to wind up with a disastrous pastiche. On the other hand, Bootleg Rascal’s latest single ‘Kings & Queens’ shows that the mixture can be refined into a slice of catchy pop-rock.
“[‘Kings & Queens’] has definitely got some different influences compared to some of the older stuff,” Gray says. “We’ve been influenced by Broken Bells and The Police. That’s a bit of an indication of the stuff that’s happening at the moment. It’s still on the reggae side of things but probably a bit more… I don’t know how to explain it. Kind of post-disco?”
The Sydney (via Gold Coast) foursome got together just over a year ago and wasted no time before releasing a couple of singles and playing gigs up and down the country’s east coast. However, Gray says it wasn’t until vocalist Carlos Lara joined in December (replacing original singer Dan Crestani, who wanted to pursue a solo career) that things properly clicked.
“Once Carlos stepped in we’ve definitely stepped up a level in terms of the band’s charisma and recognition and stuff like that. This is the first single, really. It’s our first release.”
Since Lara’s entrance the Rascals have spent the majority of their time on tour. In March they jumped on the road with Sydney comrades (and genre-thwarting antecedents) Sticky Fingers and this last month has comprised a headline tour in support of ‘Kings & Queens’. Touring isn’t always a luxurious engagement, especially for a young band with limited funds. Gray reveals that the band’s on-the-road method is equal parts wily and chaotic.
“We’ve got a van and whenever we can scrape some money together we get a motel room,” he laughs. “Usually we just find someone’s place to crash at. We’re pretty mellow, but there’s definitely times where it’s pretty on edge.”
The tour officially wraps up next week at UTS Winterfest. The four members will then get a chance to sleep in their own beds as they knuckle down on a forthcoming mini-album. So, can we expect more of Bootleg Rascal’s stylistic plurality on the longer-form release? Why, of course.
“We’ve definitely got a lot of different influences within the band,” Gray says. “I reckon you hear some more strongly in certain songs and there’s others where we have more shared influences. Things like The Police are definitely a shared influence and the good-vibe reggae feel is a big one as well.
“Once we got together and we had some songs we saw something pretty good, so we’re definitely running pretty strong with it. We’ve got a lot of mates that play in more rock’n’roll style bands and ours is definitely a bit of a contrast. I don’t really see many of the same sounds and same kind of songs that we’re coming up with.”
Bootleg Rascal are playing at UTS Winterfest withViolent Soho, DMA’s, Safia, Tyler Touche and more atThe Loft/Underground Bar, UTS onFriday August 8, tickets here. They’re also appearing at The Roller Den on Friday August 1, tickets here.