You Bred Raptors?

You Bred Raptors? is a very strange music trio that apart from clubs & bars, you can see it play, in the NY subway and not only. Due to the band’s newest release, Grande Rock had a chat with the “masked” bassist Peat Rains, to learn all about the new album, the MUNY program and the band’s further endeavors…
You Bred Raptors? band pic

Hi Peat… please present the band on Grande Rock, so that anyone unfamiliar with You Bred Raptors? will get an idea about the band…
P: You Bred Raptors? is a three piece busking band in NYC. We get legal permits to entertain and annoy commuters as they transfer trains. The band has 8 string bass (me), a cello, drums and two glockenspiels. We collectively said “Fuck singers and fuck guitarists”, though not in that order. We score films, play as a pit orchestra from time to time and incorporate circus juggling into our shows (also me) because why the hell not?
You say that you play in the NYC subways as part of the Music Under New York program. What’s that and how does it work? How did you participate in the first place?
P: This is a program that dates back decades. They are funded by the city and provides legal permits for musicians to play at designated places at designated times. Some buskers think it’s lame to have to schedule your appointment but I don’t mind. MUNY has about 30 locations. The slots are 3-4 hours and you’re in charge of everything. You are your own roadie, sound-guy, Front of House manager, bouncer, merch person, booker and promoter. It’s challenging but in a lot of ways is better than navigating the very political venue scene here in the city. Anyway, you’re allowed to play on mezzanines (never on the platform). The permit lets you use amplification if necessary and lets you sell merchandise without being called a panhandler by the NYPD.
I decided that this was an avenue I would have liked to pursue upon first moving to NYC in 2007. So I submitted a video with our most mainstream and upbeat songs. We also decided to throw in a two handed tapping version of “Eleanor Rigby”. I’m not a huge fan of the Beatles but I was sure that some of the people reviewing the video would be. In any event, we were chosen out of 600 applicants to vie a 5 minute performance at Grand Central Station terminal. This was 5 years ago only about a month after the band was born. We were a two piece drum and bass project. It was still YBR? but it was a stripped down version without cello. We auditioned on live television in front of judges and MTA Personnel. We kept our masks off but had hoods up. It was a fantastically anxious audition. It was my first time playing with a battery powered amp (one of the rules is that you had to play without wall-power and had to set up very quickly). We also pushed the 5 minutes to the absolute edge.

Has playing in the NYC subways given you time to work better on your tracks? Can you describe it as an “open to the people” band rehearsal?
P: Most bands will never know the rush of playing in front of as many people as we do. That’s not a brag. It’s a fact. Conversely, they also don’t know the horror and unpredictability of playing in front of as many people as we do. There is no rhyme or reason to the way our crowd interacts with us. Busking has made us an incredibly tight and efficient band. When you fuck up your song in such a trafficked area, you quickly learn to clean up your mistakes. We sometimes use the subway as a place to try out new material but I would never call it a rehearsal. We have used it on a few occasions to run through a set that we made for a big upcoming show. But that’s only when it is very slow. If we have a new song in the roster, we might play it 3 or 4 times in a night. But most times we are focused on making a unique and original show for the straphangers and tourists. We almost never do setlists at venue shows and we have never done a setlist at a busking gig. We feel out the energy in the room and decide what to play. We have certain songs we know will work for certain crowds. We jam and improvise to garner a crowd and then hit them with an original song or a theme song from a film or TV show to keep them there. If you are sloppy with something, people notice. And then they leave. It’s your job to keep them there and to keep them in a fog for a short window while they forget about all the bullshit they have to get back to.
You do play to bars and clubs too, right? How is playing in a bar/club different from performing in the subway? What do you prefer the most?
P: We play in bars and clubs. I’ve been asked this question a lot and a few years ago I answered that I prefer the subway more. It’s trading one set of problems for another. We still make more money playing the subway but with that said, it’s a shitload more work than venues. Most bands complain about carrying their road cases from the van to the backstage area. Most bands don’t know what it’s like to strap 110 lbs to themselves and walk 10+ blocks, climb two flights of stairs, taking the subway, navigating rush hour crowd and go to your location and play for 3 straight hours without stopping and then tearing down to do it all over again. I’ll get down off the cross here but the point is it’s something that most musicians couldn’t or wouldn’t do. But lately, we are playing smarter venue shows. We aren’t doing ‘bringer’ shows anymore. We are saying “no” to a lot more inquires. As you gain notoriety and get a respectable following, promoters try to throw you on bills so you can edge out their draw. Some promoters and bookers are just lazy and throw together bills that make no sense. And they say “Put on You Bred Raptors? because they will bring out the most people. And put them on last... and have them follow an Americana singer songwriter who has a lot of friends... and put on some shitty amateur band to start the show because the bass player is my roommate”. And then at the end of the night that promoter takes a large cut of the door to meet their guarantee, then the bar takes their take, then you only get a certain percentage of each person that came after the magic required number to get paid. It’s a fucking racket. I get that it’s NYC and there is a lot of competition. But I’m annoyed seeing so many mediocre bands with networking connections clogging up the scene trying to emulate what’s popular while other really hard working bands that are creative never get heard. Long story short, I’m partial to both venue and subway gigs but also have a love/hate relationship with both.
Why do you prefer to wear masks while playing in the subways? Is it part of the whole show that you give or you also wanna spread a certain message to the masses of people that deal with their “ordinary lives” every single day?
P: In the subway, you only have a few seconds to capture someone’s attention. The music is good so people will stay. But they need to be jarred out of their monotonous haze. The masks used to be more symbolic for us. We used to have a backstory. But as we became more serious about our songwriting, we dropped the gimmick aspect. I enjoy playing with masks. We want to put on a theatrical show for people. We also have bad sex-faces we make whilst playing so you’re welcome for sparing you people that. We have actors and dancers come up to us whom really understand and enjoy what we are trying to do. But some people just harp on it, demanding a logical answer to a question that doesn’t really have one. I also notice that a lot of international press inquiries from countries with street performance cultures rarely seem to focus on it.
I bet that playing in the subway must have been a bit “weird” for you and the other guys at the beginning but now after so many shows, it should feel like a big rehearsing room or what?
P: In the beginning, I remember being fucked with a lot more by people. We looked sheepish about what we were doing. We had more people attempt to steal from us. Or to interject their own bullshit. They sensed we weren’t confident in what we were doing. That rarely happens now. We shut that down right away. We will occasionally still get ‘shenanigans’ while we play... but that’s more due to drunk people or all-around assholes who have clinical attention seeking behavior. We are a well-oiled machine and have seen a lot of weird shit so not much surprises us. We have had someone get naked next to our drummer, take a shit, jerk off to the rhythm of our music and still think they were somehow ‘adding’ to our show. People try to add vocals and we politely tell them we aren’t interested. We love collaboration and have done some rad impromptu performances with people but 99% of the time it drives the crowd away. And keeping a crowd is a lot harder than gathering a crowd. Like I said, it’s not a rehearsal space for us but there has been times when the crowd is just not happening, no matter how much we are killing it. And we will totally divert directions and play entirely old material or jam for extended amounts of time. It has to continue to be fun and challenging for us. Otherwise, we are ‘that band’ that punches the time card as we start and stop the show.
What are the most characteristic (good and bad) reactions that you have experienced over the course of your subway live shows?
P: It sounds cheesy, but I love watching kids dance to our music. I mentioned earlier that in the beginning we were still cutting our teeth on street performance. We had a lot of kids cry when they saw our mask. I think we were still going for the “creepy and weird” angle. Now that we aren’t focused with that stuff, kids can sense that. They are intuitive that way. They really dig our music and like that it doesn’t have vocals. I also love watching someone’s face contort from “what the fuck is this?” to “alright, fine, I’ll pull out one earbud and listen for a second... alright I’ll turn off my music and lean against this pole... where did the last 25 minutes go?” to “do you have change for a $20 and where are you playing next?”. It happens every night to some degree.
On the other hand, what also happens every night, is that some older person or some pretentiously dressed uptight yuppie will walk by us with their fingers comically plugging their ears, speeding up to get away from our musical drivel. I usually try to play that up since it’s in front of all the people. I can’t imagine doing that to a band. Even if I hate their music. To make such a spectacle of yourself and make it a point to showcase your disgust of something, well you can just fuck off, you twatscab. It’s bad enough NYC is losing most of its artistic merit and gentrification is making it difficult for any creative person to even survive here. That is devastating to me. I don’t care if people don’t like us. I truly believe that some of our songs could appeal to anyone in the right circumstances, but I totally get that they don’t have time to give it a shot. But it takes more effort to impossibly block sound waves from entering your body then it does to just ignore it and move on. We aren’t the “Showtime” guys roundhouse kicking your personal space on the train while you come back after a hard day and then bully you to give them tips. We don’t even talk to our crowd. It’s entirely up to them to stop, listen, tip or buy something. We have never said “show some love and give us some money”. We are silent other than the music we play. I guess I just expect the same amount of respect back.

Is it safe to play in the subway and would you recommend it to other Cities or countries to follow similar programs like the Music Under New York?
P: I honestly think I wouldn’t be in NYC anymore if other countries had a similar program. If somewhere like Chicago or San Francisco, DC or Boston had a program, I think we might try our music elsewhere. But NYC has the biggest metro system and it’s the most accepting of creatively different music. We aren’t that experimental. We aren’t that proggy. We make really accessible and interesting music that spans so many demographics, it surprises most of the people that hear us for the first time. But as I stated, NYC is continually shutting the doors to keep it a center for culture and arts. As the city expands to cater to super rich and digitally successful people who advertise and market a lot but produce little, the ones of us who hit the pavement to actually make this art are being forced to relocate elsewhere. We’ve seen tips dwindle over the years as our music has gotten better. We sound biased here but it’s true. People are less interested in what’s around them and more pre-occupied with selfishly shallow endeavors. People stare at us through iPhones, iPads and TalkBoys... People love pretending that NYC is still full of crazy awesome stuff but it’s harder and harder to find it, much less make a living doing it. So we love this city but hate how much it doesn’t love us back. I think it’s safe for the most part. We’ve had some shady shit happen to us but it’s always well-lit and a lot of people around. Just be confident and be aware of your surroundings. Also, leave your gold grill teeth at home.
Also, you released your third full-length album, “Grant” recently. What are those things that inspire you to write music? Do the new songs have the “subway aura” as well?
P: Our new album did just come out. We spent a lot of time with this one. Lots of prep, tweaking and 7 months of post-production. The album does have a few found-sounds of subway noise that we incorporated into the music. It’s most likely what you would be hearing with our music if you happened upon us. All the songs we write will have a bit of influence from the subway. As I mentioned, there isn’t much rhyme or reason or method to the madness to how your crowd plays out. But we have learned what works and what doesn’t through incessant performance. The subway has helped us fine tune each song. They continue to evolve well after recording.
As far as what inspires our music. Bryan the cellist and I are both the songwriters of the band so I can’t speak for him. But my songs always come from deeply emotional places. It sounds like a cliché but it’s true and I’ve tried fighting through it. But my best material comes from intense emotional reactions. With that said, we have made songs that just come from a riff either one of us uses to warm up our fingers or an exercise we do when we are zoning out and watching internet porn or something. The point is that every song isn’t some detrimental thing that happened to me. But the ones that mean a lot to me obviously are. And they mean that specific thing to me. The great thing about instrumental music is that it’s open for interpretation to anyone that listens to it.

What does the album title “Grant” declare?
P: Each one of our albums are named after the characters and personalities of characters from “Jurassic Park”. We started with an EP named “Lex & Tim”, then an LP named “Muldoon”, then “Hammond” and now “Grant”. We might be running out of characters soon. Also, Universal Pictures... please don’t sue us.
Would it be easy to give us a hint about each one of the tracks?
P: “Erosion”: This is actually an intro to a larger piece called “Drought”. We didn’t think it would be going on the album but the intro sounded like a beautiful start to the narrative of the album so we kept it.
“Hazmat”: is one of the songs that Bryan and I wrote 50/50. He came to me with the idea for the verse and we wrote the rest together. In the past, we have brought skeletons of songs to each other and had the other person write accompaniment but lately it’s been more collaborative. It was originally titled “Black Sand Hazmat” but we shortened the title as we find it snappier. Most of our songs are single words to convey the simplest idea and to build off of that.
“Ice Nine”: This one was pretty much all Bryan. I had a good time just kind of sitting back and letting him take the reins on this. He even gave me an outline for a bassline on this which is rare for me. But it’s good to push yourself to get out of your comfort zone if the song calls for it.
“Saloon”: This song was written after I binge-watched all of “Deadwood” and played through “Red Dead Redemption” on the Xbox 360 for a fortnight or two. It’s very western themed and written to be a fun, dancy number. This is one of those songs that are written more or less as an exercise and not an emotional outlet. With that said, ironically, it’s one of the ones I look forward to playing the most because people really dig it.
“Goliath”: was written after a long dormant period of writer’s block for the band. We had to let our previous drummer go last year and we had to move rehearsal spaces for a fresh start. The band morale was low and we hadn’t written a new song in 6 months. It was just in a very negative space and this song helped bring us out. The bass has two capos on it and it’s fingerpicking and tapping. It’s a different key than we are used to but is nonetheless one of the prettiest songs we have ever written. This and “Yukon” came around the same time and it was really like slaying a giant at that point. As songwriters, we always feel like well has been tapped and you’ll never be able to mine anything again. But then it always comes... just when you’ve almost given up.
“Boomerang”: Again, this is a “riff-song”. Written on the 4 string bass and expanded to 8 strings. It’s a fun, bouncy song. I did a bass playthrough for this song (watch it here) for I get a lot of shit from bass traditionalists who bitch and complain about me using more than 4 strings. They are behind a computer screen and absolute dickheads about it most of the time. I’m tired of defending my choices. They can all go eat my ass. But I do appreciate the positive responses I have received.
“Temblor”: This is the heaviest one on the album. Bryan and I collaborated for this after he came up with the initial intro/outro part. It’s in 8/4 and then 9/4 so odd time changes aren’t really my go-to tool when writing a song. But I just found something in the melody that made sense to me and I ran with it. It’s probably our favorite song to play at this point because it catches people off guard. It has a long and beautiful interlude in the middle bookended by very metal riffs.
“Yad Vashem”: This is another one of Bryan’s babies. He wrote this after visiting the holocaust museum in Israel. He’s not a touchy feely guy by any stretch but the power of that place actually made him feel something. So he wrote a song. We had played this song with our previous drummer for a few months but slowly abandoned it as it felt too somber and too sad for the subway, much less a venue show. Then our new drummer came in and breathed amazing new life into it. He comes from a strong jazz and hip-hop background. He gave it a beat that made sense and gave it much needed accessibility. I wrote the interlude to this song and to be honest, it’s the part I least enjoy. But we will see how that evolves.
“Moonshine”: I was born in Kentucky and I was raised with bluegrass. And I always enjoyed bending genres and amalgamating sounds. So I wrote a fingerpicking song on the bass. I used a capo on the 11th fret and made it sound like a banjo in my playing. I wrote this one for my parents as they are southern folks. I’m very proud of this song but I know it can be polarizing.
“Yukon”: This song had a lot of different names and sounds before ending up what it is now. It’s very triumphant for us as I mentioned. We hadn’t written a song for a while and this helped us feel that passion again.
“Papoose”: was a song written out of a finger exercise for me. It has a great sense of finality to it. We knew even before recording that we wanted this one last to end the narrative. I use a capo on this song as well and lots of percussive string work.
There are also two bonus tracks on the album… “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” by Tomoyasu Hotei, which was part of the Kill Bill OST and “Machinery”. Are those bonus tracks on the CD too? How did you come up with the cover of that track and the re-recording of your own “Machinery”?
P: We recorded 16 songs for this recording. We knew they weren’t all going on the album. “Machinery” was one of the first songs written as a band and it was recorded on “Muldoon” without a full cello part. Again, with our new drummer, this song got a new life. It has evolved more than any other song we have. We wanted to give it a proper recording. We recorded it live. At the end of the song Patrick slammed the cymbal so hard that it fell over and hit the microphone. We kept it in because it was the most honest end to that. We recorded the “Kill Bill” song for a compilation disc for Differential Productions. Those songs are only available as bonus songs online.
YBR? band pic
The album’s production is great as well. I read that the album was recorded by Eric Castillo at Nada Recording Studios, mixed by Eric Castillo & Michael Zucker and finally mastered by Michael. Are you satisfied by the final outcome?
P: I can say unequivocally that I’m more satisfied with this album more than anything I’ve ever been a part of. I’m saying that as unbiased as possible. We went back and forth with mixes for months, tried different sounds and had to cut a lot of good songs off the album so it would be a complete thought.
Have you looked for a label to release “Grant”? What’s the most common thing that labels say about your music? Why they are afraid of investing on a band like You Bred Raptors??
P: We have been label shopping without luck. I was signed to a record label when I was 22 years old as a solo bass player. It was a small but reputable record label in Philadelphia. I never thought I “made it” but I did think the trajectory was good. The record label went bankrupt a few years later and I quickly realized that I was 10 years too late for record labels to mean dick. We had a meeting with a label about a month ago and it was very disheartening. They said in so many words that no label would touch us. They said that any label would need about 6 months to promote an album and the fact that we didn’t have vocals, played with masks and didn’t have a conventional instrument set up was just always going to be an uphill battle for us. We went away feeling defeated. I had these fears but hearing someone say it out loud was just shitty to hear when we had worked so hard and focused on our post production. We were doing it smart and they said “nah, not good enough... can’t sell this to the highest bidder”.
I really don’t get it either. We make enough money to support ourselves. We have a good draw and we have done reputable shows and are a fully equipped LLC. We are professional and because of our busking, don’t need to be handled with kid gloves. We lead very little assistance to do our thing. We work well in lots of markets and the music is more accessible than most people give us credit for. I don’t want to sound so negative. It’s just frustrating. I know if someone gave us a chance and let us do our thing, we’d make someone very successful. We are also prepared to sleep with whomever we have to make it to the top.

Well, is it better to do things your way without having any label over your head eventually or not?
P: Labels are dying. It makes sense that a label wouldn’t take a chance on us where things are at now. It’s frustrating but I understand the business behind it. We work well with people and take direction. We are not divas or bullheaded about things. The music business must adapt to technology. Labels help with booking, opening up for larger bands, getting press in other markets, organizing social media and help distribution and merchandising. These are all things we are doing on our own now. But I’m smart enough to know when we need help. We have hit a certain apex in the band that we can either stay in the middle and be stagnant or continue up. And we will need help to continue to push things to the next “level”. Record labels are hanging on to archaic models that made money for them in the past. They take less and less chances with new bands. But it’s also the consumers that are the problem. They are selfish, don’t want to pay for things and have short attention spans. It’s tough to pin down any market long enough to understand it, much less make a profit from it. We are doing well but still barely surviving in NYC. On the bright side, we are playing more and more shows where they treat us professionally, sign W-9 forms and respect what we do. That in itself still blows me away after all the shit bands have dealt with.
Are people more willing to get your CD when they hear you in the subway or not? Do your live shows give ‘em an extra boost? What do you think?
P: Most of our merch is sold in the subway. We sell a good amount at venue gigs and through online means but the subway is still 80% of our income. There’s a shift lately though where new laptops aren’t coming equipped with CD drives so we have Dropcards and download cards available for those people. We would rather them buy that from us or through bandcamp as Spotify and iTunes pay a pittance for your sales.
Where are you playing next and have you also planned to play out of NY and where?
P: We have our residency shows at the Manderely Bar through Spring. I would highly suggest purchasing a ticket for the Sleep No More performance and then stay for our show. It’s supposed to be a package deal. We have other shows in the works in Brooklyn and Manhattan as well at larger venues. Check back on our site for updated details. We play a lot out of state. Mostly satellite touring along the East Coast. We play in Philly and Baltimore a lot. They have great scenes there and appreciate our weird brand of music.
How would you describe You Bred Raptors? music style to someone that hasn’t heard you before?
P: It’s the music that would make your parents reconsider their impending divorce. It is the cure for polio.
What are the band’s further plans?
P: Touring and making it down to Texas anyway while giving the finger to SXSW for rejecting us 4 years in a row. We are scoring some more indie films in early 2015 and a music video in a month. Keeping busy annoying strangers on the train platform.
Time for our “weird questions”!!! How did you come up with the name You Bred Raptors? initially?
P: I stole it from “Jurassic Park” because I’m a fucking nerd.
Top 3 Horror movies of all time?
P: “The Shining”, “Candyman” and the “Peanut Butter Solution”.
Is the “free downloading issue” the main reason why the music industry has taken the downhill or there are other more important reasons too?
P: I think I covered this above but I’m blaming both the producers and the consumers. Bands 20 or 30 years ago never had to worry about their “brand” or answering tweets on Twitter. I have to fucking worry about how many “likes” or followers we have on a certain social media platform like it even matters. It doesn’t. That is just set up so you can get a good following and your band can be baited and switched at the last minute and you can be charged to reach said audience. Bands of yesteryear focused on their music and didn’t grant as much access to their formula. There was a mystique about bands. Now everyone wants unlimited access and it’s less special to follow a band on their journey. People would rather watch a cat wearing a cape on a grainy cell phone video than a well-produced and thought out music video. Music doesn’t move people as much as it did. The state of music is sad today. But we have always had shit music to deal with. Like when disco came in and ruined rock and roll, people rebelled against it. Sure, it was futile because it was there to stay, at least for a while. But they cared enough to burn and stomp some records while chanting “Disco sucks!”. Today, people are lazy and they tune everything out. The internet has made it easier to find what you like and keep to yourself doing it. They stay introverted while autotuned schlock written by the same half dozen producers is doled out over sexualized young girls and sold with a bow on top. Reality TV, judging competitions and marketing tie-ins make the Soylent Green of the music world easy to digest, catchy and ultimately forgettable. It’s empty and shallow and real music gets seems pretentious by comparison. It’s like eating a pound of cotton candy for dinner and feeling bloated. Nothing substantial and sugar coated and dissolvable for easy consumption. Free downloading is just a side effect of technology. I’d rather people hear our music. Ultimately, I’d like them to pay for it but I understand why they don’t. It’s time that the record labels catch the fuck up.
Which track can describe perfectly today’s situation?
P: “Goliath”. Slay the giant, win a small battle... eventually and probably lose the war.
What’s the worst thing you can say right after sex?
P: I’m Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC...
Which of the Seven Deadly Sins do you reckon is the one, that’s more likely to send you straight to Hell, in the afterlife?
P: Chopping off Gwyneth Paltrow’s head has to be up there, right?
Imagine that your girlfriend/wife is selling your whole album-collection just to buy an expensive ring for herself. How would you react? J
P: I guess I would just illegally download all of it back and be a big fat hypocrite then, huh?!
It was great having you on Grand Rock Peat… are there any last words? Thx for the music… take care!
P: Thanks for having me on. I'm gonna go home and have sex with my wife.