January 31, 2007
On The Road Again, Almost.
They have played in venues from Orlando to Seattle and have slept in basements and on couches seemingly everywhere in between. In total, they spent about four months last year on the road. And it appears this year their music will be played all over the country once again — but for now it is good to have them close to home.
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Indie-rock trio Rahim consists of Phil Sutton of East Quogue on drums and the plastic whistle, Michael Friedrich of Sag Harbor on lead guitar, keyboards, additional percussion and lead vocals, and Chris Bordeaux of East Hampton, who plays bass, guitar, keyboards, additional percussion and vocals.
They are fun to watch and seem to have a generally good time on the stage. It is an amazing feat to watch as Mike and Chris switch places and instruments between songs. One song might have Chris on guitar and Michael on percussion and keyboard and another might have Chris on bass and Michael on guitar.
Phil's drumming creates a strong rhythmic backbone, Michael has a wickedly smart way with words and Chris offers the smooth vocal harmony. Add to that cool synthy melodies and contagious hand clapping and you have a typical live performance.
The original members of Rahim, Phil, Michael and Eric Staciwo, began playing together in late 1999. Initially called Radio Raheem, taken from a character in a Spike Lee joint, this early incarnation was a harsher, more aggressive trio than their current line-up.
Their early shows were in the basements of friends' houses or the Pierson School auditorium. But, they had to change their name after they learned about another band with the same moniker.
The new Rahim is more post-punk, a style influenced by the music that emerged from the Washington D.C. area. Their influences are bands like Fugazi and Black Flag of the D.C. punk scene, but influences from other bands, like Blond Redhead, Neil Young and the Beatles, have made them stand out. This helped them gain the interest of indie-rock label French Kiss Records who signed them. They have since released their EP, Jungles, and a full-length album, Ideal Lives.
"It feels more legit when you have people backing you," Mike said about being signed to a record label.
Mike and Phil have been playing together since they met at Pierson Middle School. Chris may have only joined the band in the summer of '06 but he has been playing with Rahim as backup for a long time. So it made a lot of sense that when Ryan McCoy left the band due to "creative differences," Mike and Phil asked Chris to fill the hole. "It was just very natural that we asked Chris," Mike said.
Chris, who was very excited about joining the band, fell right into the group dynamic and not only is he very comfortable with the amount of time they spend on the road, he really enjoys it.
In fact they all seem to be very comfortable with it, despite any morning back pain they might have from spending their nights on friends' couches.
"We go in cold and make new friends. We almost always stay at people's houses. The first couple of days you're happy to be on the road, by the end you want to get home, and by the time you are home you want to be on the road again," Phil explained.
"Going on tour means we get to play with friends. It's an adventure every day," Mike said.
The group's upcoming tour is one of the longest they have had and, potentially, their first national tour.
"We usually do the two week thing," said Mike about previous tours, "but this is going to be a big, extensive thing."
They are beginning the tour on February 21 at the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan's Lower East Side where, coincidentally, they had the record release party for their full-length album. On the 23rd they will leave with band Mixel Pixel, playing gigs down the coast to Florida and then over to Austin, Texas for the South By Southwest Festival where they will be playing for the French Kiss Records' showcase. The SXSW festival is an enormous musical extravaganza with over a thousand bands playing. This is their second time at the festival.
"It is pretty over the top. It humbles you a bit," said Phil. "There are so many bands, all competing for the same thing, press coverage for whatever newspaper . . . the whole thing has some great vibes though, and Austin is a really great city."
Phil expressed a little uncertainty about them being on the road for so long stating that "it's the SXSW festival and everyone is on tour. It's kind of hard to get gigs."
If they do continue on for a national tour, they will leave from Austin, head to California and make their way back through Chicago. In all they would be on the road for about five weeks. That would be over a quarter of what they spent on the road last year and they still have their new album to look forward to.
The trio will be demoing new material in Brooklyn the first weekend of February. They have tentative plans to record a new full-length with J. Robbins, guitarist and vocalist of indie-rock band Jawbox, in June. So far they have eight songs ready; Michael wants 10 on the album.
In the meantime, Rahim is practicing in Phil's basement, preparing new songs, fine-tuning old ones and perhaps stretching their backs in preparation for the next couch they crash on.