Brooklyn-based duo rock/electronica instrumental Ratatat [comprised of Evan Mast and Mike Stroud] know how to put on a good show. In fact, they’ve become so good at it that they basically tour nonstop, which is why it took them five years to release their fifth album, “Magnifique,” out last summer.
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“From the beginning, we always wanted to play actual instruments on stage rather than do a laptop set or DJ kind of thing just because it’s more interesting to watch,” Mast tells us. While the duo play live instruments on stage, they also add elements, like lights and lasers making their show's visually stimulating as well.
The live shows, in turn, influence their sound. “When we got into the studio, we were responding to have been touring a lot and we really wanted to make songs that would be effective live. For us, that meant getting back into guitar.”
Naming songs with no lyrics
As a purely instrumental band, it's harder to know what Ratatat’s songs are about. All the listener has to go on is the sound and song titles such as “Cream On Chrome” and "Pricks of Brightness,” which aren't saying much.
“Usually a song starts with something we are influenced by, like a sound or a feeling,” Mast says. “Then we start reacting to that, adding another layer and then reacting to that and adding another layer. It’s very intuitive. I went to school for visual art [Mast and Stroud met at Skidmore College] and it’s very much like creating an abstract painting or collage. The song starts to have some kind of emotion, and once we see that, it’s about pushing that as much as we can.”
When it comes to naming a song — or collection of songs — with no lyrics, Mast says he and Stroud simply try out different ideas until something feels right. Both guys have totally veto power to names — if they don’t both 100 percent love it, it’s a no go.
Hibernating in the studio
When Mast and Stroud work on an album, they seclude themselves away from everyone they know for weeks at a time. For the duration of writing and recording the songs, it’s just the two of them.
Mast says reemerging can be jarring, especially since both guys live in New York. “It’s a really weird experience because you’re working so intensely for that period and you’re so focused on the music,” he says.
If you go:
Jan. 13, 7 p.m.
House of Blues Boston
15 Lansdowne St, Boston
New York City
Jan. 14, 7 p.m.
311 W 34th St., 212-279-7740
Jan. 23, 7 p.m.
421 N 7th St
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence