Interview and Photos by Dearskye.
In the back room where the walls are riddled with autographs from previous bands like MSMR, The Killers and more, I sit on collapsed cushions with Rationale as he rolls a lemon back and forth in his hand. There’s sliced ginger in a cup and he mentions that he’s a bit sick and hopes voice doesn’t go out halfway through his San Francisco show (spoiler: It doesn’t).
“I think if my album were a TV program, it’d be like Breaking Bad.” – Rationale
With the echoing bass of soundcheck going on, we dip into the conversation about music discovery and Sodwee. I bashfully admit that I’ve never listened to Tame Impala. Of course, Rationale suggests I do, but also notes that there’s something special about organic discovery versus being told to listen to something. Which is true and ironic to admit, especially for a music blogger. Stumbling upon an album, artist or track on your own is amazingly satisfying like finding a perfectly shaped dew drop. So we’re happy to say that authentic discovery is exactly how we came across Rationale‘s music.
Despite only having played one US show in LA, Rationale has already noticed a difference between the crowds in US and UK. (By now we have moved outdoors, away from the noise, and are sitting by “The Temple,” a wooden sculpture also covered in signatures of less famous people.)
“It’s been really a revelation as to how much love there is over here for me. The energy is intense, people aren’t afraid to dance. Sometimes there’s a bit of reserved energy in the UK, but here I dance like an idiot on stage and people do the exact same thing with me.”
The source of that energy definitely comes from the man himself. From his music to person, there’s a dynamism in his voice that says, “Keep listening.” His speaking voice is a contrast to his powerful singing vocals. It’s softer, beckoning me to lean in, but it also retains the calming tenor that has ears hooked on his every word.
“Sometimes when you write a song, you wonder if it’s too warm or if it doesn’t feel like that last one. I want my album to be moments that are different from each other.”
“Fuel to the Fire” EP already tells us that Rationale will make good on this promise.
“All of [the songs] are about me, all the things that I experience,” he said after I pointed out that all his songs seem to carry a vulnerable aspect. “I guess I’m that guy… ‘The Mire’ is about somebody who I used to love, who I missed for a long period of time and still think about every now and then. ‘Fuel to the Fire‘ [click to view video] is about things I noticed about the world. ‘Fast Lane’, about a place in my life where I was at, where I felt like I was struggling and everybody was struggling with me.”
But worry not. There are positive songs on the album. “At least one,” he jokes and acknowledges that life affects art. “Things are changing up and perhaps I’m writing from a different perspective.”
Although not too different as the songs Rationale has released so far all have a similar thread. Himself.
“I think the voice is a place that I love to sing in and that feels most emotive to me and I guess that translates to people who feel the same way. You want people to relate to the kind of things you’re singing about. I want people to relate to what I’m singing about and this particular style helps to do that. The production, which drives me mad because I do it all, compliments my voice from time to time.”
And vulnerability isn’t just in his songs. Each time he releases a new track, Rationale admits to feeling nervous.
“The funny thing is every time I put a song out, I’m literally hiding behind the sofa. I can’t deal with it. The day before ‘Palms’ came out, I was still in LA and I didn’t want to know the stats, didn’t want to know what the streams were. And then someone was like, ‘Oh it’s actually doing pretty well,’ and I’m like, ‘I told you it’d do well.'”
Not that there should have been any doubt. “Palms” is a beautiful track that further showcases the cinematic quality of Rationale‘s music. His ability to keep listeners on a wonderful audio journey is like being transported into another world. We hope we’re not the only ones who feel this way.
“There’s someone I really respect called Dev Hynes” – Rationale
“I don’t know what that world is necessarily, but yeah, I’ve built a world where I can express the songs through a band. I could have chosen to one-man maestro it but I don’t think that necessarily would have gotten me to the place I wanted to end up. I wanted to end up in something that’s a spectacle that can be played. It can be a show. And I want that to be the same for the videos. For the videos, we try to be as ambitious as we can with the budgets that we’ve got. And create a palette that will hopefully stand the test of time.”
If you haven’t seen his videos yet, do it. From “Fast Lane“[click to view video] to “Something for Nothing, [click to view video]”
Rationale pushes the boundaries to captivate the eyes, ears and heart.
“Some of the ideas for titles and instinct for palettes for the choices and feels were inspired for some stuff. I love in particular Quentin Tarantino and how he creates worlds that suck you in. And each movie feels like a Tarantino movie but it isn’t the same as the last one. It’s kind of like my music where the thread is my voice. ‘Palms’ has a very summery feel to it where as ‘The Mire’ or ‘Fuel to the Fire’ has a Dark Knight feel. I try to use films to inspire me, if I can, without stealing idea.”
It’s obvious movies have a huge influence on his music, so I ask him to compare his album to a film. Rationale alters the question a bit and catches me off guard with this: “I think if my album were a TV program, it’d be like Breaking Bad. Just kind of unexpected twists and turns. I think there are gonna be a couple of surprises.”
There’s no plans for a Beyonce “Lemonade” style release yet. Unfortunately. But with his background in songwriting for others, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Rationale eventually branching out and exploring different aspects of music.
“There’s someone I really respect called Dev Hynes who seems to have multiple projects and they start off …When he feels like he’s had enough perhaps, he stops it and he evolves and makes something else. But you don’t forget that he’s done the last one, which makes it kind of cool and I wouldn’t mind perhaps one day exploring that. Queens of the Stone Age is a band that’s just full of great musicians who’ve all have started off as another project. That stuff excites me and you never know, I might just end up doing that one day. It’s interesting considering that I’ve done lots and lots of music before this and I think the evolution into [Rationale] has been a fun one because it’s the first time I’ve had absolute control. And I get it. I feel like I’m more at peace with what it is I’m working on. And it’s a cool place to be.”
And it is great time to be Rationale right now. Be sure to check if he’ll be performing near you because you don’t want to miss out on this act.
Rationale’s Song of the Week: Wow by Beck.