From haunted house comes Ratatat’s sound
By Kevin W. Smith
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 09.11.2008
Ratatat recorded LP3 in a ghost-ridden house in upstate New York called Old Soul Studios, owned by a fedora-wearing music fanatic who goes by the name “The Wolf.”
“There was definitely a crazy feeling in the house,” Ratatat guitarist Mike Stroud said from a truck stop just outside of Seattle. “We had never worked so quickly before. We’d do like a song every day.”
Ratatat usually is a duo, Stroud and Evan Mast, but it tours with a third musician and will play Club Congress on Saturday, followed by the weekly dance night, called “Bang! Bang!”
The group was so energized to be out of New York City and not recording in small apartments that the songs for “LP3″ came together quicker than for any other Ratatat album.
The band’s music is almost entirely instrumental, varying from experimental, organ-driven lounge to hip-hop backdrops to thumping dance.
Having opened for acts such as Daft Punk, the Brooklyn group is sometimes confused with electronic artists, but except for the beats, Ratatat’s music is recorded with live instruments.
The Ratatat songwriting process usually starts with Mast making a beat, then instruments are added to fit.
Almost none of Ratatat’s songs are written in advance, Stroud said, and Catskill’s Old Soul provided many chances to experiment, with the first floor filled with a variety of instruments, from harpsichords to mellotrons.
“We just recorded every idea we got,” Stroud said.
During the surreal mellowness of LP3, you can hear what sound like harps, bongos, organs, vocoders, pianos, chanting, video-game blips, electric guitar and hand claps.
To Stroud’s dismay, Ratatat didn’t experience any paranormal activity at Old Soul.
Stroud recalled a friend’s recording session at Old Soul that involved unexplained “aggressive stomping” from the ceiling, which might have gone nice over one of Mast’s beats.
Although Stroud didn’t see any dead people in his 40 or so days there, he did meet some creepy locals at a seedy, pirate-themed bar in Catskill.
The encounters only strengthened the duo’s decision to mostly recline in Old Soul’s backyard during downtime.
LP3 was released in July and cracked Billboard’s top 200 albums chart, to the band’s surprise.
“I don’t expect to sell many records,” he said. “I expect people to steal them, basically. So it was kind of exciting: ‘People are actually buying it?’ “