Looking at The Rakes on stage at Bowery Ballroom, you’d never think these guys weren’t bona fide rock stars. Frontman Alan Donohoe leads his band through a frenetic romp of speedy guitars, thumping basslines, and floppy hair with a confidence usually seen in veterans.
“Are there any romantics left in New York?” he asks the audience before plowing into “The Light From Your Mac,” a standout track off their new album Klang, which examines modern romance, by likening the light coming off a computer to moonlight, and the crushed hopes of a drunken hook-up that ends in being banished to the futon. “I’m sick of people obsessed with their clothes and hair!” sang Donohoe with all too much conviction. “Never leave London, New York or LA!”
Donohoe, for one, has left London for the seaside town of Brighton, known as London-by-the-Sea, to avoid the detested cool factor he sings of. The album was even recorded in Berlin. “The London music scene is so dull right now – it’s like wading through a swamp of shit,” says Donohoe. “We just wanted to be somewhere more inspiring.”
This disdain for the glamour of the big city is particularly interesting for a band who was discovered by none other than Hedi Slimane, former designer for Dior Homme and friend-cum-photographer to rock stars like Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse. After seeing drummer Lasse Petersen on the street, Slimane cast him to walk in one of his shows and commissioned the band to write the soundtrack. Soon they were signed to the ubercool Rough Trade Records (home of the Smiths) and Peterson was spotted with the likes of Lily Allen. But Donohoe downplays it all, saying, “I got a free suit out of it.”
On stage, the guys are reminiscent of Franz Ferdinand, not only with their sound and Donohoe’s jerky dance moves and animated gesticulations, but with their choppy bangs, tight trousers and miniature motorcycle jackets. You might say there’s an effort to look cool. Quick to dismiss anything as uncool as a contrived look, Donohoe jokes, “Well, we don’t really like hip-hop gear.”