Published Aug 30, 2011In the five years since they last released an album, the Rapture have split with long-time bassist/vocalist Mattie Safer, parted ways with label Motown and lost frontman Luke Jenner's mother to suicide. Any one of those incidents would have ended a band with thinner skin, but in making their third album, In the Grace of Your Love, the New Yorkers somehow persevered. In hiring producer Phillipe Zdar (Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix) and returning to DFA, the label that launched their career, the Rapture sound more alive than ever. Traces of both the club-friendly post-punk of 2003's Echoes and its more pop-focused follow-up, 2006's overlooked Pieces of the People We Love, are interspersed, but in singing "I don't ever look back" on opening track "Sail Away," Jenner makes a statement early on that they stay true to throughout. Under Zdar's guidance, the trio have taken their music to the next level once again. Album standout "Come Back to Me" samples an accordion riff from late Afro-pop star Franco, single "How Deep is Your Love?" revs up a serious house beat and the sax-boosted "It Takes Time to be a Man" ironically evokes the golden era of their former label.
Your album was announced right around the time "the Rapture," as in the end of the world, was supposed to hit. It's funny because when I first heard people talking about the Rapture, I immediately thought the news was that you were putting out a new album.
Drummer Vito Roccoforte: It was crazy because we were planning to announce the album around that date and nobody had put together that it was the Rapture and that it would be such a big viral deal. We just planned on that day anyhow and then I started noticing on our Twitter and Facebook, which at the time we hadn't been posting on for years, and then all of a sudden we were getting these weird Rapture references. That weekend, we had more traffic on our site than we've ever had. I feel that the whole Rapture deal made people think of our band again, like, "Oh, the Rapture. I wonder what happened to them?" So people started checking us out. In terms of publicity, it was amazing for us; we couldn't have paid for that or done anything else that would have been better. I think we want to end it though with the 2012 Mayan Rapture. That's the whole idea from the album, from start to finish.
What are you doing on October 21, 2012, when the Rapture is supposed to hit again?
We're playing a party in Philly called Makin' Time; it's a really fun party, usually totally nuts.
Mattie [Safer] left the band in 2009. How did that change making an album?
It changed everything because he was in the band for a long time, as well as the bassist, a vocalist and a songwriter. But I think the main thing that changed immediately was that it made things easier with three people instead of four. Everyone had a lot more space creatively.
Was there any official reason Mattie left?
It sounds a bit clichéd, but it was just musical differences. He just started going in a different musical direction and wanted to be the main dude, the main singer/songwriter in a band. He had never been that and felt he was ready. Obviously in this band, Luke [Jenner, vocalist/guitarist] has that role. I think he just wanted to do his own thing musically. He didn't really talk a lot about it so it's kind of speculating, but that's what I think. He's finished his solo album and just got married, so he's doing really well.
Without Mattie around, how has performing live changed? I imagine Gabe's a busy guy.
[Laughs] He really is! He played bass on the album, but we got this guy Harris Clark for the live show, who's been playing with us for two years. In between the albums we've played Australia a couple times and done some shows here and there around the world. He's a really great musician and awesome dude, and has become fully integrated into the line-up. With Gabe [Andruzzi, multi-instrumentalist] and this album, it's been crazy. His set up is nuts: two keyboards, a whole percussion rack and saxophone. And on a lot of songs he's playing all three [laughs]! He'll literally be playing keyboards and saxophone at the same time, one with one hand, one with the other and then go on over to the percussion. It keeps him entertained [laughs]! When he joined the band, he just played a little saxophone and the cowbell, and he's a great musician and wanted to do more; he definitely got his wish! He's got quite a bit on his plate now.
You've said that this album was more enjoyable to make than the previous ones. Why?
A lot of it is just where we were as people. We went through a lot in these last few years. What with Mattie leaving, and before that Luke left for a period of time. It was like three years of writing on and off before Mattie left even. And when he did, Luke, Gabe and I got together and the feeling I had was if this doesn't work and we're not enjoying it, let's just not do it anymore. We just went in and started making music together and focused on just trying to enjoy the process. Before we would often get caught up in what the results would be and sometimes we'd lose track of the actual making of the album, which is not enjoyable. I feel we did the opposite and wanted to just enjoy making the album. And Phillipe Zdar was the perfect person for us to work with, because that's his process as well. Plus, he's really enthusiastic and funny, just a really good guy.
How did you end up working with Phillipe?
Everything with this album has just fallen into place, like with that Rapture announcement. With Phillipe, well, after Mattie left, we wrote about 20 demos in about two-and-a-half months, so really quickly. And then we had to go to Australia to do a festival thing where you travel to different cities. A lot of people were saying how great it was to see us again; some people didn't know we were still around. Talking to people, we just mentioned that we had some demos and were looking for a producer and Phillipe's name just came popping up all the time. And finally it was Pedro Winter ― you know, Busy P? He's known Phillipe for a very long time; it's a really tight-knit community there in Paris, with Cassius, Ed Banger, Daft Punk, they've all known each other forever and hang out a lot. But Pedro said, "You've got to work with Phillipe!" We actually thought about working with him on Pieces of the People. He said to Phillipe, "I heard the new Rapture stuff and you should work with them." And then when we got back from Australia, Luke called up Phillipe, who had just finished the Phoenix album, which took a really long time, like over a year. He was really involved in that record and I think he wasn't really looking to jump into making another record at that time. But he said, "Send me some demos and I'll get back to you in a week or two." He was setting it up to say no, basically [laughs]. But Luke sent him the demos and then about 20 minutes later he called back and said, "I'm in. Let's make an album together." It was just that enthusiasm he had just off that; it seemed perfect to us.
Halfway through "Come Back to Me," the song unexpectedly drops out for a few seconds. It sounds like something Phillipe would suggest.
Yeah, that was totally Phillipe's idea. We knew the song as done. The idea was floating around, but he just sent us a version where he did that. I love it. The track was totally good as it was, but this just added the level of depth that was needed.
When you announced you were back on DFA, I think people expected them to produce the album.
Right. That would make sense. We worked with Phillipe and paid for the whole album ourselves. It was done and then we needed to find a label and DFA was always at the top of our list. They liked it and we just went from there. Having James [Murphy] produce it or whatever wasn't even a reality because he was on tour with LCD Soundsystem.
I always thought Pieces of the People We Love got a bum rap. I really liked that album, but it wasn't well received. How did you guys feel about it?
It's interesting; I think that's kind of the narrative I'm hearing a lot more now. At the time that was a tough album. In the public perspective, it followed Echoes, which was a really hard album to follow. Plus, it was on a major label and we weren't on DFA anymore. I don't think it was necessarily on the surface an artistic album; it was more like a pop album, which is what we were trying to make. I thought we did a really good job and, at the time, we were all really happy with it. I think there was definitely just some backlash, which was natural anyhow. Being what it was musically didn't help that. I think more than anything it got dismissed pretty easily; people didn't give it much of a chance. Now, maybe people are checking it out again. To be fair, I did kind of the same thing. After we were done with it I wasn't totally happy with the album. I really liked it and enjoyed working with everyone on it, but I wasn't sure it was what I wanted to do musically. And now I'm going back and listening to it; I like the songs and the production on a lot of it. (DFA)