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Ratboys’ patient evolution pays off in explosive fashion

Friday, February 21, Memorial Union Rathskeller, 9 p.m., free. Info

Beginning in a Chicago college dorm in the late 2000s, the story of Ratboys is a familiar one: Members meeting early in their school years, releasing sparse demos and EPs, and formulating a sound of their own in a sea of indie hyphen everything. The result of that is a calculated indie-rock sound where a penchant for precision meets an affinity for deeply personal songwriting. By 2015, the band’s six year slow burn of demos and EPs caught fire with Ratboys’ debut full length album, AOID. Wisely drawing on the impeccable melodies guitarist/vocalist Julia Steine crafts alongside the band’s genuine, poetic lyricism, AOID proved Ratboys were thoughtful. In pairing that thoughtfulness with catchy hooks on tracks like “Tixis” and “Postman,” the band showed they were immediate as well. 

Ratboys used their sophomore effort, 2017’s GN, to write songs with more linear narratives. “Crying About Planets” sneaks up to the six-minute mark with the story of Antarctic exploration and loss, while “Peter The Wild Boy” evokes the image of a feral child in Germany and develops into a swelling, string-driven song about time and place. “Control,” ostensibly drawn from the band members’ own lived experiences, centers around a childhood memory and questions the push and pull of the universe. 

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Ratboys will be releasing their third album, Printer’s Devil, on February 28. Steiner and co-founder Dave Sagan are still impressive as a duo, but have expanded the project into a full band for live shows, creating an effective wall of sound that suits the album’s first singles. On “I Go Out At Night,” driving bass lines push the song forward as gleaming, towering guitar parts cut through Steiner’s melancholy delivery. “Alien With A Sleep Mask On” features a larger-than-life chorus, as Steiner steers the song towards a focus on a needed change. Madison-based indie-pop practitioners Combat Naps will open this show with their irreverent approach to soft and soothing songwriting.

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