"It's pretty much impossible for us to have a predictable sound," said Rosalind Raskin earlier this week while discussing The Friend Ship (Moose Proof Records), the full-length debut from Roz Raskin and the Rice Cakes (MySpace.com/RozRaskin). "We have always had a hard time describing the sound. It's difficult to describe because we each come from a very different musical background." Casey Belisle (drums) and brand-new Rice Cake Justin Foster (bass) share a fondness for jazz and metal, while Raskin (rocking the electric piano) "always played folk and jazz and infused that into a rock sound."
The uniquely enticing songs on The Friend Ship are further brought to life in their live show, as witnessed at a packed AS220 last month when Raskin & the Rice Cakes opened for politically-charged indie-punk act Prayers For Atheists. Raskin had plenty of fans on hand, who sang along to tracks from their 2008 debut EP The Crunch and savored the new songs. Raskin boasts enough charisma and charm to lure fans of any genre, and their CD release show lineup is a testament to her hybrid sound. Electro-loons Math the Band, Prayers For Atheists, and indie-rock locals Formal Action have all signed on. Formal Action frontman Matt Decosta is one of the founders of upstart local label Moose Proof Records, and Raskin commended Decosta, who recorded, mixed, and mastered The Friends Ship himself.
A pair of jazzy, midtempo standouts, "We Search for Violent Hills" and "Boys and Girls," open the album. "I'm not sorry that you left/I'm just sorry that I stayed," Raskin croons on the latter through a hazy drawl before snapping back to life with her big pipes in the finale. She shines on the unnerving third track "The Beating": "You better soundproof every fucking room so no one hears the screams," she warns, and acknowledged the song as one of her favorites on the album.
" 'The Beating' is a really heavy track," Raskin said. "That song is about a good friend of mine who suffered through a very rough childhood and somehow came out of it a very strong and caring person."
Raskin flexes her big vocals on "Hear My Voice" and the closing "Tourist Attraction." Her heartfelt lyrics are well-complemented by Belisle's racket behind the kit throughout. I asked Raskin about her songwriting technique.
"There is no real formula," she said. "Songwriting has always been extremely spastic for me. Sometimes I'll be in the car or in the shower and think of melodies or lyrics."
After checking out a pink-haired Raskin kicking out a damn-fine acoustic cover of Rihanna's "Umbrella" on YouTube, I asked if she would dig that out of the archives for the upcoming East Coast tour.
"I originally put that song up on YouTube just because," she recalled. "Damn, we used to play it live all the time. It's one of those songs everyone loves and hates at the same time."
The ever-passionate Jared Paul, lead vocalist for Prayers For Atheists, gladly weighed in via email this week from Phoenix, AZ, while touring behind their excellent self-titled debut: