'Ritas with Roz Raskin and the Rice Cakes

The Human touch
By CHRIS CONTI  |  September 10, 2010

WHADDYACALLIT? Foster, Raskin, and Belisle.

Roz Raskin is speechless, completely stumped and jammed up by an eavesdropping stranger who just asked, "So what kinda music do you play?" Raskin shoots me a glance, as if I can help. Hell, I'm just as curious to hear her response. Roz and the Rice Cakes (bassist Justin Foster and drummer Casey Belisle) released their first full-length The Friend Ship right around this time last year, which culminated in a handful of successful regional tours (including two sold-out shows at AS220 and Firehouse 13), and earlier this year Raskin and the boys played our Best Music Poll awards show and took home the Best Local Act plaque. Raskin is looking to build on the momentum heading into the fall behind a new 10-inch record titled Feel Like Human. But first thing's first, as she took care of some pressing PR business when we sat down earlier this week to talk up her upcoming record release show.

"Hey man, we're officially just the Rice Cakes now," Raskin declared with a big smile as she saddled up and ordered a chelarita (a margarita-type libation with tequila and beer) while excitedly clutching the thick, test-press wax of Feel Like Human, truly a DIY effort from start to finish. Raskin and Belisle, along with numerous friends and family, helped Foster build a studio from scratch. Longtime friend and colleague Matt DeCosta of Motion Is the Day (ex-Formal Action) returned to work the boards, as he did on The Friend Ship and the Rice Cakes' EP debut The Crunch in 2008. But Raskin is no stranger to the hands-on studio approach, having recorded her first solo album, The Ecotones, when she was 17; the album went on to sell more than 500 copies with no professional distribution.

"To have full control of the project from start to finish was just an awesome experience," Raskin said. And even a little confusion paid dividends, as noted when I mentioned the nine-minute "Humans," a bubbly track that highlights Raskin's piano and vocal skills.

"We definitely didn't intend 'Humans' to be that long," Raskin confessed, "and it's fairly ridiculous to think about now, but we originally extended that song only because we confused the length of time on a 10-inch record with a seven-inch. But sometimes mistakes like that can have the best results," Raskin continued. "We're all really happy with the outcome because it ultimately left tons of room to try a bunch of new vocals and instrumentals."

The jazzy, acoustic-laced "Yellow Fields" and "Zabudabudee" round out Feel Like Human, and are sure to have her devoted fanbase bopping around Firehouse 13 on Saturday ($5, or $10 for a ticket plus the new disc, including an mp3 downloadable code). There's lap steel and glockenspiel this time around, but the unique sound lends itself to the musical preferences of the three bandmates: Foster and Belisle have a soft spot for heavy metal, while the classically-trained Raskin (who teaches piano at Carver School of Music in Massachusetts) grew up a devoted fan of folk and jazz, though when I asked what band she would most like to share a stage with, she immediately replied, "the Mars Volta, no doubt about it."

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