“Well, it was kind of like all or nothing!” Kulesza recalls the most interesting photoshoot that would change the way the group viewed itself forever. “The whole thing happened in my lounge room and it was my friend that took the photos for the cover artwork. So we were thinking of just getting a couple of band members as well as a group of our friends to do this, because we thought we were all comfortable with each other. Well, we are even more so now after an experience like that! At first we were going to all do it in our undies and then from there we just started getting more comfortable with each other I guess because in the end we were all like, ‘We gotta get naked for this!’ So we were all just covered in baby oil and it was actually surprisingly enjoyable! We all sort of looked at each other went, ‘this is great – why do we even wear clothes anyway?'”
An appropriate cover image for the album title Let Music & Bodies Unite. And if you think that may sound a little wanky, Kulesza insists audiences take it all with a grain of salt. Nothing is too serious when it comes to Rat Vs Possum, he explains, including the band name itself.
“Yeah, there is no doubt that the title is meant to be very tongue-in-cheek! We found this sample which we sort of ripped from a YouTube clip! It’s from a ’70s disco championships video which has the emcee talking over a loudspeaker and making an announcement in this really daggy hilarious voice – ‘let the music and bodies unite!’ and we just thought it was so funny!”
And while Kulesza admits the record title may be a little questionable and more on the humour side, there’s nothing funny when it comes to Rat Vs Possum’s musical chops. In fact, it’s tempting to call the band members perfectionists considering that an entire album-worth of songs was scrapped at the last minute prior to Let Music & Bodies Unite. Something of a ‘take two’, the current record came out of the ashes of an album the band weren’t too thrilled about earlier in the year.
“We did have an entire album written and ready to go before this,” Kulesza admits. “We’d been playing the songs over the festival season and maybe it was a case of just overplaying it – I don’t know. But once we wrote a couple of new songs, we realised that we weren’t prepared to stick with the songs we already had. We couldn’t see ourselves continuing to play them for the rest of the year, and so they got scrapped. Pretty quickly after that we wrote the current album we’re releasing now. It was a pretty simple test – as soon as we started playing the new songs live we were sold on every single one of them, and that’s when we knew we wanted to record them and stick with them live.”
And by the way, it’s ‘organised chaos’ rather than out-of-control mess and noise, Kulesza points out on the subject of Rat Vs Possum’s live reputation. While it may seem from time to time like a jam session, there’s very little that’s actually improvised when it comes to the band’s performance in more recent times.
“The songs are more particular these days than they were maybe earlier,” he offers. “Maybe there would have been more jamming back then, but these days it’s very structured actually and there isn’t a song that we play that doesn’t have at least a clear beginning, middle and an end. Sometimes we’ll still jam a little but mostly what you’re hearing is planned and follows a structure. It could be a case that is sounds that way because we might have a slightly different musical song structure compared to other bands – we don’t have a lot of verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus… There’s definitely structure, but I think it’s more subtle.”
Quite a lot has changed for the band in the short span of three years, actually, as Kulesza insists… Initially major fans of Animal Collective in the band’s early days, the band has found themselves more and more influenced by electronic music, and disco in particular. Kulesza, for one, describes himself as “obsessed with rave music and culture”.
“The Animal Collective thing was going around at the time so we weren’t the only band influenced by that, it was just huge about four years ago. We still dig that now but obviously during that time you’re going to change. Our core started in psychedelic pop, like a more tribal thing, but now we’re listening to more dance music and disco – especially early disco. I’m totally obsessed with rave music and culture in general, and we’re all also into Krautrock as well, like the early ’70s German electronica. It’s probably all the things that you wouldn’t necessarily expect.”