Rainer Maria is, according to their guitarist Kyle Fischer, an "unstoppable juggernaut of rock." It's pretty hard to argue against that proclamation. But don't take that statement as hubris -- we egged it out of him during a recent phone interview. In reality, a band doesn't get more humble than Rainer Maria. Their enthusiasm for playing music shines through every time they take the stage. The band is currently on tour in support of the magnificent Ear Rings EP and their first full-length in two years, Long Drawn Knives. Prefix Mag's Sid Kincaid was able to catch up with Rainer Maria's resident bad boy, Kyle Fischer, to discuss the tour, breaking up, his solo career, and facist-symphathetic poets of the 20th century.
Prefix Magazine: First off, I saw you guys at the Bowery Ballroom last Friday and I thought it was a really great show. I was actually really impressed by the balance of old and new songs you had going. I go to see lots of bands and sometimes they'll just play the new record front to back and toss out three old favorites and split. Was it conscious decision to make sure the set was really balanced or did it just sort of turn out that way?
Rainer Maria: It was definitely very intentional. Whenever we play we try to include something off of every release. It doesn't happen all the time but the set on Friday was pretty close to what we've playing throughout this tour. We try to touch on every era of Rainer Maria whenever we play.
PM: My friend who was with me blitzed your merch table after the show and got everything you guys ever recorded, just because he wanted to make sure he had every song from your set.
Rainer Maria: That's another reason to play a varied set. You're always going to have newer people discovering the old records. There seems to be a definite delayed reaction with these things. We're out on tour now and there's people who just got into the last record so they want to hear stuff from A Better Verison of Me. They're screaming, "PLAY ARTIFICIAL LIGHT!!" (laughs)
PM: You guys do have a pretty sizable catalog. How long have you guys been together? It seems like you've been putting out music for a long while now.
Rainer Maria: Something like seven and a half years now. PM: How'd you guys get together?
Rainer Maria: We all just basically met in college out in Wisconsin. Bill and myself had a band out there and we basically roped Caithlin into playing bass for us. She started singing for us when we realized she had a talent for it. PM: Did you think it would come this far as a band when you first started out?
Rainer Maria: No, not all. Definitely not. None of us ever figured we'd be in the position where we could quit our day jobs and have health insurance and band credit cards. But it's not something we set out to do. I think bands that have success on their minds when they start a band are prone to making worse music. When that's the only goal, the music will suffer. We've been very fortunate to make exactly the music we want to and to also be able to make a living out of it. PM: You mentioned earlier that you were in a band with drummer Bill Kuehn prior to Rainer Maria. That was Ezra Pound, right?
Rainer Maria: Yeah. PM: So do you name all your bands after poets?
Rainer Maria: Yeah, I'm only in bands named after facist-sympathizing 20th century poets. Nothing else will do. (laughs) PM: That's the lead-in quote right there, baby. (laughs)
Rainer Maria: I was kidding! (laughs) PM: I bet. So are you guys still living in New York?
Rainer Maria: Yeah, we're still in Brooklyn. Bill's in Greenpoint. Caithlin lives in Clinton Hill and I'm at Carroll Gardens. PM: Which did you like more: Brooklyn or Madison?
Rainer Maria: Brooklyn is definitely a better place to live in terms of being someone who is making music. I definitely like it a lot more because there's so much going on. PM: Yeah, I think I saw you hanging out at a Les Savy Fav show a while back.
Rainer Maria: Yeah, I love those guys. We've played with them before. PM: Any other bands out of New York that you've been into lately?
Rainer Maria: The Love of Everything. They're amazing. PM: I'll be sure to check them out. I think that's cool that you played with Les Savy Fav. You guys are some pretty diverse bills sometimes. Playing with bands ranging from Mates of State, who you're on tour with now, to a heavier band like Cave In. Is that so you don't feel pigeon-holed?
Rainer Maria: No, it's never been a question of being pigeon-holed. The only reason we try to play with as many different kinds of bands as possible is that we believe in crossing over to as many people who would like our music as possible. It's about expanding size of audience. PM: You've done a great job of that. I remember seeing you on a bill with Burning Airlines, Dismemberment Plan, and The Promise Ring and while there was a core audience that flocked to that show, it was a pretty diverse bill musically. But that brings me to my next question, which is about band break-ups. All the bands I had just mentioned are no longer active and it seems like a lot of really important bands have been breaking up left and right over the last two years. That show really wasn't that long ago and you're the only band from the bill that hasn't broken up. Are you interested in keeping the band together? What are you plans for the future and what's been your secret to staying both together and artistically relevant?
Rainer Maria: Oh well, we're definitely interested in staying together. This is most certainly the best job that I've ever had. Nothing compares to it. I think our enthusiasm towards the music we make together and being in a band shines through whenever we perform. The three of are the kind of people who stick it out through problems and work toward solving them. I think a lot of bands don't do that. I remember touring with the drummer from Jawbox's band and he went up to me after show all like: "Dude, this whole boyfriend and girlfriend in a band together thing is going to bite you in the ass. The same thing happened to me." And I was all like, "Whatever, dude." I mean, we went through our (boyfriend and girlfriend) break-up and if anything it made the band better. I think nothing can stop this band at this point. Basically what I'm saying is that Rainer Maria is an unstoppable juggernaut of rock. (laughs) PM: Nice. (laughs) Well what else did you all do between Long Drawn Knives and A Better Version of Me? I know you did a solo record entitled Open Ground. Do you want to talk about that for a little bit? Any plans for another solo album in the future?
Rainer Maria: Yeah, I do plan on recording another album. Will has another band called the Prosaics and they're going to go on tour. So I'm going to make the most of that downtime and have a recording session. At this point, the next one is about a third finished. PM: Does the newfound solo career have anything to do with your lack of vocal involvement in Long Drawn Knives?
Rainer Maria: Not at all. It just sort of turned out that way. Caithlin had it pretty much covered. (laughs) She certainly didn't need a hand with his album. While we were recording it we were sort of expecting that Kyle song to pop up, but it didn't. But we don't really ever have anything in mind when we sit down and make an album. We just do what comes naturally while we're writing. At this point, we may or may not return to the double vocal thing. It's all up in the air really. We don't plan these things out. PM: Some might attribute the rejuvenated interest in indie rock to the stagnant state of pop culture. Do you agree with that? Rainer Maria: It depends on your definition of pop culture. The corporate media culture has definitely been churning out worse and worse shit lately. But I think it makes the more underground pop culture fixtures more accessible to everyone. All you need is a high-speed connection now to get in touch with what's going on. Before, when I was a kid, all we had access to were the cassettes in the mall. It's infinitely better now. PM: So do you feel the Internet has played a role in the way that independent bands such as yourself. Stuff like person-to-person file sharing programs? Rainer Maria: Well, it's inevitable. To fight against mp3s and file sharing is a losing battle. You take a band like the Grateful Dead who are probably the most bootlegged band of all-time and you think about their popularity and the amount of money they made. Bootlegging most certainly never hurt them, and while I would never want to compare ourselves to the Grateful Dead, they were really successful because of something similar to file sharing. And nowadays, whatever lost revenue would come from file sharing is always made up for in lots of other ways. Like licensing deals. You get people who now want blah's song for like X Nickelodeon skateboarding show or car commercial or what have you. PM: Kind of like the Walkmen. Rainer Maria: Yeah, exactly. PM: Would you consider licensing a song? Rainer Maria: I mean yeah. There was a song off of Open Ground that was on some NBC show. One of those one-hour teen dramas or something. But it's definitely because of the Internet that things like that are possible. PM: Well, that's all I got for you. Care to add anything else? Rainer Maria: No, I think we covered a lot of ground. (laughs)