Local Talent

A Fiendish Conversation with Rachel Ratner of Wimps

A punk chat about gray hairs, Mötley Crüe, and the band's new album 'Suitcase.'

By Seth Sommerfeld November 10, 2015

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Wimps takes flight (not literally) on its new album Suitcase.

Picture a stereotypical punk rocker. The type of rabble-rouser with neon liberty spikes, torn and studded clothing, and anarchistic ambitions. Got a clear image in your head? Cool. Seattle punk trio Wimps is the pure antithesis of that. The group’s music focuses on slogging though the mundanity of 30 something life, not rebelling against "the man." Wimps creates short, melodically sweet odes to things like book people, naps, unkempt living spaces, and old food (spoiler alert: don't eat it) as singer/guitarist Rachel Ratner vocally alternates between detached decaffeinated tones and sugar rush yelps.

The group debuted in 2013 with the excellent LP Repeat, and followed that up with the EP Couches earlier this year. This Friday (November 13), Wimps celebrates the release of Suitcase, its first LP on Kill Rock Stars (which can currently be streamed on Soundcloud), with a night of sweaty punk at the Funhouse featuring Stickers, Mombutt, and Boyfriends.

For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we chatted with Ratner about Kill Rock Stars having perfect timing, being an older punk band, and Motley Crue.

What aspects of Suitcase are you most excited about?

I think no matter what we do we end up kinda sounding like ourselves, but we were trying new things. I’m getting better at being a guitarist, and I was playing more leads, which I was excited about. We decided to spend more time recording than we did in the past, so we were able to fine tune it a little bit more. The first album we did in a weekend. This one we did over a couple weekends. So not too much more time.

Considering the band’s affinity for atypical thematic realms, what’s your process when coming up with song topics?

I’ll write most of the concepts of the songs, and Matt [Nyce], the bass player, will also come up with some of the ideas. Usually it’s based on something that happened pretty immediately that day or that week. We’ll be talking about it at practice, and then one of us will be like that would be a funny idea for a song. And then I’d go work on it or we’d start jamming on it to come up with a chorus and sort of fill it around that. So it’s kind of a mix between communal stuff and me. But for every song I can remember the direct moment where I was like all I want to do is take a nap today or I feel like the old guy at this party!

Are there any odd topics that you just haven’t figured out a way to write a song about yet?

I always have a running list of things on my phone. I feel like the songs are about our lives, but never anything actually like, this is a song where I deal with my struggles and social anxiety. So maybe I’d like to try to be more personal while still general, but ultimately my writing style is what I’m doing.

In your songs you joke about your age often, and y’all seem to be pretty comfortable with being, comparatively speaking, an older band in the punk scene. Is that a fair assessment?

Keeping with the theme of everything else, our age is just part of who we are as people and who we are as a band. As we’ve gotten older, a lot of our contemporaries end up staying younger, so we end up sharing bills with a lot of 20-year-olds who are awesome musicians. For awhile I thought we looked like we were still peers, but then in the past few years maybe the gray hairs gave us away. [Laughs]

Well it’s not like Wimps feels like an old band. The live show is always energetic and fresh. I guess it’s just that so many punkier bands seem to disintegrate once the band members exit their 20s.

Totally. I think it’s weirder when bands in their 30s and they’re singing about high school. It’s like, you were in high school 20 years ago! I was kind of hoping our next album would be from the old folks’ home or something. [Laughs] All songs about getting dentures and things like that. We play music because we like it, so we’ll be doing it for as long as it’s fun and we’re able. Maybe one day we’ll tour the old folks’ home circuit. Make a killing.

That record wouldn’t be crust punk, it’d be crusty punk.

[Laughs] Uh huh.

So how did Wimps end up hooking up with Kill Rock Stars?

It happened pretty organically. When we were recorded our stuff in February, we were like whoa, we got 18 songs. Now what are going to do with them? I guess we should send them to somebody. We were making list of people to send them to, and they were on our list. And that same week, before we even sent anything out, they just emailed us out of the blue, we didn’t know anyone there or anything, and they were like hey would you guys want to work together? And we were like, uhh… yeah. We got 18 songs if you want them. [Laughs] We were just happy with how it turned out it turned out.

How do you feel Seattle influenced your music?

I grew up in California. I came here for college, and I stayed because I liked the music scene. It was very inclusive. It was very easy for someone who didn’t have experience being in a band to join a band, there were placed to play, and there was a pretty supportive scene. I first started kind of late for a musician, I was 25, and it was easy for me to find people to play with and places like the Funhouse would book us. The weather is bad, so people don’t have much else to do, so it encourages you to be creative. And there’s such a rich history of bands from Seattle and Portland and Olympia that you can look to as influences and inspiration. So it’s kinda like music is everywhere once you start looking for it.

The Suitcase release show is at the Funhouse. Have you played there since the venue relocated?

We played Pizza Fest at El Corazon, but we haven’t played in the actual Funhouse room yet. So we’re excited about that. One of our first bar shows, three and a half years ago when we started, was at the Funhouse. We always had such a nice time playing at the old Funhouse. I’m excited that there’re more venues around that are still supporting punk and new local bands.

Do have any pre- or post-show routines?

This is the first band I’ve done this, but we all practice before our show. I’ve had other bands where they think that was bad luck or something, but I find for us it gets out some of the pre-show nerves. So we’ll usually run through the set before the show. And I’ll try to eat kind of early, because whenever I eat right before I sing I end up burping right into the microphone. That’s gross. And then after the show we usually go out for pizza or late night breakfast or something.

Oh, and then all of the like illicit drugs, sex scandals, and late night orgies, of course. Just kidding.

All the good rock and roll stuff.

All the debaucherous things that you would expect from Wimps or Motley Crue.

Motley Crue has a bunch of songs about naps too.

[Laughs] They’re probably the band we’re most like, I would say. We’re kind of the Seattle Motley Crue.

Wimps: Suitcase Release Show
Nov 13 at 9:30, Funhouse, $7–$10

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