"We can actually meet up whenever and work on stuff consistently, because we are stuck to just doing things while out on tour." - Dan Lambton.
rationale. might just be your favourite band that you haven't heard of yet. But you've definitely heard of the members' other projects. Familiar with Knuckle Puck? Heard of a little band called Real Friends? Know Homesafe?
Because rationale. just happens to be the project of Knuckle Puck's Joe Taylor and Ryan Rumchaks, in partnership with Real Friends frontman Dan Lambton. And earlier this year they released their second EP 'You Are Flawed, But You'll Be Fine' - which will remind you a little of their other projects, but with a distinctly more relaxed flavour.
Rock Sound caught up with Joe and Dan to talk through their new EP, why they formed rationale., and so much more.
So how did Rationale. come to exist in the first place?
Says Dan: "Well essentially the band formed in around 2014. We were driving around one day, we smoked a little bit and I turned to Joe and said ‘it would be pretty cool if we made music together’. Then we just started writing. It was simple as that."
Says Joe: "Yeah, I remember Dan saying ‘dude, we hang out all the time already - why don’t we just work on music’. We're together all the time anyway really. We had never really even considered it before, we were just homies in separate bands."
Dan: "I think what really works in our favour as well is the friendship that Knuckle Puck and Real Friends has is not just through the bands - we are also home friends. We both effectively live in the Chicago area, so it’s not a case of us living in Michigan or Los Angeles or on the East Coast and sending bits of songs to each other, or we can only meet up one week a year - we can actually meet up whenever and work on stuff consistently, because we are stuck to just doing things while out on tour."
When you're writing for this particular project, what's the process? How do you separate the writing from your other bands?
Joe: "I feel like we are always writing regardless. There have been a couple of times when I have had ideas for just any sort of song, and then thought how it could be a really cool rationale. song. I’ve sent Dan at least one demo where he just said ‘hey man I think you accidentally sent me a Knuckle Puck demo by accident’ - that song then ended up being the first song on ‘Shapeshifter’. It’s so funny how the two sides cross over, we were actually talking the other day about what exactly a rationale. song is."
Dan: "For me it’s a case of whether or not the vibes really fit in when I end up writing something - sometimes the stuff that I make may not be able to fit into either band for example. Usually it’s if I write something, and I can see guitars and drums fitting in - that’s when I know it will be good for rationale.."
With it being four years since you last released anything, what was it about right now that felt like the right time for you to release new music?
Dan: "I feel like there is never really a right time for us, without being too negative. Like, I have Real Friends, Joe has Knuckle Puck, and Ryan has both Knuckle Puck and Homesafe - that’s three different, full time band schedules that we have to juggle around. I think originally we wanted to put out this EP in the fall last year, but it just never really lined up?"
Joe: "Essentially what made this time the right time was me saying to Dan ‘we need to finish this right now, otherwise we simply never will’. We had all the songs ready - they were mainly instrumentals with some verses and a chorus here or there sorted. A lot of things felt very up in the air, and we didn’t know what to record - so we just started demoing, and built on top of those demos. We just ended up recording them ourselves in our basement rather than wait to find somewhere in the end. It just became a case of if we don’t make this happen, then it’s simply not going to."
How do you feel that you have changed, not just as songwriters, but also as people in the four years since the last release?
Dan: "For me I feel like when we did ‘Confines’, that was just a set of songs that I had been working on for a long time. I remember that the first song we wrote for that was the first song on 'Confines', which was just me and Joe messing about, and then Ryan throwing bits in. It was more a case of us all working independently, and then sending it out to have everyone else do their own thing to it. Lyrically compared to this new EP, ‘Confines’ was a much more meta approach to songwriting. In music and films and art it’s about breaking down the fourth wall, and I feel like this EP does a lot of that - it was us analysing ourselves as musicians and providing commentary on the music industry and what not."
How does it feel having each other to bounce off in terms of articulating feelings that fit in with the Rationale. sound?
Joe: "I would say that comes from the influences that the band was formed on. We started this band simply because me and Dan would hang out, and we would talk about stuff between us - I feel like that allows us to be able to put our conversations into lyrical form. If we have an idea for something that a song could be about, or Dan wants to write a song about something in particular - we are able to have a bit more fun with it. There’s not as much pressure and I’m not worried about the specific word choices that we make. I don’t obsess what we should be saying in the same way as I do with my main project."
Dan: "Yeah, it’s definitely a more candid approach - there are some moments on the new EP where the lyrics aren’t even really lyrics. They are just excerpts from conversations that we have had, that we've just put into song form."
That's the sort of thing that you want from a project like this. A space where you can be yourselves without having to worry about what anyone is thinking...
Joe: "So here’s a funny fact - we had just finished recording ‘Confines’, we recorded it in the loft above a garage. Dan was smoking cigarettes out of the door and I had turned off the gain on the microphone. It was just recording the sounds of the neighbourhood, like you can hear dogs barking and stuff. Then Dan sticks his head back in and goes ‘are you still listening?’ - that ended up being the name of the first track on the new EP as well. That’s the sort of thing that I would never include on a Knuckle Puck release - it’s the sort of thing that’s kind of stupid, but at the same time is kind of cool."
What do you feel that 'You Are Flawed, But You'll Be Fine' ultimately represents for the two of you?
Dan: "How I look at my own lyrical input is that I consider it a companion release to my input into Real Friends. I feel like this EP touches on a lot of subjects that I didn’t have the chance to explore with ‘Composure’ - it’s a completely different entity after all. I’m able to cover how the last couple of years have been a little bit of whirlwind for me. A lot of these lyrics I wrote either while I was writing ‘Composure’, or after I was done as well. So I think that a lot of it is stuff that I wasn’t able to get into or stuff that came to realise after that was done."
Joe: "For me, this EP represents the actual start of the band - I don’t think that we are going to take as much time between this and the next release now. You can hear the jump in quality between ‘Confines’ and now, and I think that will stay the same moving forward."
It's amazing when you are able to have something that helps inspire and motivate you in a completely different way...
Dan: "Oh very much - it’s nice to have an outlet where we are able to explain how we navigate our livelihoods and our jobs, and the things that we are lucky enough to do on a regular basis. We try to show people that it’s not always pretty or beautiful, or this awesome thing all the time too. We are super lucky to have this band in the first place, and do well because we are able to an extent be able to ride the coattails of Real Friends and Knuckle Puck and whatnot. It’s a way for us to show ourselves more as artists. You know that we tour a lot and we miss out on a lot at home and there can be a lot of disconnection between us and the people we see at home all the time - it’s just a way for us to vent those frustrations while also celebrate those joys."
So what does the future hold? Are there any direct aims or ambitions that you have for this project?
Joe: "Our band is like a pop-up shop really. I feel like we are just making sure that we have fun with it. We may pop up and do some shows here and there too - it’s like we have taken it so not seriously for so long, if we take it a little bit more seriously and play like four shows a year and put out a release every other then that’s more than serious enough."
Dan: "It feels like there are a lot more outlets right now for projects such as rationale. to exist. We might not have enough time to dedicate to playing a bunch of shows, or making and releasing music all the time, but me and Joe have been discussing doing things like Twitch streams at my apartment that’s more centric on this band. Like if we can’t play a show, then we will provide other sorts of content. We want to show our recording process or what gear we use and be more hands on and more personable."
Joe: "The best songs are written in bedrooms and I think that is our approach to the band. Just keep it real and run with it and the music will always show."
rationale.'s 'You Are Flawed, But You'll Be Fine' is out now - check it out below: