Tag: When the Levee Breaks
As I sit here trying to preface one of the best interviews I have conducted in a while, I am met with an eerily familiar foe… writer’s block. Perhaps it is because there are no words to describe the remarkable success RAINS has achieved sans the help of a major label. Perhaps it is the fact that the stories behind the “Stories” are impactful beyond words. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve consumed one too many Captain and Cokes. Whatever the reason is, you’re probably asking yourself “What the fuck kind of title is that?”. Well sit back, pour your own damn cocktail, and relax as we delve into the mind of a remarkable talent who, next time we talk, will undoubtedly need no introduction. Join me as we talk with Jeff Rains about everything from panhandling-to-pirating music-to-you guessed it, eating shit. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Neither artist, nor author have ever taken part in eating shit. No shit was harmed during the making of this interview.]
AWAY-TEAM: First I’d like to congratulate you on the success of your album, which by the way is fantastic…
JEFF RAINS: Well thank you!
AWAY-TEAM: …also the current single “Look in My Eyes”. As we speak now, you’re on the current leg of the Share the Welt Tour with Five Finger Death Punch, All That Remains, and Hatebreed. How’s that been going thus far?
JEFF RAINS: It is phenomonal. Ya know, we were a little bit nervous about it because, you’ve heard our album, and all of the other bands on the tour are so much heavier than us. So we got offered the tour, and we had alot of reservations about it. We weren’t sure if we should take it or not, but we did alot of research and basically everybody that we talked to said ‘That’s the tour that you need to be on. That’s THE tour!’ So we ended up taking it, and it was a big risk, but we’ve been accepted and it’s going great. The bands are all phenomonal to us, the crew is great to us, and it’s just awesome.
AWAY-TEAM: Very cool! So when di you first decide that you wanted to write and record music for a living? And what was the driving force behind it?
JEFF RAINS: I was, I think 16 years old, I was brought up on the whole 70′s music scene. My dad was big into Led Zeppelin, CCR, all that stuff, so I grew up listening to that, and then I also grew up listening to alot of Country music. And first Woodstock ’94 happened, and my brother and I were not allowed to watch MTV but we had this little 10 inch TV in our bedroom, and when our parents would go to bed we’d turn it on and turn on MTV and they’d be showing clips from Woodstock, like Green Day and the mud fights and all that stuff. We were like “What in the hell is this?” It was amazing, we’d never seen anything like it. So then I started looking into it a little more, and I stumbled across, well I guess you wouldn’t say stumbled across because it was right in my face the whole time, but the whole Seattle, ya know Alice in Chains-Pearl Jam grunge scene. Right then it was like, it wasn’t even a choice, it was just ‘This is what I’m doing’ ya know. If you listen to the album, I’m just so influenced by that whole Seattle scene, and I still am. I mean, everyday before we go on stage, on the bus we’re listening to either Alice in Chains, or Soundgarden, or Pearl Jam. Then our intro to our show is “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin, ya know, so all of those influences are still there and I really like that.
AWAY-TEAM: You mentioned earlier that you’re band is a little bit different sounding than the other bands on the tour. You’ve been compared alot to bands like Default, Nickelback, and I’ve even heard Staind. If you had to describe your sound to someone that has never heard your music before, what would be your answer?
JEFF RAINS: I’ve been asked this question alot, and the best answer I can come up with is I think it’s a modern day, 90′s Seattle grunge scene sound. The record’s called “Stories” and I really got sick of the cookie-cutter BS that was on the radio. Bands singing about drugs, and drinking, and whatever they sing about. I just wanted to do something real, and something honest, and tell some real stories. I think it’s paying off for us, and people are connecting with it. It’s really cool to see.
AWAY-TEAM: Now you mentioned the album is called “Stories”, the story telling aspect of your songwriting has more of a direct approach than the average artist, I know we touched on it a little bit earlier, but who are some of the artists that influenced that aspect?
JEFF RAINS: I think the story telling part comes from listening to Country music. I mean, I listened to alot of Garth Brooks, Brooks & Dunn and stuff like that. I don’t know, as I’ve said I’ve been obsessed with that whole Seattle scene, I don’t know if that had anything to do with the story telling or not, but I would attribute it mostly to listening to Country music. Because Country music, I don’t know what it is now because I don’t really listen to it anymore, but back then it was story telling. All these Country artists would tell these amazing stories during their songs and I thought that was so cool. So, yeah I think that’s where it mostly came from.
AWAY-TEAM: That’s actually one of the things that I love about your album.
JEFF RAINS: Right on. And I think that’s one of the things that people connect with the most, ya know. People are so used to the current music scene and where it’s at, and they’re just expecting these cookie cutter songs where ‘We’re up all night partying..’ Whatever. It is what it is. So I think when people hear us for the first time, they’re more taken aback than anything, like “Wow, this is actually real music for once. Real stories, about real people. This is cool!” I actually read a really cool article the other day, I don’t even know where I found it, I didn’t interview with them or anything, they just wrote it about us, and the subject said “RAINS-The Band That’s Bringing Back True Rock n’ Roll” I was like “Holy crap! That’s awesome!” That’s what I feel like I’m trying to do.
AWAY-TEAM: Being that the songs on the album are a collection of stories, what song on the album had the most profound meaning in your personal life?
JEFF RAINS: I think the song “Hurricane”. “Hurricane” was really cool, because I was in Austin, TX, before I was really pushing the music thing I was working for another company. And I was walking down the street, and some homeless guy came up to me and asked me for $3.96. I didn’t have any cash on me, and I said “I don’t have any cash on me.” and he was like “Yeah, I get that all the time. Whatever.” I said ‘Well, what do you need it for?” and he said “I need to buy a 40, and one cigarette.” I said “OK, thanks for being honest with me” and I sat down with him and I said “Can I hear your story? I don’t wanna impose or anything, but do you mind filling me in a little bit?” and he told me his whole story. As soon as he was doen, I went to the ATM, took out $20, handed it to him, and said “Buy whatever you gotta buy, but make sure you at least get some food too.” The song “Hurricane” is his whole story, and it’s a very sad song, but in that song I felt like I finally hit where I wanted to hit in the songwriting. I felt like that was where I finally told a story the way I wanted to tell a story. It was awesome, I was just in Austin like two days ago, and that’s all I kept thinking about the whole time. I was like “This is the place.” I actually stood right where I talked to the guy, it was really cool.
AWAY-TEAM: Wow. That is awesome! Many of the songs on the album seem to also be almost interconnected as part of a bigger story. Can you kinda briefly take us throught the album and give us sort of an abridged version of that story?
JEFF RAINS: Well, I’ve been married for almost 8 years, and during the writing for the album my wife and I seperated for a bit, and the majority of the songs on the album are about that. I think every song with the exception of “Hurricane” is a song directly from my own life. I mean, I wrote about what I was going through every day. Ya know, it’s great to be able to put yourself out there, and put your life out there, people respond to it. Luckily the response has been great, so. Yeah, if it seems like there is a story within the “Stories” record, that’s what it is. It’s the story of that time period in my life, and everything I was going through.
AWAY-TEAM: And you’re still married now?
JEFF RAINS: Oh yeah.
AWAY-TEAM: So how’s that work when she hears a song like “Hate”? (laughs)
JEFF RAINS: (laughs) That’s been a bit of a sore subject. She’s over it now, but when I first wrote it… yeah, didn’t go over too well. (laughs)
AWAY-TEAM: Well, I’m glad to hear everything worked out for ya.
JEFF RAINS: Yeah, everything worked out great. Like the song “Liar”, I don’t know how people interpret that song, but… that song is completely referring to myself. I just wasn’t doing the right thing in my marriage at the time. So alot of that stuff is completely personal reference. It’s basically me dogging myself the whole record. (laughs)
AWAY-TEAM: (laughs) Hey, that’s what makes it genuine.
JEFF RAINS: It worked, so. (laughs) It is what it is. It was definitely a sore subject for a while though. (both laugh)
AWAY-TEAM: The way this album was written reminds me alot of Sixx A.M.’s “The Heroin Diaries”, in the respect that it could easily be a sountrack to someone’s life. If you could write the soundtrack to the biography of any one musician’s life, who would it be?
JEFF RAINS: Oh man, that’s a tough question. Probably Layne Staley, or Scott Weiland, or Maynard from Tool. Or even Phil Collins, I don’t know, I have alot of artists that have influenced me alot, so that list could go on for days.
AWAY-TEAM: Your day job at one time was actually as a tattoo artist?
JEFF RAINS: Correct.
AWAY-TEAM: What’s the funniest, weirdest, or coolest tat you’ve ever done? Cuz I’ve seen some funny shit out there.
JEFF RAINS: I tattooed a piece of shit on someone once…
AWAY-TEAM: (Laughs hysterically)
JEFF RAINS: ..and here’s the fucked up part. I tattooed a piece of shit on them because they supposedly won a bet. The bet was if he ate shit, he got paid $100. So he ate the shit, got paid $100, and then came and spent the $100 on a tattoo of shit!
AWAY-TEAM: (laughing) What the fuck?
JEFF RAINS: (laughing) I’m not kidding. I’m not kidding you.
AWAY-TEAM: Oh my God!
JEFF RAINS: Yeah. And another weird one, this guy was… I’m not even worried about him reading this, I’m not gonna say his name, but if he ever learned what the internet was, he’d know it was him. But, every Friday the 13th, our tattoo studio was called Studio 13, so every Friday the 13th we would do $13 tattoos. We’d just have these sheets of little 2″x 2″ tattoos, nothing crazy, but one of the tattoos one day was, you know the “Calvin” cartoon pissing?
AWAY-TEAM: Yeah, yeah.
JEFF RAINS: So this guy had his ex-girlfriend’s name tattooed right behind his ear, so then on his neck he had me tattoo the “Calvin” cartoon pissing on his ex-girlfriend’s name.
JEFF RAINS: (laughing) And when I did it I said “Do you really want this on your neck forever?”, and he was that type of guy. He was like ”Hell yeah dude! This is gonna be fucking awesome!” I was like “Ok, whatever.” (laughs) But yeah, that’s why I stopped tattooing. I hated it. I hated that part of it, because people are, I don’t know how to put this diplomatically. Some people don’t follow your recommendations as a tattoo artist, and they’ll get the dumbest shit in the history of the world tattooed on them. And I just got so jaded, I was like “I didn’t sign up for this.” I signed up to make art, not a Calvin cartoon pissing on a girlfriend’s name, ya know?
AWAY-TEAM: (laughs) Your success, has been found thus far through the independent release of your album. There’s been a recent trend of bands trying to get out of their major label deals and back to basics. Does that sometimes deter you from seeking the support of a major label? Or do you kinda take the approach that it works for some and not for others?
JEFF RAINS: From day one, I have said that I wanna be independent. It’s gonna take a hell of alot for me to sign with a major label, or with any label. We’re on our own label, we handle everything ourselves, we have our own PR team, we have our own radio team, we have our own distribution, so. With the record industry the way it is right now, the only way you’re gonna make, and I don’t give a shit what any other band says “Yeah we wanna do it for the music” What the fuck ever, you wanna get paid! You start out wanting to do it for the music, but then when you’re $400,000 in debt, it’s like “OK, I kinda need to get paid at some point.” The only way to get paid these days, is to be independent, and be your own record label. So, I guess to answer your question, at no point in the immediate future or the far future will I be seeking out label support. And I’m very proud of that, and all of the bands we’re on tour with are on major labels and they’re just astounded that we’re doing this on our own.
AWAY-TEAM: That blows my mind too. The success that you guys have had being an independent band, it’s really kinda refreshing to see.
JEFF RAINS: Well I thank you for that. I’ll take that as a compliment. It’s refreshing to be in this position, to be honest with you, because we aren’t getting screwed out of evey penny we make. We make every penny we make, it goes straight to the band. So we’re able to be on a tour bus, we’re able to be on these big tours, we’re able to finance the things we’re able to finance because, believe it or not it takes a hell of alot of money to be in the music business. It’s not like, your playing some crappy bar and some A&R guy is gonna find you and sign you that night on a paper napkin. That’s not how it works. this business is so much about numbers now, and I’m just so happy to be where we are. Being independent and not having to depend on anyone else, and not have to pay everything we make to everybody else, ya know. It’s a really good feeling.
AWAY-TEAM: Speaking of the record industry, there’s been recent rumor of the demise of the CD. Do you think that’s a good thing for the industry? What are your thoughts on that?
JEFF RAINS: I’ll give you an example, last night we played a show, I think there was 5,000 people there. One guy came up to me and he said ”I’ve been listening to you guys for two years straight. I’ve been obsessed with you guys. I’m gonna be honest, I downloaded your CD off the internet.” But he had 5 copies of the CD in his hand that he had just bought from the merch table. My approach is, if people want free music, let ‘em have it. The whole goal is to spread the word right? So it they’re still coming out to concerts, and still paying for those concert tickets, and still buying our merch, what the hell do I care? It served it’s purpose, I mean the guy was standing there with 5 CD’s. So he downloaded one for free, great, he paid it back to us ten times over at that show last night. And that’s normally how it goes. Alot of bands aren’t like this, but I encourage people. If you can find my CD for free, download it. Don’t even call it stealing, call it my gift to you. I just want people to hear it, and hopefully they like it. It will pay off at the end of the day, whether the record labels say it will or not, I know personally that it will.
AWAY-TEAM: Well hey Jeff, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a great pleasure.
JEFF RAINS: Right on. Thank you man!
AWAY-TEAM: Best of luck in everything you do, and hopefully I’ll catch up with you next time you guys make your way through Florida.
JEFF RAINS: Definitely.
AWAY-TEAM: Alright man, we’ll talk soon.
JEFF RAINS: Alright, thanks alot man! Bye.
For more RAINS including, music, merch, and tour dates visit the bands official website here.
Special thanks to Jeff Rains for so graciously giving me his time, and also to Doug Weber at New Ocean Media for making it all happen.