Raggy Monster, one of the more popular local bands from South Florida, has taken its carnival of creepy indie rock on the road for the group's
Although the 15-date trek focuses mostly on the East Coast with additional stops in Detroit, Nashville, and New Orleans, the five-piece has dubbed it their North American Safari. It's a name inspired in large part by the pink safari hats the band wore for the promotional tour poster, much to the chagrin of bassist Oren Gross.
“Sage’s mom found these pink safari helmets at a garage sale,” guitarist and keyboardist Billy Schmidt
“Yeah,” Duvall continues, “I was looking at these hats and trying to find a way to make them cohesive with our tour. So, I came up with the name because I thought it helped explain the stupidity of it. Plus, Oren was on the fence about it anyways, so I felt I needed to put together a whole pitch.”
“I wasn’t on the fence about it. I hated it,” Gross deadpans. He's not lying. As we examine the tour poster closely, his disdain is clear. While the rest of Raggy Monster is at least acknowledging the camera, Gross is visibly pouting — or he would be if his fist wasn’t hiding his frown and the lowered lid of the hat wasn’t obscuring his scowl.
We're all sitting at Café Bleu in Delray Beach. It's a rare moment of calm for a band that has a lot in the works. The group is eyeing early next year to drop some fun surprises, but for now, we relegate our conversation to the longest tour they’ve ever embarked on.
It’s the night before they get on the road. While half of the guys haven’t finished packing yet, lead vocalist Rachel DuVall-Schmidt has already selected what outfit she’s wearing for each gig, including a leopard print leotard she gushes over.
This is hardly surprising as the band has always been very careful and deliberate about the overall visual aspect of its music – from photo shoots and music videos to the small black-and-white TV present at every show. Raggy Monster has forged an ethereal, dramatic atmosphere best exemplified by the grand and operatic style of songs such as “Crying Shame” and “Morgan’s Organs.” The sound resembles a more melodic version of the Dresden Dolls crossed with Faith No More. It haunts venues like a trippy circus outfit led by the lovechild of David Bowie and Janis Joplin.
Much of the group's style is derived not only from DuVall-Schmidt’s incredible voice — darting back and forth between a penetrating soprano and a sonorous contralto — but her stage presence. She often steals the show during Raggy Monster concerts. Put it this way: She easily could have been the inspiration for Margot Robbie’s version of Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad.
As a group, the conversation crackles with energy; different topics interweave between the five members, laughter cutting in and out. It’s an easygoing, friendly chat that belies the dark, brooding ambiance they’ve so meticulously crafted. In fact, having a little fun plays an important role in their upcoming road trip. For example, one of
“Beignets,” she says, her eyes widening with excitement. “I’m just going to eat my way through the tour," she adds later on. Armed with to-do lists, each new city is sure to be an adventure.
Make no mistake, though: This tour is a business decision. For example, even though a couple of members are keen to explore New York, this working holiday will include a photo shoot with the band's unofficially official sixth member, photographer Noah Garbarino. While Schmidt and Duvall have spearheaded the efforts over the last five months, the entire band has been hard at work preparing and planning. While nearly everyone has side projects — husband and wife DuVall-Schmidt and Schmidt moonlight as an indie folk duo, the Whiskey Wasps, and Sage Duvall
Schmidt quit his job to full-time manage the band while other members have taken time off from both school and work.
They want — no, need — to get their name out there. It’s evident in the cities chosen for the tour. Some are big markets, like the Big Easy and NYC. Some, like guitarist Mike Guido’s hometown of Detroit, have fans ready and waiting for them. Cape Cod offers a chance to be on a live stream (in Technicolor!). And yet others, like Nashville, are not only no-brainers but networking opportunities. Plus, a free couch to crash on ain’t bad either.
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“We’re staying with friends for a huge part of it,” Duvall says. “Friends and family, for probably over half. We’re definitely relying on them.”
“Yeah,” Schmidt adds, “there’s this one family we met once down at a show in Fort Lauderdale and the guy reached out to us and said if we ever get to Philly, he would love to offer us a place to stay. And we were like, actually, we might take you up on that sooner than expected… like, next month.”
Whether he’s on the drums or sitting around in a coffee shop shooting the shit with a reporter and his friends, Duvall wears a happy face pin on his shirt almost religiously. It has a personal meaning that dates back years but also illustrates the sunny outlook of this band of monsters and their potential. There’s plenty riding on this tour, but regardless of how it turns out, they’re content and even joyful in the knowledge that whatever happens next, they have a plan, they have support, and most importantly, they have each other.
Raggy Monster returns home this week for a quartet of South Florida shows at Respectable Street September 15, Vintage Tap September 17,