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Photo by Tom Wilikinson.

Interview: Bec Callander of Rackett

Cheryl from Blitz spoke with Bec Callander, vocalist and lead guitarist of the female punk-rock band, Rackett, about rising success, female empowerment and a love for music. 

Hi, Bec. Thank you so much for doing this interview today, and welcome to Blitz. You are the vocalist of Rackett – how has it been to be in this band? 

Hi Cheryl, thank you. It’s been very entertaining.

Rackett is an all-girl band that formed just last year in 2016. Could you tell us a little bit about how the band got together?

Well, I had been playing in another band and was just writing a bunch of music. And yeah just, you know, collaborated with some friends and started out in my warehouse on the Northern Beaches. We went through the catalogue of songs that I had, picked out a few and started jamming.

I mean, actually, it started a long time before that but officially I guess you could say that our narrowed lineup began then. I was running girl-jams, I had a desire to work with girls and I had been running girl-jams for quite a long time just out of the warehouse, [where] anyone could come. It kind of started there, then [came to] formation in 2016.

The band you were in before, Bec and Ben, was quite different from Rackett’s music, in the sense that it had a very different vibe. What drew you to this newer style?

I’m affected by the trends and the fashions in music that are current to my times. So it seemed to be the fashion and the trend and subconsciously, that’s where I was driving the music.

Could you tell us a bit about what you are listening to now, and what inspired Rackett’s recent singles ‘Bats’ and ‘Ready or Not’?

Right now, I’m actually listening to Katy Perry’s new album. Which is something new to me, because I had discarded that commercial, pop genre, for a long time. But I’ve recently revisited some of the Spice Girl albums and their production. Then I listened to Katy Perry’s album, Witness, and the production is amazing.

So that’s what I’m into right now, but I’m also still listening to some grungier styles. I always refer back to Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin as the kind of core sound, but then steer the songs more towards my influences at the time. And at the moment it’s Katy Perry, so you know you’ll be hearing things from Rackett that are kind of a cross-genre between that traditional psych-rock and commercial pop.

Speaking of cross-genres, in Rackett and especially as seen in the music video for ‘Bats’, there is quite a collaboration of femininity as well as this punk vibe, which is usually thought to be mutually exclusive. Was it a conscious choice for you to challenge this idea or was it something that just came to be over time?

No, it’s a reflection of who I am. I mean in my day-to-day life I’m wearing a range of identities. At my work, I am a nanny and I work in community health, so I am more feminine, I am more motherly, more nurturing. And then when I’m on stage, I’m more explosive and extroverted. So the band – any band that I’ve been in – is really just reflecting my state of mind. It wasn’t a conscious decision to steer the attitude of the band in any way.

Speaking of being on stage and performing, have a lot of energy. You’ve toured supporting many different bands, you’ve also toured nationally on a headlining tour, you’re playing Electric Lady this weekend. What are some of the best and worst things you find about touring and playing music live?

The best thing about touring is having a feel-good time where all the work you’ve put into it feels like it’s just a little snip of the bigger dream that we’re working towards, which would be really large scale touring, no more day jobs. So that’s the best thing, is getting a little bit of glimmer of the future. And the worst thing is having no sleep and compacting personalities into one car.

Playing music live and touring is a very demanding role that you have to play. How do you manage to balance that with a day job and everything else going on in life?

Well, I just make this the priority. So everything else works around the band. I don’t find that I have any struggle with priorities or with anyone in the band, as they’re all completely committed to the idea of being full-time musicians. So in that sense, I don’t find it a struggle. It’s just a burning to be successful and therefore the rest of my life comes second to performing and writing music. You know, I do a couple hours of work a day – as I said either nannying or community healthcare – but predominantly I’m doing music. I’m writing music or I’m performing in my mind whilst I’m at work or writing lyrics.

Where I’m at right now is a really good place, because three years ago I was working full-time and doing this just a couple of hours. So now I’ve managed to really drive that priority into my life, so it’s just a matter of time before I shave more and more hours away from full-time music.

Has music always been a really big part of your life?

I grew up in Bundaberg, my father was very much into the rugby scene so he would constantly have Hunters & Collectors, Crowded House and Midnight Oil on the record player. Then from there, I was a professional dancer for 14 years. Then I kind of steered away from it, I was still enjoying music, but mostly it was because I was intoxicated at some nightclub. I grew out of that phase of my life.

It was probably about five years ago that I decided that – assessing all the jobs I’ve done and what my actual skill set is, in creative writing and I have a good voice – that’s when I decided okay, well, I’ve pretty much tried every job there is out there. So, it’s just the most compatible to my skill set.

That sounds like quite a journey. Speaking of your writing, what is your writing process like?

My voice memos in my phone is huge. I usually start the day with an hour walk. I’ll put on a source of inspiration, I’ll put on a different type of music every morning. Then I’ll find over the course of the day, in between menial tasks, I’ll start putting what I’m experiencing into melodies that are inspired by the music that I listen to. I find it difficult to write words and melodies to already formed songs, so instrumental songs. I thrive off the vocal melody and the lyrics and then creating the music around that.

It seems to be working well for you – you’ve moved up from basically anonymity, to supporting bands like The Bennies, Sticky Fingers and Stonefield. You’ve also been rising in media prominence, being featured in Sydney Morning Herald just last week. How has this success been for you?

What is it like? It’s a great opportunity to be able to perform with those people, but it’s still – I hate to say – but we are still running a business. So, we face the same challenges as a café or anyone else. And overheads and trying to climb the ladder just because you support a band that has a name doesn’t mean that you get paid more. Most of the time you actually get paid less.

So in terms of success, I think real success for me, is when we are running a business where we can all quit our jobs. That’s the point where I feel like, okay, we’ve reached that level. And then in terms of success, you know, I guess it’s pretty good. We did actually support The Darkness – that was really interesting. It was interesting to be in front of audiences that are die-hard Darkness fans.

There is an initial resistance that really challenged my performance and they had people who would go to every single show between Melbourne and Sydney, and by the end shows, I was breaking the ice. But it took quite a lot to get through and penetrate their devotion to The Darkness. So that would be another sign of success for me, to have a really strong dedicated fan base.

That sounds like quite a process. You are also playing Electric Lady this weekend. Great line up, all about female empowerment. How does it feel to be a part of that?

It’s awesome! It’s awesome. Great bands, it feels exciting. Big stages. I guess for me, when you say it is an all-female movement, I just think these are great bands. It doesn’t really stand out to me that it has to be – they’re good female bands. Why and when do we define sex as that’s part of the band? If it’s a guy band, you know, you wouldn’t say, that’s an all male band. I just think it’s a great line-up.

Yes, definitely. On that topic of female bands, Rackett recently shared a video from Tonight Alive, looking specifically for female bands to join them on their Australian Tour. Do we know if we can possibly look forward to seeing you supporting Tonight Alive?

Well, I would love to support Tonight Alive! So you can go onto our Facebook and you can submit us into the competition. That’s the only way we can get on that support, so get on there! I’ve put all the links there so all you need to do is take five minutes and submit us, recommend us. And then hopefully, we’ll be supporting them.

Well best of luck! If you could tour with any band or artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Oh, whoa that is such a huge question! Well, I would love to tour with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, to be honest. I know they’re not the biggest band, but I love their music so I would love to tour with them. I would love to have toured with the Spice Girls when they were in their prime. And I mean, it would be an honour to tour with PJ Harvey. Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin. Tame Impala.

Some amazing choices there. Just one final question for you – Rackett has put out a couple singles, ‘Bats’ and ‘Ready or Not’. What’s next?

What’s next. We have a new single coming out. It is exciting because it’s a different side to Rackett. It’s feminine, sensitive, slowed down a little bit, and we have a really cool video clip to go with it. It’s called ‘Pray’, so look out for it around mid-July.

Rackett will be playing at Electric Lady in Sydney and Melbourne this weekend, with tickets still available here. You can keep up-to-date with Rackett by following them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube.

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About Cheryl Till

Cheryl loves not knowing what to do, including what to write for this bio. She occupies her time with different hobbies, although she isn't entirely sure if reading and watching Netflix for hours on end as a form of procrastination count as hobbies. You can probably find Cheryl in a comfy chair somewhere, pretending to be productive.

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