Ratboys, “Not Again”

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Last summer’s AOID was a glowing debut full-length from Chicago’s Ratboys, who’ve grown over the past six years from the acoustic duo of Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan into a four-piece capable of some intense dynamic moves. The four call their music post-country, bringing the brightness and simplicity of country tunes up against some of the grit of garage rock. On the LP Steiner’s voice is supple as she looks inward and weaves startling images.

Now Ratboys are sharing a new single, “Not Again”, and it’s riveting—they’ve amped up their sound, with quiet pockets making way for blasts of big twinned guitars. They’ve pulled their inspiration from dozens of places on this one, and it takes a winding course as it documents a restlessness and frustration with a life that feels like it’s come to a standstill. First it feels like folk-rock, an easy acoustic strum and Steiner’s concentrated voice, which forks into careful harmonies as the instrumentation blooms. Soon it dips into a sea of wailing distorted guitar, reminiscent of The War on Drugs in its spacey vastness—before another full-force eruption takes over in time. “Back then, my teenage energy would take a thousand shapes / I would wrestle with my wanting, then laugh it off and fill another page,” Steiner confesses, insinuating inspiration no longer comes so easily. But there’s a definite optimism hanging around as the song comes to its high-powered close, a feeling Steiner says came to her with time:

The first two thirds of the song came about in late August 2014, and at that point, it was mainly a private expression of my eagerness to put out some new music (it had been a while). We did eventually do that, and the unfinished song just kind of gathered dust in the back of my mind as we dove into a new routine of touring all the time and working in between trips to pay the bills.

At some point, I realized that this routine felt more like a rut, one that left me feeling uncreative and down. I decided to finish ‘Not Again’ this past January, and its ending transformed an angsty seed of a song into a real comfort item for me, a way to calm myself down and remember just how absolutely fun it is to write a song.

My bandmates Will and Dave and I went into the studio the very next day after I finished writing the song to lay it down. And by the next day, we had this new thing to carry forward and hold close and share with anyone who would listen. Hopefully folks will enjoy the song and feel motivated to embrace their own creative potential and to enjoy how nourishing that can be. That’s the plan on our end anyway.

“Not Again” will be out digitally on Topshelf Records this Friday, April 8, and you can preorder it now. Hear it below.