Q&A with Rachel Alena from Boulder-band Rachel & the Ruckus
December 7, 2015
The Boulder-based blues/rock group Rachel & the Ruckus will be heading up to the mountains to play two nights at Snake River Saloon in Keystone on Friday, Nov. 27 and Saturday, Nov. 28. The band plays around the Denver area and recently performed at Peanut Butter Jam, an event that benefited the Mountain Family Center Food Drive in Fraser. In October, they performed at Blue Star Connection, a nonprofit organization based in Winter Park that works with 45 children's hospitals across the U.S. to bring music to both children and young adults who are fighting cancer and life-threatening situations. Vocalist and keyboardist Rachel Alena took some time out to chat with the Summit Daily before the show.
Summit Daily News: Describe your music to someone who has never seen it.
Rachel Alena: An R&R show is high energy. We've got some blues/rock with soulful vocals, a ripping lead guitar and a wailing saxophone. Our music gets people moving. We've been described as sounding like Grace Potter meets the Pretenders.
SDN: How did the band get started, and what do you feel is your biggest accomplishment so far?
RA: About five years ago I was playing in an R&B band called Girls On Top. We had this killer guitar player named Alec Sims. One night after a show at the Dicken's Opera House, I gave him a CD with some of the songs I'd written on it. He then gave me one of his CDs with his original material. We got together shortly after that, did some writing, had a few drinks and it was a fit. I knew I'd found my band partner. He then invited his good friend, Kyle Comerford, who is now our drummer, to join the group. He and Kyle had played in other bands together for years. Vinny Carmellini came along about two years later when we auditioned bass players.
Biggest accomplishment? Well, it's been five years and we're still together. We're playing great shows and the crowds keep getting bigger and bigger. It's one thing to dream about starting a band. It's another to find yourself recording and playing your own music and to know people are showing up and enjoying it.
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SDN: What is the craziest/weirdest thing that has happened to you either on the road or while playing a show?
RA: I've had so many bizarre things happen at shows. I first went on the road when I was 21 years old, so there's been a lot of opportunity to see some weirdo things. I think the craziest thing I can remember is when I was playing in Longview, Washington. This was back before digital music, so we were the house band that played five nights a week. Our drummer at the time was a tobacco chewer who didn't spit in a can. Instead, he spit on the stage around him. Yeah, disgusting. Well, one night I had taken my heels off since my feet were killing me and was singing on my portion of the stage with no shoes on. That night, someone in the club screamed that a gun had been pulled. Everyone ran for cover. I dived behind the keyboard — which was also behind the drum kit. Needless to say, I landed in a pile of chew spit. I was absolutely terrified and completely disgusted at the same time.
SDN: How would you like to see the band grow in the future?
RA: I'm looking forward to more great shows and to getting more new material out there. We have a new release coming out early 2016 that will be a lot of fun. We're working on the video for it now.
SDN: What was your first strong memory of absolutely knowing you wanted to be a performer?
RA: I knew that I wanted to be a singer ever since I was a kid. When I was 12 years old, I walked to the little brown church next door to my dad's condo in Los Angeles where there was a group of women singers. I'd heard them doing barbershop and asked them if I could join. I became the youngest member ever — at the time — of the Los Angeles chapter of Sweet Adelines and I traveled with them singing harmonies. That had me hooked.
You know, I grew up hearing my dad on the radio. I'd hear him playing when we were in the grocery store or at the mall or wherever. He played guitar, before I was born, with classic Phil Spector produced bands such as the Ronettes and the Crystals on popular songs like a "Da Do Run Run," "Be My Baby" and on the Christmas album. I was always inspired to some day hear myself on the radio.
SDN: What would you like the audience to walk away with after watching your show?
RA: My goal is to be a conduit for fans to escape the pressure of life for a while. Whether it be through dancing, having fun or just feeling an emotion that needs to be expressed. If the people in the audience feel a little bit less stressed out when they leave our shows and like they've gotten away from life troubles, then I feel like we've accomplished the goal.
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