B13 Meets Rhino and the Ranters

Tuesday, 29th September 2015

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B13 Meets Rhino and the Ranters
B13 Meets Rhino and the Ranters

What do you do if you see a band you like, download the album and if that goes well interview them.
Since downloading their album when writing for June’s B13 I’ve listened to it loud in my room, and as I cycle to work. The recorded song can be very different to the live experience and this is what I found myself discussing with Rhino and the Ranters.

Rhino and the Ranters consist of singer-songwriter Ryan Webb on guitar and banjo, Loz Kingsley on mandolin, Gavin Wray on guitar, drummer Pete Hammond (formerly of post-punk band Au Pairs) and bass player Richard March (founding member of 90s legends Pop Will Eat Itself).

The band have what Ryan calls a ‘swampy, Louisiana, hillbilly sound’. All five of them are big fans of live music and talk with fondness of nights spent discovering new bands. Pete says: ‘you can’t underestimate the power of a live band, that was the success with the Au Pairs, and this brings that back’. Loz, with a nod to Ryan, says: ‘all my favourite performers were the most generous. It means a lot’. Pete adds: ‘he will end the show too tired to get to the bar’ and whilst Ryan catches the eye, they all go for it.

I think, what Gavin calls, the ‘theatrical element’ to their performances has that ability to set us free. Ryan reflects: ‘it’s nice to think we help people escape’ and although live you can miss the darkness and depth to the lyrics ‘we’re happy to entertain live and let people listen and find the words later’.

Rhino and the Ranters set themselves apart by playing almost entirely originals: this is arguably brave when you are unknown. They explain how cover bands became a mainstay of local pubs but we are now seeing a return to original bands. Loz explained ‘we trust the audiences to overcome their own expectations, barriers and desire for familiarity. To get a result you have to work hard, so people enjoy it and come back’. One strength of Ryan’s writing is how quickly you feel you know their songs. The band think the live music scene is strong again, Richard and Pete emphasise how, with its rich musical history, Birmingham deserves a reputation as a great place for music. They are doubtlessly pleased to be part of this.

Ryan formed the band in London in 2009 and recorded the first album there, coming back to the Midlands in 2013. Having seen them live, it’s surprising that this line up only came together this year. Ryan says: ‘It’s the best we’ve ever sounded; everyone brings something from their different musical backgrounds. I hope it’s working and people are following’ and they do have a following: nearly 1000 Facebook followers and the last show was the first that turned a profit on door sales for The Dark Horse. So, what’s next? That’s what they are wondering.

Richard says: ‘We’re always asked back, so with each gig we grow’. They hope the much-lauded Lunar Festival performance has ‘done us good’ and spread the word, many people were ‘calling for us to headline next year’. They’d be happy to, Ryan wouldn’t mind ‘Glastonbury’, Loz offers up ‘a tour of Kentucky…’ but as a band they love playing.

Gavin gets his validation from playing music so anything more is ‘icing on the cake’ but ‘to tip the see-saw of work and playing music would be good’ and for Richard who’s been in the position before ‘making a living from doing what you love’ would be a dream.

More gigs are coming, see the band play July 5th supporting The Wonder Stuff and The Twang at Wolves Civic or September 26th they play the Hare and Hounds. Details on Facebook.

They’re involved in a fundraising compilation to keep Highbury Studios alive, check their Facebook page for more information, as Gavin says it’s a great cause ‘we’re enjoying it, the straight to tape record fits our cowpunk sound’.

Then there’s the second album which could be here by the end of this year. Ryan cares deeply about the songs, ’Words are important’ I’m a big fan of poetry and I’ll rewrite to the last minute’. ‘We’re in a nice position of selecting what goes on the album and have recorded three songs already’. Pete ‘We’ve got four’, Ryan ‘so maybe four? It will be a different sound from the first, more electric more eclectic. Can I say that?’ Richard suggests: ’it could be the album title’. The album won’t be ‘all up and dancing’ says Loz but you can expect a continued melting pot of ‘folk, gospel, punk, blues-grass, gospel’ explains Pete.

The heart and soul that is evident in the first album, continues in the live performances and in the way they talk of the band, the second album and their fans so whatever happens next you’d be wise to be there for it.