Local trio The Angelus is playing Thursday night at LaGrange with another local featured in this column before: Crushed Stars. Expect the music to be slow, but no doubt peaceful and heavenly. The three members of The Angelus took time out and shared their embarrassing and non-embarrassing musical firsts, from Whitney Houston to Slint.
Was there a musician or band that inspired you to play an instrument? Emil Rapstine (vocals/guitar): I'd have to say I was initially inspired to pick up the guitar by my brother Xander, who is a year older than me. He was the "musical child" while I was the "artistic child." I saw how he could really capture the attention of people with a song while they would look at my drawings briefly and say "that's nice." When I noticed the difference I dedicated a lot of time hidden away in the basement trying figure out how to play guitar and write a song. Ryan Wasterlain (bass): I think like most people our age, one of the big influences for picking up a guitar was Nirvana. It was music that I connected with that also seemed within reach. For better or worse, I imagine a lot of bands started because of them. We all thought we could make great music, and were wrong. I never really cared for the super technical guitarists. I loved people that were rudimentary but made powerful music. Which is why I ended up falling in love with punk rock for a long time. Justin Evans (drums): Along the same lines as Ryan, Nirvana was the kick starter for me and music. Playing in my friend's bedroom and trying to learn the guitar parts for every song from Bleach to Nevermind brings back good memories. Then local bands like Funland, Centro-matic, Bobgoblin and Buck Jones were really influential throughout high school and even today. Being a drummer in The Angelus really came out of necessity, then I ended up loving it.
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Early on, how much of an influence were your parents' music tastes on your musical tastes? Emil: My parents didn't have an enormous record collection, but they enjoyed playing some folk and a couple Beatles records. My mom was a big Joan Baez fan and that introduced me to a lot of folk music. She also encouraged singing at church and family get-togethers. One early influence involved listening to the "1812 Overture" at high volume while my siblings and I furiously cleaned the house. This became a custom and taught me that if you want to score cannon fire in your songs, then you just go right ahead. Ryan: From what I can remember, my parents listened to Simon & Garfunkel and Moody Blues exclusively. My uncle, on the other hand, played guitar and listened to Van Halen. That was much more exciting to me as a child. Justin: My mom was a huge influence in my love of music. She was a singer/songwriter and trained vocalist when she was in school. Later she went on to write and record country music and perform in the Oprys in Texas and Oklahoma. Needless to say, I heard a lot of Willie, Waylon, Dolly Parton and the Oak Ridge Boys growing up. She started encouraging me to explore music as early as I can remember and still encourages me in my music today.
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Can you remember the first cassette tape you bought with your own money? Emil: I think the first full-length tape I bought was Urge Overkill's Saturation, but before I understood that there was any alternative music out there I have to admit to cassette singles of "I Can't Dance" by Genesis and Whitney Houston's version of "I Will Always Love You." Ryan: Not to brag, but I'm pretty sure it was Vanilla Ice. Justin: I'm pretty sure mine was Beastie Boys, License to Ill. And I'm pretty sure it was bought black market from on of my friends' older brothers. Then my mom let me join that mail order tape club, and it was on.
Have you ever been in this situation? A band blows you away with their record, yet is a disappointment in a live setting. What about vice versa: band is great live yet not great on record? Emil: I think I was expecting to be blown away more when I finally got to see Mogwai years ago. I had loved them for so long then but was never able to see them. By the time I saw them I was left feeling unmoved. Certainly not the band's fault, I think their time for me had just passed. On a more positive note, I'd say that I think all of Wovenhand's records are phenomenal, but none of them come close to matching their live performance. Ryan: One of the most influential bands for me is Slint. I started listening to them as a teenager (they had already broken up years before). Spiderland is one of my favorite albums ever. It's so raw, passionate and very different from anything I had listened to previously. Slint got back together and toured in 2005. I bought tickets as soon as I could. Technically, they were flawless and the music was great. Visually, they were statues. It was disappointing at the time. I really love seeing a band get lost in the music and move with reckless abandon. This was the opposite; they were lost inside the music and very much in their own heads. I will never regret getting to see it, but I guess I just thought it would be more of something to look at. Justin: Wovenhand for sure; I love their records, but I have been blown away at every live show I have seen by them. Same for Sigur Ros. On the other hand, Godspeed records have always impressed me, but the one live show I saw was a snoozer.
What can you remember about the first time The Angelus played live? Emil: I would be hard pressed to remember the first show considering The Angelus started as solo project soon adding Justin and then a full band over time. Once our newest record was complete the band was on the verge of disintegration with everyone moving away. We had a 35 Denton performance scheduled and Ryan's project Summer of Glaciers was coming through on tour. I chanced asking him if he would sit in on bass with us and he said yes. We had one practice and I could have been a disaster but the show was a success and I knew the band could be reborn if I could somehow trick him into moving from San Francisco to Dallas. I don't know how it happened, but here we are. Justin: I think my first Angelus show was actually just Emil and I at Big Ass Beer Night or Open Mic or something at Rubber Gloves in Denton around 2000. Emil and I had been playing together for a short time and I had never played drums live, ever. In fact, I had only been playing drums for a couple of months at that point. I was nervous as hell, but we clanged through it and had a great time, and a good enough response to play more shows.