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An interview with highly literate band

Reading Rainbow


Interviewed by Chris Auman

Published January 31, 2011

Reading Rainbow band live

Reading Rainbow is a rock band from Philadelphia, PA. Reading Raindbow create beautiful blasts of sonic landscapes that sound much, much bigger than the two components of the band, Rob & Sarah. Reading Rainbow's sound is awash in a wall of reverby distortion and hauntingly sweet vocal harmonies. Reading Rainbow is way, way better than this lame introduction is. Reading Rainbow was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

RW: Correct me if I’m wrong, Rob and Sarah, but you are both originally from Virginia... now you’re in Philadelphia, what was the impetus for the move?

ROB: Sarah was living with me while I was in grad school in Blacksburg, Virginia. She had already finished going to art school in Richmond, which is where she grew up, actually. By the time I graduated in 2007 we had no idea what we would do or where we would move to. So we basically chose a city on the East Coast that we thought would work out the best.

Neither of us wanted to live in Richmond anymore; hell naw to DC; Baltimore is like a slightly bigger Richmond (with the same problems) and we didn't have the money to live in New York, so Philly seemed liked the best option. We had heard the music scene is really good and also that rent was really cheap. We didn't know a single person when we moved here, but we've made a lot of friends and absolutely love it here.

RW: What do you miss most about Virginia?

ROB: All our friends back in Roanoke. We recorded most of our album Prism Eyes with them. They have a really great studio/practice space set up. They're located in mountains and it’s really beautiful out there.

SARAH: Other than friends and family, I really miss how pretty Richmond is and also how pretty southwestern Virginia is as well.

RW: The story on your formation, you were both in a three piece with Sarah on keyboards, the drummer flakes (it happens) so you decide to stay a duo with Sarah on drums. New band, new name. The question is, did the sound change much or was the basic Reading Rainbow in place at that point?

Reading Rainbow - Mystical ParticipationReading Rainbow - Prism Eyes
Reading Rainbow -  RestlessReading Rainbow -  Summer Reading

ROB: I guess there were some elements that continued through to Reading Rainbow. We both sang all the words and the sound was full sensory overload. Our old band was much more conceptual though. We played spazzy keyboard punk, heavily inspired by the LA punk band, The Screamers. I played distorted keyboard, Sarah played noise on a circuit bent Casio, and our friend Corey played super fast drums. It may not sound like an easy transition, but to us it actually felt very natural.

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SARAH: That band made it possible for me to be in a more traditional band—traditional meaning where I actually learn and play parts. I was able to view the other band as a more conceptual art project which helped me cope with performing in front of people.

RW: Scheduling practices must be easier for a two piece, and there’s less gear to haul to shows. What are the other benefits of being in a two person band?

SARAH: It's also great to be able to just consult one other person. Decisions are made much faster. Also, I love blowing peoples' minds that it's just us. People have asked us more than once if we play to a backing track, which of course WE DO NOT!

RW: And you’re also married, to each other, so being a married couple, does this lend itself to some sort of unspoken communication and like-mindedness that may be beneficial?

SARAH: I think we just know each other so well that, yeah, we know when to step up and deal with things that are stressing the other person out. We don't really need to explain things to each other and we are able to be completely ourselves and let our guard down.

RW: Are there downsides to this dynamic?

SARAH: Only that maybe I'm spoiled now and if I were ever in another band I would miss that.

RW: What’s your best live or touring experience so far?

SARAH: The last time we played in Baltimore, it was insane and people were wasted and singing along to our songs which was awesome.

RW: What's the worst?


RW: What are your day jobs?

ROB: I work at a green sustainable engineering firm that designs energy efficient buildings. I set up computer models to predict how much energy the building will save compared to the government required energy efficiency ratings.

SARAH: I have an MFA but I don't use it. I'm a bum leaching off my husband.

RW: Are your respective employers accommodating of your musical pursuits in terms of your touring schedules?

ROB: So far, but that may all change very soon. This March we will be on tour for a little over a month, which we haven't done yet. We're playing shows with Dum Dum Girls on our way to SXSW, and then afterwards we'll be playing the Northwest and West Coast, US. I haven't really talked to the job about it yet, so I guess we'll find out soon. Haha. We are super, super excited to get out on the road for longer than a two week stretch.

RW: You site the 50s, 60s and 70s musical influences to your sound but I also hear a bit of 90s lo-fi indie rock. Is this an influence or just a result of the way you record?

ROB: Oh, I'm sure the 90s are in there too. Influences can be hard to track down because they are subconscious. The music from these time periods are what we grew up with and are what we have a deep connection too. In high school I was a major Hendrix, Doors, and Led Zeppelin freak, while Sarah was obsessed with Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. Its funny where people’s music obsessions began.

SARAH: Nineties most definitely are in there. We've been listening to lots of Sonic Youth this past year and Rob got a Big Muff pedal a few months ago. Also, I think my favorite band ever is Wipers which was 90s before the 90s!

RW: You use a bit of animal imagery in your record covers as well as some lyrical themes. If an animal really did take control of you, what animal would you prefer that it be?

SARAH: A magpie because it would force me to do its bidding by stealing lots of shiny and glittery things.

ROB: What's the one thing everyone should know about Reading Rainbow OR is there anything on the record about Reading Rainbow that needs to be set straight?

SARAH: 1.) We aren't influenced by current music (consciously—although we do have lots of intensely talented modern musician friends who inspire us).

2.) We've been making music like this since early 2008.

3.) Stand-up drums have existed forever

4.) Most other couple bands blow.

5.) Boy/girl two-piece bands and all girl bands are NOT genres!

RW: What’s the question you are most tired of answering?

SARAH: I guess why we named ourselves Reading Rainbow, but we did that to ourselves so I understand it must be tolerated.

RW: Are you ready for the next album? Have you been working on new songs, concepts, ideas?

ROB: Right now we are working on songs for a couple seven inches and then we'll be working on songs for an EP to be released later this year. After that, and more touring, we'll gear up for album number three in 2012!

RW: Will there be a new approach in the way you do things, write, record, et cetera?

ROB: As for now we are just letting our band evolve naturally and see how things happen. We don't want to overthink or force anything.

RW: What’s the coolest thing about Philly?

SARAH: Philadelphia Art Museum, Fishtown, and our house.

RW: What’s that lamest?

ROB: How depressing it looks a few days after it snows and everything turns a dark gray.

SARAH: Trash on the street and violent crime.

RW: Are you going to finish that last empanada?

SARAH: Is that a Strangers with Candy reference or am I crazy?

RW: No, I'm just really, really hungry.

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