Brooklyn garage rock merchants Raccoon Fighter create chunks of fuzzy, proto punk-indebted riffs and pulsating melodies that live and breathe within a modern blues landscape. Channeling the spirits of Link Wray and The Sonics, the band dig deep into their influences and come away with a sound that’s both timeless and feels particularly of-the-moment — especially given how frizzed-out garage rock has been on the upswing in recent years. But unlike most garage rockers, Raccoon Fighter do know enough about their own place in rock’s storied canon to understand that simply retreading the sounds and ideas (not to mention trading on the goodwill) of bands from the 60’s and 70’s isn’t enough to win you admiration and praise. There has to be something more to the guitar licks, throbbing basslines, and jackhammer percussion that sets you apart from the wide herd of like-minded musicians.
On their recently released album, ZIL, Raccoon Fighter constructed gritty, raucous soundscapes that reveled in the band’s own psych-rock and punk tendencies. Combining a penchant for raw, expressive vocals courtesy of singer Sean Gavigan, hypnotic bass from Gabe Wilhelm, and percussive blasts from Zac Ciancaglini, the album never shies away from detailing its influences, while at the same time evoking the abilities of the band to contort those same influences into sounds redolent of their musical idols but also wholly their own. Recently, we took some time with Sean Gavigan to discuss a few records which helped to mold the recording of their new record — as well as being LP’s that are among his favorites. From obvious choices such as The Stooges and Link Wray, to more tangential artists like Ween and Mississippi John Hurt, Gavigan lays out the musical foundation that he brought to the songs on ZIL. Check out his full list below in the latest installment of our On Deck series.
Gabe’s brother Ryan turned us on to this record and I remember listening to nothing but this for months after hearing it for the first time. It draws me in the same way psych rock from foreign countries in the 70’s does. There’s something special about taking an artist outside of their background or genre and seeing what comes out on the other end. With Van Dyke Parks + Calypso music from 1920’s & 30’s, it’s a perfect match.
Ween unfairly gets dismissed as a “joke band” a lot. And yes, they are funny, but you can use humor in music without being a Weird Al. Or a Frank Zappa. Humor gets condescended to by critics, and artists, as being somehow illegitimate. Like you gotta be self-serious to be “good.” Which is bullshit. It’s hard to make people laugh, especially when you’re doing it with a psychedelic, lo-fi album with no jokes and good songs. This album taught me that you don’t need a recording studio, or even a traditionally good sounding recording, to create music, and have fun doing it. To this day, I still consider the Tascam Portastudio 424 MKII one of the best sounding studios in the world.
You ever hear of Electronic Voice Phenomenon? This album is like listening to a ghost. Unlike the gravel of many of the world weary delta bluesmen I’m also so very fond of, John Hurt’s voice is humbly gentle. Even while singing about murder and sex, he still delivers it with a childlike innocence. His fingerpicking style was an obsession for me after I first heard this. He sounds like he’s trying to imitate a piano player, his thumb being the left hand and his index, middle, and ring being the right. They’re all moving totally independently of one another. It took me a while to be convinced it was only one guy playing one guitar.
This album should be called Raw FUCKING Power. It’s the most energetic, violent, and aptly named 34 minutes of music ever put on magnetic tape.
This album sounds like demos from Exile On Main Street, which is a testament to the Stones’ ability to come off as genuinely American, and a testament to Link’s gifted songwriting abilities. It was recorded on THREE tracks(!!) in a converted chicken shack in Maryland. Sonically, it’s charmingly sloppy. And so are many of the performances. But the songs are so good. There was probably a lot of bouncing of tracks going on. You can hear first-takes underneath the main takes at times. It’s like a Pittsburgh style steak, charred on the outside and VERY rare on the inside.
Raccoon Fighter’s debut record, ZIL, is out now on Papercup Music.