Gigwise, February 2009
They call it the toilet circuit. From Southampton Joiners to Glasgow King Tuts, these intimate and legendary venues are the bedrock of British music, daring any band with a couple of chords and a swagger of self-belief to pass through its musical sewer system. The gigging equivalent of the marine training camp in Full Metal Jacket, if your band has done its dues at the likes of Leicester Princess Charlotte and Newport TJ’s they’ll be fully prepared for all the perils of the music industry: the onslaught of a jaded music journalist or even an inappropriate support slot with the Feeling.
Of course, few make the grade, but of the bands that do always be suspicious when you hear their fond memories of “those slender times that made us the band we are”; chances are they’re saying it while chugging away at a bottle of Moët and whiling away the hours before stage-time in a dressing room the size of Coventry Cathedral.
Full marks then to urban perennials the Rakes, who having finished recording their third album Klang (released on 23 March) in Berlin have dived gleefully head-first back in to the cavernous cellars and Public House back-rooms of the UK and are seemingly revelling in the experience.
“Oh yeah, it’s certainly an experience being back” remarks Alan Donohoe, the Rakes debonair singer, as he casts his eyes around the walls of Cardiff Barfly’s tiny dressing room. “Have you seen the graffiti in here? It’s amazing.” He points to the back of the dressing room door, where a previous bored guitarist or drummer has taken the toilet circuit analogy one step further and scrawled in large black marker three words: Dirty Shitty Things. “It’s everywhere in here. Maybe it’s a specific Cardiff Barfly thing that you have to leave toilet humour versions of band names on the walls? Nine Inch Stains is especially good. The only thing is we’re having trouble thinking of one for us. Maybe we’re so un-risky we can’t think of any toilet humour nicknames for our band? We’re not that clever.”