Interview with The Ratty Little Fingers-.
It was August, and music had taken to the streets of the centre of Manchester. For the first time in a whole week, it had stopped raining, and many people had gone out to make the most of the few and shy rays of sunshine. All of a sudden, among the noisy conversations and DJ’s performances, a girl started to sing. However, it was not her voice but the mixture of sounds and good vibrations that drew a crowd in front of that stage.
“I’ll never forget it. We were playing in that really good quality stage, and there was nobody in the street. And I kept my head down playing. And when I looked up through the set the street was absolutely packed. I felt like being in a real band”.
With Christian’s words, the three of them start to laugh. Katy, Austin and he make up the Ratty Little Fingers, a trio original from Liverpool characterised by its particular blend of pop music and folk. They play with sound mixing up traditional instruments – like the violin, the banjo, the guitar and the bass – with typewriters, homemade drums and other singular artefacts. But, above all, they offer light-hearted melodies which invite people to smile. Their main aim is to have fun.
The secret ingredient
If they had to follow what other bands already do, they would probably get bored. While interviewed in the street, after another gig in Manchester (no matter the cold, no matter the rain, this is England!), they joke several times about the idea that they will not be able to make traditional music. Christian keeps it simple: “Sometimes we try things that are more technical and it does not work”. Laughs and smiles again. “We go off about how things feel. It is more about feeling than skills”.
They came together two years ago when Katy managed to drag the two boys from their former bands. They were quickly surprised by how similar their ideas about making music could be. Austin and Christian usually compose the music. They both point their fingers at Katy as the brain that challenges their creativity every time she writes a new song.
Their songs talk about love, friendship, and chances in life, about eagles, leftovers and crystal balls. But it is not what they say but what each person can understand when listening to them that really define this band. That’s the reason why Katy’s big eyes shine when asked about the meaning of their lyrics. She thinks before speaking and says: “I don’t really like talking about what the songs are about… I prefer just playing and see what the people who come to watch us think. And if they think something completely different to what I thought when I wrote it then something amazing can happen! They can be seeing their own experiences, having their own interpretations on what the song says, and it just makes it so exciting for me!”.
For the Ratty Little Fingers, their music is all about emotional states, about how people feel when taking part into the fun they have while they are playing. They do not want to differentiate themselves from those attending their concerts and demonstrate skills, and therefore they connect with people. Because they are true to themselves on stage, without masks and poses; honest, opened, even shy sometimes, and they transmit it to audience.
Since last summer’s festival, in less than 5 months, they have achieved twice as many hits on the Internet, performed at BBC and released their first EP: Eat with your fingers. Step by step, they grow as a band, but it is not always easy work.
The Ratty Little Fingers are aware of how hard it can be getting a place in this sector and earning the respect of colleagues and audiences. The three of them need a second life. Their current jobs consume most of their time but provide them the money and resources they need to face the costs of their gigs. They cannot live from music. Not yet.
When asked about the most difficult thing for them as a music band, Katy replies: “The most difficult thing is feeling you are working really hard and enjoying yourself but not getting anywhere. We have to try to find a way to feel that we are really progressing as a band. People say ‘Oh! God, you are everywhere!’, and it is great. We are doing what we always wanted to be doing, but when you have been doing that for a long time, then you think ‘OK, we are still doing this, how can we make it to the next step?’. That’s the little thing that makes it hard to keep you enthusiastic”.
If they had the opportunity to get signed to a label, they agree that the ideal company would be one that allowed them to work the way they want to work without compromising their style. How viable it is from the point of view of the creative industries is another matter.
A new flavour
With this regard, Austin – who usually deals with their website, their page on Facebook and the media – is quite cautious: “Sometimes is pretty hard to expect people to come and pay to watch you if no one has seen you before. It is hard to ask someone to do that as, for example, it is hard to ask people to try a new packet of crisps with a different flavour if it is something they have never seen before – and when they love the ones they usually buy. So it is more like ‘Give me a packet of crisps, and I’ll try them, and if I like them, I’ll get another one, and I’ll pay for it’. They may pay for it next time”.
They do not turn down a single gig. They have realised each concert always result in a new one. They don’t particularly want to be more famous or become rich, “although it would be great to live from it”, Austin points out. “But, purely, if we can just get somewhere and people want to watch us and want to get involved, it does not matter about the money. If people are enjoying what we are doing, we will carry on doing it“.
They finished last year spending all their weekends on the road, playing in bars and pubs of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, and other near cities. They invite people to get carried away, to “Eat with their fingers”. Who would refuse that?
Name: The Ratty Little Fingers
Components: Katy McGrath (vocals and guitar), Christian Sanford (bass and drums), Austin Ray (violin and banjo)
EP: Eat with your fingers (Nov 2011) with songs like My Lesson, Captain Hook, Eagle Song.
Other songs: Leftovers, Crystal Ball.
Where to find them: www.therattylittlefingers.com, http://www.myspace.com/therattylittlefingers and Facebook: Ratty Little Fingers
Memorable dates: Their birth, two years ago, and the Sefton Battle of Bands (Southport), last spring. They won the competition and the prize was a paid-trip to Belgium to represent the borough in a summer music festival in the twin town of Mons. Katy reminds: “It was great to be rewarded for what we love to do. It was amazing been doing what we always do, in a different context, and still be going down well, especially with the audience giving us back the energy that we were putting out there”.
This interview was published on Wave Magazine: http://www.wavemagazine.net/arhiva/63/ent/the-ratty-little-fingers.htm