Sons Of Raphael: Comfortably Out Of Time
Talking with Loral and Ronnel Raphael, brothers and bandmates in UK based postmodern futurist rock band Sons Of Raphael, is a joyful chaos. As Ronnel says, when we reach him via Zoom from his home in London, that he and his brother, “Never do interviews alone. In fact, we don’t really do a lot alone. We are very good brothers.” This is something that becomes very apparent over the course of our conversation. The Raphael brothers are rarely away from each other’s sides. Unlike other famous brother bandmates, like, say Noel and Liam Gallagher, the Sons Of Raphael speak of each other in only the highest of contexts and as Ronnel also puts it, “have the finest heads of hair in the music business.”
Throughout our chat trains of thought abruptly shift and barrel down new sets of tracks. “Oh, you’re in Vancouver, they had good ice cream. It was blue.” “Do you bet? It’s fun. It’s fun. It’s great. Especially when you’re in London and the NBA games are really late at night. You have to stay up until three in the morning to watch the games. It’s great.” They are both so wonderfully enthusiastic, charming and very thoughtful. Especially about their just released debut album Full-Throated Messianic Homage. While Sons Of Raphael may be new to most, it turns out the seeds of this collaboration were planted many years ago.
“It was seven years of famine,” Ronnel says with a wry laugh. “I was actually just writing a letter now to my religious studies teacher in school to tell her that exactly seven years ago, at a religious studies class, I saw the name of our future album. I was reading a commentary about the Gospel of Mark, and there was this term ‘Full-Throated Messianic Homage’. It was before my brother and I had even played a show together, or anything but I knew we’re gonna have a record together and knew that was what it was going to be named. It’s unusual to name a record before you even have a band but we did that.” Much of the way this pair works together would be considered somewhat unusual to most. The first time Loral and Ronnel ever performed together was at the boarding school they attended in Bristol. “Being an international school, it’s just a tradition that you go to church,” Ronnel says of the fateful performance. “I don’t think anyone really knows what it means, what the church even means but you still have to go to church for school assembly. So yeah, it was on a Saturday morning and we revived the word, heretic,” he says with a laugh. “It’s always very important for me to say that we did have the permission of the headmaster and the chaplain. There was no bullshit, we’re very direct. We didn’t say we’re going to perform this song where there’s going to be loud guitars and drum machines but we did say that this is a song about the Last Supper of Jesus. We absolutely, you know, we stand behind that there was nothing blasphemous or wrong with any of it. They knew essentially what they were getting themselves into, well maybe 20% of what they were getting into,” he chuckles again. “The rest of the school didn’t know. So that’s 800 kids and the teachers and the kids hated us. I think more than the teachers actually, which is kind of interesting. This generation the kids don’t get it. Sometimes their parents get it more than the actual kids do.”
It is an interesting observation that Ronnel has about how every generation reacts to art in different ways and it may explain why Sons Of Raphael, musically, exist outside of their peers. Their music isn’t retro but never feels contemporary and in some cases, it exists on a whole other dimensional plane. With these songs swimming in the Raphael’s heads for so many years before they were even written down, it made a certain amount of sense that Loral and Ronnel would be the ones to produce the affair. “We met lots of producers, lots of great, great, great record producers, both here and in the states, but we decided that after spending so many years just writing it and having this vision in our head, no one else can really do it like we can. We have to just do it. We knew every little detail about it. By the time we were ready to start recording, when we went over to Los Angeles, we had this big folder with every single part in every single song. So you see, you think about it every day, there’s like not one day when the song doesn’t play in your head and you’ve completely envisioned what it’s going to sound like and how it’s going to be recorded. We’re very lucky also because we’ve never actually recorded in a professional recording studio. We purchased a reel to reel tape recorder from a music teacher in school that retired and kind of experimented with that. That’s how the first demos were recorded but we’ve never really gone to a studio. So for this to be the first step and to have this as our first experience is quite remarkable.” Another remarkable thing the Sons Of Raphael experienced was to be able to work with Philipe Zdar, formerly of the band Cassius and who worked out of the famed Motorbass Studio in Paris.
Zdar was a well respected and in demand producer and mixer. Prior to Sons Of Raphael he had worked with artists like Kayne West and Phoenix, among many other greats. Zdar had actually just finished mixing Full-Throated Messianic Homage the day before his tragic and untimely passing. “You know, my brother said before with the album that it was seven years of famine leading up to its release,” says Loral about working with Zdar, “but it may have been the one time when the process was actually fun. It was so joyful working with Zdar in Paris. We went there with the initial plan of spending two, three weeks in Paris and we ended up spending two months in Paris. We had a great time just as friends. We weren’t actually working every day. A lot of days we were not working, which was a great change for us because we didn’t really know that making music can be a great fun thing to do,” he laughs. “Just talking with him about the album while he was mixing. He even said it himself, he was the only person that could have mixed such an album. I don’t think anyone else could have done that without having a nervous breakdown in the middle of it. Every song had like 300 parts. How the hell do you mix that? It’s crazy but, you know, it took him a few days just to figure out how to work it out technically and he did it. He shared the same vision as we did. Getting this wall of sound to be futuristic and not retro, to have a postmodern record as opposed to a vintage kind of renaissance. He really nailed that.”
Now with the record out in the world and new fans and listeners discovering the charm of Sons Of Raphael, it will hopefully be time soon enough for the brothers to take their Full-Throated Messianic Homage on the road to share with us all. Just remember to bring some blue ice cream and brush up on your NBA gambling knowledge for when they come to your town.
order Full-Throated Messianic Homage by Sons Of Raphael HERE
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