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When Sydney based all-female, garage-pop band Rackett take to the stage at this year’s Melbourne Guitar Show, you get the feeling that it’s going to be one of those ‘remember when’ moments! You know … you can imagine the pub discussions years from now that might go something like, “Remember when Rackett were a struggling indie band with no radio support and they nailed it at the guitar show and look at them now!” That’s the kind of vibe Rackett have already created in their short but eventful two year stint to date and if and when Rackett do crack the big time, it won’t be by accident. The girls have an unyielding urge to succeed, are prepared to do the hard yards and they certainly have the talent and study to back it up. Lead singer and rhythm guitarist Bec Callander fills us in on the band’s formal credentials. “Ali, our bass player is a contemporary and classical pianist and she also studied jazz at TAFE in Sydney. Astrid studied sound engineering and Kat also studied music, plus I studied songwriting with Berklee College by correspondence and have had classical and contemporary music vocal training. Ali and I have also been dancers all our lives and there is very much a theatrical element to what we do in Rackett.” Plus with significant support slots for artists such as Abbe May, The Bennies, Sticky Fingers, DZ Deathrays and having completed national touring with The Darkness (UK), Killing Heidi and Stonefield, the band have carefully crafted an adventurous live show that has been engaging music fans from one end of Australia to the other.

Ahead of their Melbourne Guitar Show appearance, Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips caught up with Bec Callander, Rackett’s founder, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist.

Hi Bec, tell us how Rackett came about. Have you all known each other for a while?
We did know each other. Kat, our lead guitarist played with me in my old band very briefly. She played with Astrid in a punk band for ten years prior to joining Racket,t so they kind of came as a package. In fact Astrid, our drummer is a sound engineer and she was our sound engineer when we did The Darkness tour. I had another drummer at the time (Lozz Benson), who went on to do a tour with the John Butler Trio, so I needed a fill in drummer. Astrid went from being our sound engineer to being our resident drummer. Ali and I met at a house party and we have been together the longest. So there have been a few different changes to the lineup along the way. We all have played with each other at some point and now we’re together in Rackett.

You’ve all had formal music training. How does that training come in handy these days with a band like Rackett?
Being on stage and providing an entertaining experience is all about engaging with people and to do that you have to be confident, and to do that you have to have experience. It doesn’t matter in what form you have been on stage, it is always an advantage to have some kind of stage experience which enables you to be confident. You know, making eye contact, being able to express emotions, and dramatise things, and being bale to get on stage and manage your nerves as well. We’ve all been in musical theatre before so that helps with projection and posture and stamina on stage.

What kind of bands got you through your school years? What were the big albums you listened to?
I was really into The Cranberries throughout high school, also into a lot of girl and boy bands… The Spice Girls. I listened to Five. I listened to Midnight Oil too, my father raised me with a lot of Australian pub rock. I grew up in a pub in an aboriginal community in Northern Queensland, so I always have had a taste for Australian pub rock because of that upbringing. I have definitely been effected by popular culture. I would know the words to most Britney Spears songs. Then as I have grown into my own independent choices, I have been listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac. I try to listen to as many different kinds of music as possible from hip hop to psych rock, to understand the musical terrain and see where Rackett might fit in.

Did you have any guitar heroes growing up? Who were the people who influenced you into picking up the guitar?
Well, actually I didn’t pick up the guitar until I started Rackett. I was a drummer in a band before I was a guitarist. When I picked up the guitar I was influenced by K-pop and some of the guitar playing girl bands from Japan. I didn’t identify with any Australian all girl rock bands. I loved the attitude of Suzi Quatro. I’d say probably The Runaways was the most inspiring girl guitar band because it was a lot about rhythm guitar. That’s what I do I the band and Kat takes on the more intricate guitar parts.

Tell me about the main guitar that you use?
I go between a Fernandes and a Eastwood Airline guitar. I have dabbled in some Japanese models as well. At the moment I am playing Kat’s old guitar which is a Fernandes, a really small body, lightweight guitar. The neck is nice and short and the frets are close to the board which is good for me.

Are you into effects pedals?
Yeah I have some pretty basic pedals. At home I use a Mesa Boogie amp and get all of the tones and sounds I want from that. If I am playing locally I wouldn’t bring any pedals apart from a tuner but on tour, I replace that with a Blues Driver, fuzz pedal, delay pedal, and for one particular song I use a whammy kind of effect

Has the band needed to upgrade gear or looking to add some new stuff soon?
In terms of our sonic development, we have created a system that we use at all shows using in-ear monitoring so we can self monitor our feedback and we take that to every show. In terms of gear, I am definitely looking for a new guitar. I don’t know what it is but I am looking for something even smaller and lighter. With the Melbourne Guitar Show, that’s a real opportunity for me to try and find another model. Even a Strat is too heavy for me, so I am on the lookout for something that is super lightweight, short neck and I think Ali will be looking for a new bass too.

What are you looking forward to most about the Melbourne Guitar Show?
Mostly learning really. Learning about what’s out there. I know the girls have their own priorities with the show but I spend a lot of time managing the band, being on the computer, answering emails, writing the music, scheduling, so I am looking forward to being in a space with real instruments and speaking to experts that actually know guitars way better than I would and being in a really hands-on environment.

Since Rackett began in 2016, the band’s songwriting skills seem to be developing more and more. Have you been approaching songwriting differently than when you first started writing?
Not really, I have been a songwriter for a long time. At the moment it is more about discovering the best processes for recording it. It’s about finding the right producer to capture what the girls do live and what I do as a songwriter. We’ve got some recordings that we want to do in the next couple of months. We’ve tried some different techniques to record mix and engineer songs ourselves with some success but we still haven’t settled on any one particular method yet.

How would you describe a Rackett stage show?
Memorable, empowering, inspiring and loud!

Who are some other bands that you admire for their stage energy?
We recently saw a band called Mammal and they absolutely shredded us apart. In terms of their presence and sonic delivery and theatrics, they are the best band we have seen on a local level. When we toured nationally with The Darkness, they definitely upped the game for us in what they can do in regard to vocal range and stamina and their engagement with the audience was really good. I have been following a band called The Struts and hopefully when they come out to Australia we can play with them. They’re really good.

What’s the biggest hurdle for band at moment? Do you all still have day jobs?
Rackett is my full time job. The rest of the band have other priorities. I have dedicated my life to Rackett. The hardest part is writing that song, finding that song at the right time. I have developed the band to that point where we are ready to take on stadium shows in terms of performance and the team feels right but without that radio hit and the support of radio rotation to reach the mass market, you are relying on word of mouth… which is great for us but it’s a slower process. It has more longevity but right now we are struggling on bills with bands that aren’t necessarily taking it as seriously but we haven’t had that radio success yet. So at the moment we are focussing on finding that song and finding a producer to help us create that song.

If money was no issue, what would a Rackett show look like?
Probably flying in from hoists in the sky, platforms for us all to be on, maybe some 3D animation, lights, costumes, a giant limbo going in the audience, free cake for everyone in the audience! We like to bring everyone together in community that promotes peace and love and compassion, so I think cake covers that!

Rackett perform at 3.45pm on Saturday August 4th at the AON Whammy Bar.
Melbourne Guitar Show
Caulfield Racecourse

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