I first met the members of Reptar on May 11, 2012, shortly after the release of their debut full-length album, Body Faucet. I interviewed the group after a show in Milwaukee, which had them opening for Grouplove, and almost exactly two years (to the date) later, I had the opportunity to meet up with the guys again, this time opening up for the uber-influential group The Faint in Chicago.
Upon my arrival, I texted the group’s bassist, Ryan Engelberger, and I was promptly met on the main level of the venue… with a hug. Ryan and I spent a fair amount of time catching up, before any “tapes” were “rolling.”
Reptar are preparing their sophomore LP Lurid Glow, for release on March 31. The group began writing and recording the album almost immediately after the release of Body Faucet.
Body Faucet was Reptar’s coming out party, the music held within the album fully embodied the growth of the group as musicians, coming from their first EP Oblangle Fizz Y’all. The sounds were more confident and full, the songs deeper and richer.
The album was released via a major label, Vagrant, who signed the group to a one record deal.
“When it all was happening, we had no idea how it worked and what we were getting ourselves into,” lead singer Graham Ulciny says of the experience.
“We expected it to be a little bit more of a relaxed thing and didn’t take into account what a big label Vagrant is and how it was a much bigger thing. At the time we were just saying ‘Oh yeah, we’re gonna record an album and put it out and go on tour, this is fucking awesome!’ [but] the business aspects of it and how that works, it wasn’t a small family-style thing we were stupidly thinking it was going to be.
“We weren’t expecting the ‘hey man, how’s it going’ phone calls all the time. Not to diss them at all we just had no idea what it would entail.”
The group has little regrets or bad blood from their Vagrant experience, one that may have left many other groups jaded or deflated. Their drummer Andrew McFarland goes on:
“We were really under the impression that they just really liked the band, but really they liked the opportunity that the band gave them to make them money. And when it became apparent that that was probably not going to happen – which was something I think we were extremely clear about from the get go – they pretty much immediately gave up. I’m not going to say that I’m upset with them.”
“We kind of set ourselves up for that by signing as short of a deal as possible,“ Graham continues, “but I think we all tried to educate ourselves as much as we could going in to making that decision. But I could’ve talked to as many people as possible and read as many things as possible, and there’s no way really I would’ve had a good perspective of what it’s like going through a full process of putting out an album on a bigger record label, until it actually happened.”
“It feels like we’ve come full circle”
So now, Reptar is ready for a new album. An album two years in the making, painstakingly perfected to fit a product that the group would be overjoyed to put out, on their own terms. At the time of our interview, the album was still waiting to see the light of day, and still pending help with distribution; looking for someone to back them, the way that they wanted to do it.
Engelberger says, “We pretty much have a completed record to give someone, there’s no ‘sign us to record [an album].’
“A: we have a much clearer vision to what kind of music we want to be making and B: we’ve already made that music. It’s a lot easier for someone to listen to the album we’re talking about doing something with, which is really cool.
“In a lot of ways, it feels like we’ve come full circle. We’re making music on our own without as many outside influences and we’re looking at putting it out on our own again. A lot of the stuff that we were thinking of how being in a band would be at the beginning, it’s a lot more of just us doing stuff on our own and figuring out what happens; putting a song up on Facebook and seeing what people think of it.”
“That was something we were just very conscious of doing after Body Faucet,” McFarland expands, “We went in to the studio and we had one month to record [Body Faucet] and fully mix the entire record, and that was not a usual amount of time. I think with this, and we were doing it on our own, we felt way more comfortable experimenting with a lot of stuff in the studio.”
On February 4, 2015, it was announced that Lurid Glow would in fact, see that light of day it so rightfully deserved, scheduled for release on March 31, via Joyful Noise. I was able to reach out to Ryan Engelberger recently, in anticipation for Lurid Glow.
“We would do a week or two at a time [in studio],” he said via e-mail. “[We’d] then play shows and work our day jobs to build up enough money to go into the studio again. We really enjoyed having the time between sessions to reflect a little. I think that helped us focus in a little more and know what we we were doing that was really working for us and what wasn’t.”
For Lurid Glow, the group worked with Andy LeMaster, an Athens-based musician and audio engineer, who’s been an active producer with Saddle Creek since the mid-90s.
“Actually being in the studio this time around was a little different since there weren’t quite as many people – it was just us and Andy. We all get along so so well with Andy [LeMaster], he’s the best, sweetest person ever. There ended up being a very natural, balanced flow of ideas from everyone who was in the studio at the time since no one was really designated as the guy in charge of the session.”
The new album has a fresh, more free sound to it, likely due to the lack of outside influence from a label from the get-go.
“I think we’ve gotten really lucky this time around”
It’s clear that Reptar has experienced some challenges throughout the processes that has led them to Lurid Glow. The band’s members not only show resiliency, but it has proven obvious that they’ve been able to maintain an incredibly positive attitude.
“Honestly it hasn’t felt that difficult, it feels way more comfortable now; we feel way more in control of our situation. It was obviously frustrating to see reviews about the last album and feel like the writer was trying to figure out the band’s ‘coolness’ and trying to figure out what their social scene would be like. That frustration faded pretty much as soon as we started working on this album, though. I think we’ve gotten really lucky this time around. We’re working with a whole different crew of folks and it feels much more like we’re in the know about how and why stuff is happening.”
To be honest, it’s hard not to root for Reptar. I’ve never seen them and felt like they weren’t giving it their all, and they seem to truly care about their music and the people it reaches. The guys will head out on tour almost immediately as I post this, and of course, they’re excited to get the new material to a live audience.
“We’ve been playing a lot of these songs for a while now, since we’ve been working on the album for so long. I’m really excited for people to have a chance to listen to the songs before hand if they want, and maybe feel a little less like we’re being super indulgent by playing all these mystery new songs. Also, I always enjoy the different ways we rearrange songs live, I think it’s exciting to see a band playing newer songs but still changing parts of the arrangements to keep them fresh and exciting, so hopefully people at the shows feel that way too.”