Musical Endeavors Outside The Conservatory: Rat Park

These days it seems like it takes a lot for a band to set themselves apart from others in their genre. Thus, it is fairly normal to see new groups fuse genres constantly, which can only bunch bands together even more. Some bands can still stand out with their eclectic sound in the way they approach music, interact with each other and the audience, and allow their influences and personal experiences to shape their sound. After talking with Rat Park and hearing them play, I can say they do all these things very well.

Rat Park is a quartet of four close friends—sophomore Jack Kilkelly-Schmidt on guitar, sophomore Mason Krelitz on tenor sax, sophomore Christian Rasmussen on bass and sophomore Jake Victor on drums. The four met through large student-run jam sessions that occurred last year. After recognizing each other’s talents and similar music tastes, they started jamming on their own, hanging out and listening to music.

While not all of them are getting degrees in the Conservatory, they all study in it. They participate in ensembles, take classes and get lessons from the jazz faculty. This certainly comes out in their playing, as it is their intention to bring techniques and ideas atypical for rock groups into their sound. By using elements such as odd time signatures, complex changes and jazz-group-like interaction, Rat Park strives to make the interesting music they learn about in the Conservatory accessible to the average listener.

As for the seemingly ever-present dichotomy of the college and the Conservatory, the quartet does not really pay much attention to it. When they are playing, they do not differentiate what they are doing in the Conservatory and what they are doing outside of it. “I see Rat Park as this canvas for all of the things that are going on in our musical and outside lives,” Krelitz shared and was agreed with by the rest of the band.

In addition to blending their two lives at Lawrence together, they also attempt to bridge the gap between the college and Conservatory, or “make a bigger center part of the Venn diagram,” as Rasmussen put it. With their eclectic fusion of countless influences, Rat Park aims for creating a bigger community based around music and appealing to anyone and everyone.

When asked how they want to be viewed as a band, Victor answered simply, “We want to be relatable, interesting and make people dance.” Having only attended a couple of their shows and listening to a recording of one, it is apparent that they are already seen in this light. As someone who is studying a little music myself, there are definitely many moments in their shows that leave me stunned. Even those who might not fully understand the musicality taking place have a grand time, cheering and dancing all through the performance.

While their musicality and energy are more than enough to play an entertaining concert, Rat Park also puts a heavy emphasis on audience interaction and relation. With their strange sense of humor, general goofiness and encouragement to sing and dance along with them, the band gets everyone in the audience comfortable and having a good time.

Part of the reason Rat Park is so relatable is because of the tight bonds they share as friends and musicians. To them, the band is more than just a way to share music; it is a support system and way to express what they are going through—as a group or individuals—with music they all enjoy. The music they create becomes even more engaging and enjoyable when you know the members and the intent behind their tunes. So get to know the guys of Rat Park and groove to their music. I guarantee you will not get to the end without dancing and leaving with a smile on your face.

To stay on top of Rat Park news and hear recordings, you can follow them at SoundCloud. Rat Park will be playing Saturday, Jan. 30.