By: Lindsy Carrasquillo
Some artists are able to create an immersive experience that tie the listener in with not only their soundscape but their ability to tell stories that are both personal and relatable. That’s the case with the Chicago based indie-rock duo Ratboys and we were able to talk to singer and guitarist Julia Steiner about their tour, new EP and much more.
In February, the band released their EP “GL” which is the follow up to their 2017 album, “GN”, on Topshelf Records. “The reaction has been pretty good so far, we kind of just put it out on the internet so there wasn’t any build up for that,” she said. A band that first drew Steiner’s interest to the label was the band Donovan Wolfington who released their 2015 record, How to Treat the Ones You Love, through Topshelf. “When they reached out to us [in 2015], we were really excited,” “Topshelf has the reputation of being an emo label and honestly, their catalog is pretty diverse and they don’t care about trends. They just do what they want. It’s been fun.”
Each song on the release is a little different and they were written around the same time as “GN”. The release’s title track explores dealing with someone negative who is incapable of being compassionate while the closing track, “After School”, is full of folky guitars and calm introspection. Within her writing, Julia likes to write about the experiences of others. “I feel like I’ve always been drawn into putting myself in someone else’s shoes when I write,” she said. “Like conceptualize how people react to something and putting myself in their place. It’s a good way of getting myself out of my own head and it keeps me on my toes.”
Since the beginning of March, Ratboys have been on tour with the Boston based indie rock band Vundabar. As a lot of have been coming out to the shows, it’s been really fun for them. “Vundabar’s crowd is a little bit younger and a lot of the shows have been all ages so it’s been fun to reminisce about our own experiences with going to shows when we were in high school,” she said. “It’s fun to see kids have that experience and having them enjoy our music in any way. It’s amazing to be a part of that.”
Julia’s involvement in music began in her early teens when she started playing guitar by herself and later started writing songs on her own. Growing up in Kentucky, there wasn’t a huge DIY scene in her community but she often found herself going to shows in high school at a venue called Headliners that would put on all ages shows.
The band formed in 2009 after Julia moved to Chicago and met guitarist David Sagan in college. “We started playing music together and had a foil for the first time,” she said. “I had someone to really bounce ideas off of and kind of connect with in that way.” After moving there, she got involved in the DIY scene and describes it as awesome. “Through Dave, I kind of entered into that and when I moved to Chicago, there was so much going on and it’s almost overwhelming,” she said. “It’s a really diverse scene and community. It’s cool to be a part of.” Within her local scene, one of her favorite artists is Nnamdi Ogbonnaya. “He’s top of the list for me,” she said. “Nnamdi had a house show venue back in the day and would host touring bands. Also, his band, The Para-medics is awesome.” Her other favorite artist include the bands Swell Mass and What Gives.
While the band has been on the road, they’ve been listening to the Harry Potter series audiobook but they’ve been listening to a variety of bands including Hovvdy. “They’re old friends of ours and we’re so psyched that they’re putting out a new record. They’re a soundtrack to our driving so often.” Another band they’ve been listening to is Soccer Mommy and Julia describes the band’s new record, “Clean”, as “piercing”. In terms of writing, one of her current inspirations is Half Waif as singer Nandi Rose Plunkett often writes about her own moods. “I tend to shy away from that and it’s inspiring to hear her be so brave about it,” she said. “She has a real focus on writing about her family and I do that too. There’s balance on how much privacy you should maintain.”
After the band wraps up their tour with Vundabar, they’ll be headed to the UK & Europe with the band Wild Pink throughout May. “We’re psyched for the shows we’re playing in the UK,” she said. “We have some friends in Italy in the band Dags and anytime we get to play with them or see them, it’s really fun.”
You can see their full list of tour dates below and listen to their music here.