Introducing: Rapids

By Clara Cullen


Chicago has always had a killer music scene: the windy city has been a vital source of inspiration for countless bands. If an example was ever needed to elucidate the point, one can be found in the early 2000s, when a scrappy punk band were gaining a riotous local following. The band, Fall Out Boy, would go on to be a world conquering rock phenomenon. Yet with Fall Out Boy casting a stubborn shadow on their hometown’s music scene, one could almost be forgiven for thinking nothing much has happened since. Such a view would be wrong, foolish and shortsighted. In the past few years alone the Chicago punk scene has been an active volcano of musical talent.

From underground upstarts in the form of Dowsing and Two Houses, to genuine mainstream mutterings with Alkaline Trio, Rise Against and Into It. Over It., Chicago is undergoing an incredible musical resurgence. One such band that has the potential to cross over from the DIY scene and start causing a real fuss on the mainstream rock charts is Rapids. Melodic, intelligent and relatable, their latest EP ‘Traction’ is one of the best punk releases of the year. Instantly likeable, Rapids have an intensity and drive that could see them really cause havoc. Confronting Chicago’s daunting musical reputation and running with it, Rapids are ready to step up to mantle and lead the pack. I caught up with lead vocalist Mike Petruccelli and guitarist John Perrin to have a little natter.

You’ve recently released an EP called ‘Traction’. It’s great lyrically, very personal but also relatable. Did the song writing for the EP come easily or was it a struggle?

Mike: I have been a solo songwriter primarily over the years. This EP was difficult to write because not only was it our first batch of songs, but I was also having trouble on what topics to focus on for our band. When I thought about how to approach the writing stylistically it was extremely stressful. Finding meaning in my life experiences is never the easiest thing for me. For a while I considered writing outside of my personal perspective but it wasn’t working. I also don’t like writing songs that feel dishonest or embellished. In the end, I just wrote what seemed correct for each song and it turned out well. Essentially, If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

The lyrics have obviously been shaped by your own experiences; do you find song writing to be a process of catharsis and a way of understanding the world around you or something completely different?

Mike: It’s catharsis through and through. I write from a personal perspective to put negative thoughts and worries to rest, or at least just try to understand them better. Every new song is a chance to harbour a better viewpoint on my life and every idea is a new way for me to be creative. It’s very rewarding and one of my favourite things is the five minutes after completing a song.

You’ve all been in previous bands before Rapids. How did you guys come together to form the band?

Johnny: It’s a long story on my end. I’d seen Mike open with Dead End Days for Kellenberger’s band Lord In Elgin a few years ago. Mine and Rob N’s band had just come to an overly dramatic halt a few days earlier and I felt sort of distraught with putting something else back together. I was really impressed by Mike’s stage presence and writing – so much so that as I was watching the set, I made a mental note that I needed to start something with him, or at least try. We had a few mutual friends which helped, too – specifically Dan Wallach from Artistic Integrity Records who put us in touch. After a while, Mike’s bass player ended up quitting and he asked Rob N to join Dead End Days – soon after, I weaseled my way into lead guitar. A few months later, me and Kellenberger were hanging out at Lord’s practice space and I played him Dead End Day’s album ‘Longest Day Of My Life’ and he really dug it. After Dead End Days broke up, we decided to start a new band together. He joined and we have been playing ever since.

The band is from Chicago and the music scene in Chicago is really vibrant at the moment. How has being a part of this environment influenced Rapids and what do you guys make of the rise of the Chicago music scene?

Mike: Just playing shows with some of our favourite bands in the area is really what influences us. Rob and Rob live far away from the city, Johnny and I have multiple bands and schedules. Thus, seeing every single show we want to see is difficult for us, so we try to play shows with local bands that we hear about through friends and whatnot. As for the scene itself, there’s always something interesting happening in Chicago on any given night. Lately, it feels like a great batch of bands have come out and started doing positive things over the past couple years. It’s refreshing to see and we hope to be a part of that. 

There are influences from pop-punk and emo that can be heard on ‘Traction’. Were there any records or bands you were listening to while recording the record that really had an impact on you?

Johnny: For me, I was listening to a lot of Superchunk at the time. There are a few bands that have always heavily influenced me with writing parts, too. Bands like The Weakerthans, Smoking Popes, The Promise Ring. We all like Pedro The Lion a lot, too.

Mike: Glocca Morra’s ‘Just Married’ and The Exquisites S/T both really had some effect on me the past two years with writing and guitar work, especially when we started writing songs last summer. We all like very similar music in the band, but we are all open to new ideas and interpretations with writing. I think that’s more important than any influences in the long run, personally. Though, Johnny isn’t kidding about Superchunk and Pedro the Lion, we love both bands to sort of an unhealthy extent, as well as Jawbreaker.


How did you guys form the songs: was it a collective process of experimentation or did you all write your own individual parts and then bring them together?

Johnny: There were a few methods in my case. A good portion of ‘RDWRR’ and ‘Voyage’ were written while I was away on tour, so my parts came later – I had come up with the slow guitar section riff near the end of the song, and the fast part got slapped on when I got back home. Everything else was more collaborative, except the end solo for ‘Someone’. I wrote the outline of that the night before I tracked it.

Mike: A lot of the songs stem from little ideas we have here and there. While Johnny was away on tour I brought in a good portion of the rhythm guitar riffs and it was basically a vote up or vote down process from the rest of the band. When it comes to forming the songs, it has been a collaborative band effort for the most part. Experimentation finds a way through the structuring all of the time, all of us are impulsive and very communicative with what we see so it’s not unusual to start at one point for a song idea and then end up in a very different place.

You released ‘Traction’ via bandcamp on a ‘name your price’ basis. Why did you make this choice and how has the experience been so far?

Mike: We’re a new band, so our main goal is to get out music to as many people as possible and donation pricing gives us a chance to recoup recording costs but also provides a way for people to access our music for free. I also have some releases on Death to False Hope and I’ve come to find it more exciting to just give the music away for whatever people want.

Finally, what’s next for Rapids? Is there a full length album on the horizon?

Johnny: More burritos, more songs.


Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]