Doug Ratner & The Watchmen Kickstart Concept EP
By DAVE MADELONI
NORTHAMPTON — Doug Ratner & The Watchmen play what they call “down & dirty rock n’ roll,” which make them a bit of an anomaly in the Pioneer Valley’s music scene. At the recent Valley Rising Compilation CD release party hosted by The Iron Horse, eleven regional acts graced the stage. Only one truly rocked.
With no hint of hipster irony, the band stalked the stage proudly wearing ripped Skynyrd and Zeppelin t-shirts. They grimaced during their guitar solos. Then at set’s end, Ratner made some of the more fainthearted squirm in their seats when he placed his electric guitar at his crotch, pointed it out at the audience, and started humping away.
The old-school arena rock and gyrations of Ratner and his cronies in a coffeehouse filled with folksters, indie pop fans and jam-banders was at turns funny, intense, and outlandish. And even though it felt out-of-place, the band was on familiar turf — they’ve sold out the Horse four times.
Ratner and his Watchmen — guitarist Mark Adamski, Austin Seabury on bass, and drummer Jimmy Farquhar seem to relish their outsider status. “We often feel a little rebellious and like outcasts” explained Ratner in a recent email exchange. “We love that feeling, because rock n’ roll is about exposing the truths and the unique differences that can exist in a society. But all in all, it’s very cool to live here knowing that so many different types of music exist all at once.”
Ratner aspires to be seen as a serious rocker, much like his inspirations, Neil Young, Eddie Vedder, and Bruce Springsteen. He and his Watchmen are looking to find that difficult balance between nasty-loud merrymakers and thoughtful tunesmiths. To that end, they are working on a yet-to-be-titled EP that looks to loudly explore some societal ills, such as bullying, suicide, terrorism, constricted gender roles and greed.
At a local coffee shop, I asked the Longmeadow-based front man how the new project came about. “It’s funny, but it wasn’t a planned thing, like, ‘Hey we’re gonna make a concept EP!’ It just sort of happened. As we were looking over the songs we wanted to put on there, every one has a character on it that represents something in society.”
Ratner went on to discuss the socially conscious tunes targeted for the EP. “The most popular song thus far that we have been playing live and always goes over well is a song called “Bomb in the Back Seat.” At its most basic level, it is about a kid gone wrong. A kid who feels that the world has turned against him. Nobody gets him. As a result he has learned to build a bomb from an app on his iPhone and he is going to blow everybody up.
“Ghost in the Mirror” takes part of its inspiration from Pete Townshend’s “Tommy”, and serves as a prequel of sorts to “Bomb in the Back Seat.” Ratner explained, “This young kid wakes up everyday and looks in the mirror and he is not seeing what he wants to see. He is trying to find a way to look cool. Kids are picking on him. He comes home, his mom is not there, no one is home.”
I asked Ratner if the character was based on someone in his life. “I do meet young kids who I see sitting in their houses, playing video games, who are pessimistic, who are out of touch with reality. I don’t know what part of me feels the need to take that inspiration and turn it into a song which might offend some people.”
Ratner was quick to assure that there is some light at the end of the EP’s dark tunnel “Not all the songs are depressing. A song called “Do You Remember” is about a young girl growing up, trying to find exactly what her skills are. The song is essentially about her relationship with her mom. As the story progresses you see that she is using what mom told her, persevering and becoming a woman.”
According to Ratner, the composition is meant as a counterpoint to the limited role models young girls are exposed to in our culture. “I was talking with a friend and we were discussing Jersey Shore and how sickening those females are as role models for young girls. And I thought to write a song about someone who moves beyond all that, who does not take heed to all that B.S. and finds her own way.”
The record will also includes a surprising Pink Floyd tune. “We are covering “Money,” but it is not like the original. It is fast and it is heavy and it is hard. It speaks to what is going on, the greed of Bernie Madoff and Wall Street. Young kids who have never heard this song will dig it.”
The band is calling upon its fans to support the EP though Kickstarter.
In keeping with the band’s sense of the absurd, one of the incentives involves having Ratner come to your home and cook a meal as well do the dishes. And in keeping with their focus on social issues, for a $1500 contribution, the entire band will take on the neighborhood bully.
— Dave Madeloni
© 2012 Northampton Media