The first time I saw Ratatat live, the energy of the music prompted me and my college friends to sing through most of the experience—not an unusual reaction for a concertgoer, except when you take into account that Ratatat’s songs have no lyrics. A combination of rhythmic force and the lyrical personality of the central riff made us feel encompassed by a rock or hip-hop ballad—soon the entire room was shaking along to the beat.
The duo, made up of multi-instrumentalist Evan Mast and guitarist Mike Stroud (who’s also played with Dashboard Confessional and Ben Kweller), carves songs out of electronica, hip-hop, and heavy-metal grains, though what sets them apart is their ability to provide clear shape and definition to their instrumental melodies. With their LP4 album, relased in June, they dish out more of these imaginative-yet-controlled tracks—”Party With Children” and “Drugs” being the most climactic. I recently emailed Stroud to ask about his favorite music, guilty pleasures, and fantasy venues.
Mother Jones: What’s the latest song, good or bad, that super-glued itself in
Mike Stroud: “In Dreams,” by Roy Orbison (good)
“I Don’t Want the World to See Me,” by the Goo Goo Dolls (amazing)
MJ: Shuffle your iPod and name the first five songs that pop
MS: 1. Metallica, “No Remorse”
2. Led Zeppelin, “You Shook Me”
3. Electric Light Orchestra, “Do Ya”
4. Sam Cooke, “Having a Party”
5. Lou Reed, “Perfect Day”
MJ: Three records you never get sick of listening to?
MS: The Kinks, Arthur
Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx
Slayer, Reign in Blood
MJ: Name a guilty pleasure—something you like to listen to but don’t like
to admit it.
MS: “Angel” by Aerosmith; “Whatcha Say” by Jason Derulo
MJ: Favorite holiday song or album?
MS: Phil Spector’s Christmas Album
MJ: Ratatat was the first group to play a live show inside the Guggenheim. What’s another dream location for you?
MS: The Condom Museum in Amsterdam
MJ: Of all the instruments you play, which one comes to you most naturally?