For fans of The Rakers, it felt like the Baton Rouge, LA five piece had been putting together The Morality of Heart Transplants for an age. It was an age. But as these things work out, there is anxiously waiting fan time and there is composed studio-borne band time, just getting things right. And wow! The Morality of Heart Transplants is sonically quite a shift in gears for the Rakers. Ghostly rockers and psychedelic Rain Parade freakouts abound. And way more besides. The Rakers', Lance Porter, Alex V Cook and Lewis Roussel talk all about it.
BUNCH OF CANS
Lance Porter: True story about athlete worship, peaking in high school and the dumb shit people say at funerals. I changed a few key details to protect the not-so innocent. An early, punkier version of this song appeared on our first EP back in 2013.
Alex V. Cook: I love when we go thermonuclear during the instrumental portion of the tune. I could play that organ riff all day.
Alex V. Cook: I got stuck on the bridge crossing the Atchafalaya Swamp long enough to listen to a whole Neil Young concert, After the Gold Rush era. Once I got to the bridge over the Mississippi, traffic stalled and I looked up and saw Orion’s Belt. So I went “silver spaceships” with it and wrote the whole tune while in a stalled traffic trance. It made me think about growing up, transition into an adult and being now part of that terrifying world and how you and the truck next to you and the barges beneath that are all pawns in some good/evil battle of commerce, politics and nature. Margaret Fowler made me cry when I heard the angelic backup vocals in the mix.
Lance Porter: She did kill those vocals. The lead guitar line for that song really came from somewhere in outer space. It’s different than anything I’ve ever done. I wanted to play what happens when a star flickers out. I love that line in the song.
Alex V. Cook: When we first started working on the song, NASA hwas reporting that one of the actual stars in Orion’s Belt was flickering out, but they eventually realized it wasn’t. This album took so long that the star rebooted.
Lance Porter: We don’t write a lot of love songs, but my wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary during the pandemic, and it made me think about all of shit she put up with over the years. I’m not remotely the same person she married, and she has never complained about that. I’m a lucky man. My wife…not so lucky. Cue the slide guitar and sad trombone!
Alex V. Cook: We met trombonist Dave Noe at a gig while he was visiting Louisiana on vacation. He said he had his trombone in the car and it was his birthday, so we hauled him up to the stage. Nicest guy!
Lance Porter: This is just the sweetest song, and it’s the first song we have recorded by our bass player, Lewis Roussel. Lew is an incredible musician, and we are starting to figure out how great of a lyricist he is here. I love his vocal take, which was supposed to be scratch. It was so perfect and honest that we kept it.
Alex V. Cook: A lot of things on this record came from scratch takes. I took a stab at the pedal steel part at the beginning and that made it to the final. I have never played it that well since.
Lewis G Roussel: I only recently began writing songs. I immediately encountered challenges that caused me to explore why. This song was a result of that exploration. It was also my first attempt at singing while playing bass. Oof, that is hard! I'm grateful my bandmates carried me through this.
GET ME OFF THE BOAT
Alex V. Cook: This was also written on a bridge, weirdly. I’d just staggered out of the Green Lady Lounge, an excellent jazz club in Kansas City, onto a bridge overlooking the ocean of trainyards and out came this pirate ballad about overcoming self-pity. We decided at one point that we wanted a foghorn sound at the end and Leon said, “ I have a foghorn!” Because, of course he does.
Lance Porter: It’s funny that we had a saxophone player in the band when you brought this one to us, so it’s gone through a lot of changes over the years. It came together in a few takes with a new lineup literally a few days before we recorded it for the record. I love it when that happens. My guitar lines had some happy accidents in there.
NEXT RIGHT THING
Lance Porter: I did not write this one on a bridge. I wrote it on my couch after an argument with my wife. When you are stuck in lockdown with one person, sometimes you ask more than they can give. This song is about those feelings of desperation and obsession when all you have are each other. And it’s about saying you are sorry a little too often, which I had to do as soon as I finished writing the song. I said “of course, it’s not about you. You don’t even drink whiskey.” I love what Rob Hudak did with the backing vocal. He took it to Fables of the Reconstruction.
Lewis Roussel: There is nothing I do not love about this song. Playing this with our drummer, Sam Anselmo, feels like a Vulcan mind meld but much more pleasurable.
IRON JAW SAMSON
Alex V. Cook: This all happened to our bass player Lewis when he worked at a French Quarter nightclub called Your Father’s Mustache in the 70s. Iron Jaw Samson is a real person who went around eating lightbulbs and cans at clubs. There’s YouTube footage if you don't believe me.
Lance Porter: We recorded one of those weird pandemic music videos for this one where every person in the band has their own video square, and you put that Youtube footage in one of the squares. I remember that Facebook banned it because Iron Jaw was wearing a vest with no shirt underneath while eating a lightbulb, and Facebook’s algorithm thought it was porn.
Lewis Roussel: I recounted this story to the band one evening at practice. Alex brought that story to life in technicolor and I love him for that. And Leon's harp work brings it home.
I THINK YOU'RE WRONG
Lance Porter: This song is about climate change. Or relationships. Or vaccines. Okay, it’s about all of those things. People tend to view any argument through their own filters. It’s not about the facts or scientific evidence. It’s about your tribe and what they believe. And also, usually they’re wrong.
Lewis Roussel: LP is not wrong about this.
PUMP N PLAY
Alex V. Cook: Lance came up with the idea, the melody and the best part - the litany of things this guy is gonna buy with his gas station casino winnings. I just wrote the sad details of his brief moment in the sub.
Lance Porter: We have lots of gas stations with casinos attached here in Louisiana. I started thinking about what kind of characters hang out there, and Alex took it from there with this Greek tragedy of someone gambling their paycheck away while their truck is still parked at the gas pump. This is really the only song we’ve ever written together. Maybe we should do that more often.