While Racebannon has ostensibly established itself as a noise metal band, it's never been an entirely comfortable fit.
That ambiguity will only deepen with the release of the Bloomington-by-way-of-Indianapolis band's latest project, Wrap the Body. It's a DJ-styled 12-inch replete with samples, programmed beats and guest spots from rappers including Bloomington's Stak and Chicago's Kid Static.
Guitarist James Bauman says the band already has plans for another album, one that more closely adheres to the typical Racebannon sound. But in the meantime, they finally gave to Karl Hofstetter's open invitation to release something on his label, Joyful Noise Recordings.
"He pretty much said he'd do anything we wanted to do," Bauman said. "We had always floated the idea of doing a DJ 12-inch."
The single isn't as much of a departure as it may seem. Racebannon's singer, Michael Anderson, who hails from the Mike Patton school of demented vocal arrangement, is also a DJ. And the band had assembled some remixes in the past they thought they'd release over time. But for Wrap the Body, they decided to start with an entirely new track.
"We have a lot of friends who perform hip-hop and a lot of DJ friends," Bauman said. "We thought we'll do a whole new song, record that and have friends do some remixes."
It began to take shape after bassist Chris Saligoe devised an old-school 808 beat. They built it up and took it apart at Bauman's home practice space before heading to Russian Recording in Bloomington. Anderson turns in a typically aggressive performance on the track, even when rapping. We Are Hex's Jilly Weiss matches him red eye for red eye in the possessed vocal department. Guest rappers contribute their own verses, and the 12-inch, limited to a one-time pressing of 500 copies, includes instrumental and a capella versions.
Bauman agreed this could be Racebannon's "Bring the Noise."
"We are more of a metal band, so putting out a record like this – which is more beat-oriented and has people rapping on it – I guess is kind of like that," he said. "But instead of being known as a hip-hop record, we want it to be a dance 12-inch."
Playing it live could be its own ordeal. The tiny stage at the Melody Inn, where Racebannon have their official record release show June 25, can be enough of a straightjacket for the notoriously animated live band when it's just the four of them. Throw in a couple guest singers and a new PA system to handle their booming new beats, and Bauman said, "It's going to be a pretty crowded stage, but hopefully we'll be OK. We'll see how it goes with the setup."
Bauman thinks the song offers a nice contrast to their bruising style.
"We like to do things that are a little different," he said. "We appeal to the metal crowd, but we don't only want to appeal (to them). We like to turn on other fans as well. I know a lot of metal fans will be turned off by this record. But we don't really care. We've been going for so long, there's no reason not to do other styles we're interested in."
Bauman says Six Sick Sisters, their next record that should be out in late August on Tizona Records, is "the most accessible Racebannon record we've ever done," as well as the fastest and heaviest. Kurt Ballou of Converge served as producer.
"When we were writing the record, we knew we were going to record it with Kurt," Bauman said. "I've always been a big fan of how he records drums and guitar. We wanted to make it really big-sounding and epic. It's sort of along the lines of maybe like Slayer, which we've always had, but now more than ever."
Nor have Racebannon lost any edge to their on-stage psychosis.
"We're in the best shape of our lives," Bauman said. "We put on a really energetic show. We've never slowed down with that. We've always been known as a band that has a lot of energy. I think every time we go out and play, it's even more energetic. People are kind of surprised that we haven't slowed down."Streaming audio and purchase options for "Wrap the Body" at Joyful Noise Recordings.