Rare Americans 2023As the world grapples with a never-ending barrage of challenges, it is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed and disheartened. But for James Priestner, the lead singer of Rare Americans, staying positive in the face of adversity is crucial.

“Our positivity comes from trying to give the message to myself in times where I can beat myself up a lot. You just got to remember, hey, things could be a lot worse here. Try to keep a positive outlook,” says James.

 

And it is this message of resilience and perseverance that Rare Americans seek to convey through their music.

The Canadian band has made waves since their inception in 2017, and their recent nomination for the 2023 Juno Awards Breakthrough Artist of the Year award is a testament to their growing popularity. Currently on their Milk and Honey Tour of Canada and Europe, the band is captivating audiences with their infectious sound and electrifying performances. But their music is more than just a source of entertainment. It is a powerful tool for inspiring hope and positivity in a world that often seems bleak.

Rare Americans has a unique approach to songwriting, which involves a blend of acoustic guitar, brotherly chemistry, and a lot of hard work.

“Songs will just start right on an acoustic guitar. My older brother Jared, who’s 11 years older than me, we actually write a lot together, and that’s how Rare Americans started. It was on this impromptu trip, a brothers’ trip that we took to the Caribbean in 2017, and at that point, he’d never even written a song. He was a businessman, and I didn’t know what we were going to do on this trip. It was like a reconnecting trip, and I was playing in bands at the time. I joked to him, ‘Ah, maybe we’ll drink a beer too and we’ll try to write a song,’ and he’s a very ambitious guy, and he said, ‘Write a song? Screw that, man. Let’s make an album. ‘ And I was like, ‘Ah, it doesn’t work like that. We’re not going to write an album,’ and sure enough, I underestimated our chemistry, and we were there, I think, for a week, and we wrote the first 15 Rare Americans songs,” James recalls.

Their songs often tackle difficult subjects, but with a twist. Take their hit song “Rambo,” for instance, which deals with the issue of police brutality and corruption.

“Rambo is essentially a song about a total racist and corrupt cop. That’s one of those conversations with the whole Black Lives Matter movement. It’s like, yeah, of course, we’re so for this cause, of course, but is it our song to sing, so to speak? That was one of those questions that we had. Ultimately, we decided, yes, because we think just being a part of the conversation is important.”

“That song,” he continues. “Was actually written from the perspective of this corrupt cop’s dog, whose name is Rambo. And Rambo has had to watch his master and the cop, do all these terribly corrupt things and finally, the dog just says enough is enough, I can’t handle this anymore. And he turns on him and ends up attacking him.

So that was just a little twist on the story and it’s even silly at the end of the day, but also it was a very deep topic. So that’s a good example of us.”

Their unique blend of rock, hip-hop, and pop has garnered them a dedicated fanbase, but it’s their use of animation in their music videos that has set them apart from other artists in the industry.

“When we first saw the ‘Cats, Dogs & Rats’ video, we really liked the animation style and tracked down the director who did our first video, ‘Cats, Dogs & Rats,’” he said. “We had no idea what to expect, but once we put it out, we were getting hundreds and hundreds of comments from people who loved the animation. We followed that up with a few live-action videos, but the response wasn’t quite as intense. So, we decided to commit to the animation lane.”

Their decision paid off when they released their video for “Brittle Bones Nicky,” which went viral and has amassed nearly 100 million views. “That was the moment that changed everything,” James said.

Inspired by the success of their animated videos, Rare Americans has taken things a step further with their upcoming 30-minute full animated music film.

“It’s a team of 15 to 20 people working for a year,” James said. “It follows our bassist, who we call Django, and his story from growing up as a kid in Slovakia to eventually finding his way to Canada and to music and eventually to Rare Americans.”

The film is a whimsical type of animation that James believes their fans will love:

“It’s cool. It’s 35 minutes. It’s one story, start to finish, and I’m hoping that this new approach, Rare Americans almost as a multimedia brand, will be something that they’re going to eat up.”

Rare Americans’ dedication to animation has led to the creation of Crooked City Studios, a partnership with the animation company Solace Animations. The goal of the studio is to develop intellectual property (IP) from some of the characters in their songs.

“We’re trying to do something different in the industry and not just do singles and try to do these kinds of loftier projects,” James said. “So, we’re starting with this first one that’s 35 minutes. And then we actually have an even bigger project that’s about 25% animated right now, which is a 90-minute feature. It’s a full musical film, and we’re really looking forward to it.”

Rare Americans’ commitment to combining music and animation has made them a force to be reckoned with in the industry. They’ve taken a multimedia approach to their brand, and their fans have responded positively to it.

With their upcoming projects, it’s clear that they have no intention of slowing down any time soon.

If you can catch the band on their Milk and Honey Tour, you should make the effort. The closest they get to the 519 on this tour is Velvet Underground in Toronto on March 25 and 26.

For more, visit rareamericans.com.

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