In the ever-evolving landscape of today’s music, where electronica and pop often hold sway, the call of unadulterated hard rock echoes loud and clear. Philadelphia’s RAT ROD is an embodiment of that call, a rock outfit whose roots draw nutrients from the rich soil of rock ‘n’ roll history. They stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, and Dirty Looks, reviving the robust echoes of hard rock with an unmistakable contemporary edge.
With their third studio album, ‘Four on the Floor,’ RAT ROD affirms their growth from their 2017 debut, ‘Do You Remember Rock and Roll.’ They persist in their commitment to straightforward, uncomplicated, 4/4 hard rock, a genre in which they’ve proven to be formidable torchbearers.
This ten-track journey is initiated by “Cars, Guitars, and Rock-n-Roll,” a lively number that serves as a personal testament of lead vocalist Mark McCarthy. The album’s topography offers varied landscapes – from the kinetic beats of “All or Nothing” to the adrenaline-inducing sequel of “Peacemaker (Ballad of Tombstone),” titled “Call Down the Thunder.”
In a recent conversation, McCarthy delved into the inspiration behind the album, the band’s creative process, and the evolution of their sound.
The title of the album, ‘Four on the Floor,’ pays homage to their musical forebears. McCarthy elucidated, “The bands we collectively admire, including AC/DC, The Angels, and Rose Tattoo, typically use a drumbeat referred to as ‘four on the floor’. Given our name, Rat Rod, there’s also an homage to our affinity with car culture as ‘four on the floor’ hints at a four-speed floor shift vehicle.”
Discussing the creative procedure behind ‘Four on the Floor,’ McCarthy provided a fascinating window into the meticulous creation process of RAT ROD. As he described, “The recording process always begins the same way. I start by taking riff ideas that either Brice, Mike or I have and making basic demos of the song ideas that I, and often time Brice and I put together.” This intricate method of collective work is integral to the band’s identity, as McCarthy further elucidated, “When we collectively are ready, we will begin playing the songs together, further refining each of our individual parts. This is where the songs become Rat Rod songs.”
For the recording phase of the album, McCarthy conveyed a vivid picture of the band’s relentless efforts to capture the energetic core of their sound. “We travelled to his studio, Studio E in Westminster Maryland where we set up shop. We went down with sixteen songs to record with the intention of capturing basic drum tracks as the focus. As it turned out we got all sixteen basic tracks completed with not only good drum takes but most of the bass and guitars that you hear on the album completed in about twelve hours!” The impressive efficiency of this marathon recording session, according to McCarthy, stemmed from the detailed groundwork laid by the band. “I attribute that to all of the preparation that We all put into this.”
The creation process of ‘Four on the Floor’ was far from over after the band left Maryland. As McCarthy explains, “Once back in Jersey we spent the next few months recording all the overdubs and fixing any mistakes we may have made in Maryland. Once everything was recorded, we mixed the record at Rhawn Street Studios in Philly with Lance Walter.” This exhaustive commitment to perfecting their craft encapsulates the ethos of RAT ROD, a band that leaves no stone unturned in delivering high-octane, raw, and authentic hard rock to their listeners.
‘Four on the Floor’ showcases a departure from the band’s previous albums. McCarthy stated, “This record sounds substantially more superior than our earlier work! The dynamics of all the instruments are much broader, and there’s a distinct liveliness to Harry’s drumming. We experimented a bit more with vocal harmony and LJ was given the opportunity to be more innovative on his bass guitar.”
The track “Cars, Guitars, and Rock-n-Roll” holds special resonance for McCarthy. “When introducing myself to strangers, I often say that I’m all about cars and guitars. The ‘rock n roll’ addition completes the picture. Given this title, Mike does what he excels at, translating thoughts to paper and concocting the right lyrical concoction.”
McCarthy shared his insights into the thought process behind the album’s composition and its lead single. “’All or Nothing’ always gets a great response when we play it live,” McCarthy says. “It’s got a great hook, people dig it. When we sat down with our label and talked about possible singles, ‘All or Nothing’ was always top of mind and we worked down from there, so it just made sense.”
Indeed, it’s evident that Rat Rod places their audience front and center, making music that resonates with fans and captures the quintessence of live performances. This philosophy extends even to the production of their music videos. The video for “All or Nothing,” for instance, was recorded during a live show at The Union Firehouse in Mount Holly, New Jersey.
“The video was really just us doing what we do best,” McCarthy says. “We wanted something that didn’t go too deep and have super ‘heady’ meaning because let’s face it we are a fun rock n roll band not political activists or anything. So we wanted something that showed us in our natural environment so to speak.”
The video, filmed, directed, and edited by Albert Lepore, also features scenes from a casino. McCarthy explains, “The casino footage really signifies going ‘all in’ which is what the song basically says. All or nothing and not settling for anything less. There’s really nothing any deeper than that.”
Then there’s the sequel connection between “Peacemaker (Ballad of Tombstone)” and “Call Down the Thunder,” both songs inspired by scenes from the movie Tombstone. McCarthy chuckles, “The former is taken straight from the scene where Wyatt Earp bitch slaps Johnny Tyler and throws him out of the Oriental saloon. Call Down the Thunder is based on later in the movie when Wyatt takes revenge on the Cowboys. Just in case you haven’t seen the movie I’ll stop at that.”
e shared the story behind the album’s lead single, “Hella Ride,” saying, “We recorded the first jam of the music way back in early 2019 at a rehearsal one day. I did what I normally do when inspiration hits, I grabbed my phone and recorded it.” The song’s catchy hooks and infectious melodies made it a natural choice as their debut single.
Amidst the driving energy of the album, there lies a moment of reflection in “Motherload,” which features a slow blues beat. McCarthy revealed, “During COVID, one day in April, I was at my desk doing work when this riff came into my head.” This introspective track explores the desire for more in life, and the emotional depth in Mike’s lyrics resonates with listeners.
Signing with Vanity Music Group’s Shock Records imprint proved to be a turning point for the band, offering them a platform for broader exposure. “In a word, exposure,” explained McCarthy. “Shock and Vanity are great organizations to work with. They are very supportive and have gotten us attention that would have really been tough for us otherwise to obtain.”
One of the defining features of RAT ROD’s music is the pulsating “four on the floor” beat, which drives their songs with an irresistible energy. “It’s a drive, a pulse that pushes the song along, and we want that same energy in our music,” said McCarthy. This rhythmic force propels their tracks forward, keeping fans hooked and headbanging.
With “Four on the Floor” now released in European and Japanese markets, RAT ROD is eager to see how their music resonates with global audiences. “Will we be excited to learn how much those markets choose to embrace what we do? Of course, and we will be encouraged by that to continue to make our best music,” expressed McCarthy.
Being compared to iconic bands like AC/DC and Rose Tattoo is a badge of honor for RAT ROD, but they want fans to recognize their unique sound. “We are much more than those two groups or any of the other groups we have been compared to,” said McCarthy. While they cherish the comparisons, the band is proud to bring their distinctive flavor of Rat Rod Rock ‘n’ Roll to the world.
As “Four on the Floor” gains momentum, RAT ROD proves that they are a force to be reckoned with in the rock music scene. With their unyielding spirit and dedication to creating memorable music, they are revving up the rock ‘n’ roll engine and taking listeners on a wild, adrenaline-pumping ride. So, turn up the volume and let RAT ROD’s electrifying sound fuel your passion for pure, unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll. The ride has just begun.
Visit RAT ROD at ratrodrocks.com.