Rebekah Raa and Nic 'Casually Here' Nell make up the experimental trip-pop London based duo, Rainer. Raa, once a member of indie band Stricken City joined forced with Nic shortly after he (as Casually Here) remixed one of their tracks and her band had disbanded. Together, the pair create incredible alt-pop productions joined with well-written, emotional and honest lyrics. In a way, it's intelligent yet pristine pop music. Combined with Raa's crystal-like and at times erratic vocals, it's a truly unique musical experience.

The two are at home when I get to speak to them on Skype. In a rather bizarre turn of events, Rebekah lives in north London while Nic lives in south London so we experiment with a three-way Skype conversation. "I didn't even know you could do this. I don't think I've ever done this before!" cries Nic as we laugh at the wonders of technology while Rebekah prepares herself. Their long awaited debut album Water was due for a release in a week and the two seem really composed and ready for it. Not only is it their debut album, it's also their first release in almost two years, their last being the Hope/Satin/Glass/Dreams EP in November of 2013. They also recently returned from Morocco where they shot the video for the album's lead and title track. The pressure should be on but all is calm amongst the Rainer camp. At least on the surface...

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Congratulations on the release of your album Water. How are you feeling now that it's out?

Nic: I think it's a bit weird because when you've spent so much time with a record in your head, especially as it's just been the two of us working on it because we did this whole record without any A&R input or anything, we sent it off to mastering and it was like "Oh, by the way, here's the record!" It's a weird feeling for something like that; you put so much time into then it's out in the world but it's exciting, it's good!

Rebekah: It feels really good that it's finally coming out. It's exciting, it's good to get it out there.

Personally speaking, the album sounds like a progression from the last EP but also bridges the gap a little from 'Girls' which arguably earned some of the most attention to the newer stuff. Was that your intention when making the album?

R: We definitely made a decision to make the album 10 completely new tracks that people haven't heard before so even with stuff that we'd started writing before we put the EP out, we ended up updating sonically, I guess, so that the album did feel like a progression from the EP.

N: I think it was really important for us that the record sounds like a whole record and a body of work because there's such a tendency for people now to just listen to singles off records and not really listen to a whole album and I think an album is a "thing." It feels like a different "thing" really; it's like writing a book, you're making a whole story and a whole "thing" that people won't necessarily consume as one "thing!" but you want it to make sense in its own world. I think that was the idea. We wanted to pull the whole together and make it really feel like its own world.




Roughly, how long were you working on the album and how much of the older stuff has transferred over to the album?

R: I guess, a song like 'Marry' for example. That was one of the first, maybe in the first five or six songs that we'd done together but it was a completely different version so we're doing a version of it live that sounded completely different. A lot more... I'd say a lot more naïve but it had its own cute charm to it. We updated it so it felt a bit newer and fresher and fitted with the sounds that we used on the rest of the album. 'Trouble' was quite an early one as well but we didn't end up having to update that too much. We've both been working on other things at the same time and these things take time. I'd normally go to Nic's two or three days a week and work together on stuff. Before you know it another year has gone by and you're like "Oh, ok!"

N: It's a funny thing; I think all musicians have it, when you've got mastering, you actually have to have signed everything off. So you can go "Ok, we've got the record," and play it for people but until you've actually mastered the thing it's like "Oh, we can change that? Should we change that?" so there's several stages to actually finishing. But as Rebekah said, some of the early stuff did carry through but it all got a revisit to pull them together and there's things on the record that didn't sit originally.

You've released the album with Kissability who previously released your last EP. Was it an easy decision to work with them again or did you take the album to other labels?

R: We took it to as many labels as we could really with the help of our publishers as well. Without trying to be too negative about it, we were probably a bit disappointed with not being able to get interest from the bigger ones but... it is what it is! We know Jen (Long) from Kissability really well and she was really excited about it. It was going to be her first album that she's put out so we said "Ok, this sounds good!" It's really good to work with someone who's as excited about it.

N: She's a massive champion of the project and she was a champion from the point go when she was at Radio 1. Playing our stuff and putting us on, she's been a massive fan and supporter of the project. I think we got quite far along in conversations with people about [putting the album out] but it got to the point where we just wanted to... record labels tend to have their schedules planned out quite far in advance; you get to a point where you're talking to someone and going "Wait, if we're doing this with you, then this is going to be happening in nine months' time, at some point you'll want to get the record out to keep moving!" We just wanted to get it out and keep moving, really.

What was idea behind the album title Water?

R: Oh, it's really difficult to choose a title for an album. We were going to call it something totally unrelated to anything on there but it just seemed to fit. I think Nic just came in one day and said "Should we just call it water?" because it was a track that seemed to encapsulate a lot of what the album was about.

N: I think water itself has nice connotations to it. The idea that everyone is made of water, water passes through all of us, it's kind of transient; you can see through it, it helps create life and the song encapsulates lyrically and musically what we're about as a band. I think I suggested it and it was just like "Yep that's fine!" and we didn't have to think about it anymore. I think If you're both like "Yep, that can work!" and there's no negative reaction to it then it's like "Oh, I think we might have chosen the album title! Good! Let's keep moving!"

In terms of inspirations for the album, was there anything in particular that you was listening to while creating the album?

R: Well, for me I'm really into listening to real heartbreak songs like, girls singing about really sad stuff. For some reason it just gets to me. When Lykke Li's second album came out I was like "Oh my God! This totally speaks to me!" I felt like that's how I wanted to make other people feel so from about two or three years ago, that how I felt I wanted to write.

N: I listen to loads and loads of stuff. I listen to electronic music, we both like big pop records that are well written, well crafted... there's a lot of craft that goes into making a great song. I know one thing we mentioned a lot in the record; there's lots of choirs on it, that kind of Disney, Technicolour choirs add something that certainly we wanted to get there but... you listen to loads of stuff and take elements in but then when you're actually making it, you're trying to make something that makes sense within its own kind of world.

R: We've probably both made something that's quite natural and unique to us. It wasn't like we'd listened to a song and be like "Let's make this now!" It was an instinctive process from both of us.

N: We both listen to lots of different stuff and on our own we do make different kinds of music so it was about finding stuff that says "This feels right for us." It's quite funny because I was listening to a few tracks and in my head I thought "this was a kind of inspiration" and you go back to it and think "well maybe not..." [Laughs]

R: We both love Purity Ring and that electronic stuff, Grimes is amazing. We can listen to all that and say "I want to make this because this is the stuff that's really popular!" and we love it, everyone else loves it but then you'll just sound like you're doing that. It's not really an influence for us even though we do love stuff like that.

N: Rebekah loves a bit of Beyoncé, we both think she's great but I don't think that's an influence as such

R: Yeah, we listened to 'Countdown' as a reference for one of our songs 'Raven' just because it's a completely nuts song in the sense that it's got lots of different sections. But once you get used to it, you're like "This is such an amazing song!" When we were doing 'Raven' we were like "Is anyone ever going to get this? This is really out there!" We thought no one would really understand it but then we thought "Hold on a minute, Beyoncé did it, so we're allowed!"

I spoke to you guys a couple of years ago ahead of the Camden Crawl...

N: The fated Camden Crawl before it disappeared, crashed and stole everyone's money...

R: Yeah, we didn't get paid for that gig. That was rubbish! [Laughs]




That was going to be my question! When the organisers went bust, they promised artists would get paid etc and I'm guessing you didn't...?

N: We were lucky that we live in London so it was annoying not to get paid but there wasn't a big expense for us but I think some bands had come over from America so it's a big deal for them. It's pretty awful. They must have known they were going bust before it happened so it feels a bit cheeky to be honest. There's probably not enough money involved for anyone to get lawyers involved so I suspect no one got paid.

Has that dampened your experience of festivals?

R: Of course not! That was just a one off!

N: Festivals are a lot of fun and we're hoping to do a lot more in the future.

Do you have any plans to tour with the album?

N: I think we hope to. We're not quite sure when but hopefully a bit later in the summer we want to be doing a few more bits and pieces. We're working it out now.

Have you found it difficult transitioning the record to the live stage?

R: We make it all the computer so it's not like being in a band where you can play your instruments and be like "Well I'll play this bit now, you play this bit now and you do the drums" etc. It's all in the computer so poor Nic has to figure out how he can play everything from this one machine on stage. [Laughs]

N: We were looking at getting in a drummer but its so much work to still not be able to do everything it does on the record. It's a tricky one because you have to figure out what you can do and how to do it. But it's a fun challenge and it's really nice going back through the songs and noticing these things you forgotten about but it's a bit of a challenge.

I absolutely love the video for 'Nocturn'. How did you come up with the concept for the video?

N: We know Alexander Brown [the director], we've known him for a while and he's a great director, we talked to him about doing something and he really wanted to make this short film. We pretty much gave him free reign to do it. We were still very much involved; everyone mucked in on the day and it was a lot of fun on the shoot. It was Alex's idea. I think he had a friend who went through the dancing thing and had issues with. It was more Alex's idea and he did a great job.

Rebekah, were you a dancer in a previous life at all?

R: Oh, no! I wish! I can't dance. I do try!

N: You can dance a bit!

R: It's pretty silly! You'll see in our next video. We've got another video coming out soon for 'Water' which is kind of the lead track off the album. It's basically us hanging out in Morocco, having a nice time and doing lots of dancing and silly things. I don't consider myself a dancer at all!

N: Slow motion's your friend. You look great dancing in slow motion!

You mentioned that you're both working on other projects as well as Rainer. Are these solo endeavours or in other bands?

N: I've been doing some writing and production things on other records that are coming through for other people but I've got my Casually Here stuff. The first album for that is out in September. The vinyl has just been sent off.

R: I'm touring with The Maccabees at the moment so I play with them which is really fun and it's a nice job to have in the music industry because it's a bit tough for musicians sometimes to be able to work in the industry so I'm really enjoying that. But while I'm doing that I definitely want to keep writing because it's really easy to waste time on tour because you get shepherded about like "Ok, time to get up, go over here" they feed you and all you have to do is sound check, then the gig and all the hours in between you can just so easily waste. So I'm making a conscious effort that every day I've got to put six hours of work in to write for myself or other things.




As indie musicians, what are your thoughts surrounding streaming? Is it a concern to you?

R: Well, everyone is like "Oh, it's all fucked, it's all rubbish, musicians can't make money anymore because of Spotify, streaming and downloading for free etc", I guess but at least now you're exposed to so much more music. Bands that maybe wouldn't have gotten anywhere before now at least they can post their stuff online and you can hear it on blogs etc whereas before you had to be signed, you had to have a record out, you had to have CDs out and you had to have been written about in a magazine for people to hear about you. There were probably a lot less smaller bands getting exposure. At least now you can get to a certain point where people can hear about you.

N: I think the difficult thing is the next step. It's great that everybody is buying expensive headphones now because they don't have to buy music but the thing about making music is it's not free, even if you do make music yourself. We fully wrote, recorded, produced and mixed the album ourselves and we have the equipment to do so - something you couldn't have done 15 or 20 years ago and without technology we wouldn't have been able to do a record like this at all. But I think it's tricky because Spotify, YouTube, Soundcloud and all these promotional tools do effectively make music free. It's not really cool for musicians to talk about not having any money because what you're selling us is music is an aspirational thing. You've got photos where everyone looks great, music videos and effectively you're getting to do one of the most fun jobs in the world. At the moment, there's not really a middle-class in music. You've got a few people at the top - and that's not everyone signed to a major because a lot of them don't make any money at all either. Even big bands are making less money than people who just work in retail in a mobile phone shop probably making more money than the vast majority of even fairly even decent sized musicians out there. If you're not in a major system and you're doing an independent thing it is difficult. You have to get up to massive numbers for streaming and digital sales to make any money and people won't be able to afford to keep being musicians and to get really good at what they're doing because there's this constant churning of new things coming through and people will only be able to afford it for a certain amount of time before they need to be able to make a living. I don't think Spotify is any more "evil" than anything else. I just think if people actually knew the economics of being a musician these days, they might buy more records. Even making vinyl is expensive. Touring is expensive!

I think the difficult thing is with all this social media stuff is everything is now based around your numbers, social media stats, how good you are at all of that side of things, play counts etc. Labels look at that, it's like having a score count against your stuff and I think the problem is some projects just run and do their thing but some projects need the old system of press and how all that works is still in place, magazines still talking to PRs so there is still a barrier of entry on all this kind of stuff, people only have a certain amount of time to listen to music so actually getting through to a stage to people who might really like your music get the chance to really like your music, that's very challenging in the way things are at the moment. But as Rebekah said, there's great advantages to the whole digital thing so you can't quite have it both ways but I think, given the records aren't selling, labels have become increasingly conservative and still the record industry is based around putting records out which takes promotion, which costs money. It's a bit of a catch 22 because you need the investment to get the profile which they're saying you need before you can get the investment.

What would you like to be remembered for musically? What would you like your legacy to be?

R: I would like to be a songwriter for other people. I love singing and I love being a singer myself but if we're talking about what I'd like to be remembered for when I'm dead, I'd like to be able to write some major hit pop songs one day for like, a girl band or a boyband to have or a Leona Lewis-type person to sing. I'd like to be one of those big names in song writing one day. If I was going to die tomorrow, I'd think I'd like to be remembered for making people feel something when they're listening to the songs. I hope my voice reaches out to them in a certain way...

N: I want to keep producing records and making a sound. I think for me I think of sound in a very visual way so when I listen to a song, I've got a very visual narrative, certainly when I'm making stuff. Music has an amazing power to take people out of their day to day. I want to make worlds that for whatever the record is you're making is that you can get lost in whatever space that is.

That's the funny thing about music - when you're doing it and you're lost in the business side of things, you kind of forget that the whole point of music is to make people feel something. That's what music does for me so if you get to make something that's really special, means something to someone and makes their life a bit better in the time they listen to it, that's an amazing thing to do; to put something positive into the world.


Water is available now via Kissability/Algebra.