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Rain Parade's Matt Piucci: "It Has Been a Joy To Learn That So Many Bands Have Told Us How Important We Were to Them"

Ahead of the release of Rain Parade's new EP, "Last Stop On The Underground," out this Friday, May 24th on Label 51 Recordings, I spoke with the band's co-founder and vocalist-guitarist Matt Piucci all about what it has been reforming and releasing new music, re-introducing fans with expanded editions of the band's back-catalogue, and what it was like navigating the Paisley Underground scene through the 1980s.

Rain Parade in 1983. From left to right: Steven Roback, David Roback, Matt Piucci, Eddie Kalwa, Will Glenn. Photo by David Arnoff.

How excited are you to be touring the UK/EU with Rain Parade for the first time since 1985? 

Matt Piucci: We are very excited, it has been quite a long time. Although Steven and I toured with The Dream Syndicate last Spring (with our pal Vicki Peterson subbing for Jason Victor on guitar). It was great to get back to the UK. This time, we will go to the EU as well, which didn't even exist last time we were there! A lifetime ago.

What have been some of your favorite memories playing over there and what do you recall most fondly about the band's last visit to Europe?

We have many fond memories, one we were discussing the other day was playing in Rieti, a hill town on the northeast coast of Italy. We were the first band to ever play there and the mayor, who brought his young daughter and was surrounded did by carabinieris, gave us the key to the city!

What has it been playing these songs live and how do you think they line up with the older material during the set?

Well, it's not like we became a different band, we still have the same sensibilities. We think the new songs fit rather seamlessly with the older material, although some of the older stuff is more naïve than we are now, but it couldn't be any other way. The limited feedback we've had from friends and fans is that is is noticeably the same group, but perhaps a bit more mature. Whatever that means.

What can you say about your new single "Surprise, Surprise" and how that came together? 

That is a very new song. Steven just walked in one day and started playing a primitive version of what it is now. As usually happens with him and I, the other guy gets under the hood and starts tinkering right away. He wrote almost all of the lyrics, I messed with the chords, added a few things, and we wrote the bridge together. It was pretty quick. Sometimes songs take longer, even decades. This one was ready in a few practices.

The new single is from your upcoming EP "Last Stop On The Underground" that's out later this month. How did that come together? 

On February, we had just finished a West Coast tour with the Third Mind, a fantastic psychedelic supergroup centered around Dave Alvin (The Blasters), Victor Krummenacher (Camper Van Beethoven/Eyelids) and Jesse Solomon Sykes (Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter). It got us tight and we knew we wanted to take something new to Europe. The last time we did 13 songs at once and wanted to break things up more this time around. We planned on doing at least two, but three songs came together. They are all new, although the 6/8 section of "Last Stop on the Underground" was cannibalized from older unfinished song. We used Jim Hill as always, and the same studios here in Oakland as last time, so we were familiar with them and the process. It went pretty quickly. We are pretty slow compared to others, but now we figure we can get a song done with one day of basic tracking and one day of overdubs. We added a leftover track from the "Last Rays of a Dying Sun" LP and that makes a four song EP.

"Last Rays of a Dying Sun" was your first studio album in 38 years. Can you share some insight on the conversation about reforming for that record and how it all came together?

It took a while. I suppose the process started when Steven moved to the Bay Area in the oughts (2007?). I was playing with John Thoman, as I always have, and the Hellenes, which is almost exactly the same people as Rain Parade is now, but without Steven. A musical friend from the '80s was in a bad car accident and his bandmate asked me to do one of his songs for a tribute LP, which I did. Steven showed up at the end and contributed, so I guess that made it Rain Parade, although I don't think it was called that. That led to a show in San Francisco in 2012 and we began playing around a bit. We were stunned by the positive reception. Then we learned that our previous scene mates The Bangles, The Dream Syndicate and The Three O'Clock were all working again and someone, can't remember who, suggested we recreate the October 1982 show at the Music Machine in LA, when all four of us played the same bill. We did two shows, one in Los Angeles and one at the Fillmore in SF, it was a smashing success. That led to the idea of an LP with us each doing one of the other three band's songs, and we called that twelve song LP "3 x 4." Jim Hill was already on board helping me finish The Hellenes LP "I Love You All the Animals," which again is almost the same people as Rain Parade — Stephan Junca on drums, John Thoman and I on guitar, with Derek See as the third guitarist. Alec Palao and Mark Hanley were also in The Hellenes. Mark ended up on half the new RP LP, Alec did not. The "3 x 4" songs were a blast and our juices were flowing. Then came the pandemic, which allowed for quiet reflection and solitude. I kind of miss it. Steven and I worked remotely and in my backyard (at a distance) and realized we had an LP worth of material. We wanted to keep playing, but absolutely did not want to just be a nostalgia band, so we needed to be current for it to really have meaning for us. So, we planned to start in the end of November of 2022, and finished shortly after the new year. It was completed and mixed before we even got an offer from the label, which turned out to be the very same guy, Bill Hein from Enigma Records, who signed us 40 years earlier.

What can you tell me about the material written for it? Is it mostly new material or did you also revisit some older unfinished tracks? 

It was both of those things. Of the 13 songs, a couple were very old, dating back to the '80s, but we changed them so much, I doubt they would be recognized. One song was a Viva Saturn song that we re-recorded, as we had lost the multitracks, and one was the title track which I started with The Hellenes, then Steven rewrote some words and wrote the middle section with me. The rest were new.

Rain Parade performing at the Big Club in Torino, Italy, November 13th, 1985. Photos above by unknown.

Last month, your classic debut LP "Emergency Third Rail Power Trip" was reissued on wax along with some bonus rarities for Record Store Day. What was it like digging through old archival live recordings and rehearsals for that reissue?

It was fun to go back to all of the old stuff, we had the help of Bill and Andy from the label, as well as Dave DeSanzo and Pat Thomas, culling through old rehearsal tapes and live cassettes. Plus various four track recordings. We erred on the side of inclusivity, as some of the live stuff does not sound great, but that was the only example we had of those unrecorded songs. All of the material is from 1981-1983, when David Roback was still in the band.

What can you tell me about how "Emergency Third Rail Power Trip" came together in the months from February-March '83 at Contour Studios? What were the album's main inspirations and what gear were you using mainly for it?

We rehearsed for over a year before we played live in May of '82. And rehearsed and made four tracks for most of '82 into '83. So we were very prepared. We went in and did our thing, it was all pretty much laid out, although we did leave some room for spontaneity. Our inspirations are pretty obvious Love, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Byrds. But also The Modern Lovers, Television and Patti Smith, although that might be harder to see. I used a 1963 Gretsch Tennessean, which I still have and play all the time through a Roland JC120A, with the internal distortion and vibrato. David used Rickenbackers, 12 and 6 through a Fender Twin and a Worley Fuzz Wah as well as a Gibson J160E. Steven played a Fender Jazz, I believe, he also had a Gibson Studio Bass. Can't remember the amp. Vox? Will played a Korg Poly 6 and a Farfisa Compact Duo, I think. Eddie played Ludwigs.

Which songs are you most proud of? My favorite from that one has always been "Look At Merri." 

We like that one, the only three way collaboration between Steven, David and I. For me, my favorite is "No Easy Way Down," as it is an unusual guitar part I've never heard before and heard many imitators since, especially My Bloody Valentine, who pretty much said that is where he got it. Also, "What She's Done to Your Mind" because that was our first single and seeing it spin around on a turntable for the first time was quite a rush.

I also have always liked the song "Look Both Ways." What can you tell me about how that one came together? 

That is probably the only song, plus maybe "Speedway," that sounded like us when we were The Sidewalks, a pre-Rain Parade incarnation of the band from the late '70s. Although we never recorded or played live as such, so does that count? A friend was a kindergarten teacher and I saw the words, or at least the first verse, on a lesson plan of hers. It's a silly nursery rhyme. But I like it.

You guys really set yourselves ahead of the pack in the Paisley Underground scene with the "Explosions In The Glass Palace" EP. What was it like working on it in comparison to your debut album and how do you think it holds up today?

Personally I think that is our best work, others have said so. It's super tight and less derivative than Emergency. Plus David was gone and we didn't fight as much. And Jim Hill really brought out the best in us, as he still does today. It was fun to play every guitar part, except for the acoustic on "Broken Horse."

Rain Parade in 1983. From left to right: Eddie Kalwa, Matt Piucci, Steven Roback, David Roback, Will Glenn. Photo by David Arnoff.

Looking back at the second Rain Parade LP, "Crashing Dream," I read that you wish you had a different producer for that album. Can you share some insight on that and how you wish it came out differently? 

We should have kept using Jim Hill as we really had a great relationship. We didn't only because labels are stupid, egotistical entities, and they thought they could do better. The guy was nice but he didn't get us like Jim does and they insisted. It was Ian Matthews, a brilliant musician and very nice man, who insisted on this guy. Great musician, Ian, but a lousy A&R guy.

Did you prefer the original version of "Sad Eyes Kill" that was on the '22 reissue of "Explosions In The Glass Palace" to the version on the "Crashing Dream" LP?

Yes, that was Rain Parade's last song with Jim until the "3 x 4" record a few years back. We intend to re-release "Crashing Dream Reimagined" early next year using that plus some other versions not on the original, some live outtakes, and demos. We hope it is a double LP. It's not on the original EP, which we stupidly put on the reissue of Explosions. It really shouldn't go there, it is the first effort of the post-Will Glenn/Eddie Kalwa version the band, with John Thoman and Mark Marcum, the Crashing Dream band.

I've always really liked the fourth track "Mystic Green" from "Crashing Dream." What can you say about that song?

That is about cruising in the van at night across the moors in Northern England. We were both homesick and in awe of the Old World.

What are some of your favorite memories playing in Crazy Horse in '89 and how exactly did you land that opportunity?

Well, they were my childhood heroes. My wife Stefanie knew Billy Talbot's wife and brother-in-law, and the brother-in-law insisted to Billy that I would be a good choice. Ralph and Billy are dear friends and I have played and recorded a ton with Billy, less so with Ralph. Both Stephan, Rain Parade drummer, and I are on their new LP "All Roads Lead Home," songs by Billy, Ralph, Neil, and Nils Lofgren. That is how I met Stephan and have been playing with him for 25 years in the Billy Talbot Band, boat clubs, The Hellenes, and now Rain Parade. Smoking weed with Neil was pretty cool. The one time I did play with Frank Sampedro as well, with Billy and Ralph and me as Young Neil, was at Ralph's house in Atascadero. We played for three hours and did like seven songs. It was amazing and I wish I had taped it.

Asides from the EP and tour, what else is on the horizon for Rain Parade?

We’ve been busy. Last spring, Steven and I did an acoustic tour in the UK with The Dream Syndicate and Vicki Peterson of The Bangles, who was subbing for their regular guitar player. That was a blast. Then we did a West Coast tour in January with the The Third Mind, a psychedelic jam band super group with Dave Alvin (the Blasters), Victor Krummenacher (Camper van Beethoven, Eyelids), and Jesse Solomon Sykes (Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter). Just finished recording this new EP and that's coming out this week. Then off the the EU/UK on June 1st for a 13 show tour. This summer we will be working on new material that will round out an LP, coming out at the end of the year. Plus we are trying to put out all of our old stuff that is out of print. Busy, busy.

Lastly, how would you want Rain Parade to be remembered and what is it like playing some of these songs over 40 years later? 

It certainly is humbling to us that this music means so much to some people. I'm not sure we would be doing it if we hadn't gotten such a strong response. We think the songs stand up, and all we ever wanted was for people to view us like we did Television and Talking Heads. It has been a joy to learn that so many bands have told us how important we were to them, such as Teenage Fanclub, Stone Roses, UK Charlatans, Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Beechwood Sparks, Asteroid #4, Buffalo Tom, The Bluetones, and many more. Songs are everything and if they means something to people and can bring them some solace in this insane world, that is more than we ever could have ever hoped.

"Last Stop On The Underground" is out May 24th on Label 51 Recordings. Pre-order the vinyl or CD edition here and catch the band's upcoming UK/EU tour dates below.


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