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Published: 2013/12/12
by Rob Slater

Todd Stoops Talks RAQ’s Return to Burlington and What Lies Ahead

With the success of Kung Fu and Conspirator, is it a little bittersweet for the members of RAQ? On one hand, you’re all in successful projects but it seems like you really want to carve out as much time as possible for RAQ.

Yeah, I don’t think any of us internally feel like it’s bittersweet. You know RAQ was really at the height of our popularity in 2006, 2007, 2008. We did take a break, so I don’t know if it would sustain the type of touring that Conspirator or Kung Fu are doing right now, if that makes any sense. I guess we’re at the age right now – or we’re at the point in our careers, I should say – where we’re not really trying to play Omaha, Nebraska on a Tuesday night for fifty people. Not that there’s anything wrong with Omaha, but on Tuesday night for fifty people…(laughs) we’ll leave that to the younger guys in the younger bands to grind that out.

So you know we kind of pick our spots, we pick our battles and we try to make the most out of the shows that we’re gonna play, as opposed to touring for the sake of touring or just grinding like that. The bands that we’re grinding right now have more of an axe to grind. Conspirator and Kung Fu are constantly pushing new music. That being said, though, we have been throwing around the idea of recording with RAQ, which is kind of funny. We’ll see what happens with that, so who knows. But like I said before, the more we hang out the more we tend to book shows. You know, the more we hang out we’re like “This is awesome, we need to do this more often.” It stems from that.

Hey, it’s better than the opposite: hanging out and being like, “You know…I don’t really want to do shows anymore.”

Totally, like “Wow, Stoops, I didn’t realize how much of a dick you are. We should maybe never do this again!”

So how much touring is RAQ going to do in 2014, if you had to make an educated guess?

Well it’s all up in the air. We’re going back and forth talking about our schedules right now. We’re going to try, but it’s hard to quantify it. Opportunities will come up and we’ll be like, “Hey, is Kung Fu playing?” or “Hey, is Conspirator playing?” or “Hey, are both of those bands playing?” So opportunities sometimes pop up out of nowhere. But at the same time, Chris and I have been talking about just trying to make sure that RAQ gets at least ten-fifteen shows a year, something where we can at least get together. But who knows, maybe more. We’re going to play some festivals this summer and, like I said, the idea’s even being thrown around about trying to record some music so I don’t know. It’s an exciting time not to know, I guess.

But with bands like Kung Fu or Conspirator, we kind of know our plans out through 2015 pretty much. So it’s pretty neat to have a band that we know we can throw a show sometime and not have to be so over-the-top stressed out about it. It comes a lot easier with RAQ these days.

So the more you guys hang out, the more shows will be planned. So we just need to get you guys in a room as often as possible and then tours will start coming out, and then albums and all that.

Absolutely, there you go! It’s just that easy.

That’s good though. Obviously you guys have been together for a while, so it’s good you can still get together and still have fun, because a lot of bands don’t; a lot of bands go the other way.

Yeah, every band has it’s struggles and every band has it’s growing pains and, at the end of it all, I think you start to realize why you started the band in the first place: because it was you and your best friends in a garage hanging out and dreaming of “Hey man, wouldn’t it be awesome if one day we, dot dot dot.” And when you come back to that vibe and that mentality and it’s fun again, then it’s easy. And then not only is it easy, when you get up on stage it feels so good that you’re playing better, and the music sounds better, and it’s more inspired and you’re taking more chances when you’re improv-ing. It’s all kind of symbiotic.

I think the crowd picks up on that, too. As a member of the crowd, I can definitely feel when everybody is on the same page and is into it. It heightens the experience for the audience.

Oh, absolutely! That’s one of the feedbacks we were getting at the RAQ shows this year. In particular when we did a quick run in the northeast; we did Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Each night of the shows, we would hang out with the fans afterwards and they’d be like, “You know just watching you guys on stage and you’re smiling and you’re jumping up and down, it just makes me freak out! It makes my insides go crazy and I just wanna jump up and down and smile and laugh!” So you forget, that’s why we all started doing this in the first place, to interact with your crowd.

Especially if you’re in an improvisational band – the jamband scene – that is the bread and butter of what we do, is feeding off crowd energy. And it works both ways. Sometimes you’ll have a crowd where, if you know you’re not hitting on all cylinders, the crowd can tell and you’re like, “Wait a second, we’re getting into a vibe here.” It works both ways. If you have a tuned-up crowd that’s ready to rock, you’re gonna have a kick-ass show.

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