Fat Trout Trailer Park's debut self-titled EP is out today! We chat to the musician about his music and more.
Image: Jill Verhaeghe
The musical project of Sean Raab, FAT TROUT TRAILER PARK has today released his debut self-titled EP. The 7-track release navigates economic and environmental violence, mental health, and 21st century disillusionment.
Combining the bare-boned, riff-heavy structure of early-2000s rock and roll with post-punk sounds, infused with hints of 2010s psych revival experimental electronica and hip-hop, the release is an incisive critique of modern society. Fatberg, Gold and Dirty Hands comment on the looming presence of economic and environmental violence. Laced with chaos and catastrophe, Backseat navigates feelings of depression, which is further explored on Wendigo. Whereas on Salt, the musician explores more of his own personal history.
The conceptual thread running throughout the release is the theme of 21st century disillusionment. The EP is structured to engage the listener, holding their attention far longer than the usual life span of a release. The Brooklyn based hopes for listeners to find comfort within his music, wanting them to feel activated and have their thoughts provoked when facing the harshness of reality.
The EP's release is accompanied by official desktop video game, Make America Skate Again. Inspired by 8-bit arcade video gaming consoles, the game allows participants to travel from New York to a Florida, taking down some Wall Street bros and bankers, before you confront Donald Trump himself on the 18th green.
Raab has began rehearsals for future live shows, however he has no touring plans at the moment due to the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic. The musician hopes to tour Australia when it is safe to do so.
Fat Trout Trailer Park is out now! Read our full interview with Sean Raab below!
Tell us a bit about how your musical journey began…
I was born into a fairly musical family. In car rides we’d listen to the Beach Boys, Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, etc. all those classic harmonies floating around my ears. As a teenager I discovered indie rock and picked up an electric guitar. It became all I wanted to do. Me and some friends started a band in high school and made it to national radio in Belgium, where I grew up. That initial validation went a long way for me to keep pursuing a career in music.
Congratulations on the release of your new EP!
Fat Trout Trailer Park navigates economic and environmental violence, mental health, and 21st century disillusionment. Could you tell us about the overall conceptual thread of the release and the importance of exploring the present themes?
Moving to New York was a big step for me. In the beginning it almost seemed the city was a spider web for you to get stuck in and succumb to the machine. Coming right out of college into the world is a difficult period for a lot of young people. That confrontation with the harshness of reality will warrant a response. My response was this EP. My personal period of existential crisis coincides with that of society on a much larger scale. This was all pre-pandemic. Now it seems obvious the whole word is going through it. These topics have become unavoidable, that confrontation has become inevitable. Our priorities need to be reset, we need to take action.
The EP is this phenomenal soundscape of post-punk meets early-2000s rock and roll, imbedded with some experimental electronica and hip-hop sounds. How did you arrive at this genre-bending soundscape?
Mid-2000s indie rock was my bread and butter growing up and learning to be a guitarist. All those riffs are pretty straightforward and fairly easy, but nonetheless they gave me the illusion I was a rockstar. As I got older I got into the more experimental rock scene and more into other genres like electronic music and hip-hop as well. I grew up with the internet, we had all the music, all the genres at hand all the time. Being constantly exposed to so many different influences will affect you in one way or other.
How has that evolution of sound influenced your own musical practice?
It took a long time before I realized what my own sound was. It’s still all over the place, but I’ve worked hard to contain it over the years. Also having experienced different waves of fads, seeing things come and go you tend to learn what will stick and that’s usually what’s closest to you. I tried to figure out what was in my core and set out to express that.
Fat Trout Trailer Park track by track…
Backseat was one of the first tracks I wrote for this project and it went through many different phases. The version that made it onto the EP was originally the radio edit, the longer version will be released in the future and is quite different so keep your ears open for that.
With Dirty Hands I wanted to do my version of a compact mid 2000s indie song that still would feel fresh today. It’s a very straight forward track and that was intentional. The other songs on the EP meander a lot more and will catch you off guard at certain moments. It was last track that I wrote for the EP.
I was working part-time at an auction house and would visit very wealthy people’s houses in Manhattan. This elite wealth is just so far removed from where the people in the streets are coming from. That divide and contrast is jarring and was the source of the lyrics that went into Gold. It might be my personal favorite. I really like how it has many faces, many emotions but a very clear over arching mood.
I saw an article pass by with the headline ‘Fatberg larger than a jumbo jet found under seaside town’. I was completely mesmerized and appalled. That was very clearly the source for the lyrics. It was the first track after moving to NYC. I believe it can be traced in the chaos and anxiety that the song encapsulates.
Is definitely the sonic outlier on the EP. I had the beginning of the song but nothing more, not knowing where it was supposed to go. After an intense psychedelic trip I tried to sonically recreate the dark alleyway I found myself stranded in during that experience. It also touches on living in NYC concluding that at least it’s warm in the belly of the beast.
Was the very first song to be written for this project. It’s also the most emotionally charged song and less explicitly about societal problematics even though it’s chicken and egg. The contrast in the song from the first half and the second half act as polar opposites and is something i like doing, touching on ambiguity and negative capability. We amplified that even more in the video where it starts off as a regular clean looking acoustic video and transforms into a stop motion street fighter sequence.
What is your standout track on the EP, that if you played to someone who hadn’t heard your music before, would make them an instant Fat Trout Trailer Park fan?
Probably Backseat. It’s very instantaneous, that’s also why we put it as the first track of the EP. Whenever anyone wants to check out what the project is about all they have to do is push play and ‘Backseat’ will throw them in the midst of it.
How do you feel your music speaks to listeners, and what messages do you hope listeners take away from the EP?
I hope people feel activated when they listen to the music. I definitely try to write engaging music, material that you can hold onto for longer than corporations have trained our attention spans to be. I’d also want listeners who are feeling disillusioned by the world to feel comforted when they hear the music.
The accompanying music videos for the released tracks have a lo-fi approach and are consistently so great and engaging. How important are the visuals to you when it comes to conveying the story and meaning present on the track? And how involved you are when it comes to planning the visuals?
Lo-fi is an aesthetic choice but its also easy on the budget, so win-win! Personally, I find visuals to be extremely important and closely intertwined with music anyways. But nowadays that’s even more the case with everything needing visual representation on Instagram etc. I’m very involved with the process. The head of creative at the label and I make all the videos ourselves with help here and there where needed. Making the artwork and the videos were a good pass time during quarantine.
How did you land on the pseudonym Fat Trout Trailer Park for your musical project? Any inspiration from Twin Peaks perhaps?
My partner and I were watching Season 3 of Twin Peaks when we paused to get a drink. The still on the screen was a shot of the Fat Trout Trailer Park sign. My partner mentioned it would be a good band name. The rest is herstory.
Could you tell us a bit about your creative process when writing and recording songs?
Often I’ll have a melody buzzing around my head and I’ll hum it into my phone, or if im close to a guitar I’ll record it like that. I’ll have a bunch of those little bits saved in my phone and ready for use when I’ve started composing something I find to be worthwhile. Once the foundation has been laid I’ll get to vocals and lyrics. I have a list of words or lines in my phone that I’ve thought of while waiting in line at the grocery store or whatnot. That will often help me get my creativity flowing. Then I record it all straight from my pedals into an audio interface and start fiddling with production on my laptop. If all goes well, I have a proper demo at the end of it.
What has been the most challenging part about creating music during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I have been very blessed to be in a good position and mind set to be able to write new music during the pandemic. I was furloughed from my part-time job at an auction house, so I had more time to actually write music. It also coincided with whatever the opposite is of writers block. Somehow I felt liberated.
The global pandemic has put a halt to touring and performing live. Do you have any post-pandemic touring plans? And the question every Aussie Fat Trout Trailer Park fan wants to know, are you planning/hoping to grace Aussie shores in the future?
We’ve started rehearsing to be ready for whenever we’re allowed on a stage. But due to the unpredictability of it all there are no hard plans at the moment. Whenever the time comes, we’d LOVE to come to Australia and play for you all. That’s definitely on the list.
What can audiences expect from a Fat Trout Trailer Park live show?
The live show will definitely be more explosive than the recordings, possibly a bit faster with extended jams where called for. It’s going to be fun.
Bloc Party and Arctic Monkeys made me pick up a guitar for the first time so.
Tyler, the Creator.
Album that has had the most impact on you?
The Strokes - Is This It.
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
Heady post punk .
Best song of 2020?
Yves Tumor - Kerosene.
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
Zack & Cody.
The best/most memorable show you’ve ever performed?
Played support for Unknown Mortal Orchestra!
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
Tortoise - TNT or Stereolab - Dots & Loops.
Best concert you have been to?
Death Grips at Magazine 4 in Brussels on The Money Store tour.
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?
Old Spice .
Guilty music pleasure?
Diwali Riddim era Sean Paul and many similar sounding pop songs from that time but I don’t feel guilty about it.
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
Omni, they seem chill.
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry?
Jay-Z has the music, the business and Beyonce.. that’s probably a lot of influence.
What advice would you give yourself a year from now?
To not yet worry about next year.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
First time I saw Top of the Pops on BBC.