The Rapture with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Starlite Desperation at Kool Haus (132 Queens Quay East), Wednesday (April 7). $21.50 advance. 416-869-0045. Rating: NNNNN
Luke Jenner is sitting in the green room of Last Call with Total Request Live host Carson Daly. The TV is on in the corner, the rest of the band is watching some afternoon kids' show, and Jenner, the mop-topped singer of the Rapture, is talking to someone over a mobile phone. He's talking to me. It's a lousy connection. Jenner's voice cracks fitfully in and out of audible range.
"I think it must be the building," he says. "Lots of interference. I'll try not to move so much."
Temporarily, the line clears a bit.
Jenner is telling me about the distant past, about another band he had when he and Rapture drummer Vito Roccoforte lived in San Francisco. That was long before they became one of the hottest properties in pop. The old outfit specialized in creating its own buzz.
"It was pretty amazing. We'd just put up these playbills for completely fictitious shows," Jenner laughs. "You know, maybe fudge the dates a bit. Then just start telling people that we'd seen this amazing band, create a little buzz. It was a funny sort of social experiment, but it actually worked."
As for the Rapture, their fortunes took an unexpected turn when three years ago their single House Of Jealous Lovers became a dance-floor hit in the UK. Success came as a complete shock. After plodding the rock circuit for years, rocketing to notoriety on the winged feet of club culture was just not something that could have been anticipated.
"I've gotten used to it now," admits Jenner. "It's surprising how quickly you get used to being able to live off making music."
For the Rapture, it was always a race to see who would champion them first, the club kids or the rock scenesters; their music can go either way. It's been called disco-punk, funk-punk, electroclash, rave-rock and a slew of other useless terms, but there's no doubt that the band comes from a strange balance of musical styles. Their Robert-Smith-meets-PiL-era-Johnny-Lydon vocals rage ecstatically to a Happy Mondays heartbeat and a dangerous guitar mania, creating emotionally charged floor-shakers.
Jenner seems unfazed by non-definability. "We're just playing the way we need to," he says. "If people feel like dancing, great. If they feel like cribbing over a pad and jotting down every note, they can do that, too.
"There's this sense that dancing at rock shows is unusual," observes Jenner. "There's some truth to it, but it wasn't always that way. People used to go to shows to dance, even if it was back in the 50s and 60s."
As to the immense amount of hype around the Rapture, Jenner is equally ambivalent.
"I'm sympathetic to music journalists," he offers. "They're pressured to make their copy punchy and interesting, and maybe they're working under multiple deadlines. That has to have some sort of effect on what they write.
"That's why you see 12 articles that read almost identically. Sometimes it's a bad rewrite of the press release, or they're parroting some other journalist. Other times it's just pure fiction."
Jenner laughs. "But I can relate to that."