“The music we make is therapeutic but can also drag us down”: An Interview with Rapt

Within the inmost realms of uncertainty, fragility and the paradisiacal way of getting into the state of tranquility, it cultivates a sound where the world feels still and miseries seem to be nonexistent. A similar warmth draws over the newest release from ethereal ambient folk musician Jacob Ware aka Rapt.

The album “None Of This Will Matter” finds a captivating escape from the unthinkable isolation of trials and turning the exploration of different situations into an intimate anthology of songs helmed into one transcendental record. It somehow emits a familiar fondness of comfort yet exhales discretely from the memories of downcast self-reflection. The theme of the whole album all depends on how the listener perceives it. It can be moving, dreadful or exhilarating and even so, it cannot be ignored that the soul-stirring vulnerability is still colossally evident in the artist’s songwriting.

Below, we spoke with Rapt via email about the production of their new album, their writing process, physical challenges and the effects of music in its entirety, to name a few.

To start off, how is the universe treating you lately?

The universe is treating me as ok as it can during the chaos of this year! At this moment I can’t complain. I ordered an old CD copy of Mount Eerie’s ‘Dawn’ which arrived today, I’m happily reading through the ‘Winter Journal’ Phil kept whilst staying in an isolated Norwegian cabin.

Alongside Rapt, you’ve been in a death metal band for 8 years, right? Can you tell us a little about your decision to start Rapt?.

Extreme metal is deeply rooted in my heart and has been since I was 13, I think extreme metal is under appreciated for how far it can push the boundaries of musical composition, emotion and technicality.

The starting point for the guitar driven, ‘ambient’ leaning parts of ‘Rapt’ was Black Sabbath’s ‘Planet Caravan’. The atmosphere and underlying sadness of the track blew my mind, especially coming from a metal band. I made a deliberate musical ‘nod’ to it in ‘Within Thrall’.

My past love of black metal slowly led me to shoegaze, slowcore and fuzzy, ‘sad’, ‘lo-fi’ folk. I grew up in a house that often had folk music playing which must have seeped into my brain also. Discovering and falling in love with shoegaze, slowcore and ‘dreamier’ folk increasingly made me realise I had no excuses not to start making it myself. I took some material I had for an unfinished and abandoned black metal album and began to turn it into ‘Within Thrall’.

As much as I enjoy collaborative writing, Rapt also came about simply from the desire to write music totally on my own terms, at my own pace, with only myself to blame for a lack of productivity.  If a song lies unfinished, a recording remains un-mixed, I have no one else to blame. The name ‘Rapt’ is intentionally vague, I wanted a single, short word that could apply to many genres, partly to avoid being pigeonholed into a single genre.

There is something unsettling yet comforting beneath the production of your new album ‘None Of This Will Matter’ which made me think, how is your writing process like? And can you tell us something about the album?

I’m probably too close to the album to detect anything ‘unsettling’ about the production, other than Demi’s and Fern’s contributions it is 100% self produced.

It has been by far the most difficult thing I have recorded. After ‘Within Thrall’ I started experiencing painful issues with my hands, many of these tracks took far longer to record than they should have. I don’t want to change how people hear it so I won’t name the track, but one of the tracks on this album took 6 hours worth of guitar takes to capture as my hands would go completely numb after a minute or so of playing.

Recording classical guitar I find very challenging, it is the most unforgiving instrument I have experienced, every single mistake, ‘bum’ note, string squeak and slight slip out of tune seems to be amplified in recordings. I’m obsessive about takes being as near to perfect as possible, although I want to relax more about this in the future. I had to stay entirely still whilst recording the guitar parts, any movement would change the tone.  I ended up drawing permanent marker on my legs to highlight exactly where the guitar was on my body. Whilst difficult to record, I utterly love classical guitar as an instrument, so many different tones and sounds can be made through it.

As far as songwriting goes, 5% of the time a song will fall out from the ether into my lap and be basically finished very quickly. 95% I find it very difficult. I’m working more to try to understand and speed up my creative process.

The physical issues I had were unexpectedly inspiring, they led me to focusing on classical guitar due to it’s low tension and experimenting with open tunings as I couldn’t form traditional chord shapes. There is not a single song in standard tuning. I find lyrics far harder to come up with and have no set method for doing so.

I want to highlight Demi and Fern’s contribution to the album. I was completely stuck with what became ‘backwards’. I had the guitar parts but my vocal ideas were terrible, clunky, cliched and forced. I sent it to Demi and she sent back a beautiful melody and lyrics, ideas that wrapped around the guitar parts in a way I could never have managed. Whenever I send her something and she is kind enough to contribute to it, it comes back as gold. The same can be said for Fern’s contributions, both of them are great at helping the direction of songs and offering opinions as to what something ‘needs’.

I don’t like discussing or over-analysing lyrics, I’ll say that the majority of the album is not personal but explores different situations and feelings through characters, my own experiences inevitably bleed into this but I try to seperate myself from the content.

The album title loosely refers to the fact we often get so tied up and worried about things in life that turn out not to matter, looking back there are so many things that have agonised me that ended up being totally irrelevant and barely remembered as time passes.

I see it as a positive title, some may see it as negative.

Your first self-titled record is far different from your recent releases. What’s changed the most for you since then?

The first album explored my love of ambient and experimental music, repetition is one of my favourite things in music. My goal was to ruthlessly explore repetition using a limited palette of sounds and samples to work with.

My goal with that material was to create music that drowned out external sounds without demanding any attention of the listener. It’s supposed to be ‘boring’ and impenetrable.

There are many moments I find myself craving peace and quiet but also do not wish to listen to music, my intention was to create something for that moment. Sometimes I feel it may have been a misstep to release such contrasting styles under the same name. ‘Rapt’ and ‘Within Thrall’ were made at the same time as each other and I simply couldn’t face creating another project name. I struggle with social media and promoting things and simply didn’t want to have to spend my time promoting both.

Little has changed since then, I have a 100% finished follow up to ‘Rapt’ sitting on my hard-drive.  I plan to release it early next year, what name it will appear under is something I plan to over-think and agonise over around Christmas time.

Quoting from the conversation we had a few months ago you said to me: ‘The music we make is therapeutic but can also drag us down’. It’s pretty self explanatory but what are your thoughts about this? Why do you think the art we make can cast us down? 

I’m glad you quoted our conversation as It gives me a chance to say how much I love your music and value communicating with you. Thank you for covering ‘Lighthouse’.

(Nads: Thank you Jacob! Thank you for covering ‘tell me it’s going to be ok’.)

I’ve always been drawn to ‘sad’ or aggressive music, I almost never listen to anything people would describe as ‘upbeat’. I often see people singing along and dancing to music and I simply don’t understand it, although I’m glad it exists as the world needs positivity right now.

I’ve never been the ‘life and soul’ of a party and find the negative things in this world hard to unsee and accept. I don’t understand the tendency some people have to shut negative things out and deny their existence. I guess channelling those thoughts into a downbeat medium helps with that. Although focusing on negatives and only listening to downbeat stuff must take a toll in some way.

I sent a demo of ‘In Withering Sleep’ to a close friend whilst making the album. He called me up and asked if I was ok as the lyrics were ‘so, so sad’. It made me laugh as I don’t see sadness in all of them, I just like exploring different stories and thoughts through lyrics. The lyrics for that song came from a daydream I had.

I’ve always liked when people describe certain musical moments as ‘beautiful’, in any genre. I aim to emulate and capture those moments In what I do, these moments are often deemed ‘sad’. Despite only really working within negative, sad or aggressive creative styles, I try my best to only express and carry the love in my heart I have for things and people during my waking hours.

Lastly, what do you hope for people to take away from your music?

I don’t hope they take anything away in particular, I’m happy for it to just sit there. If people like it and feel a connection then I’ve been successful. If they think it is unbearable, self indulgent, joyless bulls*** then I’ve been successful, they’ve still felt something from it.

None Of This Will Matter is out everywhere via Z Tapes Records.

You can find more music here.

Cover photo by Monique Woolen-Lewis