Rainbow Kitten Surprise
How To: Friend, Love, Freefall
Elektra · April 06, 2018
About a year ago, my friend messaged me saying I needed to listen to a track called ‘Cocaine Jesus’ by a band called Rainbow Kitten Surprise. Like most people I’ve repeated this request to, I originally thought the song and the band was a joke and brushed it off for a couple months. She once again reached out asking if I had listened to the song and assured me the band wasn’t a joke. After listening to the first twenty seconds of the song, my preconceived notions of the band vanished, and I immediately regretted not listening to them two months earlier.
Hailing from Boone, North Carolina, Rainbow Kitten Surprise took folk, alternative, and rock to a new level in 2013 when they released their first LP, Seven + Mary. RKS’s sound perfectly tangles haunting harmonies, poetic lyrics, and powerful instrumentals that tangle in every track. They continued their momentum in 2015 with their second LP, RKS, which includes some of their biggest hits to date like ‘Cocaine Jesus’ and ‘Wasted.’
On April 6, 2018, RKS released their third full LP, How to: Friend, Love, Freefall, and the album simply sounds fantastic from track one to track thirteen. The detail put into every song of the album acts invites you to dive deep into the emotions and stories that make this album their most experimental release yet. Lead vocalist Sam Melo has once again blessed us with samples and tastes of his expansive range that constantly flows between the earthy folk roots of ‘Recktify’ and the unearthly, feathery high of ‘Possum Queen.’
The album opens with a 24-second a capella intro, ‘Pacific Love,’ which draws the listener into their evocative harmonies before diving deep into the mind of Melo and his stories of freefalling in love and in friendship. The next track, ‘Mission to Mars,’ eases into the full band and showcases Melo’s rapping (or fast singing) as well as the other members of the band: Darrick “Bozzy” Keller (guitar), Ethan Goodpaster (guitar), Jess Haney (drums), and Charlie Holt (bass). All of the members contribute to the harmonies and backup vocals with Melo.
Melo has stated that the band takes influence from artists like Modest Mouse, Lana Del Ray, Kings of Leon, Frank Ocean, and Schoolboy Q, all of which give the band a genre-defying sound. For example, one of the highlights of the album is their lead single, ‘Fever Pitch,’ which explores the elements of rock, country, hip-hop, and soul to create a feeling that somehow makes you want to dance. To add to the eclectic mood of the song, the ‘Fever Pitch’ music video includes clips of the band dressed up as cowboys and prancing around. It doesn’t get any better than that, folks.
One of the most powerful tracks is ‘Hide,’ which was released as a single prior to the LP release. On April 3, RKS released the music video for the track with a note from Sam Melo, who explained the song was influenced by his experiences of being gay and coming out in 2015. Having grown up in the Dominican Republic, “A real man’s man kind of place,” he knew that being homosexual was actively looked down upon and that he needed to hide his emotions. When he discovered this newfound attraction, he wrote the lyrics “I got some radio wires soldered to my heart / you’re the only thing that’s coming in.” The line eventually grew into the rest of the song, ‘Hide.’ In the next band practice, Melo came out to the rest of RKS, with their response being “You’re a dance major who wears a pea coat, dress shoes, and smokes Djarum Blacks. We know, it’s cool.” The video, which follows the story of a few drag queens revealing their passions to their families and loved ones, and the song encompasses the rollercoaster love that is depicted throughout the album. Both the video and the song end of positive notes and feelings of acceptance and unconditional love.
My personal favorite of the album is ‘Painkillers,’ which explores the deeper meanings of the records. Backed by an acoustic accompaniment, Melo begins the song with the words “Very lovely morning / try not to kill yourself today.” A melancholy and comforting track, ‘Painkillers’ dives deep into life’s inevitable pains that come from heartache and neiveté. In the lyrics “Speak momma / round here the quiet die young,” Melo is insisting the audience speak up and express their emotions rather than keeping them for themselves because the “quiet” are those who are hurting the most.
In this short 36-minute album, Rainbow Kitten Surprise has exceeded their first two albums as the band has grown and begun to experiment new sounds and emotions within their music. For music lovers of all genres, I cannot recommend this album highly enough for their risk in genre-fusion and lyrics, while holding true to the instrumentations and harmonies that have defined Rainbow Kitten Surprise as a band.