With a team of fictional monsters for bandmates and a wild, brilliant imagination, ratbag is anything but average. Read our latest Hype playlist cover feature now.
Words: Sam Taylor.
New Zealand-based musician, artist, dinosaur sprinkles enthusiast and all-around superstar ratbag is building her own immersive visual and sonic world. With the help of her (whisper it) ‘fictional’ bandmates and co-conspirators, a team of monsters called Deemo, Eugene, Slug and Fritz, she’s spinning a new project that encompasses everything from sculptures, drawings, photography and fashion. Her debut EP ‘why aren’t you laughing’, out now (Friday, 8th December), is a joyous manifestation of her boundless imagination.
Hi, ratbag! How’s it going? What are you up to today, anything fun?
Good morning. I am pretty good; I just had a bowl of cereal and sat in the garden to write some words. Today, I’m going to practice with my band and maybe introduce them to my mum later tonight, though I will keep them on a leash still.
Tell us about yourself – who are you, what do you like?
I am ratbag, I’m also Sophie. I’m 20 soon, which feels bizarre. I like a lot of things; I like to draw, write, and make sounds. I like the colour blue, and also the colour red. I like to go for walks, but not if they’re uphill and not if I’m gonna see anyone I know. Love sprinkles. Chocolate, rainbow, doesn’t matter, down the hatch. I’m on the lookout for dinosaur ones. I haven’t quite found them yet, but I will. I will. I like to collect things to stick in my journal, like old spiders and stuff. I like many things, but I feel as though I should stop at some point.
What first attracted you to making music?
One day, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I wrote a song right now?” So I sat on my bed with my dad’s ukulele and wrote a full song in one sitting. After I realised I could do it, I wrote more and more, and now it’s my favourite thing in the world.
Can you remember the first song you wrote?
Yes, and it will never see the light of day.
“It feels quite scary to hand over my songs, like I’m handing pieces of me to the world”ratbag
How has your music evolved since then?
My music has just become more ‘me’, to put it simply. My roots are always visible in my songs, which I think is cool. My production skills have grown greatly since my first produced song, but my love for mayhem and chaoticness in music has remained.
What’s been the highlight of your time as a musician so far?
Probably being able to sit back and watch my world seep into this world. And to watch as people join in on whatever I’m doing. It’s cool.
Has anything about being a musician or getting your music ‘out there’ surprised you?
The fact that people actually like how crazy and chaotic my music sounds is surprising to me. But then again, it makes sense. Most people’s brains are loud like mine; some of you are just better at hiding it.
You’ve got some fictional bandmates, right? Who are they, and what do they do?
There’s Deemo (on the bass), Fritz (on keys), Eugene (on drums) and Slug (on guitar). They play my songs for me so I can sing them. And, in return, I brought them into this world, although I haven’t let them out of the house yet, so they aren’t exactly happy to be here right now.
You’ve just released your debut EP – what’s it about? Where did it come from? Was it an easy birth?
‘why aren’t you laughing?’ is your invitation into my world. I’ve opened the door just a crack, enough for you to see the beginning of what’s going on. These four songs had been brewing in a big ol’ bowl of soup in my head and are now ready to be eaten by you. It feels quite scary to hand over my songs, like I’m handing pieces of me to the world, but I think it’s equally as exciting.
How did you approach curating the EP’s tracklisting?
I wanted to start and end the EP on a mistake. ‘dead end kids’ starts with a guitar riff I recorded in my room. While recording, I dropped my pick and fucked up the take. And at the very end of rats in my walls, I play the wrong chord on the organ. I kept my frustrated grunt in there, too. I don’t know why I like mistakes, but I just do. I thought it would be a nice way to go about my first-ever EP.
What does being a successful musician look like to you?
Hmmm. I’ve brought my world into this world, and in doing so, I’ve had people join in and become invested. So, I guess I already feel a sense of success, to be honest. But from here onwards, I would love to keep building this world and collecting the people interested in it.
Tell us a secret about yourself?
What else are you working on right now?
More songs. More art. More of everything. I’m very excited to keep peeling off slices of my world for you to see.
Do you have big plans for 2024?
My plans for 2024 are to find dinosaur sprinkles. ■
ratbag’s debut EP ‘Why Aren’t You Laughing?’ is out now. Follow Dork’s Hype Spotify playlist here.