Questions With: Emil Rapstine of The Angelus on Why He Stopped Drinking and Music from Sub-Saharan Africa

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Denton and Dallas-based band The Angelus has been described as “beautiful, bearded Texan folk music,” “dark yet melodic and chiming,” and “equal parts literate and creative.” Their unique droning, melancholic sound has earned them quite a following in the local music scene. Lead singer Emil Rapstine named the band after the Jean-Francois Millet painting because he “liked the sound of the name” and “the serious moment of reflection” the two peasants seem to have while praying in a field. The band began as a duo nearly ten years ago and has experienced a fluctuation of members throughout the years.

Now the band is a power trio consisting of Rapstine, Justin Evans and Ryan Wasterlain. Since their 2011 debut album titled On A Dark & Barren Land, the three-piece has been working on new songs and hopes to record their second album this year. When I spoke to Rapstine on the phone, he said the band is working on shortening the length of their new songs. Most songs on their debut clock in between four and six minutes, with their longest just a little over eight minutes. “We’re using a different guitar tuning and all the songs will be shorter,” he said. “I think people will find the new music to be a little more faster paced and a little more upbeat, but it’s still gonna have that melancholy sound in it.” Expect to hear The Angelus’ new songs at their 8 p.m. show this Friday, April 19 at Club Dada. They’ll be opening for Denver-based “Swans-inspired gothic folk” band, Wovenhand, making for an awesome night for your eyes and ears.

FrontRow: What is the best concert and the worst concert you have ever been to?

Probably one of the best concerts in recent memory was seeing the band Swans. I’ve seen them a few times recently. I saw them at Trees last year, that concert was phenomenal.

I don’t know that I would stay at the worst concert that I ever went to. I remember a show that we played a long time ago back in Denton and there was this band that was touring. I remember they walked in and the drummer had this ridiculous drum set with all these hair metal drummers, like cut out from magazines, and pasted on the base drum head and he was wearing like a cut off shirt. I noticed the band also walked in with these two older gentlemen that looked like they used to be in a band. I figured they must have been their dads and they were just on tour with them. But it turned out that one of the guys was the dad, but he was also in the band. They were just, like, I guess the word is “cock rock” kind of band. It just totally didn’t fit with us.  The worst thing was that I had a friend of a friend there that was watching them, and I was just kind of in disbelief that this band even existed. And this guy turned to me and he started telling me how much he loved them. I will never forget that. It was probably my worst sets of music that I had to sit through.

FR: What was the first movie you saw in the theaters?

I have a feeling that it was something like E.T. But then I looked up E.T. and it said it came out in 1982 and I was born in ’78, so if I was four would I be able to remember going to a movie? But that’s what I’m going to go with.

FR: What’s the closest you have ever come to dying?

I stopped drinking about seven years ago and the reason was that I probably did come pretty close to dying. I used to drink quite a bit, and it finally came to a head one night where I just I drank too much and went on a rampage. I’m probably lucky that I didn’t hurt myself or get shot by a neighbor or by police. That was a very real experience that I don’t really remember much about, but the consequences of it are very real. I do acknowledge that I probably did come very close to dying.

FR: If you could choose any decade to live in, which would it be?

I really couldn’t choose a time to live in other than the times I live in now. We have the advantage of looking back and learning about all the other decades. I don’t think I would be able to pick one, because there are so many different decades that are so interesting to me.

FR: What was your favorite toy as a kid?

I always loved Lego. You could build them and then you weren’t tied to the story of the toy, like Hee-man or G.I. Joe. You could build whatever you had the pieces for or whatever you could imagine and then you could make up the story as you went.

FR: If global warming melted the ice caps covering 90 percent of the known world with water, what city would you hope was spared so you could live there?

Hopefully the city I was in when it flooded. If that happened could I just live like on an abandoned cruise ship? Or just have a bunch of people take over a cruise ship and we could start our first traveling city. I think that’s what I would do.

FR: If you could change one law — make something that is illegal legal, or something legal illegal — what would it be?

I would hope we could outlaw these kinds of questions. (Laughs) I don’t know, I mean, I guess I don’t have anything, any laws or things that necessarily irk me. I guess it would be great if you could outlaw people just being mean to one another. But even if you did I think a lot of people are still just jerks, and people break the law all the time so I don’t know if that would be any good.

FR: If you weren’t playing music and had the talent and circumstances to do anything else, what would it be?

If music wasn’t my hobby or my passion that I do on the side from my day job, hopefully it would be something creative. I think it would be really fun to be an actor, I think that would be really cool.

FR: What’s on your playlist right now?

I’ve been listening to a lot of music from Sub-Saharan Africa, it’s called Tuareg music; it’s like desert blues music. This guy, Bombino, he has a new album called Nomad that I’ve really been listening to. There’s a band called Crime & the City Solution, I’ve been listening to their new album. I’ve also been listening to a band called Liturgy. They describe themselves as a transcendental black metal band. I don’t listen to a lot of metal music. I listen to some, but there’s just something about them that interests me. I’ve been listening to the new Nick Cave record and the band we’re playing with on Friday, Wovenhand. And Locally, there’s a band called Diamond Age. 

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