Rapt – In Their Own Words

Signed to the excellent Slovakian label, Z-Tapes, Rapt is the current musical alias of London-based musician Jacob Ware. Although Jacob’s CV includes an eight-year involvement in the extreme metal scene, with Rapt he set out to explore another of his musical passions, folk music. After his last record, None Of This Will Matter, sold out two pressings of tapes and a limited edition vinyl run, Rapt recently returned with his latest offering, Wayward Faith.

Discussing the inspiration behind Wayward Faith, Jacob recalls how they weren’t inspired by a specific place or time, but more a collective feeling, a collection of tracks he recalls were written, “in the moments I was overwhelmed by the world”. Within that he seeks to explore themes of inertia and memory, whether it’s snippets of returning to his childhood home to find memories he didn’t even recognise or reflections on a physical illness that hampered his guitar playing to the point he had to rethink how he would even write or play these songs.

The resultant collection is a record that seems to exist at the meeting point of the personal and the collective, a record inspired by internal feelings, yet aware of the wider context in which they fall. Take the opening track, Only Water, which pairs the chastening tale of the decline of the planet with its ability to bring people together, “ruthlessly dragging us down, ruthlessly dragging us close to the earth, ruthlessly dragging me down, ruthlessly dragging me closer to you”. That sense of the personal playing off against the universal is present too in Fallow (I-III), as it touches on the idea that the world keeps spinning, even when we feel like everything is slipping away, “doves still soar, they arc above, as if late for something we’ve done”.

Another theme explored through the record is the titular idea of faith, this is an album that thinks about religion through an agnostic eye. Throughout the record, Jacob seems to want to turn to god but always finds a part of the answer missing. Take the beautifully formed track The Nest, it seems to question the belief others try and put upon us, “I read the book but It didn’t fit I found god too intrusive and quick to turn on the rain”. It’s something he returns to on the closing track, New Pardoner, it’s like a deathbed confession of a man who when faced with the fear of redemption for his sins, attempts to turn to a god he doesn’t believe in, “take my gold and run, watch me buy my way out, little do they know how it feels to need a new pardoner”. Ultimately perhaps this is a record about taking responsibility for your own actions, of trusting in humanity and love above some higher power, as Jacob puts it, “the most important thing is to love and to be loved. To hold sight of this during the most stormy weather and the longest nights”.

Following the release I recently spoke to Jacob about trusting his instincts, the influences on Wayward Faith, and why there is more crossover between folk and death metal than you might expect.

FTR: For those who don’t know, who is Rapt?

Rapt is the moniker that I have produced music under since 2018, I wanted a vague name that could cover multiple genres and include multiple people.

So far I have put out folk, shoegaze, ambient and techno using the moniker, with another genre twist on the way later this year..

FTR: You’ve just released your new album, Wayward Faith, what can you tell me about recording it?

Wayward Faith was assembled directly after None Of This Will Matter. I scrapped all of the unused material from the previous record and started again. I had grown frustrated with my recording and writing process and decided that change was needed.

I write slowly; songs such as Fallow (I-III) took well over a year to assemble, although ‘The Nest’ appeared fully formed in 30 minutes or so!

Before the pandemic I had planned to move out of a city which I’d lived in for nearly 8 years, but covid stalled all of that and I ended up back in my childhood home for a period. Much of the record is inspired by childhood, past mistakes, regrets and realisations I’d had during the forced reflection that we all experienced in 2020-21.

FTR: What did you do differently with this record compared to previous recordings?

Wayward Faith was the result of trusting myself more, not over-working songs and trying to ‘get out of my own way’. In the past I would scrap 80% of what I wrote, whereas with Wayward Faith I wrote until I had the shell of a record and then stopped, focusing on doing the very best I could with what I had.

I think I was more successful in terms of vocal performance this time around, I consider myself a guitarist that sings, not a singer. This time, I captured most of the vocal recordings in a single unedited take. At points my voice is more ‘pitchy’ as a result but I was determined to capture a song nearer to its nucleus and then be at peace. I used to spend a machochistic amount of time recording vocals, with some tracks having 100 or so vocal takes. I realised at some point that life is simply too short to f**k around for so long.

FTR: People might not expect a folk musician to have a background in the extreme metal scene, is there any crossover between how you approach the two styles?

It might sound unusual moving from brutal death metal to where I am now, but the truth is that I always listened to folk music, my mother grew me up on a diet of (often harrowing) folk music by artists such as Joni Mitchell, Paul Brady, Sandy Denny and Van Morrison.

In terms of crossover, there is a shared darkness that runs through everything I have ever recorded or written in my life. I think how I approach song-structure is still rooted in extreme metal, I write ‘riffs’ not chord sequences and the guitar leads the vocals 100% of the time, never the other way round. I am grateful for my time in extreme metal, it pushed me as a musician and granted me a different perspective on composing music.

FTR: You’ve spoken of this record as being about the moments you were overwhelmed by the world, why do you think that’s a mindset that is creative for you?

I find writing music to be agonisingly difficult. The diaries I kept 2020-2021 (available with the vinyl press) were an attempt to understand myself and the creative process better.

Songs only form in front of me when I am not looking for them, I cannot force lyrics in particular, I have to just be receptive and wait for them to show up.

I find ideas come quickest when I am receptive to the world and sympathetic to the struggles that other people face, I spot stories on strangers faces almost every day.

Ultimately I think that the best art is often informed by struggle and strife, if not at the hands of the creator then when the creator is willing to truly observe and listen to others, to write ‘for’ others in a sense.

FTR: There’s a sense of questioning on Wayward Faith, would you say you make use of music to make sense of the world?

Absolutely, I truly believe that it benefits society and the media for people to be scared and overwhelmed, ‘they’ want us to be scared. Rapt is how I understand, fight and articulate that fear both for myself and other people. I don’t understand how people live with and tolerate the pain and injustices we turn a blind eye to each day.

Much of the record refers to climate change. I often see nature and its battle against humankind, weeds growing at the base of skyscrapers, the gluttony and greed of humans evident by looking down the aisle of any supermarket, and how increasingly sun – scorched the earth is.

I also end up looking deep into my own lived experience for ideas, many things that felt inconsequential at the time can come back to haunt you.

The record is bookended by such observations, ‘Only Water’ focusing on climate change, ‘New Pardoner’ exploring if it is possible to ‘buy your way out’ of a life of sin, to be truly forgiven for your actions and granted passage into the heavens. As an agnostic I say this metaphorically..

FTR: Your press release makes references to a physical that hampered your guitar playing. Did that change the way you approached making the album?

At the time of writing I am lucky enough to have recovered 80% or so from the mobility issues that have hampered my guitar playing over the last 2 years. At the end of 2019 I couldn’t form a traditional chord shape or play steel strings at all!

I was forced to play entirely in open tunings and could only ‘fret’ using one or two fingers, this ultimately forced me to drastically adapt and improve as a guitar player, my last two records would be completely different if I hadn’t experienced such an illness.

By the time I was deep into writing Wayward Faith much of my mobility had come back, I decided to really push myself from a technical point of view, Fifteen, Fallow and Last Night In Exile have the most demanding guitar parts I have written thus far.

Having said this I already plan to give myself an easier time instrumentally for the next record. If I learnt one thing from my extreme metal days it is that it is easy to hide behind ‘technicality’, often the song itself can start to suffer.

FTR: What are the inspirations on Rapt’s sound? What were you listening to when you wrote Wayward Faith?

Wayward Faith was mostly inspired by my love and admiration for ‘indie folk’ artists such as Damien Jurado, Mount Eerie, Bonnie Prince Billy and Grouper. I also love classical guitar playing and traditional Irish folk music, put all of the above in a blender and you get Wayward Faith. If I could select two records as influences they would be Jurado’s ‘The Horizon Just Laughed’ and ‘Meseta’ by Peter Blanchette.

FTR: What about inspirations outside of music? Do you have any other creative outlets?

To be honest, I do very little outside of music, unless you count running and whisky as creative outlets.

I love fine art. I try to visit art exhibitions on a semi-regular basis and read a lot about the history of art and biographies of artists. I enjoy art strictly as an observer, I deliberately do not dabble in it for fear of ruining my joy of it.

FTR: Will you be touring to support this record? What can people expect from the Rapt live show?

I have a few more live dates planned for the year and am working on booking a spring tour. My live performances are pretty true to the record, stripped down, just my frail voice and a guitar. I try to adapt and allow the songs to change and breathe with each performance.

FTR: What’s next for Rapt?

I have a musical twist planned for later in the year which will probably be the most challenging listen I’ve put together to date.

I’ve already made a start on record five, my main goal is to be more prolific and get a new record out in 2023. I am sitting on a lot of material.

Wayward Faith is out now via Z-Tapes. For more information on Rapt visit https://linktr.ee/jacobwrapt.

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