Posts Tagged ‘Rachel’

Rachel Flotard: The Madness of Hanoi

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

I don’t really know if it’s day or night at this point. I’m in Seoul, Korea, absorbing what was the last of my journey through Laos and Vietnam. This morning I was wearing a crappy T-Shirt in Hanoi, eating street side Pho Ga at a small plastic table about a foot off the ground the city alive with horns. It’s seven hours later and nine degrees in Seoul. Planes are being de-iced. This could be Moscow.

Hanoi, Vietnam. I have never felt a sensation like being in that city. If I had to describe it, on my first day, it felt like you multiplied the population of Manhattan by 100, ripped out all traffic lights and stop signs, tore off every muffler/tailpipe, then put each person on a moped and said have-at-it. It took me days to really understand how (or get the courage up) to cross the street. It is a non-stop rushing river of motorbikes, cars, and people flowing into traffic, and you are expected to walk in. It’s a total act of faith, and a rhythm that seems impossible to understand until you begin to feel it.

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How millions of people learn to navigate the terrain and each other is a total mystery, but it works. You start by pacing slowly forward, inching ahead (with purpose) as the swarm rushes around you. You never go backwards. That seems to be the rule. If you do, you die. It’s terrifying and exhilarating. The helmet law was very recently instituted, and damn if it’s not a good idea. I felt like I needed a full body helmet just to eat my soup.

streetpho

I would often dream about this kind of environment when thinking about a foreign rock tour. What it would be like to go play Japan. I have a song written about Tokyo, hoping this next year will be my year. In 2003 we released our first record, “King Me” on an independent Japanese label. To see your album art come back from the manufacturer written in Japanese might be most beautiful/coolest thing on earth. I only have ONE copy. It sits on my desk, and I daydream over it. Now, even more, I have stockpiled motivation built by this trip. This was an incredible dive back into what’s important for me. My Friends, family, and trying like hell to stay alive and healthy in a world that can be difficult and unpredictable.

templeofferings<

So as I get ready to board my flight back to Seattle, I’m already tracing the window of my plane with my fingertips, wishing my amps were in the cargo hold, and our destination was anywhere but down.

What’s going in the world of Visqueen?

Rachel Flotard: Schooling – Laos Style

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Hello Converse rockers we’re live from Laos:

I’m imagining my drummer Ben Hooker’s HUGE size 14 feet as I type that greeting. (They’re like boats.) Besides being handsome, and gangly, and a general joy-thorn in my side, Ben is the backbone of rock music for me.

We’ve been writing songs, playing shows, and pitching jokes at each other for well over ten years. I miss him very much this morning, thousands of miles across the planet, as I wake up underneath mosquito netting.

In a few moments we’ll load the school supplies, soccer balls, boxes of pens, pencils, paper, and textbooks we brought from Seattle into a wheelbarrow. The seven of us will push it up a dirt road to the Ban Na Mouang Elementary School.

Not only do we get to see the new cement floor made possible by our Seattle friends and family’s donations (we bought the concrete mix!), but we get the joy of surprising 350 kids and their 10 teachers in person.

kidmob

I can feel the heat and dust floating into the open bedroom window as I sit at this keyboard under the sill. There are no glass panes, only wooden frames. I can hear the bustle downstairs as the women of the household prepare the first meal of the day. Cutting fish, washing greens, and heating tiny stone stoves out back. They are strong, tougher than I could ever comprehend, and simply, geniuses of survival. When I say breakfast is from scratch, I mean they kill the chickens, and prepare them at dawn. Squatting and chopping on blocks, heating water to bathe in. This is life here.

So the next time I’m asked how “hard” being on the road is, or how “difficult” it is to be a woman in the music industry, I’ll think of the seven women that took care of me in their home in the Ba Na Mouang village. Some are the same age as me, their grace and skill is unmatched by anyone I’ve ever met, and certainly puts any real hurdle of mine into perspective. I can only hope their strength rubs off on me by being in their presence.

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PS. Here’s a photo of two female monks I met in the woods yesterday.
Solid proof you can be anything, or anywhere, you want to be.

femalemonks

Wanna learn more about Visqueen, head to their homepage.

Rachel Flotard: The View from Global Headquarters

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Hello my Chuck Taylor lacing friends, this is Rachel.

Today I’m writing from a small, hot, ancient street side table in Southeast Asia. To prove it, here is a picture of a kitty on a motorcycle. They ride dirty over here. I’m far from the Pacific Northwest, in Pakse, Laos, but there are always Visqueen emails coming into our global headquarters (my laptop), and no matter where you are in the world, the work must get done!

kitty-on-a-bike

When I decided to put out the new album myself and start Local 638 Records (our own record label), I knew I’d have several jobs to perform. I book and schedule the shows we play. I call radio stations and let them know who we are. I’m a regular at the Post Office. I make sure the CD’s get manufactured and pressed and into local record stores. I make sure our songs are available online for people to hear. I don’t sleep very much, and I’m constantly strategizing. The most important thing that I can do (besides practicing), is make it easy for people to find us, and to get turned on. And smile, as simple as that might sound. For me that’s the whole point! To make music that makes you feel great and then play it to whoever wants to hear it. It’s funny, I read a review of our new record, “Buy this record and you will experience what it feels like to have magical glittery microscopic unicorns fly into your eardrums. Seriously.”

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Photo by Curt Doughty

Who the hell knew this would be a reaction to the music we churn out, freezing our fingers off in a mouse infested (though our mouse, Jerry, is awesome) practice space? I love it. Totally surreal.

But the best part?

There’s no major corporation or giant label conglomerate blindly running our band or directing, or telling us what sounds “right”, good or bad. We can be as big or small as we want to be. If we suck, it’s our problem. It’s our responsibility, our art, pass or fail. It’s nerve wracking sometimes, putting ourselves out there, but ultimately liberating. We’re taking a chance.

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Photo by Curt Doughty

You will fall flat on your face sometimes, not everyone will dig you, but you have to try. Best not to think about it, and just step on stage and tell a joke. Preferably one about your drummer.

Check in on Rachel and the gang at www.visqueenonline.com

Rachel Flotard: The Road to Laos

Monday, January 25th, 2010

<rachsquinterpressphoto
Photo by Christopher Nelson

Hello Converse Readers, lovers, walkers, runners, zippers and rockers!
This is Rachel Flotard from the band Visqueen:

What am I up to currently? I’m long-handing this note to you with a sharpie, and trying not to puke into the leather-bound notebook on my lap. I’m in a prop plane, on a runway in Southeast Asia. I’m seconds away from take-off to Pakse, Laos. I’ve been in Cambodia since Thursday acclimating to my foreign surroundings and preparing for my trip North. Siem Reap, (the beautiful city I’m leaving) has completely blown my mind and I’d love to replace my eyes with cameras.

Tomorrow I drive to a small village to visit the Bon Na Mouang Elementary School. (I went to Laos last year before I put out my album “Message To Garcia”, and I fell in love with the country.) The school needs a solid concrete floor (theirs is currently dirt and floods during the rainy season), so my friends and I are helping renovate the classrooms. We even had a dance party in Seattle to raise money for the cause. We’re going to go celebrate with the kids, deliver some much needed school supplies, soccer balls and simply hang out with them.

This week has been as beautiful as it’s been bewildering.
Last night, I held onto the back of a motorbike and raced down a dust road to see a lake of ancient, floating fishing villages.

Tonle Sap is one of the largest fresh water lakes in Asia, and living on parts of this enormous, bell-shaped body of water are generations of families. They live and work atop platforms built on bamboo stilts. Simple, stunning, and so far from my reality at home.

These incredible people raise their buildings, their children, and their livestock, all on the water. I had to pinch myself that I was really seeing this, as it’s been for a hundred years. So lucky and so grateful for the chance.

Hard to believe I was in Seattle not days ago, playing a rock show in front of thousands of people, thinking about this trip. My performance jitters and nervousness are hilarious now, pointless and humbled. Visqueen, the home-towners, were invited to open this massive, holiday, radio sponsored show. I got to give my guitar a nice arena rock road-test and played a handful of songs off of the new record, and some older ones that have always made my butt move.

Whoa. Ok. The plane just banked hard to the right. We’re over 15,000 feet over Siem Reap now. And I just took a picture of it for you.

Wanna hear some of Visqueen’s tunes? Head to www.visqueenonline.com