The thunderous kick-snare-hi-hat smack on “Infinite 8,” opening track on IRATA’s eponymous debut, sounds very familiar.
It’s virtually identical to the drum pattern on Led Zep’s version of “When the Levee Break.” IRATA timekeeper Jason Ward, 35, readily owns up to the lineage.
“Yeah, you pretty much nailed it,” Ward says with a laugh. “Led Zeppelin is definitely one of my biggest influences, and (drummer John) Bonham specifically. I think people might think he just beat the hell out of the drums, and maybe overlook his subtlety. If you listen to the drum rhythms, they’re pretty intricate.”
IRATA’s material consists entirely of instrumental tunes with no vocals. The Greensboro, N.C.-based trio also includes bassist Jon Case and Jason Duff on guitar and saxophone.
Their 2007 LP, like early Secret Machines, deftly juggles power and mood. The sandy, serpentine track “Eye of Rah” features a hand-drum interlude. “Angel’s Share” is propelled by a cyclone of wah-wah guitar, while “Pilgrim” evokes a digital jungle.
Extraterrestrial bottleneck gooses up “Slide.”
In addition to playing traps, Ward mixes in electronic drums and percussion doo-dads, including djembe, to keep things fresh.
“Our bass player talked me into it, and I think it adds another dimension.” Ward says. “We’ve had a few people ask us why we don’t have a singer. To be honest, we just don’t see any reason to have one.”
What led to the band being all-instrumental? We all came from bands that didn’t particularly fit what we each wanted to do. I was in a Southern rock band, and Jason was playing alternative pop. We decided we weren’t going to fit in any mold in this band.
When IRATA was coming together, did you ever audition any singers? When we first came together, we did try out some singers, and they were absolutely miserable.
Besides Bonham, who’s another one of your favorite drummers? Matt Cameron, from Soundgarden, who is now with Pearl Jam.
What about the rest of IRATA’s roots? Jason, our guitarist, is into Dick Dale and the whole surf-rock scene, Queens of the Stone Age and Led Zeppelin. Our bass player, John, loves Jane’s Addiction, specifically the bass player Eric Avery, and Tool. He also likes The Melvins.
Tell me about playing the CMJ Music Marathon Festival in New York late last year. It was the first major festival we’ve been a part of. We definitely met a lot of cool people on the manufacturing side of things; our album was mixed and mastered on a standalone Korg machine, so we met guys from that company.
IRATA has been featured on XM satellite radio. What do you like about that format? We were on their “unsigned bands channel,” channel 43. I like the fact you can hear different music on (satellite radio) besides the standard Southern rock and Top 40 crap. But I don’t like that I have to pay for it—so I don’t have it right now. (Laughs.)
Without vocals, does the band consciously think of ways to keep the audience interested? With this album we were more in tune with that. Coming up with cooler changes, increase the intensity a little bit, keeping the saxophone going…
That’s always a good idea; women love the saxophone. Yeah, that seems to hold true.