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Printer's Devil

by Ratboys

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about

Upheaval and change are themes spread throughout the songs on Printer’s Devil, the latest Ratboys LP, out February 28, 2020 via Topshelf Records. But all the while, singer-songwriter Julia Steiner embraces moments of uncertainty as a necessary part of growing. Steiner recalls a David Byrne lyric, “I’m lost, but I’m not afraid” as inspiration for the transformative outlook, considering the line a personal mantra while writing Ratboys’ third full-length record. “There’s definitely a lot of uncertainty about what’s next, but I like to think that, in the midst of creating a lot of vulnerability for ourselves, we’re confident and becoming more self-assured.”

Steiner wrote the record with guitarist Dave Sagan while she was experiencing a dramatic shift in her own foundations, demoing out songs in her Louisville, Kentucky childhood home, which had just been sold and emptied out. “Demoing there was almost too intense,” Steiner says. “I kept writing in my journal that it feels like we shouldn’t be there. I don’t know if that feeling made its way directly into the lyrics, but to me the songs will always be connected to that sense of home and time passing.”

With years of touring under their belts, Steiner and Sagan have welcomed a newly consistent four-piece lineup, after years of shuffling through drummers. The band’s comfortable core -- which sees Steiner and Sagan backed by drummer Marcus Nuccio and bassist Sean Neumann -- is tangible across Printer’s Devil. What started as an acoustic duo has finally transformed into a full-scale indie-rock band with a clear identity. The rhythm section brings the band not only consistency, but a jolt in line with Steiner and Sagan’s growing sonic aspirations: Printer’s Devil was recorded live at Decade Music Studios in Chicago and was produced by the band and engineer Erik Rasmussen. Big-chorus power pop songs like “Alien with a Sleep Mask On” and “Anj” sound massive and larger than life, while the band’s dynamics beautifully thread together intimate folk songs like “A Vision” and devastating alt-country tracks like “Listening,” showcasing a rare range that invites listeners to imagine the band blowing out a 2,000-cap room or playing quietly next to you in the living room.

Building off their previous albums—AOID (2015) and GN (2017), which feature bright, youthful Americana narratives centered around soft vocal cadences and fluid, melodic lead guitars—Ratboys captures the bombastic, electrified fun of their live show in a bottle on Printer’s Devil and showcases their growing chemistry as a tight-knit group. Through all the change that fueled the record, Ratboys’ latest album Printer’s Devil finds a band that’s truly grown into itself and is just getting started.

(words by Tim Crisp // edited by Sean Neumann)

credits

released February 28, 2020

Recorded and Mixed by Erik Rasmussen at Decade Music Studio
Produced by Ratboys and Erik Rasmussen
Mastered by Alan Douches at West Westside

Guitar, vocals, lyrics - Julia Steiner
Guitar, bass (Tracks 3, 8, 9) - Dave Sagan
Bass - Sean Neumann
Drums, synths - Marcus Nuccio
Drums (Tracks 3, 4, 8, 10), Vibes - Ian Paine-Jesam

Photographs by Johnny Fabrizio
Layout by Dave Sagan

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Track Name: Alien With a Sleep Mask On
I don’t know about me
Take my life, and put it on a pedestal
I don’t get beamed down this way usually
But, it’s time for a change of scenery

I’m an alien with a sleep mask on
And I don’t know where I went wrong

The front door slammed next to me
Woke me up in my cryogenic chamber
I said, ‘Where are we again? No idea?
Well, that’s quite alright, I must be dreaming’

I’m an alien with a sleep mask on
And I’m sleeping with both eyes closed
I’ll probe you when I wake up
I’m an alien with a sleep mask on

I come from the outside
The outside looking in
But, I’m so inside my head
Yeah, it’s beautiful from the outside
But I’m always looking in
Track Name: Look To
When I was a little tyke
Bombing hills in the summertime
I felt the sun

I had your face memorized
Looking up and kissing you goodnight
From the comfort of my room

But, I don’t wanna choose
I just don’t know who to look to

Pick apart both our lives
It’s hard to know you’ll need me soon like I
Like I used to need you

Looking over eye to eye
You tearfully tell me not to cry
I’m right here beside you

But I don’t wanna choose
I just don’t know who to look to
Track Name: My Hands Grow
Oh, my hands grow
All the way to the sky
White clouds arrive
When the wind blows past us over the light
I know that it’s hard to cry sometimes
While no one watches, shake your head and wonder why

I can’t tell you how I tried
Oh, to love what I can’t describe
Yeah, I’ll watch you by and by
While we hang by the riverside
It’s night and day, how it feels when we stay
Outside, driving down the roads that snake all across the county line

Know that what you see
Is just life in a vivid dream
The tall grass, it hides whole civilizations bugs design
I know that it’s hard to feel my love
Just trust that all we’ve learned tonight is real
Track Name: A Vision
I had a vision of a dying blade of grass
Woke up in an instant to find it had come to pass
I stared up at the ceiling fan until the sun came back
With closed eyes in the distance

I woke up in an instant, and I hit the gravel road
Walked around the backyard where I shook down all my foes
I passed right through the mess of a spiderweb like some infernal ghost
Then drove off for some breakfast

The rain had stopped ‘round 10 o’clock while we wound our way home
And on the side of the road, saw Hannah

There was a possum lying face up in the road
All of the water in the air had somehow turned to gold
As the hot and soft pavement rocked him slowly in the mist
We drove by in an instant

Terrified and staring I slammed my foot on the gas
And swerved right by in an instant
Track Name: Anj
The day we met
I had a brand new heartbeat, twisting
Its way through my chest
Humming like a silhouette in the dark

You sat in a chair
And held my tiny body, rocking
And it’s hard to send
My aching mind back after what came and went

I’m not alone

The day my parents moved
You took me over to Indiana
We went to the mall
I rode a paper airplane inside

The motion simulator
Breaking my back, a fiery death
And when we got out
You held me close, I was shaking, I know it

I’m not alone

You were never broken up
Or less than whole, you’re powerful
But, I’m not the one to tell you this
I know, you’ve told yourself

I’ll do what I can
To make this all go away faster
But, you are the one
Who tells me not to call you when I try to say

You’re not alone
I’m not alone
Track Name: I Go Out at Night
I just had a thought
‘What if I never came home?’
I’d go and get a job
Uninstalling ‘90s payphones

I like the sunrise
But, I just want to feel alright
And, sometimes when I’m alone
I go out at night

Pick apart my brain
Put it back into my head
Should I write it down
Hastily or let it rest?

I’d like to know what
Nothing and everything feels like
And, sometimes when I’m afraid
I turn on the light

I am waking up in the light
The sun that breaks through the sky
Photographs fill my mind
I’m sleeping here for the last time
Track Name: Victorian Slumhouse
There was a Victorian Slum House
On the corner, by the Tesco parking lot
Eyes wide with fascination
As the dump trucks unloaded three tons of mud
For the show, looking back now, where did it go?

They held a casting call for volunteers
Which one will be the first to cry?
Locked in 20 people, then half a dozen camera crews, they filmed at night
Watched ‘em stir, waking up to get to work

But, they’re running so far behind
All the time

Key light from the corner
When the family comes to pay their weekly rent
Watch it back, we got the take
Now break the set

But, it’s hard to control the lines
With hands shaking by design
Cross your heart, we promise you’ll be fine
Until next time
Track Name: Clever Hans
I was born into a circle
Widening with every single breath we take
Making all our big mistakes together
We were thick as thieves in the getaway

So, I was torn up
When you said, ‘Enough is enough’

Waking up outside, I felt the morning
Light subside, as I wandered toward the hay
It’s funny how I gain this new importance
When you watch me watch the lines move on your face

So, I prayed
That you would stay

Kicking up some blossoms in a field now
I remember the crowds as they came
And, there’s something more to see on the horizon
A ball of fire, falling slowly from the day

But, you’ve gone away
Track Name: Listening
How do I find?
There’s something outside
I’m listening
Through the wall

Maybe I’ll find
Something that’s right
I’m listening
Through the wall

If I go home
Pockets full of something, I don’t know
If I go home

Maybe you’re right
Everybody’s tired
Not listening

Looking toward the sky
For something bonafide
I’m listening
For it all

But, how you could
Baby, I was somewhere far
If I go, could you write me?

But, you’re gone
That’s right
Everyone looks different at night

You’re gone
It’s true
Making sure you don’t know what to do

It’s something you can’t explain
Something just has to go away
I don’t know
Track Name: Printer's Devil
The fire in your eyes is open
I was hoping for something
The fire in your eyes is open
A quiet light

Open up your life frozen
Dig where you lie
A frozen meadow
In the dead of the night

Printer’s Devil
Moves the type
A killer letter
That’s dead inside

Printer’s Devil
Put down the line

God is silent
Make up your mind
God is silence
A voice inside

Put down the line

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