IT'S NOT "goodbye," just "see you later."
After five hard years of touring, Les Racquet is calling for a time-out to allow its members to develop individually as musicians and proud Savannah residents. But this isn’t a somber affair: to celebrate a new chapter, they’ve invited the community to celebrate with a huge party and show at Barrelhouse South on Thursday night.
“We always said that when we got to a point where we didn’t see obvious growth when we were on the road, we were going to go off the road,” drummer Daniel Malone explains. “That kind of coincided with this winter: we found a home in Savannah, decided to move here, I met my fiancée...it was just kind of natural to say, ‘let’s take a little bit of time off to grow individually, get ready and poised for the next chapter of Les Racquet, and come back a little more mature and professional. It’s actually really exciting for us.”
Recently, Malone, Patrick Carroll (guitar, lead vocals) and Kenny Murphy (bass, vocals) have been cropping up all over Savannah’s stages: Malone gigs with fiancée Rachael Shaner and Randy Cuba in Southern Maple Band, covering Top 40 pop, blues band Jubal Kane, and Ben Kaiser Trio. Carroll has pursued a singer/songwriter career, and Murphy has delved into jazz and the open mic circuit.
“We’re not doing the Les Racquet thing as much anymore, so we’re all getting calls to fill in,” says Malone. “Which has been great, because all these different styles and different musicians allows us to stretch. I’m becoming more deliberate with my playing and my focus, arrangements, and harmonies. I’ve been taking vocal lessons and really working on harmony arrangements, and I know Patrick and Kenny have been working on their vocals as well.”
When they get back together, they plan to record an album of material they tested on the road while touring in spring; right now, they have a rough sketch in the form of demos tracked in Atlanta.
“We took everything on the road with us for our spring tour to just kind of play it and arrange things live around the country,” says Malone. “If it’s something we like in rehearsal that doesn’t necessarily work in Cincinnati, Ohio, we might try it again in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. If it doesn’t work there, maybe there’s a reason for that. It’s kind of a pass-fail mentality with the method, but also there’s something to be said about contemplation and letting something go, letting something breathe—which is where the space comes in that we’re taking a break this summer and fall.”
For now, Malone’s excited to tie the knot with his lady in October, push himself by performing with a variety of players, and continue to enjoy Savannah—a hometown the Racqueteers adopted after several unique twists of fate.
“We came through in 2012 on a whim and absolutely fell in love with it,” he remembers.
Upon rolling into town, the band headed to the former Livewire Music Hall, discovered online, to break out their laptops and work on booking. It was a Monday, Eric Culberson’s usual jam night; when Culberson had to cancel, Andrew Robertson offered the gig to the band sitting right at his bar in exchange for free drinks and a place to stay. The usual local musican-heavy Monday crowd turned out, and liked what they heard. Robertson asked if they could play Tuesday. The crowd thickened. They played Wednesday. They got a call from Tybee Island Social Club’s Kurtis Schumm, asking if they could play his place on Thursday. Then Friday.
“We came into town knowing no one, having no gigs—and we started coming back to Savannah as much as possible,” Malone says. “This city treats us so well; we’ve met so many kind people who are so many great friends of ours now. We’ve done some incredible things with people here that you do with your best friends. We’ve gone camping, we’ve seen life events happen: marriages, and Deric Murphy passing away...we went through that process with our friends, and we just realized that this place is home.”
For the past three years, the band had made it a goal to stay in Savannah for the winter—up North, snow season is a rough time to tour due to potentially dangerous driving conditions and risks of weather-related show cancellations.
“We kept getting coerced to the island,” Malone recalls with a laugh. “This winter, we looked the other way, tied ourselves to the masthead, and didn’t let ourselves get drawn in, and stayed in Savannah for the winter. We really spent the winter here, and at the end of it, we decided we were going to officially announce that we are no longer a band based out of New York City—we’re based out of Savannah.”
Malone advises that the Barrelhouse gig is a great chance to snag Les Racquet merch: they’ll have three tables brimming over with t-shirts, bandanas, koozies and more, with the goal being to get rid of everything. Plus, they’re aiming to make the whole evening a next-level spectacle, complete with a floating bar and surprises.
It’s certainly, in its own way, the end of a particular chapter, but Malone and the boys are looking forward to the possibilities that lie ahead.
“We couldn’t have written it this way,” Malone says. “It’s a chapter that has started with us being young and touring and learning the ropes about what that means lifestyle-wise and music-wise, and it’s closing with me getting married and us living here now. We are super-excited to be ambassadors to Savannah formally, to be a staple of the community and to offer our talents and services as we can. We’re all proud of the fact that Savannah is home.”