When you listen to a Rat City Riot track, you might think singer Noah Bricker just choked down a handful of glass shards. In fact, his sandpaper vocals (similar to Dicky Barrett's of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones) are the result of haphazard fine-tuning.
"It took a long time to figure out how to sing like that and not lose my voice," Bricker recalls. "In the first band I was in, I didn't quite have it down, and I would notice my throat really hurt. I had to, though, because I can't really 'sing.'"
As rough-and-tumble as the Rat City Riot old-school punk/hardcore sound is, it's matched by the band's steadfast unwillingness to court major record labels. Bricker acknowledges the punk scene around the country is "pretty hit or miss," but nonetheless, RCR has carved out a niche in its hometown of San Diego.
"We're not playing the right type of music to make it big and make a bunch of money, but that's not what we're trying to do," explains Bricker. "We could be some radio band and have a miserable time playing music, but instead we'll go out and do what we're doing, have a good time and try not to get killed on the road."
Bricker seems resigned when he speaks about punk music's place in the popular music pecking order. He's had to watch as undeserving bands are fawned over by music industry execs while infinitely more worthy and diligent acts get the brush-off. "There are a lot of bands that work hard and play really good music, and they're pretty much ignored," Bricker laments. "Then bands that are absolutely horrible get record deals who don't tour and don't work. That's just how the industry is."
RCR has found a couple labels interested in their wares, beginning in 2005 with their first LP Dirty Rotten Games on Taang! Records (coincidentally one of the recording outfits that gave Barrett's Bosstones its start). On that album, the band spews punk as quick and boisterous as it is rugged and sharp-edged, with plenty of group sing-alongs and guttural growls. 2007's The Open Road EP, released on Street Anthem Records, eases off the gas pedal and lets some of the band's rockabilly influence bubble over.
Maybe they'll never be rock stars, but Bricker knows he and the RCR crew will give all they’ve got to fans who like what they hear. "It's not about popularity, really," Bricker says. "We'd rather have five people up front having a good time than have 30 people standing in the back staring at us."