Rarae Avis
Gig Seeker Pro

Rarae Avis


Band Rock New Age


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"Left Off the Dial"

Their name looks hard to pronounce. Their album is self-titled. The artwork is monotone photographs of stark landscapes. The liner notes are practically non-existent. There is absolutely no mention of a single human being to be found here. The songs are untitled. So far, there’s not much to go on, but don’t expect more information on their website. The site mentions the fact that the band has members, but doesn’t provide details. Again, specifically mentioning humans, directly or generally, is rare. If you do a little digging through the interviews on their “press” page, you find out that there are three members, and they actually have names.

It seems obvious from the start that Rarae Avis is going to make the listener work a little bit. This approach is refreshing in the current state of our musical world, where you usually can tell exactly what a band will sound like based on their album cover.

So press play, and let the music do the talking. As your tour guide, I insist that you wear headphones. The stereo panning and effects here can only be truly appreciated this way. Track one starts things slowly with guitars that swell and glow and fade. Honestly, the whole track sounds like the perfect introduction to a song that never really starts. Reminds me of the beginning of U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Four minutes of warm, atmospheric guitar tones lead us into track two, which sounds a bit more like an actual song. After another minute of some delayed guitar playing, we actually get to hear some drums, which fill things out quite nicely. Still, everything so far sounds like the introduction to something greater – to something just over the horizon. I’m not sure where we’re going, and it sure is taking a long time to get there, but I have my suspicions that it might be worth it.

Track three continues the warm, enveloping tone of the previous tracks, but introduces a new element to the mix: vocals. By now, ten minutes into the album, the vocals actually come as a surprise. But they fit well and even have their own little stereo flourishes to keep up with the swimming guitars. They wrote words – how much more trouble would it have been to write some song titles? Because by now, I’ve been sucked in, and I want more insight into what’s going on here.

Track four also has vocals, but track five goes back on an instrumental bent. A diverse, sprawling audio landscape that starts with gentle guitars, throws in some booming drums, and ends with some nice backwards effects.

Six is vocal again. Seven ends things with an instrumental. This one showcases some fine feedback control.

It takes a lot for me to like an instrumental band. And sure, there are vocals on a handful of these songs, but in my mind I still classify Rarae Avis as an instrumental group. This band got my attention early, and kept if for all 42 minutes. I keep going back for another listen, and every time, I find something new. Their experimental approach is engaging, the production is top notch, and the mixing is flat out superb. In the end, you don’t need to know the names of the members, nor do you need to know the names of the songs. The music stands on its own. Expect to see this one on my list of the top ten albums of 2003.

-Jason Erb
- Jason Erb

"Rarae Avis: Breaking the mold"

Rarae Avis: Breaking the mold
By: Marly Wilson

The three founding members of Rarae Avis sit in a corner near the kitchen of Gillie's, a restaurant in downtown Blacksburg. Two of them look like your stereotypical indie-rockers. Guitarist and back-up vocalist Ben Fama--although neatly dressed--has messy hair that falls into his eyes and a rather somber, serious face. Guitarist and vocalist Brandon Hilkert, seated next to him, has the same two characteristics, except his hair is covered with a red cap that reads "If you ain't rebel, you ain't shit."

Hilkert and Fama are so perfectly indie that the wide grin and crewcut of bassist Brandon Harris make him seem out of place. "Look at him. Can you believe he wore that hat to an interview?" Harris asks. Hilkert turns the cap around on his head so the front faces the wall and then spins it around again, all the while grinning smugly.

These kinds of contrasts characterize the sound and style of Rarae Avis. Hailing from predominately metal and punk backgrounds, the band formed last summer with the intention of abandoning those roots. They had no preconceived notions as to what the end result would be.

"We would have never thought [the first songs we recorded] would have sounded the way they did when we were done," Hilkert admits.

Even more unpredictable than the music was gauging what sort of reaction their music would elicit from the Blacksburg crowd. At the first gig, a friend filled in the vacant drummer spot.

"We weren't sure how the people around here were going to accept us and accept our music," Harris says. "When we finished the set, we didn't know if we were going to get a sympathy applause--"

"Yeah, 'Oh, good job. Get off the stage,'" Hilkert quips.

It turns out the guys had nothing to worry about. They had at least converted one person into a fan; sometime after seeing their first show, drummer Jarrett Blankenship was added to the lineup, responding to a post that the other three members had tacked up.

Despite receiving numerous offers after that first show, the band still insisted on focusing more on the music than playing live. They try not to play in the same area or venue twice, and they only do three or four shows a month, if that.

"We don't play that many shows," Fama says. "I guess that's where we kind of diverged from a lot of bands because we were never out just to play shows."

Surprisingly, they've deviated from this early vow by making the beginning preparations for a July tour along the East Coast.

And the response they received from early performances proves that if any local band deserves the distinction of having the ability to temper the metal-dominated music scene in Blacksburg, it's Rarae Avis.

Their music blends the experimental sounds of Sigur Rós with a more controlled guitar rock. The songs with vocals are more structured than those without. Hilkert's strident vocals are usually sparse, even with the songs that do have them, and are always unexpected when layered over such a raw guitar sound. The result is an awkward mix that strangely grows on you.

As far as the songs without vocals go, many have a bizarre dreamlike quality. Track five off the album exhibits this experimental streak.

"When we made [Track five], it was sort of a weird experience," Hilkert says. "We hadn't written it before we sat down and hit record. [It was] the thing I was most proud of about how it came out because it was not prepared."

The biggest criticism from the fans tends to be the lack of lyrics. And with a lot of repetition, the sounds of Rarae Avis are not for the A.D.D.-minded.

"I think a lot of people are impatient, and they don't want to work for the music. They want it to work for them," Fama says. "One of the greatest things about the songs we have that are instrumental or the songs that don't have many vocals is that the more work you put into it [the more] you hear the dynamics that don't just jump out. A lot of people want to put in a CD and have it jump out at you and scream... when our music really isn't like that. You have to be more patient. And it builds slowly. You have to work for it. I think it's more rewarding that way."
- Hollins University Newspaper


"Rarae Avis" 2003 Hound Records/Yellow Dog Music


Feeling a bit camera shy


Rarae Avis is: texture, sound, vast empty space, a discharge of consciousness, a collection of ideas, technique as a way of doing, peripheral transitions, undulations of thought…

Rarae Avis is now two people, before it was 3, then 4.

Rarae Avis (Rare-ee Ay-vuhs) began creating music in the summer of 2002. Bound by no conventions or parameters, the members set out to write beautiful and compelling music. Beginning in Big Blue Sound, a studio created and run by the band, Rarae Avis began sorting through their musical intentions. Ideas were actualized, and early tracks were recorded. In the fall of 2003 the band relocated to Blacksburg, Virginia. It was there that drummer Jarrett Blankenship joined the band and the band began playing full time.

The band began playing shows in their college town, Blacksburg, Virginia, in the early winter of the same year. The band awed the full house at their debut first show, and then took a two-month hiatus to prepare and finish recording their debut album. Returning from the studio with a full length, Rarae Avis played their album release show in January of 2003. In the following spring, they played several house and venue shows, as well as live on Blacksburg's college radio station, and several out of town dates.

The album was recorded over a few weeks in Big Blue Sound during the winter 2002. The studio, filled wall to wall with instruments, amplifiers, and other recording equipment, housed the band while they experimented with sounds, textures, modulation, countless effects pedals, and unconventional recording techniques. The main studio room became a maze of chords. Microphones were placed on walls, mounted on ceilings, and spread over the room. Different combinations were used for each track, and specific instrument, achieving an assortment different tones and timbres. The result of all of the experimental chaos was a seven-song full length album. Totaling 42 minutes in length, the album is best listened to in headphones, or high quality surround sound speakers.

The album (which is self titled) was made available independently through the band's efforts, however label support for distribution and support was sought after. During the spring of 2003, the band caught the attention of several independent labels. The band eventually signed with Hound Records/Yellow Dog Music. The album was remixed, and the artwork redone for the release in early summer. The band toured during the month of July, and then ascended to their studio to begin early tracks of newer ideas and conceptions.