by Lizzie Morelli
Photo by Todd Stoops
I recently had the chance to sit down with Todd Stoops and catch up on his most current endeavors. His band RAQ has been secretly working on a studio album that they will be releasing any day now, and on top of that, he’s quite busy: he will be supporting Lettuce this Saturday at The Fillmore, sitting in with Dreamers Delight in Denver, and will also be playing gigs with John Kadlecik (Dark Star Orchestra), Jay Lane (Primus) and Robin Slyvester (Rat Dog) at Terrapin Crossroads on December 13th and 14th. Stoops has a lot up his sleeve and we can say with confidence that 2018 is going to be a big year for Stoops and RAQ fans alike.
How did you get started in the music industry?
My college band in Vermont in the late nineties started playing college parties in the Castleton University area of Vermont– like the Green Mountain College area. Actually, it’s right where Twiddle got their start. We use to play house parties at the same place they did. Then I moved to Burlington and met the RAQ guys and started touring with them in 2002. We toured the country pretty steadily until 2008 and then my son Oscar was born so I took some time off. I helped start a band in Connecticut. I don’t play with them anymore. I just did a lot of different things. I was always just sitting in with different people and creating side projects. It all kind of spawned from that little area in Vermont. RAQ brought it to a national landscape.
I read you started out on percussion and applied that to keys?
Yeah…you meant that early?! I got a keyboard when I was like five but I always learned church songs when I was really young. I took drum lessons and marched in the band. I never took piano lessons — I just took what I learned in the rhythm and percussion world and applied it to keyboards.
RAQ announced a Halloween run. Are those shows all we can expect from the band right now?
We are doing the five show Halloween run starting in DC and ending in Connecticut. We have also been secretly working on a studio album. Believe it or not it is the first album we have released in twelve years. The last album we released we recorded up at Trey’s barn in Vermont and released that in 2005. We toured heavily in 2008 and then life took us in different directions, different bands, babies! Recently, Michetti and I were talking and we were like why don’t we just put out a studio album just kind of surprise everybody. We are going to be releasing that and hitting major markets in 2018. We are going to be doing more playing then we have done recently, for sure.
This is exciting news!
It is. It’s fun. This is the most fun band. We are better friends now than we ever were. With the addition to Scotty Zwang on the drums now which gives a whole youthful thing to the band. He is just the best hang in the world. A really solid mother fucker and its great. Everybody is psyched.
Circling back to what you said earlier how was it recording at Trey’s barn?
It was awesome. It was as cool as you would think it would be. The vibe in there is amazing. We were a lot younger. I mean Michetti has become an amazing producer since then. He produced all the Conspirator stuff when he was in the band with them and is all into electronic music. In learning to do that and honing his craft he has become an amazing producer of music in general. If he could have done this…not that the album was bad or anything but if we could do it again knowing what we know now. I mean it would be wow. But yes the vibe in the barn was unbelievable. It was definitely a treat. We were in there for weeks in the middle of winter and there was snow everywhere. We are all PHISH fans so it was cool.
What else are you working on right now personally?
Jay Lane (Rat Dog, Primus) he and I are working on a couple of different projects. Actually, Jay Burwick from RAQ, myself, Jay Lane and Marcus Rezak are doing a project called Shred Is Dead, doing like Grateful Dead but progressive kind of shredy. Definitely, putting some energy and focus into RAQ that’s the big one.
I love Jim Croce and heard you’re a Jim Croce guy…is this true?
(Laughing) My mom, god bless her, she loved Jim Croce. You know those early childhood music memories? Well, my parents had a car with an 8-track player in the dashboard and my moms Jim Croce 8-track tape got stuck in it. Ya know, back in the day kids didn’t have like car seats and all that stuff. I don’t think we even had seatbelts. We were like rolling around and lighting stuff on fire in the back seat. So yes I have all these weird childhood memories of Jim Croce playing on these weird drives we took as kids.
Why is music important?
Now more than ever people need an escape of some of the realities we all have to deal with. Music is also medicine. I am a firm believer that music can heal or at least empowers you to self-heal and repair some of the damage we incur on a daily basis just living our normal lives. Not to sound tripe but Marley hit the nail on the head with “when it hits you, you feel no pain” — it makes you feel good. Or it makes you feel something, it makes you feel in a world that can be completely numbing and when some of the white noise is so loud and you have to disconnect. Music can make you feel something.