Ratatat, arguably, has been one of the biggest blow-up cult bands of the past couple years, with its infectious layered guitars and beatsmithing snagging a spot in every hipster's iPod from Williamsburg to, um, Portland. Before they got "discovered," their first record—a single for the song "17 Years"—dropped courtesy of Portland's own Audio Dregs, founded by Eric Mast, a.k.a. E*Rock and older brother of Evan Mast, one half of the Ratatat duo. On Saturday, Berbati's Pan hosts a family reunion of sorts with the brothers sharing a bill. Last week, I chatted with the two of them about growing up, monkeys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
WW: Do you guys keep in pretty good contact?
Evan Mast: Eric sends me YouTube links about every other day. That's our cultural discussion: YouTube links.
Eric Mast: Usually it's a monkey doing something...wearing clothes, smoking.
Evan: One's a monkey doing karate.
How big a part of your growing up was music?
Evan: We had a short-lived band together when I was in eighth grade, with like eight of our friends. We did a competition.
How did you do?
Evan: I don't know. The judges left before the competition was over.
Too bad. What kind of music were you playing then?
Evan: It was kind of a mixture of not knowing what you're doing and trying to plug in as many instruments as you can find. We'd have a Casio plugged in for some beats, a drummer would play along with that, then someone would beat on a guitar with a drumstick.
Who were you listening to?
Evan: I was listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers religiously at the time [laughs].
Eric, would you have put out that first Ratatat single if you'd just gotten it as a demo from someone you didn't know?
What appealed to you?
Eric: It's kind of perfect. It's a lot of stuff I'm interested in, with something new added. That's exactly what you want to hear in any situation. The fact that it had those really tight hip-hop beats, but with that layered guitar sound. It was really over-the-top and exciting. "17 Years"—it's just kind of a bombastic song.
How do you think you guys diverge musically, between E*Rock and Ratatat?
Evan: Well, Ratatat's still mostly influenced by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Eric: Well, I'm still based on the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but it's more Uplift Mofo Party Plan, and he goes Blood Sugar Sex Magik...through Stadium Arcadium [both laugh].
Eric: Evan has definitely gotten more into this, like, really good production. Reviewers for a while were calling my stuff lo-fi. I guess hi-fi is where you have real orchestras or something.
Do you think your approach is more experimental than Evan's?
Eric: Evan's stuff has definitely gotten more refined. Lately the stuff I've been doing has been getting dirtier and dirtier. The new stuff I've been doing, I've been pushing for this more triumphant sound, and I think that's a Ratatat influence.
Ratatat and E*Rock play with Envelope and Panther Saturday, Sept. 16, at Berbati's Pan. 9:30 pm. $12. 21+.