If you’ve seen Michael Rault, chances are it was in a bar and he had a guitar on his lap and a tambourine taped to his foot.
Like most emerging local musicians, the 21-year-old is cutting his teeth in local pubs, on the road and in the studio, and his work is finally paying off thanks to his second album, MA-ME-O. The funky, sock-hop-surf-rock follow up to his first album, Crash Boom Bang, released in 2008, can be described as the Shangri-Las meet early James Brown.
“It’s ’60s-esque pop balladry for the 21st century,” says Rault. The new album is turning heads and twisting hips and has even caught the attention of Toronto-based record label Pirates Blend — founded by Juno winner Bedouin Soundclash.
During a cross-Canada tour in 2009, Rault downloaded a demo of his disc onto the laptop of fellow musician and former Edmontonian Ben Stevenson. He didn’t think too much of it until he received a text message that made his heart jump — Jay Malinowski of Bedouin Soundclash had heard the tracks and wanted to play them to a few other people.
“I was really surprised. It was great and exciting, and it was cool that he was so enthusiastic about it,” says Rault. “Some of the tracks didn’t have vocals on them yet and the ones that did have vocals were really rough.”
In the spring of 2010, Rault was booked to open for Malinowski’s solo tour, and the two made plans to meet for a burger in Vancouver, since they were both playing shows during the Olympics. It was then that Rault learned Pirates Blend wanted to put out his album.
“[We] loved it,” says Eon Sinclair, co-owner of Pirates Blend. “It was very raw-sounding, with tons of energy, but the recordings spoke to a specific era of rock and roll and blues that I really like.”
The Rault household has always been saturated with music. Rault’s father, Lionel, is part of the Edmonton blues staple, The Rault Brothers, and former host of CKUA’s The R&B Revue. When Rault was five, he would join his dad’s band onstage for rocking renditions of Percy Mayfield’s “Hit the Road Jack” and jump into the crowd to dance during the guitar solo.
But it wasn’t until he was 11 and received his first guitar as a Christmas gift that Rault began taking music seriously.
His first attempt at band life came in high school, with the pubescent punk rock sounds of the Nightshades. That was followed by a stint as lead guitar player in the Morellos alongside Eamon McGrath — another Edmonton indie-music success story. (McGrath’s album 13 Songs of Whiskey and Light was named best album of the year in 2009 by the Ottawa Citizen.)
After the Morellos, Rault formed his own group, Michael Rault and the Mixed Signals, and released a few EPs, including 2006’s Sure Are Fun. The EP was produced by Nik Kozub, an independent music producer and member of the underground dance rock powerhouse Shout Out Out Out Out, and it solidified Rault’s signature bluesy garage-rock sound.
“As long as I’m able to make the music sound the way I want it to, then I’ll be happy, and so far that’s been the case,” Rault says.