CULTURE

Patras’s Raining Pleasure comes flooding into town

Detached from the capital’s hectic activity, and operating instead in a more laid-back fashion from the relative tranquility of their home base in Patras, southwestern Greece, one of the country’s more seminal pop-rock bands, Raining Pleasure, have been simmering below the surface for quite some time now. Occasional visits to Athens and other parts of the country for inconspicuous gigs at small venues, as well as two promising albums on an independent label, had been signaling the group’s command of a well-crafted pop song. But, almost inexplicably, progress – in terms of wider exposure, not songwriting merit – would go no further. More recently, however, the frozen stagnancy has begun to melt. In mid-2000, almost a decade after the band’s formation, Raining Pleasure, a fluent English-language band, were signed by the major label EMI Chrysalis; just weeks ago, the band released «Flood,» its third album and first on the new label; and, later this week, on Saturday, the group will be making its most noticeable visit to Athens, as posters all over town are suggesting, for its biggest show to date, at the Rodon Club. Despite the steady crescendo of events, underscored by enthusiastic talk of the group’s growing legion of fans around Greece that tend to marvel at the act for its lush pop-rock sound – «They couldn’t sound more English,» like it or not, would be a typical comment – Raining Pleasure, according to their front man, Vassilikos, remain unnerved by the developments. «We’re not nervous about the Rodon show. Playing live is a beautiful experience. There are many great things happening during a live show. It’s very satisfying to be able to share your work with the audience, and, of course, your fellow band members,» said Vassilikos in a telephone interview from the band’s home base. «If there’s any anxiety involved, it has to do with reworking the recorded material for its live renditions,» he added. Despite the switch to a major label, Raining Pleasure, who released both their previous albums – 1996’s «Memory Comes Back» and «Nostalgia» two years later – on the tiny Thessaloniki-based independent label Lazy Dog Records, remained on familiar turf to cut their latest album. «Flood» was recorded where the band has been working for years, at its own studio set up by the band in Rio, a seaside town near Patras. «Naturally, the greater financial support has given us more leeway to strive for the sounds we want in the studio,» Vassilikos remarked. Raining Pleasure, who took their name from the title-track of an album by the Australian band The Triffids – an inspired country-tinged rock act of the 1980s whose series of excellent, critically acclaimed albums failed to catch on with the masses – formed in 1992, as Rest In Peace, before renaming themselves. Members have come and gone, but in more recent times, the group’s two surviving founding members, Vassilikos (vocals, bass, keyboards), and Jeremy (guitar, keyboards), have gelled with the quartet’s two newest players, Spiral (guitar, keyboards), and Jay (drums). The label promotion, as well as working in a familiar studio setting, no doubt helped the band maintain, or even build on its proficiency as a recording act. But not all went according to plan for the new project. Raining Pleasure suddenly found themselves racing against time and possibly wishing they had opted for another band name. Heavy rainfall, one day during recording sessions, severely flooded the group’s basement studio to knee-high level, which prompted the album’s «Flood» title. Some equipment was damaged, or even destroyed, but no recorded material went astray. «It was a total shock. We walked in and parts of the drum kit were floating around the room,» Vassilikos recalled. Adding to the time pressure were the concurrent commitments by the album’s producer to another project – in another land. Coti K, an innovative electronica artist who has worked with scores of local bands, including the defunct electronica act Stereo Nova, was traveling back and forth from neighboring Italy, where he was also producing new material by the expatriate American experimental pop trio, Tuxedomoon. Considering the alarm, the end result, however, is smooth to listen to, one remarkably rare for a local pop-rock outfit. When asked to comment on the group’s impressive sound, Vassilikos hesitantly admitted that it was distinguishable amid the local scene, but he remained low-key and laconic. «I suppose we don’t sound like other Greek groups,» he said, refraining from elaborating. Realistic about its limited commercial appeal in Greece’s mainstream music market as an English-language rock band – language is a key market factor here – Raining Pleasure would have to seek adventures abroad for broader pop stardom. The move to the EMI Chrysalis label, which has already sent samples of the band’s work to festival promoters and organizers around Europe, was an encouraging first step. «They’re just vague plans, were not trying to hunt anything down,» said Vassilikos. For now, he and his band mates deserve to enjoy Raining Pleasure’s well-earned arrival in town – from the country’s southwest.