The Rapture, a trio of dance-punk pioneers, reunites for Just Like Heaven festival
If Coachella’s pop- and rap-heavy lineup left you wanting for rock bands, this weekend’s Just Like Heaven festival in Long Beach ought to do the trick. The two-day gathering, named after the classic Cure song, will feature performances by such ’00s indie-electronic stalwarts as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, MGMT, Beach House, Phoenix, Passion Pit, the Faint and many more.
Perhaps the most intriguing billing on the lineup is the return of the Rapture, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-San-Diego trio whose visceral, frenetic dance punk lives up to its name, and without whom many of the other acts on the lineup might not exist.
Originally formed as a hardcore band in 1998, the Rapture was always a little darker and stranger than scene contemporaries like LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip and the Strokes. Led by the acclaimed 2003 single “House of Jealous Lovers,” the first release on groundbreaking New York label DFA Records, it emerged in the early ’00s as forerunners of the post-punk revival, though the term would never quite fit the band’s blend of disco, noise punk and electro, nor its existentially fraught songwriting.
At arguably the peak of its success, the Rapture quietly disbanded in the wake of its 2011 album “In the Grace of Your Love,” which the press wouldn’t even catch onto until 2014.
The return of the group — guitarist/vocalist Luke Jenner, drummer Vito Roccoforte and bassist/keyboardist Gabriel Andruzzi — has been just as low-key. Its Friday and Saturday sets at Just Like Heaven will mark just its second and third official performances in at least six years and, save for one more gig in the U.K., what comes after remains to be seen.
The Times caught up with Jenner, 44, to discuss the challenges of reuniting, alt-rock nostalgia and reckoning with the past. The Southern California native will also play a show next Wednesday with side project Seedy Films at Zebulon.
What’s it been like preparing for the band’s return?
My body is really suffering right now, because I haven’t felt this much electricity for a long time. One of the things that really messed me up is that the band became worth a lot of money. It ruined it for me. I really love the Rapture. That’s kind of a simple statement, but it feels revelatory to me.
A lot of the Rapture’s music stems from the trauma and dysfunction you experienced growing up, and dealing with that is part of why you left the band. How are you handling diving back into that?
This week I’ve been physically sick a few times. It’s less about the shows than proximity. I think that’s how trauma works. I used to be super afraid of anger and sadness, but I have a lot of tools and support now. It’s almost like going into character, like being a movie actor. I’m mostly looking forward to hanging out with Vito for the first time in a long time.
You guys hadn’t spoken for years. What changed?
We started going to therapy together, because I wanted to try to be on good terms with Vito, regardless of whether we ever played a Rapture show again. I’ve known Vito since I was 9, and the band had led to us really hurting each other. It’s kind of like going to a family reunion, where it oddly seems like not very much time has passed.
The Rapture has largely avoided the ’00s nostalgia trend. How do you feel about playing a festival that’s built on it?
The nostalgia thing … it’s comforting. It’s weird. In a way, we’ve been a legacy act since “House of Jealous Lovers.” We had that underground moment in a certain time period, in a certain place. We’re never going back there, and we’ll never be there again. Our second record was us having a nervous breakdown about that. And the third record was coming to terms with that.
What’s next? Has there been any talk of making new music together?
I would like to make new music. I have a lot of ideas, a lot to say. I’m actually more excited about making new music than even playing shows. We’ll sit down in a couple of weeks and talk about it — what happened, what, if anything, needs to be different, or if we even want to keep doing it. Right now it feels good.
Just Like Heaven
Where: Queen Mary Park, 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach
When: 11:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday
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