The Post-Punk/Trip Hop Fever Dream That is Rat Palace’s Debut Album: Dust Free Home

Photo by Stef Murza / Words by Willa Rudolph

Brooklyn-based quartet Rat Palace makes self-proclaimed “post-punk [music] for people that have an average screen time of 7 hours or more a day.” They released their debut record June 7th, Dust Free Home, which boasts 10 epic tracks. Melding 90’s rock, grunge, some shoegaze, and sprinkling that with 1980’s trip-hop, the band, together almost 3 years, creates a memorable rock ensemble, replete with sludgy, heavy moments, upbeat dancey moments, and darkness contrasting with psychedlic, light dreaminess. 

Rat Palace is Rohit Sai Gopal (guitar/vocals), Ali Zimmerman (bass/vocals), and Julian Cornell (guitar, production). Lenin Córdoba composed and played drums on the album. Tim Schneider composed the drum parts for a few of these songs back when they were written. Henry Vaughn is Rat Palace’s current drummer.

Lead singer and guitarist, Rohit tells The Deli, “Dust Free Home is the first piece of music I’ve released that makes me feel like it’s a part of me and captures our personalities really well. There are songs like “Bowling Alley Banter,” “Woman of the Year,” or “Misery Master, Pt. 1” and “Pt. 2“, that have a spirited, playful sound but with bleak and dark lyrics, or vice versa. I think no matter where we try to sneak in our nihilism as young adults, it’s impossible to hide all the absurdity in it. So I hope this album tells people we’re cool and funny.”

Led into their uncanny, liminal world with track # 1, “Misery Master, Pt 1,” the first we’re hearing of Rohit’s voice is haunting and lures you in like that of a siren. The guitar part of this one has the same darkly wistful attractiveness. Followed by “Toy Soldier,” which starts with blaring feedback and a grungy, upbeat rhythm section, the lyrics and talk-y vocals come second to the driving instruments, powerfully pummeling along. “Look My Way,” the only single off the record, is the perfect example of why Ali says Dust Free Home is best listened to while “sitting back and looking around at your messy bedroom, soaking in the irony,” while Rohit says it “Probably sounds best when you come home late after a long night, really drunk, and you lie down and put on your headphones before drifting into a good night’s sleep, only to find out that the music hits so hard it keeps you up all night.” It suits both scenarios, as distorted guitars coupled with Ali’s sweet but sharp voice envelop you and she sings, “Are you having any fun?!”

Ali says, “’Look My Way’ is a personal story about friends who can longer find the words to communicate with one another in a dark time. We wrote the instrumentals as a group for this song before I wrote the lyrics, and I thought the intensity of the music would serve as a perfect canvas for this story I wanted to tell.”

Track #4, “Triple tarp” is much more vibey, almost a Stereo Lab-esque journey. Next, “Walk Beside Me,” has a much more emo feel to it, but the musicality still shines through. The guitar is particularly profound in this one. The rest of the record, I’ll let you explore for yourself. If I wrote about each song, this article would be too long, because there really is so much material to sift through in just ten songs. They’re all different, and they’re all complex. Dust Free Home really feels like it was poured over and given the utmost time and attention. 

Guitarist and producer of Rat Palace, Julian, says, “Dust Free Home is sort of ambiguous to us as a name, but it rolls off the tongue nicely and has a nice shape to it. If anything, it takes on more meaning with the album cover — creepy American homes, polishing 90’s worship in the streaming era… there’s probably something subconscious that went into that name but it’s open to interpretation.”

Influenced by the likes of Pixies and Dry Cleaning, the band also each has their own influences, which “pulls the sound in a lot of different directions,” Ali explains. “There’s a lot of different flavors of rock on this album, and Julian added some trip-hop beats in the mixing phase which I’ve come to believe are truly the chefs kiss on this record.”

Rohit expounds, “I think Dust Free Home has so much variety, but it still somehow manages to capture this specific feeling of finding the humor in sadness. For me the story it tells doesn’t have a timeline, it’s more like a canvas to relate to. Songs that can hopefully help convey moods, feelings or vague memories to yourself, good and bad.” And that sentiment does really come through on the record – the disparities between the songs adds texture to a specific atmosphere Rat Palace creates, and keeps the listener on their toes throughout all ten tracks!

Keep an eye out for more from Rat Palace here.

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