David Mirabella is the lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist for The Rationales. Since 2008, the band has recorded one full-length album and two EPs. Their most recent offering is the five-track Dream of Fire, which they released in December. With hard-rocking sing-alongs such as “Drunk All the Time” and “Radio” — the later of which was voted “Local Song of the Year” in the 2012 WMWM Salem Listeners Poll — as well as gentler, more plaintive numbers like “This Morning,” Mirabella and company (including his brother Mike) certainly do not sell their listeners short on high quality material.
Do you have any personal connections to Salem?
I lived in Salem from 2000-2006 and have always loved the town. My first gig playing original songs as a singer/songwriter was at the In a Pig’s Eye open mic back in the early aughts.
Do you and your brother Mike have stories that Ray and Dave Davies or Noel and Liam Gallagher could relate to?
We certainly are capable of making the band really uncomfortable when we get after each other at practice or on the way to a gig in the van. But in general, we really only clash in really subtle ways (“what was THAT LOOK for?”, “WHAT LOOK?” type stuff). We really do get along great in life and the band. The areas where we disagree are usually just us caring about the band and wanting to move things forward but just having slightly different ideas how best to do that.
How did Dave Lieb, Sean Black, and Chad Raleigh come to be members of The Rationales?
Sean answered a Craigslist ad back in 2009 when our previous bassist left to move to Nashville. He had played a bunch in his native Toronto, but was just trying to get back into the scene after settling in Boston. Chad had been in the band Trucker Mouth, whom we had played with a bunch and with whom we shared a rehearsal space. We knew Dave from his time in the Rudds and from seeing him out at shows and being friends with him. We needed a fill in keyboard player for a show last fall and called him up. It worked out that the job opened up and once we played with him and saw what a great fit it was personally and musically, we asked him right away.
How is a typical year divided among touring, songwriting, and recording?
I wish it was more officially divided in terms of “time to do this, time to do that,” but it typically works out that we play once or twice a month in the Boston area, once a month or so outside of the area (Portland ME, New York City, Northampton, Worcester, etc.), and then the writing is just ongoing. It basically happens whenever we aren’t getting a new member up to speed or prepping for a big show.
To what extent is songwriting a collaborative process?
Despite the fact that everyone in the band can and does write great songs, I write most of the songs for The Rationales, just because I’m the long-term stable member of the band and because writing is my focus. I’m always writing at home and have a ton of songs that I bring to the band. So more often than not their contributions get channeled into arranging, embellishing, and putting their own stamp on things. There are times when we experiment with writing live off the floor all together at rehearsal, and the results are always great.
Which kinds of music do you listen to that do not directly influence the music that you make?
I listen to a lot of classical, some Blue Note label jazz, a ton of folk, and some world stuff as well. In terms of actual popular music, people are often surprised to find out how much pop-metal I grew up on (Def Leppard, Ozzy [Osbourne], Ratt, Cinderella) or the fact that I am a huge fan of turn of the century post-punk emo bands like The Get Up Kids and The Weakerthans. And not too many days pass by without my listening to some Tom Waits.
Are singles and EPs a more efficient way of making songs available to your fans than full-length albums? I guess so. It’s done more out of financial need than conscious decision. For a band in our situation, raising the cash to produce a full-length is a matter of two or three (or more) years between releases. If we want to have something new out every year or so, we need to work in terms of shorter releases. It’s fine, but I’m one of the few ALBUM fans left in the band If I had my way they’d all be full-lengths or double albums!
What is the most frustrating part of playing in a band?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say just trying to get people’s attention in this world of niche entertainment and overwhelming schedules. There are amazing people in radio these days and some great clubs to play, but so much of it is directly on the band. If you don’t stay in people’s faces reminding them that you’re here, there are 10,000 other things competing for people’s attention. There are so many great people who support local music, but it would be nice to see more of the general public out and into the clubs on a regular basis.
How many gigs—with the band or solo—do you expect to play this year?
I’ve been averaging 30-40 shows a year combined the last couple of years, but I’m really hoping to step that up this coming summer. The Rationales just released our new EP Dream of Fire and we will be getting out to every place we like to go (as well as some new places) and playing in support of that. I’d really like to see the band expand our touring radius this summer with some trips out Route 90 to Chicago or down 95 to the southeast.