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. 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, which was founded by Juno-winning band 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 for 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 had a musical foundation. Rault’s father, Lionel, is part of the Edmonton blues staple, the Rault Brothers, and former host of CKUA’s The R&B Revue.
Rault’s 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. 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. It solidified his 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.