Any local music scene is, by its very nature, exceptionally transitory. Musicians are constantly shifting from band to band like excited molecules, testing riffs and chords and personalities like so many ionic bonds, dispersing and reforming like some demented set of Tinkertoys. All too often, that great live band you saw at that house show on Friday night doesn’t exist by Saturday morning, for any number of excellent or pitiful reasons.
Which should put Racetrack’s 6 years on the map in Bellingham and throughout the country into a bit of perspective. On a stage where the average band’s longevity can be measured in months, 6 years is a little bit spectacular, akin to the distance between here and the moon on a ten speed, a long, strange trip with plenty of good stories along the way. I was lucky to sit down for a drink with 66.7% of the band (bassist Chris Rasmussen and guitarist/lead vocalist Meghan Kessinger) and get their thoughts on the band, their last release and the future.
After being in one band for so long, I imagine it’s hard for Kessinger and Rasmussen to handle not having that anymore. But after knowing for six months that this would be their last hurrah, the pair has come to terms with the fact. “All three of us have a lot of things outside of the band - projects, jobs, lives… we’re all grown up,” says Kessinger, either smiling or grimacing at the notion. “We’re all pretty excited to move on to the next phase.” Or as Rasmussen puts it, “the rest of our pitiful lives.”
All in all, it seems like that talk at the end of the best, cleanest break-up you’ve ever had, where the people involved are just happy to have had the time together and accept that they’re both ready to move on.
“Jackson [Long, on drums and sadly unavailable for this interview} and Meghan are two of my best friends,” said Rasmussen, “It’s rare to spend as much time together as we have over the last four years and not have a lot of it be crappy… for every moment that I have thought anything bad about the experience, there have been a hundred where everything about it was just what I wanted to be doing.”
The two are evasive about the sort of things they’ll miss about being in the band. Kessinger seems to be waiting til the body is in the ground to write her eulogy for the band.
“There are a ton of things that I appreciate about being a part of this, but we’ll see what I miss,” said Kessinger.
Rasmussen, meanwhile, is ready to wax a bit more philosophically on the matter, his eyes fixed firmly on the bright side. “There’s still booze and women… That’s a side dish to the music, but the side dish is often a lot better than the main course.”
One thing the two can agree on is that life won’t be the same without Missoula, Montana, Racetrack’s longtime home away from home where they’ve played more shows than any place outside of Bellingham or Seattle and were always warmly received by friends and fans.
Kessinger describes the band’s special relationship with the town as follows: “There are a lot of people in Missoula who woke up at some point with a hangover, ten dollars missing from their wallet and no idea how they wound up with a Racetrack CD.”
After six years, Rasmussen and Kessinger have a ton of wonderful memories about the band, but just like first love, Arrested Development, and cookies and milk in the middle of your school day, all good things come to an end, and Racetrack is no different. They’re not leaving fans empty handed as they bow out, though, releasing a swan song EP, Go Ahead and Say It, on October 21, the night of their farewell show at the Viking Union Multi-Purpose Room.
Consisting of the last five songs the band wrote, Go Ahead and Say It is Racetrack at their most mature, musically and lyrically. The tunes here make the band’s dissolution all the more heart-wrenching for fans; they’ve obviously got some damn fine songs left in them. And while it’s tempting to see this final release as one that’s colored by Racetrack’s breakup, (for example, the chorus of the opening track ‘Don’t Sit On The Pickets’: “so it’s no surprise/ that I’m packing up/ I’ve had enough/ Goodbye”) Kessinger and Rasmussen paint a different picture.
“Three of the five songs were done for a tour EP,” explains Rasmussen, “and then once we made the decision, we recorded the other two songs for the sake of not leaving anything undocumented.”
“All of the songs on the EP were written prior to this happening.... There is a theme to [Go Ahead and Say It] of growing up and growing out of things, of moving on,” admits Kessinger.
She goes on to insist that “it’s unintentional, and it’s not related to the band. But people are welcome to think that we’re that clever.”
Rasmussen backs her up on this front, explaining that reading anything into bands finale “...makes us seem much smarter and better prepared than we actually are.”
Rather than dwelling on people’s misreadings of their last Racetrack release, both Rasmussen and Kessinger are looking towards the future, a concept for both as vague as it is exciting. “We’ve all got doors open to us, but it’s hard to see what we really want to do,” says Rasmussen.
Rasmussen reflecting on the pressure to be doing something instantly following Racetrack: “...because so many people here are in multiple bands, people just expect you to be playing in another band next week. I just want to take some time off and then do something that I can be as psyched about and as proud of as I am of Racetrack.”
For her part, Kessinger assured me that we’ll see everybody from the band playing around town at some point.
“Once everybody’s forgotten about Racetrack, that’ about when you’ll see us back playing,” she jokes. “I give it about two years.”