Rapedoor in their rehearsal space, from left to right: Ron Rudlong, Nicole Jean Rode, Jacob Sweet, and Odi.
“I like art that at first makes you mad. Good art provokes and inspires, it baffles and even shocks us, sometimes with its beauty and sometimes with its amazing ugliness.” – John Waters
Rapedoor is a Twin Cities four-piece consisting of Ron Rudlong on rhythm guitar, Nicole Jean Rode on drums, Jacob Sweet on lead guitar, and Odi on bass, with vocal duties revolving between the members of the group. For the better part of a decade, they have been working the local live circuit, releasing albums, and in 2013 appeared as themselves in Troma’s Return To Nuke-Em High Volume 1.
Their story begins in the murky depths of Christensen’s Big V’s in St. Paul.
Guitarist Rudlong became a booking agent at Big V’s in 2006, and performed there regularly in a string of improvisational ensembles (Mouth Babies, Marshall Fucker Band, 12 Rons, Dolphins of Tomorrow, and Real Canadian Girlfriend, among others). Drummer Rode first played the venue with her previous band River Bottom Sucker Fish. The two musicians hit it off and soon started performing together, beginning around 2010.
“It was me and Ron as a two-piece at first,” said Rode, who was also the host of a long-running weekly music show on Sianet Radio. “We just wanted to fuck around and create music, and we could play every night. We weren’t being a serious band, we were just jamming, but then it started forming.”
The duo were briefly joined by bassist Benji Conklin, before securing longtime bassist Odi.
“When I first met Odi,” Rudlong said, “Nicole took me out to this youth hostel place called District 202, kind of an LGBT-friendly venue and shelter for kids with troubles. I saw Odi and he was on the stage. Odi started cutting his head open and he had makeup on and looked like Gene Simmons and I was like, ‘Yeah, this is cool!’”
“Nicole and I used to live together,” said Odi. “She was in River Bottom Sucker Fish and I was singing in Harsh Reality, and I used to play bass a long time ago.”
“There was a winter,” said Rudlong, “where we sat in Nicole’s practice space and started writing Leslie Nielsen, and then Jake joined the band when we were finishing the record.”
During live performances, Rapedoor presents a striking spectacle: loud, intense, band members wild-eyed and in various states of undress—generally satanic—and lyrical content ranges from the scatological to the unclassifiable.
“Everybody has that in them,” said Rode. “That provocative part of them that they feel weird about, or they don’t know how to relate to people. Whatever it is, they think it’s something weird. I think that’s what art is all about.”
“It’s an interesting time though,” said Rudlong, “because it’s like the world has lost its sense of humor. What do you do when you’re on the edge of that battlefield and you really have something to say? We’re just a local band, but I wish there were more people doing that. In this modern age of censorship, it’s kind of a way of saying, ‘Open the scary door’.”
Rode and Rudlong discussed the effects of having a controversial name: “We’ve had shows cancelled, and have been banned from shows for shit we didn’t do. Hardship for the bands we played with, hardship for the bands that booked us. Venues that book us under different names, and then our fans miss it because they don’t know we’re playing.”
“I don’t know why any of us didn’t initially go, ‘This is a horrible name,’” said Rode, “but there’s a reason for it. I feel like we have this huge controversial name, and there’s something we can really achieve with this. Our music is meant to inspire people to be free, be who they are, to love everyone and be comfortable with who they are, and if we can bring that together with our controversial name, I feel like that can be a good thing.”
“It’s also a case of not judging a book by its cover,” Odi said. “We’re an odd-looking bunch, especially when we’re getting ready for shows, but just give it a shot. I’ve talked to people at our shows who hated our name, like, ‘What the fuck is that?’ but once they see the show, they totally get it.”
“I remember hearing the Dead Kennedys way back in the day,” said Rudlong, “and trying to bring it into my house. My mom didn’t like it just based on the name itself. The name itself was offensive, and the covers were obviously offensive, but when you listen to it you’re like, ‘Oh these guys love me and they wanna give me this gift of their music’. I hope we express some of that.”
On their most recent album, 2017’s The Stonedest, the band plays with different genres and styles, featuring sludge-metal compositions, minimalist punk, sultry PJ Harvey-esque ballads, and an old-school hip hop song about Ewoks.
“We like to alternate albums,” said Rode. “With Leslie Nielsen, we wanted to represent our live set, and with God Looks Poorly Upon A Band Called Rapedoor [released in 2014], it was all experimental, and that’s what The Stonedest was too.”
When asked whether Ween was an influence, Sweet and Rudlong exchanged conspiratorial laughter.
“I’m obsessed with Chocolate & Cheese,” said Rudlong. “It’s the greatest album ever written. I’ve never done anything to purposely be like Ween, but every time I think, ‘What’s the greatest thing that ever existed?’ it’s Chocolate & Cheese. But even on Beyond The Elbow and Leslie Nielsen, you can get the impression that we’re channeling different styles.”
“The next best idea isn’t necessarily the most obvious,” said Rudlong. “We’re gonna approach Titties, which is our next album, as a live album, but whatever happens happens.”