A Rakish take on cruelty
Amy Mason talks to a couple of musicians who think that a meat-free diet hits all the right notes
With a string of sold out shows and top 40 singles, art-rockers The Rakes are enjoying the kind of success most indie upstarts can only dream of.
The catchy, jerky pop of singles 22 Grand Job and Retreat, and their immaculate, geeky dress sense has propelled them into both the mainstream music and fashion press.
This would be pretty impressive for any band, but intelligent, well-read and with vegan and veggie members, The Rakes really aren’t just any band.
In fact, lead singer Alan Donhoe is a passionate advocate of veganism and staff from Viva! were delighted to be invited to their secret London gig - and to meet Alan and veggie guitarist Jamie Hornsmith.
The gig was electric, with an up-for-it fashionable crowd who seemed to know every word from both The Rakes’ albums, Capture/Release and the new Ten New Messages. Their unique brand of punk-pop proved infectious, as did lead singer Alan’s charisma and strange, spikey dancing. In fact, with their drainpipe jeans and pointy brogues the crowd was awash with wannabee Rakes.
We got to chat to Alan and Jamie after the gig, and ask them about their beliefs. Why did they go veggie and vegan?
“On channel 4 there was the Animals Film that showed undercover footage of abattoirs and stuff like that…it was pretty horrific and that converted me to vegetarianism,” says Alan.
“I ended up studying biology at University and then working for a place that tested on animals. I had to go on a course to get a Home Office licence and part of that course was a couple of hours on the ethics of animal experimentation.
“They recommended the book Animal Liberation by Peter Singer so I read it and found it completely convincing and stopped me supporting businesses that abuse animals. I’ve been looking for counter arguments that could convince me to eat meat and dairy ever since…
Despite having just come off stage and being a bit on the inebriated side (their admission), Alan and Jamie couldn’t have been more polite or articulate. It’s clear they really are passionate about animal rights and have a love of animals in general.
“My sister had some chickens and just watching them scrabbling in the earth made me realise they’re quite amazing individuals. They remind me of dinosaurs the way they move their heads…the idea of them being trapped in a prison is horrible,” says Alan.
They were well-informed about a whole range of animal welfare issues and are keen to talk about them – including foie-gras.
“Foie-gras is just an enormous amount of suffering for a tiny amount of pleasure,” says Jamie.
“Exactly,” agrees Alan. “You can easily stop this kind of suffering…you don’t need to be some hardcore vegan to not eat foie-gras. Like Jamie said, it’s a tiny amount of pleasure for a huge amount of suffering. It’s completely disproportionate!”
And it isn’t just animal rights that have made Alan stay vegan and Jamie stay veggie.
“It’s not just a moral thing but a health thing too,” says Jamie. “You should think about everything you eat. People who do this seem to really like it - it gives you a certain amount of discipline in your life”
Alan agrees: “Milk is everywhere and it seems harmless enough…until you know the cruelty that results from it and the diseases it can cause.”
Despite their skinniness (the name The Rakes comes from their rake-like appearance), Alan and Jamie seem to be in excellent health. Touring can take its toll, but despite late nights, booze and the stress of touring, they both say they feel great.
“Being veggie is so good for your mind and body,” says Jamie. “You feel healthier than you’ve ever felt in your life…”
“And it’s so easy!,” adds Alan. “Whatever your lifestyle - sleeping with as many women or men as you like - being vegan is still one thing you’ve done to be a good person…to help the environment and to stop suffering…”
Sleeping around while saving the World? Now that’s rock and roll!