It’s almost two years to the day since Rat Boy (real name, Jordan Cardy) claimed NME’s prestigious Best New Artist Award. Since then he’s gone from strength to strength, releasing two EPs as his debut album, ‘Scum’.
Cardy, from Chelmsford in Essex even contributed to Kendrick Lamar’s album, with his song, Knock Knock being sampled by Lemar on Lust.
In truth, Cardy shares as much with the spellbinding sounds á la Beastie Boys as he does with more contemporary indie, his sound finding the intersection between the youthful exuberance of his idols as well as the raucous disgruntlement of a generation fed up with what’s going on around them.
The song that initially propelled Rat Boy (a name he says was given to him while at school) to the attention of Babyshambles’ Drew McConnell, Sign On ironically finds the fresh-faced teen lamenting the loss of a job at Wetherspoons and fearing his prospects post-secondary school may leave him having to sign on and relying on his folks.
Driving through town in a Burberry-themed car with tour mates, Liam Haygarth, Harry Todd and Noah Booth bemoaning lower-middle-class suburban ennui and having to wear second-hand clothes, Sign On was a sort of mantra for the modern day hipster.
It would come across as annoying if the tune wasn’t so infectious and its subject so honest and relatable.
Cardy comes across as very personable. He keeps his answers short, but they don’t lack in enthusiasm and information.
Cardy is a very creative individual, incorporating a DIY ethos into everything he does, from the artwork to marketing. But it’s the directing and painting that has him particularly giddy.
"I recently did a painting for a Doc Marten’s campaign which got put up in the shop and I’ve been doing a lot of paintings and drawings for the t-shirts. I’ve also three skateboards coming out this year with designs on them, I’m excited about that, an early '90s shape. These are the first ones I’m going to sell and make quite a few of. I’d like to do more directing. That’s something I’m really into. I grew up watching skate videos."
His debut album ‘Scum’ takes a number of influences, fleeting (rather mellifluously might we add) between ska, funk and punk. It's full of breakbeats and laddish storytelling, it’s no wonder Graham Coxon and Damon Albarn from Britpop icons, Blur were drawn to such a project, with Coxon contributing guitar to Laidback and Albarn (keys) to Get Over It and Turn Round M8 on 'Scum'.
Some of the production is akin to early to mid-noughties era-Gorillaz and Jamie T but really, it’s all Rat Boy. After all, he’s “…bored of comparisons/ Jumping the gun/ People need to learn to just have a little bit of fun.”
This album was momentous. “It’s something that needed to happen for quite a while”. But it’s his new EP, ‘Civil Disorder' which he is most impressed with. “I think it’s a bit heavier than ‘Scum’ actually. There’s a lot more hip-hop style drums in it. I’m pleased about how I’ve moved on since the first album. It’s a lot closer to what I’m trying to do.”
One of the themes consistent with Rat Boy is his disdain for school and his trouble to truly express himself there. We ask him whether he thinks there should be any educational reforms put in place to assist with dyslexia and/or to promote creativity.
“I really didn’t get on with my teachers and I didn’t know I was dyslexic until I left school. I was doing more stuff at home creatively and my parents trusted me in that way. I liked to make stuff. In terms of music, it’s all about the theory and singing, but I was more into making sounds. It just didn’t suit me I guess.”
It’s true that school isn’t for everyone. But it just goes to show that there is more to things than simply academia and with the support of your parents, these things can prosper. Additionally, perhaps education boards should do more to turn their attentions away from simply the regimented sing well, memorise well model put in place for music teaching at schools. But that's for another day.
Rat Boy has already worked with some notable names in music, but who would he most like to collaborate with? “I’d really like to work with Mike D .That’s someone who I’m trying to get in contact with.”
Luckily for Cardy, the former Beastie Boy happens to be touring this summer. Perhaps they’ll bump into eachother. “I’m going to try and do that. He’s my idol.”
As for other figureheads in music he’s already had the pleasure of being affiliated with? Well, what about that Kendrick sample?
“That was kinda the highlight of the year for us because I listen to his music all the time so it’s a mad thing to be involved with. I didn’t know it was going to happen so the day the record came out all these people were messaging me and I was like, ‘what the fuck?’”
Surreal perhaps. But this was something achieved on the 21-year-old’s own merits and a marker of just how far he’s come in a short space of time. He doesn’t look set to rest on his laurels just yet though.
“I’m going to release another 11 or 10-track type album online called ‘Truth of the Youth’ and I’ve another 10-track album thing which I did in L.A. which will hopefully come out soon and then (for fans of his acoustic performance of Laidback) an acoustic mini-album I’m working on.”
He has fond memories of L.A. “I was working there for about a month. I was working with Tim Armstrong from Rancid. He’s sick.”
A suitable colleague for Cardy’s hip-hop/punk framework indeed. And for as long as he continues to produce splendid music, the collaborators will line themselves up.
For now though, catch Rat Boy and his band in all their pure unadulterated glory at The Academy when they arrive in Ireland for the first time this Saturday.