After meeting at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, Rainbow Kitten Surprise (RKS to fans) has gone from recording music in their dorm rooms to becoming a festival favorite. In 2022, they are embarking on their first national tour since the start of the pandemic, 50 shows of which are already sold out. For this tour, the band has partnered up with PLUS1. Through this partnership, $1 of every ticket sold will be donated to a local food bank.
I spoke with drummer Jess Haney about the tour and their upcoming sold-out show at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines on April 12.
First of all, I’ve heard the myths, the legends, but just to hear it from you, how did Rainbow Kitten Surprise become the name of your project?
So it all started before I was in the band with a good friend, Noah, who lived in the dorm with us. He ended up getting bacterial meningitis and having to be taken to the hospital. And I guess sometime in between him being in the hospital and them playing their first show, they kind of went to Noah and were like, “Hey, we gotta put our name down for this coffee shop gig. What should we put?” And then there it was, Rainbow Kitten Surprise. It’s been a blessing and a curse. (Laughs)
What has been the preparation process to get RKS back in touring shape?
Really, it’s just been kind of shaking off the rust and figuring out how we go about getting back on the road with all of these, I don’t know, we’re all super homebodies now thanks to the pandemic. But it’s been fun just getting together and running through songs. For those shows that we did over Christmas, we did like a three-night thing and we had to play all of our songs. So we ended up working through the entire catalog. And now we have that as ammunition for the tour. And it’s gonna be fun. I’m excited to play a lot of these older songs for people that haven’t gotten played a lot. And obviously excited to play the main ones, too.
You released a live album last year. Do you have any new releases coming up this year?
Yeah, we have a new song coming out the sixth of April, I believe. So that’s exciting to have some new music out to start the tour, and then we’ll see what the rest of the year looks like. But hopefully there’s more to come.
So Boone is a college town and we’ve kind of seen in music history that college towns are often the center of where things begin. And to me North Carolina and Iowa are similar in that we’re outside of what is referred to as a typical music scene. In your opinion, what role do college towns play in the musical landscape today in 2022?
I mean, I can only kind of speak to my experience, but the feeling of going to college and the freedom and independence that comes with that plays a huge part in, you know, why not start a band? I’m my own adult now and we can do whatever. And it’s important to have people listen to it, so a college town is really great for that because you’re constantly meeting new people and making new friends and saying, “Hey, come out to my show, we’re playing this bar, it’s free.” We did that for years. And then one day it wasn’t just a Boone thing, it was a North Carolina thing. And then it wasn’t just a North Carolina thing, it was an East Coast thing. And now it’s a whole world thing, I guess.
College towns are big for music. And I think that can happen anywhere. It doesn’t have to be in Nashville or New York, you know, there can be a music scene anywhere. That’s the cool thing about it.
Finally, “Cocaine Jesus” is one of your most popular songs. What’s the story behind it?
I mean, I didn’t write the song. That was kind of back in the era where things were a little less collaborative, so I can’t speak 100 percent on the whole backstory. But from what I understand, it’s kind of about having a love or a crush who goes to the same church as you. So then you find yourself wanting to go to church but not for religious reasons, but to pursue love or something else, you know?
The band’s new single, “Work Out”, is streaming everywhere now.