Redlands, Highland, Pomona, Rancho Cucamonga
MEMBERS & INSTRUMENTS:
Will Bagby “Ultraman” (drums); Rod Baker “Lokee” (bass); Ann Hackman “Violatronica” (five-string viola, violin); Luke Kelly “The Director” (keyboards, harmonica, french horn); Raoul Rañoa “El Manchurian” (guitars).
Santana, Dream Theater, John Zorn, a little Radiohead and all the bedroom shredders throughout the Inland Empire who can finger tap 64th notes at 320 beats per minute on their seven-string guitars.
Chameleons In Disguise (2006)
If the world was more obsessed about sheer musical ability and less about the hairstyles, shenanigans and other madness that generates publicity for many popular “musicians,” groups like Rullian would be ruling the airwaves.
Alas, Rullian’s “heavy new age world cabaret” isn’t the sort of tuneage that immediately tops Billboard charts. But that’s fine, ’cause we’re here to say it’s some pretty great material.
“[Rullian] was never meant to make money nor was it meant to be popular,” says fretboard master and primary songwriter Raoul Rañoa. “Clearly, there are other types of music that would sell or gain more popularity than instrumental fusion rock. I don’t think that philosophy has changed much . . . If anything has changed, it’s that we are a band now and not just one person’s sole creative project—which is awesome. We’re all very lucky to have each other.”
But it’s not just luck that keeps the ensemble tickin‘. Spin Chameleons in Disguise and you’ll hear a cast of brilliant artists delicately weave a menagerie of phrases, licks, rhythms and sonic components into an insanely cohesive cache of over two dozen cuts.
Though Rullian is an instrumental outfit, Rañoa says there’s a story behind many of the songs. For example: “Ballet of Bones” was inspired after he caught a Halloween ballet in Riverside. “After performing, the dancers, who were dressed up as skeletons, stayed in character and walked among the audience and stared you down—effectively blurring the lines between the stage and the audience,” he says.
So, what about Rullian’s audience? “My hope is that Rullian can be enjoyed by a wide group of people and not just fans of progressive music. Our audience would be for those who appreciate arrangements that unfold like a soundtrack. Our songs travel melodically with little repetition and the styles vary dramatically from one song to the next so it helps to appreciate contrasting musical styles. If you like equal amounts of world music, piano, viola, heavy drums as well as noisy guitar, you’ll probably like us.” Count us in.