Q&A: Rainbow Kitten Surprise Is So Much More Than The Best Band Name Ever

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Rainbow Kitten Surprise is a band that is hard to ignore. For starters, there’s the captivating name – a product of the band’s earliest days. During those initial days, frontman Sam Melo and guitarist/vocalist Darrick “Bozzy” Keller played open-mic nights at their campus coffee shop, and before one of those gigs, visited a dear friend who was being treated for bacterial meningitis. Whether it be a prophetic-like vision of what the band would ultimately become or the result of a drug-induced word association due to this friend’s morphine drip, the name Rainbow Kitten Surprise was born in that hospital room.

While the band’s name, which arguably consists of the most pleasing combination of words in the English alphabet, may be the first thing that anyone notices about them, it’s hardly the sole reason for their avid following. Today, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, christened RKS by its loyal fanbase, consists of Sam Melo, Darrick “Bozzy” Keller, Ethan Goodpaster, Charlie Holt, and Jess Haney. Together, the five of them have cultivated critical and commercial success through stunning live performances and three genre-defying albums.

The band’s latest, their Elektra debut “How to: Friend, Love, Freefall,” is a sonic exploration of classic folk, indie rock, hip-hop, and so much more through stunning bouts instrumentation and moving lyricism. The end result is that RKS has crafted something that truly feels like a celebration of music as a whole. The sentiment translates to the band’s energetic and not-to-miss live show, having sold out over 45 of their first North American headlining shows. We caught up with RKS ahead of their two consecutive sold-out nights at The Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles to see for ourselves what exactly made Rainbow Kitten Surprise such a rapidly growing sensation.  

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OTW: What’s the most surprising thing fans may not know about you or your bandmates?

Jess Haney: That we’re all nerds.

Ethan Goodpaster: Who love to hacky sack.

OTW: Did you all grow up together in Boone, North Carolina? When did you first come together and start playing music?

DK: No, but we all grew up in North Carolina for the most part.

Ethan Goodpaster: We all met our freshman year at App State.

Jess Haney: On the same hall in our dorm room!

OTW: And how would you say growing up in Boone informed your musical taste and resulting viewpoints on music?

Charlie Holt: Boone has such a strong history of folk music and the idea that anybody can play music is alive and well. It’s a very transient and fluid music scene so it’s always changing and anything goes.

OTW: I was looking over some of your inspirations and influences, and it’s so interesting and refreshing to see such a wide range of artists–everything from ScHoolboy Q, Modest Mouse, Frank Ocean, to Kings of Leon. As a band how do you go about incorporating such a wide range of sounds?

Sam Melo: It happens naturally - you are what you eat.

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Photo: Zach Sanders

OTW: You were a clear standout when you played the festival circuit in 2017 and now you’re playing over 45 shows as part of a North American tour that’s nearly completely sold out. Does it ever begin to feel a bit surreal?

Sam Melo: Yes, but we’re grateful for the opportunity and we’re constantly adjusting to the things that appear on our horizon.

OTW: With it feeling like you’re constantly on the road, what’s your favorite part of being on the tour?  What are some of the absolute essentials, physical or mental, to staying sane on the road?

Ethan Goodpaster: Being with your best friends every day. Absolute essentials would be earplugs, headphones, and books.

Charlie Holt: Being with my friends & essentials would be crystals.

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Photo: Zach Sanders

OTW: Your most recent album, How to: Friend, Love, Freefall, is just spectacular from the outset. Mind speaking on the name and some of the album’s thematic influences?

Sam Melo: The album title is a reflection on the past couple years of living together and managing the internal dynamics - five people adjusting to adult life and the pressures that come with it.

OTW: I love the song “Moody Orange.” Not a question but just thought you should know. 

 Jess Haney: Sick.

OTW: Speaking on “How to: Love,” what’s some of the best love advice you have or have gotten? Asking for a friend.

Ethan Goodpaster: Always tell the truth.

OTW: I wanted to talk about the music video for your single “Hide.” It’s just so powerful and a really a beautiful series of vignettes. Could you talk about where the idea for the song and its accompanying video came from?

Sam Melo: The idea for the song came from a self-realization that I had hidden a part of myself inside of me. As far as the video goes, I knew I wanted to involve the drag community in some form but the director, Kyle Thrash, was the one who brought it to life.

OTW: Sam, you came out publically in a heartfelt Instagram post, which I’m sure at the time of it all must have been somewhat difficult for you. Given today’s current political climate and landscape, is there anything you would want to say to any of the youth and beyond that may be facing any of the similar fears or worries you were about coming out?

Sam Melo: Be yourself - it’s not worth being a partial person or worth having an identity that’s incomplete.

OTW: What’s the future of Rainbow Kitten Surprise look like?
Ethan Goodpaster: We have a lot of big things on the docket you’ll just have to wait & see!

OTW: Who are your Ones To Watch?

Sam Melo: The Chats

Ethan Goodpaster: Blue Jean Committee, Sylvan Esso

Jess Haney: Caamp

Darrick Keller: Wilderado

Charlie Holt: Caroline Rose

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