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A Conversation With Raccoon Union

Quynn (Q) from JUNK! sat down with Elliot and Ashley from experimental punk band Raccoon Union. Though from Huntington Beach, Raccoon Union plays mainly in Los Angeles. We chatted about music, opinions on the music scene, being from a mainly conservative area, future plans for the band, and more. 

Q: What are your names and what instrument do you play in Raccoon Union?

A: My name’s Ashley. I play drums and backup vocals.

E: I’m Elliot and I play guitar and main vocals.

Q: How did you guys meet?

E: In high school.

A: Yea, we actually had the same English class for a small amount of time, and that’s how we met.

E: She knew one of my close friends, and one of my other close friends actually liked her, so I knew about her, but then my close friend that knew her and didn’t like her was like, “Ashley likes you!” And I was like, “Okay, word.” 

A: Yea, I had a crush on him.

E: So then I started hanging out with Ashley, and then we started dating, then we stopped dating, then we started dating, then we stopped dating…

A: High school…

E: After high school we had started hanging out a lot more, and we started dating for real, then we broke up again…

A: And then we started Raccoon Union!

E: Yea, we started Raccoon Union after we broke up. Then, we started dating again. And it’s been almost three years now.

Q: How old are you guys?

A: We’re both 21 now.

Q: What kind of music would you describe Raccoon Union as?

E: That’s a good question. That’s one we ask everybody we meet, too. We don’t really know. Not out of pretention, like “We ThInK wE’rE dOiNg SoMeThInG nEw,” but, I don’t know, I think it’s because we’re kind of rough. We do our own thing. We always just say punk music, but we get shoegaze, grunge…

A: Garage rock…

E: Indie… 

A: That vibe.

E: No one’s called us hardcore or metal or anything. We got pussy metal one time.

Q: Have you ever gotten noise? I get a little bit of noisy vibes from you guys.

E: That’s what we actually go for, that’s one that we actually try to attain. We love noise, so definitely we try to go for that. We’re glad you said that, that’s the first time we’ve gotten it but we think that, for sure.

Q: You guys have been playing a lot recently, but when did you start performing?

E: So, when Tofu got started, we never really were like, “Let’s be in a band and play shows!” We played in her [Ashley’s] bedroom, like covers, and we were like, “We’re in a band.” But she [Ashley] wanted to be in like a band that played shows, specifically all girls. So, when she [Ashley] started Tofu…

A: That was in like 2020.

E: She [Ashley] started playing shows. Then, they needed an opening band, so we started playing, and we kind of stayed their opener band, only really played opening for them. Then a few other bands had us open for them. Once Tofu ended, we did nothing for that summer, then fall of that year we really started being like, “We’re Raccoon Union. This is what we’re doing.” So, technically 2020, but we think we got started in 2022.

Q: Was Tofu like a Riot Grrrl kind of band?

A: Yea, pretty much. We played more in LA, but we weren’t around for that long. It was just like a quick thing. That was a fun thing.

Q: You guys play a lot in Long Beach and LA, right?

E: Yea. Everywhere that’s not here [Huntington Beach]. We try to play out here, but in HB, if you’re not an underground band, they only want reggae or covers exclusively, if you’re trying to play at any bar. Even if like, Nu Godd wanted to play here, they couldn’t. Even if they really asked, they’d be like, “We don’t want you.” So, we got no shot. And all the underground bands here are exactly what you think they are. Even the lesbian ones, you’re like, “Oh, you’re actually pretty conservative,” you talk to them and you’re like, “Ah, I don’t really know. You’re still talkin’ like an incel.” So, I mean, it’s tough out here for us to find any sort of community or anything.

Q: Did you both grow up out here?

A: I did, my whole life. But not him [Elliot].

E: I was born in Illinois, and I lived there until I was like 7, and then I moved to Florida, and I lived there until I was like 13, and then I moved out here when I was 13. Between all those individual states, I moved around. Like, I lived in Burbank and I lived here, and like, hotels in Burbank, hotels out here, then we got a place out here. In Florida, I lived in like, hella towns in Florida. In Illinois, it was like, back and forth from Florida and Illinois. So, it was a lot.

Q: What has it been like, being in a really conservative area?

E: Well, we grew up conservative, like that’s just how it is. You grow up with your parents’ ideals, you’re like, “This is how the world is.”

A: But then you grow out of it, if you can. Most people don’t is the thing. Most people don’t, but I mean, once you start having those gay thoughts… then it’s like, “Oh, clearly something is not aligning here…”

E: But you just grow up in it, and the hardest part is like, removing yourself from it. Because now it’s like, I have no more friends. All the friends I had in high school, we’re no longer friends.

A: No friends, no family, like, my parents don’t like me…

E: All my family like, really hates me.

A: It’s just like, we’re just never gonna see eye to eye, ya know? But, that’s why we’re really trying to rock that we’re from here, to try and make it cool again.

E: Yea, there’s cool people from here, like, I can not be ashamed of the truth. I am from here, so I might as well be like, “I like myself though, I think I’m cool, and I’m from here.”

Q: I always felt like in really conservative areas, there has to be kind of be that dynamic of the really extreme right and then the really extreme left, to balance it out.

E: That might be why HB is deemed so conservative, because I would honestly say no. Like, it’s just so… normie out here. There’s nobody who wants to do anything different. They wanna stick with the status quo. I think it’s maybe because, like, you’ll really get violenced out here. I get shit thrown out of cars at me, or like, just get called a f****t walking by or whatever. I really think we’re the first out here to be doing it in a way like this. 

A: But that’s why it’s kind of fun.

Q: Would you say in your music, the lyrics are about leftist ideals and stuff like that?

E: Definitely. I just try to be chaotic, because if I’m at a punk show, being like, “I hate cops! I love gay people!” All this stuff that they already think, I just feel like I’m being like, “Look at  me! Aren’t I cool? Don’t you like me because I’m being like you?” But it’s way cooler to be like that out here. So, I do try to make the lyrics about it. Like, “Built ta Build,” or “Light Yagami of the Workplace,” is all about HB. “The Day the Wrld Endid,” is pro-shrooms. “BONUZ#999,” pro-gay. We have a song, too, called “God’s Not Dead, She’s a Woman in Drag,” but that one’s not out yet…

A: So stay tuned!

Q: Are we working on that one?

A: Yea, she’s a work in progress.

E: We’re working on a whole mixtape.

A: Oh yea, yea we are.

E: One of those classic mixtapes where you see the crazy album covers, like Chief Keef and stuff like that. It’s called Immaculate Conception. 

Q: Who does your recording?

A: It’s been kind of random.

E: Anybody who wants to.

A: I think for this, we’re gonna try and do most of the recording this time. For our random, we were working with some random-ass fucking producer at this random studio, and it was fine, but it was just like, too expensive, so I was like, whatever, we’re gonna have to do our own thing. So, we’re probably gonna be just recording wherever. 

E: Mostly probably at her [Ashley’s] house, where our stuff is.

A: Bedroom studio.

Q: How is it singing and playing drums? Because I’ve tried to do that and that’s really hard.

A: Yea, it was definitely hard at first, but that’s where, luckily, Tofu kind of helped, because I was doing that a lot in that band. So I’m now able to really apply it here, especially with the screaming more, because that’s what I really enjoy doing vocally. But, I don’t know, I guess you kind of just gotta be focused on your beat, and zone out enough that you can also just say whatever. But it also helps that the lyrics aren’t, like, crazy. Like, if I had to sing some meaningful, crazy-ass shit, that would be way too hard. But I can scream a word.

Q: Did you take lessons for anything?

A: Nah. All self-taught on everything. 

Q: I’ve had people tell me I need to take lessons. 

E: Dude, we get that every time. After every show, they’re like, “Oh you’d be so good if you just…”

A: Yea like, whatever dude.

Q: Are you guys working on any other music projects, or are you both focusing on Raccoon Union?

E: Just Raccoon Union.

A: Yea. Just trying to make our little songs.

E: Just released our album, that just came out, relatively recently. But we wanna put out Immaculate Conception also this year [2023], two projects in one year. And then next year [2024], do like a second album or something.

A: Gotta stay on that grind.

Q: Where do you practice?

E: At her [Ashley’s] house.

A: There’s neighbors…E: They call the cops on us.

A: We can get in like, a little jam. 

Q: Yea, I’ve tried renting rehearsal spaces and stuff, but that shit’s expensive.

A: I know, it just got too expensive, like I just can’t afford that anymore. Just gonna have to deal with the room. 

E: And what would we practice a million hours for anyway? To play the same shows with the same bands for the same crowd, that like us, for the most part.

A: They don’t even like us.

E: The only people who don’t like us are like the really East Los hardcore-core, who are like air guitar guitar shredding

Q: Like they’re actually trying.

E: They’re trying really hard, and they all sound like, the fucking same. I feel like you can’t tell the difference, or they sound exactly like Venom, or just another band like that, like verbatim. But there are different ones, like I like Deviated State, I like Hong Kong Fuck You, Cancer Christ… All the big ones, especially in the underground scene, are usually bigger for a reason. Those who have really racked up those followers really earned it. I think Nu Godd is really unique, a.k.a. Wacko, their song, “i don’t want to but i think i’m god,” is like, a top tier song. It is an amazing song.

So, anyway, you might as well practice when you play. Makes it more exciting, too. 

A: You never know how it’s gonna go.

E: Because sometimes, especially when we were earlier, it was really like, “Are we gonna play a good show or are we not.” Most of the time we wouldn’t, and then one time we would play a show, and everyone would be like “Woah, this is crazy,” the reaction is insane. And then we’d go back to playing like five bad shows.

Q: It honestly depends on the crowd I feel like, too. Because if the crowd’s not moving with me, I just can’t perform as well.

E: Sometimes it’s like, you come out strong, and everyone’s just like standing still, straight face 

A: It’s like, okay whatever, I don’t wanna play for these guys.

E: But then the second band starts, and it’s the same thing, the same Venom band playing, and they’re all like cheering and dancing

Q: What’s your process like for songwriting?

E: I write, like, all the time. We don’t practice a lot, but I play guitar all the fucking time

A: I can attest to this.

E: I probably write songs for us three to six times a day, just because I play guitar, and something will happen, and I’ll be like, “I like how that sounds.” Or, sometimes I’ll be at work, and I’ll just be like “*humming melody* Oh that’s good,” and I’ll sing it in my notes app. But, I usually never use those, because I like, hate myself, and so every time I want to write a song or we’re in the stu, I’m like, “I don’t wanna reuse a riff I already wrote. I’m better than that. I can write a new song right now.” I usually try to do that. So, we have like, thousands of thousands of thousands that we never do anything with…

A: This is why we’re trying to do a mixtape.

E: Or we even write full songs, but when we play I’m like, “I wanna do something new, I don’t wanna do what I already did.”

Q: Do you add new songs every time you play?

E: No, mostly because we don’t practice, and she [Ashley] doesn’t play drums every day.

A: Yea, I’m not on his [Elliot’s] level.

Q: I have a drum kit in my room and I literally never play it.

A: Yea, and now we live at his house, and I don’t even have the drums over there, so I just don’t play like ever. But, luckily I already know how to play drums, I’ve already had years of experience now, so I’m like, whatever.

Q: When did you start?

A: When I was 13. So I was like, in middle school. I was playing pretty solidly throughout high school, because I just didn’t have anything else to do at that time. But since high school, it’s like, meh. I gotta go make money now.

E: We also never make setlists or anything like that. So, we usually just try to be like, we’re playing our album right now, any song on the album could be played during the set, and then once we’re done with this mixtape and we release it, we’ll probably never play that album again. We’ll only play the mixtape songs, whatever songs are on there. We try to play only like four songs, because if I go more than 30 minutes, I will hurt myself. I’ll like, use a lot of water and throw up.

A: Yea, this guy’s hydrated.

E: I go too hard. But yea, once that new album comes out, we’ll switch up our set. We’re writing all the time.

Q: Who writes the lyrics?

A: Just him [Elliot].

E: I usually don’t write the lyrics even until I have to, because I like music a lot more than I like words. I’d be a writer if I liked words. 

A: Plus you can never hear any of the lyrics anyways.

E: I feel like the lyrics, it could mean something now and mean something different later. I try to make them like, incoherent nonsense. But it means something to me. It might mean something to you. Like, one time I wrote a song, and this kid thought I wrote it about his mom that died. I was like, “I don’t even know you,” but he really thought… I mean, I knew him a little bit, I knew that his mom died, but he was like, “It really means a lot that you made that song about my mom dying,” and I was like, “Yea man, you got it, of course.” I’m not gonna take that away from him.

A: Stream Elliot Gray by the way.

Q: You got solo stuff too?

E: I made an album when I was like, really fucked up on meth. It was a really crazy time. 

A: The album is really crazy.

E: I have a crazy scar from it on my arm. So I mean, it was a crazy time. But I wrote a whole album off it, and I am really really proud of it. And that guy thought I wrote it about him. 

A: So maybe you’ll think it’s written about you, because it is.

Q: How do you guys feel about the scene currently?

E: I have mixed feelings, but I also feel irrelevant on it, because I’m just a white kid from HB. I feel like, one, we’ll never really be accepted. We can put in work, we talk to all these people, we’re pretty close with Zaine [Nu Godd]’s group now, but as close as we can be. They keep us at arm’s distance. A lot of people end up being really fake with us, like, “Oh, we love your band, let’s play a show!” And they never invite us to play a show, and we’ll invite them to play a show, and they’ll either be like, “Oh we’ll get back to you,” and never do, and that’s if they read the message at all. We don’t know if it’s because we’re from HB or what, but we just feel like they honestly don’t really fuck with us. So, we have a lot of opinions, but ultimately, they don’t really care about them.

A: So we’re just kind of doing our thing. It is what it is.

Q: Do you want to get more connected with the scene?

E: I think it would make me feel better, because being from HB, it would be cooler if I was cooler with those guys, like at least I’d have some sort of community. But I don’t know, like I said, I grew up in a lot of places and my whole childhood was like, crazy, so I’m a tough guy, I can handle it. Don’t really need to be liked by anybody. It alsoI think makes us cooler, because maybe if we ended up getting tighter with them, we would adopt their sound more, and in ten years we would be sounding just like them. So, we’ll be on our own wave in the future. And it only validates us that we’re doing our own thing, ya know? We don’t even trip.

Q: It’s hard, because I feel like LA’s scene is really connected, but you guys live so far from there.

A: I know, it’s hard, we haven’t swarmed our way in.

E: We think it honestly is because we’re in HB, they just get turned off. I mean, we’ve had people block us. They’ll be like, “You’re from HB?” and we’re like “Yea,” and they’re like, “Should’ve known.” and they block us. 

A: It’s like, alright whatever.

E: Like, I’m sorry. It’s valid, too, like I can understand it. Can’t be too mad.

A: There are some wack-ass fools out here.

E: If I wasn’t from here, I don’t know if I would wanna know nobody from here either.

Q: You can come play shows in LA anytime, I know it’s a rough drive for y’all but we love your music. 

A: It’s not that bad, we’ve been doing it for so long.

Q: I will see y’all in LA, LB, OC… everywhere in SoCal.

A: Everywhere.

Follow Raccoon Union on Instagram to keep up to date with shows and new releases. Follow them on TikTok to be entertained. Stream the band on Spotify and Apple Music.


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