Biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and corporate wellness are all business sectors encompassed within Rat City Enterprises (RCE), so it’s surprising the company released an album of Kraftwerk-inspired and Radiohead-influenced tracks called We Are Employment.
The album was conceived by Rochester-based trio Jon Allen (36-backing vocals and drum machine), Chris Kostelec (31- synths, guitar, bass, and backing vocals), and Tom Erickson (29- vocals, guitar, bass). The three musicians are members of the Rat City Music Committee, a special RCE taskforce. The tracks on the album grew out of a highly successful “art and networking” event RCE promoted called the Corridor Principle.
Though RCE employs corporate tactics, it exists as a construct developed by creators to foster artistic expression. The conceptual corporation engenders a specific lens intended to spur creativity.
RCE’s website describes the company as a global corporation developing “alternative business strategies to facilitate new growth and help connect businesses with their target demographics.” Despite corporate trappings, RCE’s album includes demented tracks that warp harmonies and manipulate language in trance-inducing, synth-driven iterations. Each track is accompanied by video. “Ample Parking” sprinkles parking party promises over images of Rochester’s finest parking ramps interspersed with bubble-covered security cameras and elevator buttons.
Within the art-centered corporate construct of RCE, Allen, Kostelec, and Erickson have their alter egos: John Alan- Business Development Advisor, Kris Castelak- Business Development Analyst, and Thom Eriksen-Business Development Strategist. These heavy-hitting businessmen took time from their busy schedules to answer a few questions.
How would you describe your music?
Kris: Game-changing. Beautiful. Inspiring. Corporate folk. Revolutionary to business. Hugely successful.
Thom: It’s in the genre of “corporate folk.” We create music that expresses the human desire to achieve our full potential, while upholding RCE’s company values.
What’s your favorite track from We Are Employment?
John: We all have different opinions on this, but mine is probably the title track “We Are Employment” because it distills the essence of the RCE philosophy into an anthem. It is a favorite among employees. We often sing it at corporate retreats and even some meetings.
Kris: Choosing my favorite track would be like choosing my favorite colleague; it’s easy! Mine is “Until You Try it.” It reminds me first and foremost that I am a consumer. You can even dance to it!
Thom: My favorite is “Organized, Detailed.” Sometimes I sing it to myself at work to help stay focused on the task at hand. Sometimes I even sing it to my coworkers to give them a boost during the mid-afternoon slump, and it turns into a sing along.
The emotional trajectory of the albums is like a day in the office (complete with ringing phones) filled with moments of despair and ending with the requisite night on the town. Was this a conscious construct?
John: This album is our way of walking non-employees through a day in the life at RCE. Although I’m not sure I hear the moments of despair you mentioned. I mean, working for RCE isn’t a walk in the park, but when I listen to the album I hear nothing but a powerful affirmation of the values and lifestyle that I uphold.
Thom: Work is the highest form of art, we really believe that.
Can you explain the corporate concept of your band’s music and its link to RCE?
John: RCE is a meta-national B2B firm. We work with different entities to develop alternative business strategies that facilitate new growth and help connect businesses with their target demographics. The album is just another example of one of RCE’s innovative alternative business strategies at work.
This album seems like it is partially a protest of mundane bureaucracy since it frequently repeats empty business aphorisms. Is this an accurate assessment?
Kris: Completely inaccurate. Where you find repetition and emptiness, we find beauty and strength.
John: This isn’t a protest, it’s an affirmation! Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action. And I don’t know about you, but I find aphorisms to be memorable, entertaining and inspiring.
John: You are definitely onto something with the krautrock thing – Kraftwerk above all. It seems to be in the zeitgeist right now to look to Germany’s past for inspiration.
Many of these songs exude a certain humor through the clash between slightly disorganized tonal structures and even ambient noise behind lyrics that focus on the tedium of tasks like checking things off lists. What is the importance of humor to your music?
John: Who doesn’t like a good joke, right? At RCE we certainly try to foster a jocular atmosphere. So, naturally the album reflects that culture.
Kris: Humor is very important to us! At RCE we encourage our employees to try to find humor and joy in their day to day duties, rather than complain about things they cannot change. Our music is an extension of this humor, it’s fun!
Thom: A happy worker is an efficient worker, that’s what we always say.