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The three-year journey to Rat Bath’s time-traveling rock opera

Five people in goth apparel sit on a vintage sofa in front of a low coffee table with many candles on it.
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Rat Bath / Facebook

Rock operas can truly be hit or miss, so to take on the genre as gutsily as Milwaukee’s Rat Bath is absolutely admirable.

A mutual love of My Chemical Romance and a magical rat “familiar” named Ratthew originally brought together fellow Iowans Fred Kenyon (lead vocals, they/them) and Cora Bequeaith (guitar, she/her) to form the epic Milwaukee band. Later adding Ivy Escobedo (bass, vocals), Róisín Shields (guitar) and Nikki Nelson (drums), the all-queer Rat Bath began storming the Milwaukee scene with their “cowpunk” meets “y’allternative” sound (really, what else can one do but “storm” if you’re writing epic cowpunk ballads?).

Beginning with breakout 2022 release, Rat From Hell, the band’s output beguiled and enamored fans with their penchant for epic storytelling, blazing guitars and punked-up drums. Then there’s Kenyon’s vocals — sweet, amped-up, meditative, rage-y and deranged all in one life-giving (and life taketh-away) breath. It hits in a very satisfying way.

Not familiar? Start with Rat From Hell as a warm-up in advance of their forthcoming “murder country rock opera” Call Me a Monster, due out in full Nov. 10 (although you can listen to one of the singles via the recent Milwaukee Music Premiere directly below).

Initially dreamed up in 2020, the new album came together over the course of a couple years. A split-screen story of 13th-century mercenary Cadence and a vampire named Susanna, Rat Bath take their cowpunk / y’allternative foundation and frame it out with a Romeo & Juliet storyline. The end result is filled to the brim with queer and paranormal themes, smattered and spattered with time travel, revenge, love, betrayal and plenty of blood.

I talked with Kenyon and Bequeaith ahead of the release of Call Me a Monster’s newest single, “Little Birds,” (out today) and their blowout album-release show in The Back Room on Nov. 10 alongside Kat & The Hurricane and Gold Steps. Take a listen to the full conversation via the player at the top of the page or the video below, and check out all their music at Bandcamp (as well as the new album when it drops).

88Nine Music Director / On-Air Talent | Radio Milwaukee