California indie rock collective the Rum Diary joined forces in February 2000, 50 miles outside of San Francisco in the rural town of Cotati. Specializing in a heady blend of dream pop and post-rock, the band consists of multi-instrumentalists Joel Ryckebosch, Schuyler Feekes, Daniel McKenzie, and Jon Fee. Their debut, Noise Points, was released in 2002 on the Substandard Records label. An EP, Key to Slow Time, arrived later that year, followed by the critically lauded Poisons That Save Lives in 2003. We’re Afraid of Heights Tonight was released on the Devil in the Woods label in 2006.
– All Music
…this is at heart a group playing very strong, impressionist pop music with an emphasis on hypnotic guitar riffs and forlorn melodies
– Rolling Stone
The Rum Diary features two drum kits, double bass guitar, Moog and Farfisa keyboards, layered guitars, and occasional vocals. Put these instruments together and you get an engaging, slightly experimental sound that grabs a hold of you and doesn’t let go.
– Impact Press
Sometimes spacey and soft, sometimes heavy and overpowering, ad sometimes droning and jangly-this is a great record (Poisons That Save Lives) and I eagerly await more…
– Law of Inertia
With Poisons That Save Lives this four-piece has brilliantly woven the melodic angularity of bands like Pinback into the textured intensity of the Mogwai camp, producing an indie rock gem that deserves your immediate, total attention.
– Zero Magazine
One of my favorite Bay Area bands
– Kathleen Wentz, East Bay Express
We may be able to definitively say that the Rum Diary was Cotati’s greatest indie-rock export, adored by a wide swath of the population—from SSU stoners to dive-bar denizens to serious music fans.
– Gabe Meline, City Sound Enertia, Bohemian.com
Back in 2002, I randomly purchased a little blue 7″ from Springman Records. “Mileage,” the title track, renewed what was, at the time, my waning interest in music. It’s mellow, ambling rhythm and layers of guitar built slowly, steadily and crazily into the frenzy of a tribal right of passage. I immediately ordered a second copy (you know, just in case), something I have never done with another record. The band that made that record was the Rum Diary and, over the ensuing half decade, I faithfully bought anything they released. However, it seemed that they never quite recaptured what they had with “Mileage”…until their final album, We’re Afraid of Heights Tonight.
In a sense, that’s what makes Retrospective so great. It mixes “Mileage” and “Back in the Hardcore Days” (off their finalé) with some of those other tracks. Oddly, when coupled together, the songs I thought to be lesser (only in comparison to their career bookends) turn out to be elevated here. While I had been looking for something else as striking as that first listen, I seem to have failed to recognize just how good the subsequent songs were. It also collects songs from several split EPs that might have been missed even by fans and there are a handful of unreleased tracks that had no business remaining unreleased. Sadly, none were theWe’re Afraid of Heights Tonight vinyl-only tracks since they only pressed 100 copies.
All in all, this is both a great collection of songs and a remarkably cohesive album in its own right. Most importantly though, it gives everyone a shot at hearing one of the best bands they probably missed in the last decade.
– RnR Nonsense
Seventeen tracks (Retrospective) spanning four albums and a variety of 7″s and compilations. The Rum Diary covered more territory than most bands, and this set hardly begins to illustrate the band’s range. But it is a fine introduction to a good band.