Rolling Down with “Ragechill” Kroft
The Big “G” Jam Newcomer Talks Circus Arts, Ritalin, and Planned Parenthood
July 25, 2019 - Interview by Adrien D’Angelo
Rachel Kroft is confident that no stage can break her steady breath. The first-to-perform at the Big “G” Jam on Friday, August 9th, Kroft sat down to talk about how yoga and other practices have contributed to her iron will as a performer.
Rachel “Ragechill” Kroft is an emerging artist from Rochester, NY whose definitive vocal style echoes lounge swooners and '70s soul divas alike. The young singer has recently started making a name for herself in her hometown after her New York City life was more than she bargained for.
Kroft sang in the band Gridline (Manhattan) and has rubbed elbows with the likes of Lawrence “LAW” Worrell of Amy Winehouse, Trombone Shorty, Kung Fu, and Galactic. She’s now working on a project of her own.
Big “G” Jam affiliate Adrien D’Angelo sat down to interview Kroft:
A: What age were you when music became an important thing in your life?
R: That would go back to when I was three years old. As early as I can remember my mom would play piano. She could sight-read any piece of sheet music you put down in front of her on the spot. She was always playing piano when I was super young. Then I started singing casually at the age of five and started doing opera with someone who trained at Eastman (School of Music) at the age of ten.
A: What kind of path did you see yourself taking musically?
R: Opera was a great start because it gave me all of the classical tools to control my voice and then I knew I wanted to do jazz. It was always the style that my voice resonated well with. I could just feel that jazz was definitely it.
A: What made you stay in Rochester?
R: That’s the funny part. Thirteen-year-old me would probably hit me in the face for saying it, but you know, I actually really do enjoy this city and I've really come to love it. When I was thirteen, I used to swear up and down I would never live here. And I’ve done a fair amount of travel at this point all across the west coast and I still came home. So I’m really happy that the city’s embracing me and I'm learning to love it back. It’s a great community. It’s a wonderful music scene. And you know, it ebbs and it flows but it’s definitely charming.
A: What type of stuff did you grow up listening to?
R: The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, ELO, lots of classical piano, lots of Josh Grobin, Andrea Bocelli. Yeah, quite a wide range there. And even the emotions... Best of My Love was my favorite song growing up.
A: I think that’s cool because it depicts the wide range of songs you choose to sing, right? How does that go into you trying to find your own sounds?
R: Absolutely, yeah. I’m very widely influenced by a huge plethora of genres. There’s nothing I don’t want to cover. It keeps the doors wide open so I can choose to do one song in one genre then go to a different one, then I can go to a ballad, then go to a funk tune, then i can do a love song, and then I can do a sad jazzy blues tune. It’s awesome because I can go all over the place so there’s no limits.
A: Where do you see yourself five years from now? Will you still be in Rochester?
R: I’ll definitely still be doing music. That will never stop. Rochester? I certainly hope I’ll still be here because then at least I’ll actually be able to certainly find my footing and get in with not just one project but hopefully multiple. And whether it’s just sitting in or having multiple projects, I really do see this growing to much more grandiose stats. I can’t really put my finger on it right now because sometimes I’m really parallized by choice as well. So I have to hone my focus in and decide if one project is going to have that plethora of genres or if I’m going to do multiple projects. The world is my oyster.
A: What do you do for a living?
R: I am a licensed professional massage therapist. I am also a licensed yoga teacher. I work at two yoga studios currently: one in Webster and one on Monroe Avenue. I also travel around from music festival to music festival as a vendor selling art, jewelry, and gemstones. So that kind of gets my travel-fix in. But I see that lifestyle coming to a close so I can come back here and get hyper focused on music into fall and winter. Then after working that hard on it in the off-season... hitting it harder (next Summer) with a tour for sure.
A: How do you feel about yoga as a meditative practice? Does that influence you at all in your performance life?
R: Yeah, it certainly keeps me grounded. I started doing yoga at the age of ten as an alternative to Ritalin. So I’ve been doing yoga for a very long time. Being able to ground myself through breath and physical presence alone has allowed me to never really be nervous when I’m on stage.
A: You were prescribed Ritalin (Methylphenidate) and then stopped taking it through yoga practice? How did this all happen?
R: Yeah, big brownie points to my mom for this one for sure. She saw what a zombie and how terrible the Ritalin was affecting me in school and at home. She was like, “Well, I'm not going to make you take this, why don’t you try yoga?” So I’d get up at 5:00A.M. with my little VHS tape before elementary school and I would do yoga. That’s how I really got my practice started.
A: As well as being a yoga instructor and musician, you also do other forms of performance, correct?
R: Yeah, when I was in college I taught circus skills near and around Manhattan and the Greater Metropolitan Area for four years while I was in college. Silks, trapeze, juggling, riding unicycles, acrobatics which also leads up to acroyoga and aerial yoga. It’s definitely a five-year projected dream for me to definitely have my own studio for yoga and massage. (A studio) where I can definitely teach aerial yoga and bring that into Rochester and make it more well-known. It’s kind of still a very small niche market right now but I definitely can foresee it getting much more popular. So that’s very exciting too. And who knows? You never know when you might see me at a performance five years down the road coming down onto the stage from a silk. That would definitely be a very cool thing to add to the music - which is that performance art aspect of it.
A: So you often go by “Ragechill,” can you talk a little bit about what inspired that?
R: So, Ragechill came from college. It was really just a party nickname at first… I was in a band in college called Gridline. It was Gridline Bass Band back then; now it’s just Gridline. When I was with those boys it was just a name they gave me, and it just kind of stuck. I became Rage and then became Ragechill because Rachel had just warped perfectly and it stuck. I’ll continue to rage it until I don’t see fit to anymore. I hardly see it leaving anytime soon.
A: The Big “G” Jam is donating proceeds to Planned Parenthood. Would you like to say anything about Planned Parenthood’s services to the community?
R: I think (Planned Parenthood) is a completely integral part (of the community). It is absolutely necessary. Women’s rights are being stomped on and thwarted all over the country in various evil forms and it’s really a very sad state of affairs. I think this Big “G” Jam event is a wonderful movement in solidarity to support all of the beautiful women of the world. “Remember, you all have mothers,” as The Pointer Sisters said. So respect your mothers and respect your women, respect your sisters, and support them because we need it really badly right now. There’s a lot of anger in this country and I think that the Planned Parenthood services and all of the support they’re giving to these women is a really nice light in a very dark time. So I fully support them and I’m very honored and happy to be a part of this event with so many other strong goddess mamas. It’ll be a really beautiful weekend of awesome supportive energy I can already tell.
A: Are you excited for the Big “G” Jam?
R: I’m so excited. Thank you so much to Gabi and to G Lodge for supporting this cause.
Don’t miss Ragechill’s set at this year’s Big “G” Jam - Friday, August 9th, 4:30-6pm
Interview and article by Adrien D’Angelo
Adrien D’Angelo notes he is currently an active member of “Ragechill” & Friends for transparency purposes.
Adrien D’Angelo is a musician, audio technician, and writer who currently lives in Rochester, NY. You can typically find him behind the soundboard at local music festivals making bands sound pretty. He performs in Rochester acts Subsoil, Eli Flynn and the Everymen, Ragechill & Friends, Darb Jansen, and Level 7. Adrien studied journalism at SUNY Buffalo and was Arts Editor at The Spectrum, SUNY Buffalo’s newspaper. He is also a published poet and holds the 2018 award from Rochester Groovecast’s Best of Rochester Competition for “Best Audio Engineer.”