In a quarantined world, Rags and Riches relishes being on the fringes of society.
The Lexington, Kentucky EDM pop-rock duo of brothers Tanner Whitt (vocals, guitar) and Peyton Whitt (drums) ventures underground and demands authenticity on their new seismic single, “Blood Runs Cold,” which dropped April 24.
“‘Blood Runs Cold’ really couldn’t have been a more perfect song to release right now. We felt not only did it relate to what we are all living in, but also the outcasts who have never fit in were very important to us. We wanted people to realize sometimes the people who never could fit in anywhere were born to stand out,” Tanner Whitt said.
Rags and Riches boldly stands apart as earth-shattering synths, blaring warning sirens, pounding percussion and piercing electric guitars erupt an underground homogeneous society. Tanner Whitt defiantly sings, “Is your head on straight/Cuz I feel like a stranger in a social abyss/Locked inside a box where my survival’s at risk/Survival’s at risk.”
The track also features a compelling video with clones wearing yellow hazmat suits and black gas masks while gathering in a deserted subway station with flashing lights. Together, they stand in single-file lines and closely monitor the station for a potential airborne virus (think COVID-19).
“We felt the hazmat suits made perfect sense with how we are living. Everyone being distant feels like living in hazmat suits. The video was more for relatability than a deeper meaning on this one,” Tanner Whitt said.
“Blood Runs Cold” also serves as the second infectious single Rags and Riches has released this year. In February, the Whitt brothers dropped the turbo-charged, anti-mediocracy anthem, “Edge of Time,” which fuses floating synths, thumping electronic percussion, frantic drumstick taps, vibrant guitars and deep breaths.
With a fire in his soul, Tanner Whitt proudly sings, “Rise, when the chances come/Move, don’t be left behind/Now, is your time to shine.”
“The lyrics came to me back in June 2019. It was spur of the moment, and they all really quickly came to me. I was outside walking around writing these lyrics down, and the melody was pretty much there. I didn’t have the overall theme for what I wanted the song to be about. It just kind of put itself together in a way. The positive, encouraging thing came, and never settling for mediocracy was the focus point of the song,” said Tanner Whitt, whose mother also sings on the track.
Rags and Riches also worked with director Herschel Zahnd and dancers Anya Banks and Ashley Davis on the video for “Edge of Time.” The Whitt brothers perform in a dark, empty warehouse while Banks and Davis rhythmically sway to the track’s pulsating, lingering beat.
“As far as the dancers, that was cool, and that was the first time we’ve done that. It was different and a blast, and inspiring for some different videos as well. As far as Herschel goes, he actually did the video for ‘Not a Stranger,’ and we love working with him. He’s really good at knowing where we want to go with the video, and his eye is fantastic,” Tanner Whitt said.
Meanwhile, Rags and Riches shifts into EDM overdrive on “Light It Up,” a hyperactive, motivational ode to tackling challenges directly and finding a renewed sense of purpose.
Frenzied percussion, roaring bass and escalating synths push the duo toward newfound strength as Tanner Whitt urgently sings, “Everybody gets wrapped up in the madness/Screaming to the masses/But I’m chasing the sun.”
A different type of chase ensues in the “Light It Up” video as two rival cults battle to the death. Director Austin Sheehan beautifully chronicles dramatic encounters between the warring factions in a secluded wilderness as Rags and Riches performs amidst the confrontation.
“For ‘Light It Up,’ I feel like it’s an inspiring song for people. Part of the time when we were writing the song, the friend that we spoke about that lost his way and found his way back home was in the studio with us. It was really cool with him just being in the room, and I think the inspiration definitely came from him just being there, and a lot of lyrics just came to us through that,” Tanner Whitt said.
Rags and Riches also searches for internal strength and personal inspiration on “Not a Stranger,” a soaring, powerhouse track that blends twirling, chime-like synths, convulsive percussion, intermittent handclaps and thundering bass into a three-minute EDM quest for self-actualization.
Tanner Whitt openly reveals, “These dreams always seem to be taken and borrowed, and borrowed/A million times I’ve lived a life foreign and unknown.”
“We wrote it about people who struggle with a lack of confidence or self-doubt in themselves and achieve what they were born to do in this life. We want people to be encouraged and have a positive outlook on life,” said Tanner Whitt, who revisited the warring cults theme on the single’s video with Zahnd.
As an emerging EDM pop-rock duo, the Whitt brothers were born into a musical household to youth pastor parents. They started performing in church while listening to pop, classic rock and EDM, and explored a range of electronic artists, including Steve Aoki and Diplo.
By 2017, they formed Rags and Riches and opted for a multi-genre sound that encompassed an eclectic range of influences. Two years later, the duo released their dynamic electro-rock debut single, “Speed of Sound,” as well as an uplifting power-pop EP, Arrival.
“We were both ready to start a band outside of everything else we were doing. We weren’t entirely sure which route we wanted to go with it, but we wanted something like how Queen had no specific genre where we could crossover and do whatever we wanted ourselves. Then, the name Rags and Riches came to us because we wanted something that connected with people as well,” said Tanner Whitt, who’s five years older than Peyton.
With a growing roster of new material, Rags and Riches will release their next single May 29 to spread positivity and connection in an omnipresent COVID-19 society.
“We plan on releasing new singles or EPs throughout the year. It is important to have an escape with all the negativity we are all dealing with,” Tanner Whitt said.