Interview: Rocking with Rainer Maria

This article originally appeared on

Recovering bookworms Caithlin De Marrais, Kyle Fischer, and William Kuehn met in a poetry class in college. Five years later, living in New York City and working together as Rainer Maria, they've just released their third full-length recording, A Better Version of Me, on Polyvinyl Records. Their music has been featured on MTV's Undressed and Road Rules and on ESPN; in Winter/Spring of 2001, they are touring the U.S. TeenWire was lucky enough to catch up with Rainer Maria for an interview.

rainer maria interview

TeenWire (TW): Kyle and William spent a lot of time going to all-ages shows in Madison, WI, didn't they? And Rainer Maria still plays all-ages shows today. What's behind that?

Rainer Maria (RM): Well, at least 75 percent of our shows are still all-ages. It started out of a desire to include everybody and the frustration of not being able to go to shows when we were younger. But it's also, like, at the over-21 shows, you kind of feel manipulated. It seems obvious they only want people who can spend money on alcohol. It makes you start to wonder, well, how much does this have to do with the music and how much does it have to do with the money? We wanted to move away from that, which is why we still do all-ages shows. It's something we feel really strongly about.

TW: So, who are your musical influences?

RM: I have really varied influences. Like I listen to just about everything - classical, jazz, mainstream, you know. But stuff I'm really interested in, the things I'm listening to over and over again, like the new Blonde Redhead CD out of New York, they all have female vocalists who I think are amazing.

TW: Speaking of influences, the name of your band is from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. He really celebrates sex as a place to discover your innocence, a place of beauty, dismissing guilt and sin. I'm wondering if that translates to your own attitudes and music?

RM: We chose the name partly because of the dual aspects of the male-female — like is it a male name, is it a female name? And we do a lot of dual vocals in our music. We also, Kyle and I at least, have a deep appreciation for his poetry. There is an element of joy that we'd like to continue to project in our music.

TW: You and Kyle have been in a relationship for longer than the band's existence. Do you think your relationship weaves into the music?

RM: Not so much on this new album, but in the past, yes. We used to sit down together and bang out a song word for word. It was very difficult because it spawned conflicts at times, but at the end you emerge with something like, "We are victorious!"

TW: A couple of song questions, now. On the new CD, in the song, "Spit and Fire," you sing, "Take those lazy drugs away; turn to me instead." Are you saying a good relationship is better than taking drugs?

RM: I think, um, I was applying more general meaning to the term drugs, like anything that really zaps your attention — like television — anything that zaps your power and makes you uninterested in having conversation and enjoying another person, whatever.

rainer maria group shot

TW: The other song that intrigued me was "Hell and Highwater," and lyrics like, "The next woman will be a better version of me"; and "I tell myself you're not a fool." What is that about?

RM: You know it's funny. I feel way more comfortable and interested in explaining what things mean because this is a teen site, so if I like stutter, or whatever, it's because I'm not used to being this honest about the lyrics, and being this literal. . . .

You know, it has to do with this, like, new different self emerging from growing up, from leaving school, from continuing to do all this work on myself. It's exciting, like,

"Wow, this is cool; this past thing doesn't affect me anymore. Like, wow, I really am growing up."

You feel like, "Great, a better version of me," but you're also, like, "I wonder what that's going to be?"

TW: What advice would you give to young women today about sex and relationships?

RM: That's a hard one. There's the cold, anatomical way of describing sex. Like you get one class in school, or one talking-to from your parents, and it's still incredibly difficult to find your way — to find the enjoyable aspects of your sexuality.

If something feels wrong, you have every right and reason to not do it, to stop, to rethink, to talk more, to learn more. There are ways of getting information that you may not feel you have the right to access, but you have every right, because every person at the same age is going through the same thing. Even as an adult, it's something you're dealing with all the time.

TW: So, it's really important to find the enjoyable aspects of sex and sexuality, so if something does feel wrong, you have the right to stop, rethink, and talk about it.

RM: Right. Cool.

TW: Anything I missed Caithlin?

RM: I don't think so. This was an awesome interview. I got to talk about lots of things I don't usually talk about.

TW: Good luck with your tour! All the info about the tour and the new CD is on