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Introducing Castle Rat: Interview with Lead Singer Riley

Step into the musical interdimensional world of Castle Rat, a 70’s inspired medieval fantasy doom metal band hailing from Brooklyn, led by our very own Riley Pinkerton from our NYC store on rhythm guitar and lead vocals.

We speak to Riley AKA ‘The Rat Queen’ before their single ‘Feed the Dream’ is released this Friday 28th October at The Great Rat Summoning Halloween party. Catch them at The Sultan Room – since 2019 the band have forged a sonic experience promising a live performance to satisfy those who crave battle-babes & beasts, swords & sorcery, Stoner & Doom, Frazetta & Sabbath.

On her mission to expand and defend ‘The Realm’ from those who seek to destroy it, she is joined by Henry Black, ‘The Count’, on lead guitar and backing vocals, Ronnie Lanzilotta, ‘The Plague Doctor’ on bass, and Joshua Strmic, ‘The Druid’ on drums. Together they face the relentless wrath of their arch nemesis: Death Herself, ‘The Rat Reaperess’.
Read the interview below and listen to the track at the end of the article.
What does Castle Rat stand for?

Castle Rat is an interdimensional plague metal band on a mission to expand and defend ‘The Realm’ from their arch nemesis the Rat Reaperess.

Can you list all your band members and what they do…

Castle Rat is led by the Rat Queen (Riley Pinkerton) on guitar and vocals, and features The Count (Henry Black) on lead guitar, the Plague Doctor (Ronnie Lanzilotta) on bass, and The Druid (Josh Strmic) on drums.

Tell us your musical style in a nutshell?

For fans of 70s-inspired heavy metal riffage, chainmail, swords, potions, battles and bloodshed.

Who’s been your biggest influence, musical or non-musical?

My two personal biggest influences would be Black Sabbath and Frank Frazetta. Black Sabbath sparked my love for heavy metal and led me to the flood of other bands that spawned from them. Frazetta’s artwork inspired the character design and attitude of the Rat Queen. On a more personal level, his depiction of strong, full-figured women in these fantastical worlds helped me redefine my once restrictive and very limited “beauty standard.” Frazetta’s women were a liberation for me.

How do you want people to feel after leaving one of your shows?

The most important thing I want people to feel after our shows is that they were included; that they were a part of something special because they were there. The members of the audience become members of ‘The Realm.’ Each show is a unique pin-drop in space and time, where every single person in that room has carved their own individual path through a million little decisions and moments across their entire lifetime to wind up standing there before us that night. That’s a really special thing and something I take time to acknowledge at every show.

My ultimate goal is for Castle Rat to become its own universe for people to step into and be a part of.

Favourite Rat Queen outfit you’ve worn on stage?

The Rat Queen has been through a few wardrobe changes since her inception; the current getup is by far my favorite — It’s a deep purple velour loin panel skirt with matching cape sleeves, both with gold trimming, all of which I drafted and sewed myself. The highlight of the outfit is the gold chainmail chest piece (with nothing but silver aluminium tape pasties underneath) and matching hip belt, which I also constructed all by hand (thanks to the pandemic I had time to learn how to sew AND make chainmail). I crafted a humble golden crown of foam insulation tape and aluminium tape with metallic gold paint that sits mostly hidden under my bangs, but it features a small rat head (severed from a poor, defenceless Halloween squeaky toy rat) on the front with a couple of fake red gems. I pair all of this with a vintage snake-shaped upper armband, some very sturdy fishnet stockings, and my trusty six inch black platform heels and voila! Rat Queen.

Which ring do you think best symbolises CR’s energy or do you like wearing on stage?

The Plague Skull is probably most representative of Castle Rat, what with rats carrying the plague, plus the design itself suiting our aesthetic. I wear mine with garnet eyes, along with my Stone Evil Skull with a purple amethyst stone (it matches my outfit nicely) and my Small Wolf Ring with emeralds that I had set into the eyes. I also wear my Thick Flat Curb Chain over my chainmail, which I’ve spit up a good deal of fake blood onto, haha. I’m hoping to someday get my paws on a Rat Ring by TGF if that should ever become an option…

What would world domination look like to CR?

World domination for Castle Rat looks like… people dressing up as the Rat Queen or members of Castle Rat at our shows or for Halloween. That’s when I’ll know I’ve made it. Oh, and sure, a private jet or something, why not…

What does TGF mean or stand for to you?

TGF is a really special brand with an amazing legacy, beautifully crafted jewelry and unique designs, but also an amazing staff which I am extremely grateful to be a part of. I happened to be standing in the right place at the right time and got the job, and it all feels pretty serendipitous. While it’s very fulfilling to work for a brand that I appreciate and love to wear, it’s a whole other thing to know how TGF’s legacy is founded on this communal love for rock n roll and heavy metal — that the same spirit that drives me to do what I do onstage is the one that has driven TGF to become what it is — it’s a rare gift to find that sort of mutual appreciation in one’s employment.

Favourite NYC spots?

I don’t go out as much as I used to, BUT:

TV Eye in Ridgewood is an awesome, sprawling venue/bar that has a secret little food nook by Barker & Sons with great tacos and they also carry my favorite fake beer there (Athletic Brewing Co.) —  If I were to get married I’d probably have my wedding there (don’t copy my idea though!).

Takahachi on 6th and A is my go-to sushi spot — Jack, the owner, is amazing. My dad and I go religiously.

Big Bar on 7th and 1st Ave will forever be my favorite bar, though I haven’t been in quite some time. Last I checked it’s a very special little place full of very special people…

Ronnie’s House – literally Ronnie’s apartment. It’s nice, I really like it there.

Listen to the single here, recorded in a 150-year-old abandoned church at a secret location in Philadelphia, PA:

All photos by Javier Vela.

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