Seattle band Visqueen is calling it quits after eight years, but it's hardly the end of lead singer Rachel Flotard's career. The woman National Public Radio once dubbed "the human incarnation of the Energizer Bunny" continues to play in another band (Cobirds Unite), manages up-and-coming group Star Anna and runs her own record company, 638....
On Saturday at the Neptune Theatre, local band Visqueen plays its last ever concert.
Though Rachel Flotard is the very public face of Visqueen, it’s hardly the end of the singer’s career in music, however. She’s in another band, manages the up-and-coming band Star Anna (and got them a gig opening for Pearl Jam) and runs 638 Records. It’s no wonder National Public Radio called Flotard “the human incarnation of the Energizer Bunny.”
Flotard is also five months pregnant, one of a few reasons Visqueen is calling it a day. And while Visqueen has always had big local audiences, its farewell show has attracted the kind of attention that makes it a must-see event.
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“When you say something is over, people want to cling on to it,” she said last week in a coffee shop near her Seattle home. “It’s like a Black Friday sale. We’re never going to see these prices again!”
Flotard formed Visqueen eight years ago with drummer Ben Hooker, and they released three critically acclaimed albums. The demise of the band ends her most visible onstage work, at least temporarily — Flotard is rarely not in motion.
“Rachel is an incredible force in the Seattle music community,” notes Shannon Roach, executive director of the Pacific Northwest chapter of NARAS, which hands out the Grammy Awards. “She’s smart and effective about promoting her art, but with a strong sense of community as well.”
In addition to Visqueen, Flotard has toured with Neko Case and sings in Cobirds Unite. Her 638 Records has released five albums so far, including new records by Star Anna and Shelby Earl.
Flotard started the label because she wanted to help some of her talented friends, and because she couldn’t just watch on the sidelines.
“I’ve always been the person who organizes and gets stuff done,” she said.
She named 638 after the steamfitters union her late father belonged to. When her dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer, at a moment when Visqueen seemed poised to break nationally, she took time off to care for him. It might have cost Visqueen some traction on the national scene, but for Flotard it was a choice she never second-guessed. The experience, she said, changed her in profound ways.
“He was such a toughie,” she said. “Watching a toughie soften is an amazing thing. He was the funniest guy I ever knew. And I miss him so much.”
Flotard cites her father’s death as one of the things that motivated her to work more passionately and to explore motherhood at 39, something she couldn’t have imagined before. Even before Flotard became pregnant, Visqueen already had Onesies for sale on its T-shirt table, and she joked that she’s going to grab the remaining stock for herself.
Parenthood is just another chapter in her career, she said, and she plans to continue making music. She’s also planning an audiobook on her label and has two other signings on the horizon.
Flotard grew up in New Jersey, so it’s not surprising that when asked to sum up Visqueen’s history, she cited a Bruce Springsteen song.
“When I think about having to ‘Glory Days’ this,” she said, “I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m so glad we didn’t get signed early on by a major label and chewed up, and spit out.”
For Flotard, Visqueen’s last-ever show is as much an expression of gratitude to fans as anything else.
“We could have just closed up shop, but we wanted to acknowledge all the people who came to see us,” she said.
Yet for Flotard, about to play the biggest show of her career, there is another more pressing matter — how’s she’s going to fit her electric guitar around her expanded baby belly.
“I’m going to have to do it sidesaddle at this point,” she laughed.
Charles R. Cross: therocketmagazinelives@