Meet RAINNE: L.A.'s Dark-Pop Duo On A Meteoric Rise
Even if you aren't yet familiar with RAINNE, the L.A.-based duo consisting of singer/songwriter Annie Dingwall and saxophonist/engineer Justin Klunk, you're definitely familiar with the artists they opened for on Oct. 19 at "We Can Survive" at the Hollywood Bowl: Taylor Swift, Lizzo, Camila Cabello, the Jonas Brothers, Billie Eilish, Becky G, Halsey, and Marshmello. So how did they get there?
The short answer is RAINNE was selected out of over 14,000 artists who entered the Opening Act contest, 97.1 AMP Radio, and Radio.com, ultimately winning the grand prize opening slot on the bill and $10,000. Remarkably, the event also raised a whopping $450,000 for MusiCares toward its efforts to ensure music people have a place to turn in times of financial, medical and personal need.
The long answer stretches back nearly a decade, to when Dingwall and Klunk first met as part of the GRAMMY Museum's GRAMMY Camp music industry program for high school students. Their journey to the Hollywood Bowl stage also went through GRAMMY U, the Recording Academy's university network for college students, and USC's Popular Music Program, which they both attended.
Now, with the momentum of their Hollywood Bowl debut and a string of infections singles like "Psycho Killer," Hollow" and the newly released "Sin," RAINNE are just getting started. The Recording Academy caught up with the rising dark-pop duo to hear about their experience at "We Can Survive," the evolution of their sound and more…
First of all – for the uninitiated – tell us more about RAINNE's music. Where do you feel your unique dark-pop comes from?
Dingwall: It has definitely been a journey to find our own sound. Both Justin and I have a wide array of music influences, so it’s been fun to draw our favorite aspects from those different genres and incorporate them in our music. From a songwriting perspective, the songs we put out all have a couple common threads that weave them together – both musically and lyrically – and darker sounds and lyrics are definitely one of those motifs that define our sound.
Klunk: Our music and ‘voices’ have been evolving since we met, and this is where we feel the most comfortable expressing ourselves right now.
That's right, you met at GRAMMY Camp. What do you remember about the program and has it helped you in your career?
Klunk: Personally, GRAMMY Camp was a major part of my musical education. Prior to the camp, I was really oblivious to the other jobs and responsibilities involved with putting on a show, or creating a record. The only thing on my mind was to play the saxophone, and the camp really opened eyes to the industry. It was inspiring for me to see while I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a living. And the program still affects us to this day. We keep in touch with a bunch of GRAMMY Camp alumnus, and it’s great to see how everyone is pursuing and thriving in their own endeavors.
In January, I’m actually going to be a part of the GRAMMY In The Schools Alumni band, so that’ll be a ton of fun to see some familiar faces.
Dingwall: I don’t think I realized back then just how impactful going to GRAMMY Camp would be on my life and career. It was a huge part of my musical foundation and introduction to Los Angeles – and introduced me to my best friend and band mate! I am so grateful to have met and worked with so many amazing people at Camp and so happy that they continue to be a part of our lives.
After GRAMMY Camp, how did you two start RAINNE?
Dingwall: RAINNE was a long time coming for us. After Camp, through college, and for a good time after graduation, Justin and I were playing shows together, but at the same time pursuing our own solo interests and projects. Justin released a few instrumental saxophone EPs and toured with Ariana Grande, Saint Motel, and many others, and I released some solo material and was writing for other artists and tv/film projects, but all the while we continued playing shows together. I think over the years we both felt the most comfortable and creative when performing together, and decided that we wanted to do that more than any of the other things we had going on. We decided to become a band a couple years ago and haven’t looked back since.
As a duo, how do you like to work together? What's your songwriting and production process?
Klunk: Our approach to the band is to utilize each other’s strengths and pick up the slack where one of us may fall short. We each bring a different set of skills to the band that compliment each other very well. Historically Annie has been the main songwriter for the group and I have focused more on the live band arrangements, but as we grow we are both becoming heavily involved in every aspect of the band. We have teamed up with amazing producers who understand the sound we are trying to achieve and help us make recordings we are proud to share with the world.
I also understand you participated in GRAMMY U. What was your experience like?
Klunk: GRAMMY U was wonderful. We got to attend and participate in a ton of events while we were in college – even a battle of the bands. There were even a few GRAMMY Career Days we was able to participate in, which were a blast. The various panels in L.A. and at the GRAMMY Museum were really great to check out.
Dingwall: The opportunity learn directly from successful people in the industry is something that not everyone has access to, and we were grateful to be a part of an organization that afforded us those possibilities.
How did you get involved with the Opening Act contest for "We Can Survive," and what do you think set you apart from the thousands of entrants?
Dingwall: Funny enough, Justin saw an ad for the competition on Instagram. He entered us and didn’t tell me about it until a few days afterwards. To be honest, we thought it was such a long shot, but we ended up progressing through the multiple rounds and when we got into the Top 16, we thought “Hey! Someone from the Top 16 has to win – and that someone could be us!”. The outpouring of love and support we received throughout this whole process was amazing and incredible. We are so honored and grateful to everyone who helped us get to the Hollywood Bowl. Not only that, but a portion of the votes was donated to MusiCares – which is an organization we fully support and had been involved with in the past. They do amazing things for the music community and we are happy to contribute in any way that we can. “We Can Survive” is a really special night at the Bowl and we loved to be a part of such a magical night supporting a great cause.
How did it feel performing at the Hollywood Bowl, especially on such a stacked bill. Any surprising moments?
Klunk: It was INCREDIBLE! We were obviously a bit nervous; not only was it an iconic stage, but a ridiculously stacked lineup. We just made sure to over-prepare during our rehearsal process so that we were ready for any curveball that could come our way. We found that the entire production team and staff were the kindest people ever, and they really treated us just like any of the other artists or bands on the bill. Words can’t describe how smooth they made that process and how welcomed they made us feel.
With such a prolific and successful 2019 behind you now, what's next for RAINNE in 2020?
Dingwall: We are definitely looking forward to seeing what is in store for us in 2020. Right now we have big plans to release tons of new music and grow our fanbase.
Klunk: We also really want to tour and play even more shows than we played this year. We’d love to be opening for another artist on the road. Our shared love for performing is what got us started and we want to continue sharing that with as many people as possible!