Rafter Roberts stands no taller than the normal human male… yet his firey red-haired head is filled with the minutiae of music, swirling and churning constantly. Fortunately this leaves little room for fear, of which Rafter has nearly none. His fearlessness has led him to do just about everything he sets his mind to, which of course includes free-for-all rowdy sweatiness, hanky panky and rolling on the stage yelping. Not to mention playing in bands since the age of two, new fatherhood, running a business, goin to shows, building a new studio, makin his own music, recording bands and eating raw… all without going furiously nuts. This is not a bungee-jump kind of fearlessness, rather it is a willingness to move beyond obstacles (mental or physical) as if they were not actually there, all the while a happy glint resting in his eye. His is a strong will tempered by humor—one of the most intense and powerful music nerds you may ever meet. There is a refreshing lack of poseur hipness to Rafter Roberts, and in it’s stead is found a pure enthusiasm for people, for doing it yourself and the helping hand, for kicking against the pricks and kicking out the jams.
Growing up in the woody climes of Sebastopol, California, far from the wonders and distractions of the urban scrawl, Rafter fell upon his own noisy tinkerings. Pretty much not a lot to do out there but entertain yourself, and Rafter’s not the TV type. His little head exploded with the stoked energy of discovering his passion for playing music and for inscribing it onto magnetic tape. He encountered early critical success in high school with a band called Faucet, the most popular (and only) punk band in town, with audiences of three or four hundred strong. Despite this raging success, Rafter flew the coop after graduatin’ and landed in a communist apartment in New York City, banging out 4-track creations while the uninspired tunes of a half-assed commie-party band wafted in the background. The siren-song of his beloved homecoast eventually brought him back west, but he stuck with the big city atmosphere and moved to San Francisco. It was there that Rafter figured out the beneficial equation of hosting house shows and recording his friend’s bands, many of whom were coming up the coast from San Diego.
These paths of action and interaction finally brought Rafter down to San Diego, where he landed a day-gig with his friend Glen (of Soul Junk and Trumans Water) making music for commercials, meanwhile recording every lovely musical soul around in his souped-up garage. Eventually Rafter and Glen started their own company, Singing Serpent—they went balls-out and built a world-class studio, trading construction help from local musicians for future recording time. The income from commercial work puts Rafter in the ideal situation to help out all his brothers and sisters in need, workin on the cheap to record/engineer/master tons of music that he digs: from Fiery Furnaces to Black Heart Procession to Sufjan Stevens to Hot Snakes, he has a knack at knowing what to do behind those big ol’ boards. [Editor's Note: This list is even longer...Castanets, Gogogo Airheart, Rocket From The Crypt, Liz Janes, Arab on Radar, The Rapture, The Album Leaf, Bedroom Walls, Kill Me Tomorrow, Tristeza, The Peppermints, Rogue Wave, Tarantula Hawk, Maquiladora, Aspects of Physics, Upsilon Acrux, Howard Hello, and many more.] What this set-up provides as far as mental health is immeasurable… how many folks these days get paid to do what they love? Not enough.
His own musical exploits have been (and continue to be) many and varied. It was all the way back in New York, whilst talking with a friend, that Rafter had the realization of what direction he needed to head in: he turned from the antogonism and nihilism of noisy punk to the populism and catchy congruence of pop, meanwhile smuggling with him all the frantic noise and feedback squall to mash with that pop syrup, concocting a potent brew indeed. And he’s been at it, refining this brew for years: he first brought it to San Diego stages when he joined with fellow KCR DJs/music-freaks for the more-talk-more-rock formatted Free*Stars, a band big on topical covers, original protest songs, unpredictable mash-ups (eg Springsteen/Coltrane), and having a damn good time. Then love bore another musical fruit in Rafter’s team-up with Emily Joyce for the sing-song punk pop of Bunky, which deserves mention as one of the least pretentious, least predictable, and most smiling fun bands that has ever graced the San Diego stages. All the while Rafter’s been busy with his own secret stash of tunes and motifs, bringing in friends when there are gaps that need filling.
And what a technicolor patch pattern he’s got goin on! All the day-in-day-out experience of working with every conceivable genre/instrument/taste has created a Frankenstein richness that he employs to grand effect. Electro-keyboard chug and gurgle is matched with wind/string flourish, raw drum melded with toy piano plink and banjo plunk. The wire that runs through and connects these disparate structures is a wide-openmindedness when it comes to style and sound, and a lyrical essence that more often than not trades the circuitous metaphor for the straightforward communique. No beating around the bush here, Rafter is singing something to you directly. And one of the best things about it all is the snug feeling that he’s in your corner.