Rob Beaulieu is the guitarist/songwriter for the Albany‚ NY-based band Raisinhead. His playing and songwriting shines with a healthy dose of roots music -- think blues‚ folk and soul‚ with a hint of something new. He's a musical enthusiast with a lot of heart.
Mike McKinley: First‚ let's talk about Raisinhead's sound. My perspective on it is that it's really rooted in rock‚ folk‚ and blues.
Rob Beaulieu: Americana‚ blues -- yeah‚ definitely. My songs are my songs‚ but I think it's really the culmination of influences of the whole band. It's that melting pot thing‚ where the sound of the band just comes from each player. I think we all eventually paid a lot of attention to roots music‚ a lot of blues‚ a lot of gospel‚ and definitely soul music - like Ray Charles. But of course we all started with 100 Dead shows (laughter).
MM: Right‚ of course.
RB: And a lot of Phish shows and stuff like that adds to this weird melting pot. But from what I'm hearing right now‚ it's a little bit more out of the blues camp then most things I hear within this genre - whatever that is. I don't think it's intentional; I think it's just how everybody plays. We didn't sit down and talk about it and say‚ "Hey‚ this is what we want to sound like." We just sit down and play and this is how it sounds. I think you're right on the money with what you're hearing; that's what I'm hearing too.
MM: Yeah‚ I mean you have some of the Ominous Seapods in your band (bassist Tom Pirozzi‚ pianist Brian Mangini) and they were definitely a part of this movement of music. And like you said‚ starting from 100 Dead shows as a foundation to build upon (laughs) is a good start. I think there's so much sound to draw from with that‚ and noticeably with Raisinhead there's blues‚ soul‚ rock...
RB: Yeah‚ and with me there's this heavy American folk influence: The Band‚ Bob Dylan‚ John Prine‚ and even before that‚ Leadbelly. Those musicians heavily influenced me. So I kind of bring a little of that into the soup‚ you know? So every once in a while we'll play these old folk tunes and people are like‚ "What the fuck is that (laughter)?" But‚ it all seems to work really well together right now.
MM: The thing that grabbed me about listening to Back to the Tracksis that the sound is half revival and the other half is a really fresh sound - like a new chapter.
RB: Yeah‚ it's purposely old school‚ but I don't know what it is about it. The record's been selling well‚ but not just to people we see at shows. A lot of older people really get it‚ and some younger people get it. With that album I really went with...well‚ there are hardly any overdubs‚ auto-tuning‚ Pro Tools‚ there's very little reverb‚ some flat singing; I mean‚ all the mistakes are in there (laughs). But to me that goes back to the days of Neil Young and The Band. Now‚ most things are fed through a computer and it fixes the pitches and there‚ you have your record. That album was mostly my project and I didn't want any of that stuff on there‚ and now I listen to it and I'm like‚ "Oh shit‚ that part is kind of screwy (laughs)." But it's cool‚ and it works. You go back and listen to Tonight's the Night by Neil Young - it's certainly not in tune‚ but it really works. It really said something to me when I listened to it for the first 500 times.
MM: That's an interesting thing. You mentioned Neil Young‚ and listening to all the old Dylan records; there's a beauty in delivering an album that is completely raw and in the moment‚ letting the tape roll and what comes out goes on the album. It is what it is‚ and it works. On the other hand‚ there's something beautiful about an album that's really polished and perfected‚ like Abbey Road or Dark Side of the Moon.
RB: Yeah‚ sure‚ I certainly wouldn't take anything away from that; I just want to do this. I'm not saying it will be that way the next time. I mean we might sound like Matchbox Twenty. I doubt it‚ but...(laughs). But that's just what we're going for this time around. Who knows‚ next time we might want to deliver something a little more polished. I was going for that The Basement Tapes kind of feel with this album.
MM: Yeah‚ I think it comes across.
RB: Cool‚ I'm glad. Right away the first time I talked with you I knew you understood. Not everybody gets that‚ but you're steeped in traditions of music and you understand where the influences are coming from. I loved that I knew right away that you know all these same things that I obscure Dylan albums.
MM: Yeah‚ that stuff is brilliant. You go into the studio and hit record‚ play‚ and there's your album. There's something really beautiful about that. So let me ask you this: listening back to the album‚ it pretty much defines what you were doing at that period of time.
RB: Yup.
MM: Where the band was at and where you were at with your playing…
RB: Yup.
MM: And it completely comes across. (long pause) So I guess that was my question (laughter).
RB: Good answer Mike!