Interview : Rafter

17 May

Someone once told Rafter Roberts: If you ever have an opportunity to dance, you should dance. And not only has he taken that advice in stride (“I’ve not once regretted choosing to shake my body. Seriously.”), but last month his fourth full-length release on Asthmatic Kitty, Animal Feelings, aspires to spread that mantra to the masses.

Animal Feelings’ ornately produced dance beats tied with upbeat lyrical musings took about three years to complete and was recorded in three different studios (two owned by Roberts for recording music, TV jingles, and radio work) and Roberts’ San Diego home. It’s his most pop album yet, with more of an “album” feel than his other work, which, according to Roberts (who has produced for Sufjan Stevens and Fiery Furnaces), was more about experiments in studio-created “art constructions” than anything else.

“This [album] feels like it’s full of good, solid songs that stand-alone successfully,” he said.
And one of those songs is, “Paper,” whose chorus exclaims, “You motherfuckers! Motherfuckers! Where did you go?” Although he says his cursing is always playful and never mean-spirited, Roberts skips any of his songs with profanities when “jamming out in the car” with his four-year-old son, Rulian, whom he named.

“It’s a call to greatness to have a unique name,” said Roberts.

After all, his counter-culture parents did name him Rafter because he was conceived in a loft and subsequently raised him in a northern California commune in the woods until he was about 13. There were cabins and tree-houses for sleeping, as well as a geodesic dome for the kitchen, bathroom, dining room, and living rooms. No electricity, TV, or recorded music was to be found.

“I guess the only thing people tend to assume is that there was some sort of religious or philosophical basis behind it, when in reality it was just a bunch of friends who decided to get away from the cities of the world and make a different sort of life together,” said Roberts.

Before turning to music for creative expression, he was very much a painter and sculptor inspired by angst.

“I had a hard time appreciating human culture for a long time,” he said. “I was pretty freaked out by all the violence and strangeness of life. Still am, but I’m more accepting now.”

And Roberts has been disillusioned a few more times since. After a bad break up years ago, he tagged along with a friend active in the World Worker’s Party (WWP) who had been invited to volunteer in New York City. Upon his arrival in the Big Apple, Roberts mostly acted as a cook for the WWP, but also took classes and helped with demonstrations. He doesn’t believe he is a communist, but still feels fundamental conflicts with capitalism.

A self-proclaimed “soul rebel for life,” Roberts aspires to one day be a grandfather and, of course, to make more albums.

“I think that over the years, I just get better and better,” said Roberts. “I’m not going to let myself get set in a rut, and I’m going to keep learning and challenging myself.”

Posted by : Melissa Kim

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