Started in 2006, Self-Employed Assassins formed by way of the internet with drummer Matt Graber looking for a project while abroad in Israel, and Boston based singer/songwriter Sarah Rabdau looking to put together a band in her hometown. After a few emails, an international move, and a spot of tea, Graber and Rabdau hit it off like long lost relatives.
Three years later, the band put out a self-titled full-length record that highlighted their musical chemistry and passionate pop. Sarah's voice swirling and raging over her classically influenced piano parts, and Matt punctuating with his melodic yet frenetic drumming. The album, produced by Peter Moore (Blue Man Group, Think Tree), won them local attention, radio play and a semi-finalist spot in the 2009 WBCN Rumble.
In support of the album, they created a technicolor-inspired video for their song 'Autumn Spills'. Directed by Theodore Cormey, the song and video's lovelorn message resonated with audiences around the country and was featured on Bravo!Videos, several independent film festivals, and even won 'Audience Choice' at the SENE fesitval.
In 2010, while prepping new material for recording, Graber and Rabdau decided to expand their live sound to better match what they were hearing for the new album. This dynamic duo metamorphosed into a quartet, now featuring Eric Donohue on bass and Peter Moore on keyboards. The new line-up strengthens and bolsters the compelling arrangements of S.E.A's songs, while also allowing Rabdau to step away from the keys and front the band. Rabdau, who spent much of her childhood in the theatre, is a natural showman; flirting, and pulling in audiences with the flick of her tongue.
Self-Employed Assassins continually play up and down the Northeast, and have shared the stage with Wakey!Wakey!, Nicole Atkins, Bowerbirds and Other Lives. Their song 'Weekend' was recently featured on PBS's 'Roadtrip Nation'.
Matt Graber - Drums
Eric Donahue - Bass
Sarah Rabdau - Vocals, keyboard
Peter Moore - Vocals, keyboard
*Sarah RabDAU and Self-Employed Assassins (2009)
*Benevolent Apollo LP (2004)- debut album
*The song 'Light Up' was chosen to be part of the Ars Nova Compilation. Artists were selected from CD Baby.com
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It’s simply a thrilling, fantastic surprise to catch openers who really rock, who really have a good...It’s simply a thrilling, fantastic surprise to catch openers who really rock, who really have a good time on-stage, and who really make you happy you showed up early. After the frenetic Parlor Mob, a simple setup of drum kit and keyboard seemed to be taking the evening in another, more low-key direction. As it turned out, Sarah Rabdau on the 88s is anything but laid-back, both because of her hard-playing banging and her intense gaze. She manages to flirt with and intimidate the crowd in a glance, and can slide all over her significant vocal range with ease. Drummer Matt Graber is pretty much a machine: a machine with a performer’s instincts and a close friend’s congeniality. He managed rhythms I thought only possible with a drum machine and an incredibly patient programmer
Top 12 DIY in Performing Songwriter
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Veering from Baroque to Bond-esque, [Sarah RabDAU's] piano flourishes and seething vocals set each s...Veering from Baroque to Bond-esque, [Sarah RabDAU's] piano flourishes and seething vocals set each scene in this murderously cathartic, challenging song cycle.
Blazing Hot. 4 out of 5
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When you have a stellar voice like Sarah Rabdau everything else really should fall into place. On he...When you have a stellar voice like Sarah Rabdau everything else really should fall into place. On her self-titled album with the Self-Employed Assassins that is exactly what happens as her crystal clear and siren like vocals meld with the instrumentation of piano, violin and drums. The songs very in tempo from some more outright upbeat foot tappers like "Weekend" or the more quiet "Autumn Spills" that rely heavily on Rabdau's pleasant vocals. Sarah Rabdau And Self-Employed Assassins have been honing their skills since 2005 and this release showcases all of their hard work and it is solid from beginning to end!
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'When I was a kid, I'd lie all the time,' says Sarah Rabdau. 'I don't know why. At one point, I clai...'When I was a kid, I'd lie all the time,' says Sarah Rabdau. 'I don't know why. At one point, I claimed to have a waterslide that led from my room down to a huge pool. I also liked to tell kids at school that I was from France, and that I was related to Mozart,all of which made sense then."
The drive to distinguish ourselves starts early,it might come part and parcel with speech itself. So if art and artifice are often mistaken for one another, itï¿½s because we are, even at our most sincere, people of our own making. Well, until your friends show up and discover that you don't have a waterslide. Then you're sort of screwed.
'I stopped lying after that.'
In light of her juvenile dalliance in the realm of whoppers, Rabdau's music (especially her most recent work) has a jarring frankness to it. She doesn't beat around the bush, nor does she leave a trail of rose petals behind her. When I ask what's most important to her when it comes to writing music, she gives a simple list:
'Passion, not being afraid and honesty.'
So far, her career in Boston has exemplified a bunch of each: It's passion that leads someone to have a mildly broken upright grand piano craned through the living room window; it's the absence of fear that allows a girl with a keyboard to confront automatic Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan comparisons head-on; and it's honesty that gives Rabdau's music its uniquely bent elegance' a pop-fond sound that surges like a mood and withers like a memory. It's not 'Where Does My Heart Beat Now?'
'When I started playing shows around here, I kept getting compared to all this adult-contemporary stuff,' Rabdau says, before wincing, clawing the air and simulating a deep, horrified chill. 'I would wonder why so much of what influenced me wasn't getting picked up on.'
One reason, of course, is that the specific critical spotlight trained on girls with pianos or keyboards or guitars,anything but harp, apparently, is that odd type of spotlight that doesn't serve to illuminate anything so much as provide the sort of forced exposure a fleeing prisoner might expect. In other words, it doesn't matter that Rabdau carries traces of Waits, flecks of Bowie, shadows of Kate Bush and hues of Charles Webster; because girl plus piano equals Tori.
'OK, honestly? When I was a 12-year-old girl? I loved Tori Amos. She was this woman playing piano who was strong and overtly sexy, and there was an allure to that that I've hung onto. But I stopped listening to that long ago. Meanwhile, I grew up never liking Kate Bush and now I love her. Her music is so odd and mysterious. I'll put on 'Running Up That Hill' and people will say 'Oh, I love this song', and I can never believe it. Really? You love this song? For me, she's more shocking than anything else."
Though Rabdau doesn't go for shock value, she does demonstrate an effortless insistence on pushing things a bit more than the radio divas to whom she's so often linked. Her debut of a couple years ago, Benevolent Apollo, showcased her knack for slightly frayed melodies over smooth electronic washes and patterns; but it only hinted at the dynamic flutter and lash of her voice in person, say, in the cozy Kendall or tucked into the Lizard. Before long, though, the material, the shows, the whole thing began to seem to Rabdau like a false start.
'I had a hard time listening to anything I had done. It didn't seem honest. It sounded like Young Sarah having this idea of how pop music should sound, trying to be quirky, but not being very quirky at all,' she says, pausing. 'I couldn't defend my music, so I just started playing piano again. I didn't give a shit who people said I sounded like. I just didn't care anymore!'
An unfinished set of the resultant demos she internetted me are missing the drums; but, as a result, they inadvertently reveal all of the tensely composed ups and downs of her seemingly innocuous pop. She's boosted her voice a bit ('Autumn Spills'), taken more advantage of space and sound ('San Francisco'), pushed the variety among songs ('Queen of the Castle') and generally gotten more nimble, all moves that are well-suited to the contributions of her newly formed band, Self-Employed Assassins, featuring Meredith Cooper (Shelley Winters Project) on violin and Matt Graber (Mascara, Caged Heat) on drums.
It may be the sound of Rabdau not caring anymore, but it sounds a hell of a lot like caring a hell of a lot. Then again, it's our word against hers, and we've said nothing of waterslides.
On The Download
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“That was good, right?” utters drummer Matt Graber in the final seconds of this brand-spanking-new M...“That was good, right?” utters drummer Matt Graber in the final seconds of this brand-spanking-new MP3 from Sarah Rabdau and Self-Employed Assassins. Yes, Matt, it’s very very good. If you know the sweetly voiced Rabdau, you’re likely fond of the way her wispily crisp vocal plays so nicely with an assortment of hazy textures, moody moods, and of course her powerful piano chops. Since she’s teamed up with Graber and remonikered her efforts, though, things have changed. A piano and drums set-up could easily veer into maudlin, but here, Rabdau and Graber conjure something closer to a lost Lauper song pounded out in a pub.
Superb debut. 4 out of 5 stars
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Sarah Rabdau has one of those voices that I could listen to all day long and the superb debut by Rab...Sarah Rabdau has one of those voices that I could listen to all day long and the superb debut by Rabdau and Self-Employed Assassins (in acutality, just drummer Matt Graber) showcases this remarkable lady's talent to maximum effect.
There's not a misstep among these piano-heavy tunes that pack a pretty consistent emotional wallop from beginning (Crushing) to end (Self-Employed Assassin). Among the many, many high points are 'Autumn Spills', the devastating ballad 'Boxing Helena', 'Riots and Revolutions', 'San Francisco', and 'Pillar of Tears'.
Rabdau and Graber are a pitch-perfect team. He keeps the beat effectively without overshadowing Rabdau or ever becoming obtrusive, but can carry the load when necessary (case in point, the aforementioned 'Riots'). Her piano playing is solid, though perhaps a notch below her singing, making for a formidable combination. This one's highly recommended, folks.
Voice like a raging fire
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With a voice like a raging fire, Sarah Rabdau leads the Self-Employed Assassins in their newest albu...With a voice like a raging fire, Sarah Rabdau leads the Self-Employed Assassins in their newest album with a beautiful resonance of clarity and strength. Using such influences as Bjork and Peter Gabriel, Sarah Rabdau has been a singer and songwriter for over fifteen years. Sarah Rabdau and the Self-Employed Assassins create a beautiful harmony that brings their music to a majestic level, where Rabdau's voice strikes the perfect pitch, flowing her intriguingly sensual sound, which dominates the songs throughout the album. The music accompanies her perfectly as it works to compliment her singing, rather than trying to overshadow it. With beautiful lyrics, wonderful singing, and an entertaining performance, Sarah Rabdau and the Self-Employed Assassins create a successful and authentically talented album.
piano and drum tour de force
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-First of all, Ms. Rabdau is a meticulous vocalist whose delivery seems controlled yet feels ecstati...-First of all, Ms. Rabdau is a meticulous vocalist whose delivery seems controlled yet feels ecstatic. I am convinced that it is in this very unity of opposites that the defining essence of her artistry lies. Secondly, the instrumentation is less world beat than subtle art rock drawing upon a variety of eclectic influences, including (I assume) modern classical composers. Third, Peter Moore’s production on his nine songs is superb; …That said, Ms. Rabdau’s vocal theatrics on “Queen of the Castle” are truly remarkable, and Matt Graber’s percussive moves on “Riots and Revolutions” render it a true piano-and-drum showpiece. And the quiescent tempo of the keyboards, the percussion, and the gorgeous vocal line on “Man Child” could hardly be improved upon.
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- “ a superb voice..piano bits that sound sometimes like the best romantics of this planet – satie –...- “ a superb voice..piano bits that sound sometimes like the best romantics of this planet – satie –..all of which is covered in a touch of kate bush...each composition contains delicious little passages, especially when the violin joins the ensemble with a certain delicacy. and some songs are directly catchy, like san francisco, jackie, or the captivating man child. of course, the title track (12) is far and away the most interesting
Who the hell does she think she is?
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"Just who the hell does Sarah Rabdau think she is and why is she trying to drive me crazy? Doesn't s..."Just who the hell does Sarah Rabdau think she is and why is she trying to drive me crazy? Doesn't she know that artists aren't supposed to make music that we "critics" can't sum up in an handy, tired little catch phrases? Actually, she's a heady breath of fresh air... Maybe this is what Sarah McLachlan could of sounded like if she had gone sexy instead of sappy. "Light Up" is an aching and lovely listen that isn't very far at all from Beth Orton's gorgeous territory while the following "Runaway" sounds a bit like a buzzed Ani DiFranco caught between the dancefloor and the oxygen bar. I don't know what that really means either, but hey, it's not my fault that Rabdau insists on making music that can't be stuffed into neat little boxes. It is my fortune however, and it should be yours, too."
Original Songs. Occasional covers: Running Up That Hill-Kate Bush, Bulletproof- La Roux.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.