Pill Hill Radio
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Pill Hill Radio


Band Rock Singer/Songwriter


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"Pill Hill Radio: As the Venues Get Bigger, They Keep Giving Back in the Community They Call Home"

By Courtney Sessa
Brooklyn Eagle
Five years ago, singer/songwriter John Rafferty (retired NYPD) and instrumentalist Mike Giugliano (FDNY) were introduced by a mutual friend who knew they shared something in common. “I was playing gigs with a piano player, John Comer, who happened to know Mike,” Rafferty explained. Together they formed a band called Gutenflower.

One night, while Rafferty was performing solo at The Kettle Black, he was approached by co-owner Tommy Casatelli. “You look like you’re having a lot of fun up here,” Rafferty recalls Casatelli saying. Rafferty of course agreed and with that Casatelli began learning the bass. Months later he approached Rafferty with hopes of joining him and Giugliano. “I recognized a definite talent in Tommy,” Rafferty said. “I could just see it in his hands.”

Out of this, Pill Hill Radio was born.

Rafferty credits Giugliano as “the heart and soul of the band’s sound.” Rafferty also said that Giugliano can read a crowd and know what they want to hear better than anyone he has ever worked with. “Even when we have a play list set, if Mike thinks we should change it, we do,” he said.

The talented trio initially decided to record only one track in a studio, and joined with producer Mike Barile, who owns Sweetfire Recording Studio in Park Slope. The band recorded a song titled “Bridgette,” a name Rafferty’s father called his sisters when he was mad at them. Rafferty’s younger sister, Christine, distributed the CD at her wedding.

“Mike [Barile] believed in us so much that we decided to continue recording songs,” Rafferty said. “Now we have our first full-length CD as Pill Hill Radio.”

Rafferty wrote the nine songs featured on the band’s self titled CD, but was hesitant to divulge too much of the lyrics’ meaning. “I will say that many of the songs are based on personal experiences, but I find the less I say about the literal meanings, the more people can apply them to their own lives and really make the songs their own,” he said.

“The first track, titled ‘Halfway,’ is about going through a really tough experience and not quite being over it. Sometimes life deals you a rough hand, and although you’re strong, and trying to get through it, you’re really only halfway there,” Rafferty explained.

“Halfway” has a strong instrumental opening that includes Rafferty playing the harmonica, and is reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” This track, as well as others on the CD, has a sound similar to Tom Petty’s.

“Tom Petty used to get compared to Bob Dylan, who has been a very big influence on me,” Rafferty said. “I remember the first time I saw Dylan play at Giants Stadium; I just watched him play that harmonica and thought, ‘I think I could do that.’”

The CD itself is very eclectic. You could blast it on the beach in July or hear it at a wedding in November. It combines guitar, drums, bass and harmonica with Rafferty’s authentic, heartfelt voice. As a songwriter, Rafferty does have a slight affinity for one song. “I think ‘Tomorrow’ grasps the overall theme of the CD. It’s a comment on society as a whole, both the good and the bad,” he said. John Bennett, owner of Bally Bunion, has had the band play numerous times and for many reasons. “They aren’t your ordinary band,” Bennett explained. “Not only are they a terrific group of guys with a great sound and a more than great following, but they are always willing to give back and help out their fellow man.”

Bennett was referring to the many benefits the band has played, such as the “Benefit for Bridgette” which was held at Bally Bunion back in February. Bennett called the band, and many others, to see if they could donate their time for a good cause. Not only did Pill Hill Radio play, but they also sold their CD afterwards and donated all the proceeds to the benefit.

The William J. O’Conner School recruited the band to play at its benefit this Sunday, April 20, at The Kettle Black to raise money for autism research. They also perform at an annual benefit in Staten Island called The Hangdown, which honors F.F. Steve “Hangdown” Harrell, who died on 9/11.

Also, Casatelli organizes the Ridge Music Festival, an annual concert made up of local bands, hosted by St. Patrick’s Church, which raises money for the NYC Firefighter Burn Center. Last year, in accordance with other local bands and sponsors, Ridge Music Festival raised more than $10,000. Since 2004, ‘Pill Hill Radio’ has played venues all over Brooklyn and Manhattan. They are performing at the Central Park Summer Stage on May 23, which is during Fleet Week and by far their biggest venue to date. But it seems the bigger the band gets the more they appreciate where they began.

“It’s really great to be a part of this band,” Rafferty said. “We all love playing together and being able to give something back to the community that’s put us where we are now.”

The band played at The Kettle Black during this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which runs along Fifth Avenue. “Kettle was packed that day, despite being located on Third Avenue, and to look out at the crowd and see people singing along to our songs was a major thrill,” Rafferty said.

Anthony Bartholomeo and Steve Oliver who co-own Pipens proudly consider Pill Hill Radio to be their “house band.” “They come and play the first Saturday of every month (next performance being May 3) and we get nothing but compliments on not only their music, but on the band’s personality as well,” Oliver said. “I listen to their CD in my car all the time,” he added.

The CD is available on the band’s web site, www.pillhillband.com and at cdbaby.com, and they sell it after their performances. You can also sample/buy their music on iTunes.

Before long, fans may be able to enjoy more music from the trio.

“People have responded positively to our first CD, and our producer has already started with pre-production on our second CD,” Casatelli says. - The Brooklyn Eagle

"Music Festival To Aid Burn Victims"

"There is a renaissance of live music in Bay Ridge" quoted Pill Hill bassist Tommy Casatelli, founder of The Ridge Music Festival... - The Home Reporter

"Pill Hill Radio"

Pill Hill Radio - Pill Hill Radio
2008, John Rafferty

Brooklyn’s Pill Hill Radio, previously known as Gutenflower, formed in 2005. After a name change and a couple of years playing in Brooklyn and Manhattan clubs, they return as Pill Hill Radio Their self-titled debut came out in January 2008, and combines pop hooks with early punk energy to drive memorable melodies into your brain to stay.

From the opening notes of Pill Hill Radio I was convinced I had been transplanted by time and place. I was suddenly back in my sophomore year in college and listening to Blue Rodeo for the first time. From a songwriting perspective Pill Hill Radio could have gone to the same songwriting school as Jim Cuddy & the gang. The set opens with Halfway, which has one of the catchier choruses I've heard in some time, lyrically (I'm a heart break / I'm a head case / I'm a long way from a song I wrote). Pill Hill radio then backs into Bridgette.

Pill Hill Radio sticks to the Americana sound throughout. Campfire Song is a driven country-rocker about trying to recapture old magic with an old flame. Whiskey Pride is perhaps my favorite song on Pine Hill Radio. It has a melancholy feel that fits the lyrics perfectly. Also be sure to check out Tomorrow and Mary. These two songs stuck at the very end of the album show a little more of the depth of Pill Hill Radio and are definitely worth seeking out.

Pill Hill Radio is one of the stronger pure Americana albums I've heard this year. There's definitely a lean to the country side of the perspective here, if that makes a difference to you. The songwriting is outstanding, and Pill Hill Radio is a plus performer. It would be interesting to see this material in a live setting to see how Pill Hill Radio interacts with the audience. Check Out Pill Hill Radio. You'll be happy you did. - Wildy's World Music Blog

"NY Post"

After an injury in the line of duty ended John Rafferty's NYPD career eight years ago, the 31-year-old traded his six-shooter for a six-string. He began writing songs and showcasing his guitar and achy tenor at local pubs. But it wasn't until the Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, native teamed with a couple of firefighting friends from the neighborhood - drummer Mike Giugliano, a firefighter from Engine 255 in Flatbush, and bassist Tommy Casatelli, retired from downtown Brooklyn's Engine 226 - that officer Rafferty found his new beat.

Gigging as Pill Hill Radio - named after a mysterious place in Ireland that gave birth to the country's radio industry - the band soon entered a Brooklyn studio to record a song Rafferty had written for his sister ("Bridgette"). Impressed, their producer coaxed eight more songs from the band, which responded with a Brooklyn bonanza of a debut: teary, beery and road-weary gems inhabited by outer-borough desperadoes swallowed by the shadows of New York City - like Steve Earle with his freshly-swiped MetroCard. - brian o'connor


Pill Hill Radio-LP



Pill Hill Radio was formed in 2007 in Brooklyn, New York. Born and bred in the county of Kings, the band came up in a time when there was a church and a bar on every block and an open hydrant was a summer vacation.
Armed with the wisdom of to many last calls, PHR pounds home a rock show with heartfelt lyrics and sing along choruses.
"From the opening notes of "Pill Hill Radio" I was convinced I had been transplanted by time and place", writes Wildy of Wildy's World Music Blog. "The songwriting is outstanding and PHR is a plus performer."
Pill Hill has just finished recording their second LP that will be released in early 2009 with a subsequent Northeast tour to follow.