Raise High the Roof Beam
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Raise High the Roof Beam

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"Interview: Raise High the Roof Beam"

Great bands often falter out of the gates. Fortunately, nobody has told this to Raise High the Roof Beam. Throughout their delicately textured catalogue, the Chicago based rockers presented themselves about as well as you could to a packed Empty Bottle on December 30th. New “Indie” bands usually bend over backwards to appear as off-the-cuff unique as possible, spending more time of their elaborately chosen wardrobe than deciding which song to close with. Needless to say, RHTRB chose “closing” over “clothing.”

It’s a difficult genre to allude to without lumping together a slew of anonymous “next big things” that come and go, sell their songs to the latest iPod commercial, and then disappear into relatively (albeit financially secure) obscurity. The best time to see a new band is when they finally get the stage their youthful promise/potential deserves. As a native Chicagoan, and alternative-rock enthusiast, it’s impossible to ignore the feeling new bands must get when they book a show at the Bottle.

Though it’s impossible to discern the group’s feature artist in a live setting, the group’s obvious leader is Thomas Fricilone. The chief-songwriter/founding father is certainly the driving force behind the sonically texturized group’s bombastic take on introspection. It’s fitting that he stands head and shoulders above the other players, but without lead guitarist Josh Lambert’s assertively distinct six-string serenades, pianist or Aly Barohn’s terrifically quaint vocal delivery, and bubbly onstage-presence, he’d be in over his head. Bass player Will Wood’s steady, nicely nuanced cadence blends feverishly well with Scott Westrick’s never over done, always flourishing time keeping bring this point home: Without these players, Fricilone realizes he’d be little more than just another great songwriter playing open mikes at your local coffee shop (that has probably gone out of business recently anyway).

* * *

“It really starts out as a solo project, and I’d have people come in and sing or play on a few songs,” Fricilone informs. “I liked the energy Aly and Scott brought to the table, so it just went from there.”

Despite an early lot of turbulence regarding the band’s lineup, Raise High the Roof Beam has managed to meld together quite nicely in preparation for what promised to be a fruitful new year.

They agree that the seamless fusion the band generates came as a direct result of early cohesion between all players. Thomas asserts they didn’t go looking for specifically inspired musicians. As a result, they each bring their respectively dissimilar influences to the table.

“Josh and Will just joined in September, and it was just instant energy,” Westrick chimes.

Yes, this is a band in its infancy, but they aren’t necessarily as green around the ears as their collective youth insinuates. Despite having two musicians call it quits last summer, their critics have been quick to provide a collective thumbs up to RHTRB.

“The day after out first guitarist told us he was leaving, we got a picture of us in the Tribune, and we had this great review written up about us in it, and that was like—yes, let’s keep going,” Fricilone says, “That really picked us up a lot. It really picked me up a lot.”

The critical acclaim is warranted, and their soon-to-be-released debut full length packs as much promise as any local band has in recent memory. What’s refreshing about this looming reality is the affable personality of a band on the brink. You’d think these kids would speak as if they had something to prove, but their relaxed discourse evokes a self-assuredness beyond their years.

No one seemed to take the reigns of the roundtable during our conversation, and though Fricilone spoke a majority of the time, each member seemed to proudly proclaim they are a band that’s on the scene for the long haul.

“When people started paying attention, and we got better press, it became more of a longevity type thing. But then we got scared because members were leaving,” Westwick says.

These kids can play. They know it, but certainly don’t take their talents for granted. As we sit and chat, each member coolly folds their legs, sips chamomile tea, and laughs off my digression on why music can actually sound important. They seem sure of themselves without oozing the unearned cockiness many related Indie bands project during interview sessions.

Their sound has oft been compared to popular Indie darlings like The Arcade Fire, and Bright Eyes, but they aren’t necessarily taking these ascertains as full-blown, ego-stroking compliments.

Barohn says, “I think the only reason people liken us to Arcade Fire is because we all sing vocals… and we all chant…”

Fricilone chimes in mid sentence with the evening’s juiciest quote. He says,” I think if there’s one band we’re guilty of sounding like, it’s The Beatles.”

This generates an outburst of collective laughter, and a bombardment of hand claps for the sheepish lead singer in appreciation for his bold statement. The thing is, he has a point.

In an age where bands are trying to find new, strange ways to convey a sense of musical relevance (i.e. Vampire Weekend bringing reggae back), it’s quite refreshing for a new band to go back to the roots of rock and roll for influence. Though Fricilone insists he didn’t begin writing songs to “sound like the Beatles,” he finds the harmonic formula of Liverpool’s most famous foursome an alluring songwriting tactic.

* * *

From the instant Raise High the Roof Beam took the stage, they had their audience in their palms, and gave them a perfectly tousled ride through their seamless catalogue. Though the five-piece is a proud owner of a mere dozen songs, each offering kept people listening, and when it called for it, even a little dancing. (Foot-tapping was a necessity, at the very least)

Fricilone consistently bounced from side to side, leading the revelry, looming like a gentle giant over the rest of his band. Josh Lambert’s stylishly groomed guitar-virtuoso lent the verse-chorus-verse templates of each song the paunch they needed to drive it all home.

Wood’s steady gaze, and steadier “pluck” with the bass set out a lure for the ear. That coupled with Westrick’s magnetic drumming, and Brohm’s genuinely exhilarant presence, and enthusiastic display of skill, and poise provided a unique slant on how to present music so refreshingly crafted and performed.

They had their moment, and they nailed it.

Yes, it was a free show. Sure, this was probably a big reason why the place was packed, but the crowd certainly paid their respects to an excellent new band just beginning to realize its full potential. Empty Bottle crowds are a tough bunch to please. Hipsters are a tricky slew of muse-fuelled dwindlers. They like to latch on to impressive acts before anyone else does, and will likely try to keep Raise High the Roof Beam a secret for as long as they can. I wish them luck because bands as quality as RHTRB are difficult to keep under wraps for too long.

One thing is for certain: If the Bottle show was any indication, these kids have certainly raised the bar (or Roof Beam) as high as a new band could hope to. - Consequence of Sound, Chris De Salvo

"Higher and Higher, Raise High the Roof Beam is Building Up"

“We really try to be inspirational. We really want people, after they listen to [our songs], to feel really accomplished or like when, after you’ve done a ton of work in a day, and you feel like you’ve gotten a lot done, and you were actually worth something for that day,” says Thomas Fricilone, vocalist/guitarist and founding member of Raise High the Roof Beam. The band tries to evoke this feeling through a combination of lyrics that are inspired by various philosophy texts that Fricilone enjoys, such as Dostoyevsky’s “Notes From the Underground,” plus melodic instrumentation with “big harmonies,” adds Josh Lambert, the group’s bassist.

Many parts in the band’s songs are sung by all of the members, giving it a “very anthemic” sound, according to Fricilone. They also employ ukulele, mandolin, bongos, banjo and various percussive instruments in addition to guitars, keys and drums, all to add to the layers of sound.

Raise High the Roof Beam’s recent EP, “The Buildup,” was recorded last summer with a slightly different lineup, in a practice space in a warehouse that had a hole in the ceiling that allowed buckets full of water to come into the space and mold to thrive. “Unfortunately, we kind of got sick from the mold that was, like, growing on the ceiling,” says Fricilone. “Every day we got there, it just smelled worse.”

Despite the toxins, the band came out of those sessions with an EP that, especially for a young band, has promise, with hints of sounds that are similar to those of Sufjan Stevens at some times and Vampire Weekend at others.

Not content to rest on what they had accomplished, Raise High the Roof Beam is already at work on a follow-up full-length record. The band has moved out of the moldy room and into the attic area of a house that Fricilone’s father owns. Here, the band is free to practice and record all of the time in no danger of health-related issues.

Scott Westrick, the band’s drummer, is also a current sound-engineering student at Columbia College. Westrick engineers the band’s recordings, saving money and also allowing the band to take its time with the recording process. With this freedom, they are able to try things that they may or may not end up using. “It takes a lot longer because we’re all very nitpicky about everything and we all definitely want to make it the best we can,” Fricilone says. “But at the same time, it’s a good thing because we’re always happy with what we’ve done.” (Todd Miller) - NewCity Music

"Raise High the Roof Beam"

The eclectic five-piece create charming and infectious pop music while utilizing an array of instruments from synthesizers to banjos, ukuleles, and mandolins. An explosion of sound dissolves into earnest lyrics, creating some incredibly catchy multi-layered songs. Also the band compares their sound to "The Arcade Fire meets The Muppets," and anything remotely involving Muppets is alright in my book. - Gapers Block, Lisa White

"Raise High the Roof Beam on Pop Headwound"

Pop Headwound Mentions RHTRB
James over at Pop Headwound wrote up a great piece about us, check it out:

"Raise High The Roof Beam, a Chicago collective led by singer/songwriter Thomas Fricilone, has recently released an excellent new EP called The Buildup. The EP's 5 songs explore new sonic territory only hinted at in the pretty/skeletal folk songs I heard earlier this year - the band has blossomed into a full on indie/pop outfit with some strong hints of folk rock surfacing throughout these 27 minutes.

Lead track "Break My Heart In Two" begins somewhat inauspiciously with some simple ukulele strumming and Fricilone's distinctive vocals, giving the first impression that not much has changed with the band's sound. Before long though the song unexpectedly explodes into a huge chorus - pounded drums play off childlike background vocals - and the song never looks back. I usually try to avoid the "this band sounds like" kind of hype building, but I can't help but hear Animal Collective in the background vocals and loose spirit, and The Arcade Fire in the drama and climaxes. Good stuff indeed." - Pop Headwound

"Chicago Tribune Picks Raise High the Roof Beam"

"It's yet to be seen whether Raise High The Roof Beam's members are prodigies or merely hyper-ambitious. About six months after forming, they're releasing a record. The local quintet's debut EP "The Buildup" is shaky and shambolic, but those seem to be conscious aesthetic choices rather than the mark of beginners. The band's enthusiasm comes through on their big jingly pop tunes; the whole band frequently sings along, giving their folky-indie sound a glee-club edge. Their looseness builds and congeals into romantic, driving choruses with a lot of shimmery guitar work. They may be newbies, but they know exactly what they are doing, and they do it well." - Chicago Tribune - Jessica Hopper


The Build Up (2008)
The Majestic Beast of the Flatlands (2009)

All tracks can be streamed here: http://raisehightheroofbeam.bandcamp.com



Raise High the Roof Beam is a musical collective consisting of five members: Thomas, Aly, Scott, Josh, and Will. With a wide range of influences and musical styles the quintet offers an energy level and style that is hard to find. The diverse musical interests of the group inform a unique, upbeat sound, and each of the band’s members brings a wide range of influences to the new project. Together since late February, the quintet’s live show is energetic and exciting, always engaging the dancing crowd.

Backing their oft-employed group vocal sing-alongs, the band implements an eclectic array of acoustic and electric instruments, from the rock-standard guitars and synthesizers to the folk-based banjo, ukulele and mandolin to add layer upon layer to their sparkling pop gems. “The band keeps viewers guessing with unexpected breaks in songs and unpredictable melodies,” says NBC5’s street team.

Currently, Raise High the Roof Beamis recording new tracks and playing lots of shows. The entire band is very excited to play your venue/bar/loft/basement/dungeon/bathroom/industrial warehouse.