Rich Restaino
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Rich Restaino

Austin, Texas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2007 | INDIE

Austin, Texas, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2007
Band Americana Folk


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"Show preview"

Music in the Park on Friday, April 10th will be the first of hopefully many spring and summertime concerts at Mueller Lake Park. Rich Restaino and the Obits will kick things off at 6 PM with a two-set show that will last until 8 PM. Songwriter Rich Restaino “brings together classic folk and jazz-era song structures with contemporary indie-pop sensibilities.”

Rich has played in various bands throughout Austin since he moved here from New York City, but his original tunes with the Obits have generated his most approachable, family friendly sound yet. - The Austinot

"Team Spirit"

We're in This Thing Together
Rich Restaino & The Obits

Rich Restaino & The Obits were one of the first bands I ever listened to for a Demo Sweat. They're still one of my favorites, with the willfully anachronistic love of vocal harmony and sophisticated arrangements we share. As many nice things as I've written about the band in the past, before having the chance to really inhabit their new CD We're in This Thing Together I believe I've sold them short. I recognized Restaino from the first as a disciplined songwriter whose central late-70's influences gave him an unfashionable, two-level approach: big, wide melodies, simple rock changes, and sugary vocal hooks for people listening on AM radio through crackling car speakers; unfathomable depths of backing vocals and additional instrumentation for those who like to spin LP's with headphones on. Most people don't listen to records any longer, and hardly anybody music on AM radio, so there's a appealingly perverse charm to the style.

The early, tentpole tracks on This Thing Together continue in the vein I've come to expect from Rich & The Obits. Opener "Spirit of the Law" and "Susie" are songwriter-pop a la Joe Jackson with the backing vocals and embellishments tracing basic classic rock structures. "Best Friend" despite its melodica lead-in shows the truth of the album's title -- for music more about the sum of its many parts than any one performer, every ingredient in the mix must click. The patly obvious story and choruses to "Best Friend" are below Restaino's standard.

As the album matures, a different picture of the band emerges. As The Obits start sharing around lead vocals and including material by members besides the leader and friends, they develop a distinct character of their own. Those of you who are music fans but without much experience playing in bands may not appreciate how much the cult of personality comes into play with a rock group way before the screaming hordes and the champagne dreams. Before you can even play a show, you have convince other people to play with you. You have to teach songs, you have to schedule practices and enforce attendance at them, and you have to keep everybody feeling involved and happy at the same time. Doing this with a four-piece band is difficult. An eight-piece band? Ridiculous. With their guest horn players The Obits are fielding enough musicians to go five-on-five. Restaino must be doing something right.

Vocalist Sara Shansky's "Turn Key" is a smoky, smartly distinct use of the band's three-part flapper harmonies. And if it's not the most memorable song in existence, guitarist Hunt Wellborn's "Too Slow" is notable for a truly inspired howl of a lead vocal. "Save It for the B-Side" might be the highlight of the record, at least from a rock writer's perspective -- its lyrics condemn hack-y pop singles. Other than just making room for other people's songs, We're in This Thing Together as it spreads out and dabbles in new styles in its back half seems to really draw on the strengths and talents of everyone in the expanded band. They move past playing current rock (with unusually old-fashioned influences) to really burying themselves in early pop history, from Chuck Berry to the Andrews Sisters. "Friendly Traveller" has a beautiful, peaceful chromatic horn line that suits it lyrical themes just so. "The Staying Kind" digs in doo-wop like Billy Joel at his most digestible. "Sallie Mae" is a simple acoustic duet that sells its very blunt subject with a convincingly truthful performance from its singers.

Bassist Alexei Sefchick, who also co-produces with Restaino, gives things a commanding, Jamerson-acolyte bounce. The mix, which tries to strike a balance between making everything clearly audible and also being a fair approximation of what the band really sounds like, does so at the expense of the drums and the rhythm guitar. To document a gargantuan band within the limitations of digital formats is so difficult that bands of this type have completely fallen out of fashion since CD's eclipsed LP's. I admire them for trying, and I forgive the slightly cool, practiced feel that comes of getting all these many crucial elements stacked up right. I'm intrigued more than ever to see them live to see if they have a fire to match their high creative level.

Tonight at 6 Rich Restaino & The Obits are appearing in-studio on KOOP 91.7's Writing on the Air program. That's less than an hour from now as I'm writing this Wednesday, but if you miss it live the old shows go up as podcasts on the Writing on the Air page. The program usually has prose writers talking about their work, but to increase the degree of difficulty the producers are having in the whole darn band. They're going to be talking about their music in addition to playing it, so it may be of particular interest. From the evidence on their record there must be a wealth of good storytellers in this band. - Big Western Flavor

"Review of Rich & The Obits' single, "Susie""

There was never any time better than the late 1970's to be a singer/songwriter. The successful scorched-earth campaign of punk got rid of the unrealistic expectations for young songwriters to all be musical prodigies. The arresting rhythms of African and Caribbean music were beginning to be listened to seriously outside of ghettos. Most importantly, the heavyweights of this era were not so far removed from the golden era of 60's rock to understand the importance of harmony. This last detail is an overlooked one. Since all musical trends are cyclical, it shouldn't be at all surprising that there's a wealth of bands trying self-consciously traffic in a new wave style nowadays. It's disappointing that most of these bands only take the simple chord changes and catchy melodies. A few of the sharper ones (Franz Ferdinand, Vampire Weekend) have managed to get the rhythms right. But hardly anybody is paying attention to harmony these days, which is unforgivable. Thoughtfully constructed harmonies give sprightly major-key songs sophistication and depth. They provide shading, allowing some dark colors in with all the brightness.

The new single from Austin's Rich Restaino and The Obits, "Susie," demonstrates that harmony isn't entirely dead and buried. The bouncy melody and a confident, full-sounding lead vocal make it clear that this is a pop song first and foremost -- not to mention the chipper piano ostinatos. But clever choices in the female backing vocals, and Alexei Sefchick's fleet, vaguely ominous bassline, lend the song an element of melancholy that's most welcome. Restaino's lyric, regarding a young headbanger who has nothing to say to her mother until she finds herself with a kid of her own, benefits from the intelligence of the arrangement. His vocals sound improved from their earlier recordings, smoother and more expressive. The band sound in top form, too, with the lead guitar really picking its spots well.

Restaino is a true polymath: writer, reader, thinker, teacher, rocker. We're lucky to have him here in Austin. Go support him and the Obits and hear some more of their new material when they play tonight, December 10th, at the Nomad Bar.
- Big Western Flavor Blog, Dec. 10, 2009

"Preview of Rich & The Obits show"

Rich Restaino covers a lot of territory, as apt to remind you of Carl Perkins as David Byrne. -

"The Late Fees review"

How's this for a concept? Fuse '50s and early '60s "doo-wop and girl-group harmonies with stripped down 70s-era punk." Well, that's not a concept, that's the highly accurate self-description of the Late Fees, the late 2005 brainchild of solo singer songwriters Rich Restaino and Neil Kaiser, and it works wonderfully. I only wish the great majority of the clever tunes from this debut disc weren't obscenity-laced so that I could broadcast more of their music. - Charlie Martin, KOOP Radio, Austin, TX

"Duggan Digs Restaino"

"Will Rich Restaino be Austin's version of Randy Newman? Just listen to his new CD, "Revisionary Man," and you will see what I mean. Rich is intellectual (he's on his way to becoming a certified history teacher) and funny (well, he has a song written from his dog's perspective - "Good Boy"), and well versed in the disconnects associated with too much drinking. . ."
-Duggan Flanakin -

"CD Review: Revisionary Man"

"Revisionary Man is the work of a man struggling to find his footing in both the musical and physical worlds. Restaino's work is all over the place inspirationally and as a result the record seems like an Ellis Island for musical and lyrical themes. Bring us your country, bring us your pop, and bring us your rock n' roll and folk. It's all here and though it was an extremely ambitious undertaking that could have resulted in a train wreck by a less talented artist, it works beautifully here."
- Whoopsy!, Feb. 2006 - Whoopsy! (Austin TX)



2014, Rich Restaino: "Lonely in a Crowd" (madhouse!) - artist, songwriter, producer, musician
2013, Rich Restaino: "That's a Hell of a Thing to Say" (madhouse!) - artist, songwriter, producer, musician
2012, Rich Restaino & The Obits: "Before We Die" (madhouse!) - artist, songwriter, producer, musician
2010, Rich Restaino & The Obits: "We're in This Thing Together" (madhouse!) - artist, songwriter, co-producer (with Alexei Sefchick), musician
2009, Rich Restaino & The Obits: "The C'est la Vie EP" (madhouse!) - artist, songwriter, producer, musician
2006, Rich Restaino: "Revisionary Man" (madhouse!) - artist, songwriter, producer, musician
2003, Rich Restaino: "Gemini Dreams in Lo-Fi" (madhouse!) - artist, songwriter, producer, musician
2000, Rich Restaino: "Roseanne" (sebella) - artist, songwriter, co-producer (with Stephen Restaino), musician

2015, Zim & Poo: "Meet the Pookies" (madhouse!) - recording and mixing engineer, drums, bass, guitar, backing vocals
2014, Sara Shansky & the Titanic Dance Band: "Before I Sleep" (indie) - recording engineer, vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin
2013, The Brothers Restaino: "Have Issues" (Sebella) - co-producer (w/ Stephen Restaino), songwriter, vocals, various instruments
2013, Reed Oliver, "Misplaced Affections" (indie) - drums
2013, Zim & Knux: "Time is a Mofo (EP)" (madhouse!) - musician/songwriter/singer/producer
2012, The Tex Offenders: "Are Bustin' Out" (indie) - recording engineer, acoustic guitar
2011, World Racketeering Squad: "The Easy Listening Sounds of World Racketeering Squad" (indie) - lead guitar on "Water into Wine"
2011, Zim & Knux: "Long Island Rednecks & Other Minor Modern Monsters" (madhouse!) - musician/songwriter/singer/producer
2011, Sara Shansky & The Titanic Dance Band: "Memories Not Moss" (indie) - electric & acoustic guitars, mandolin, banjo, backing vocals
2009, Zim & Knux: "The Late Fees Present: Studio A" (madhouse!) - musician/songwriter/singer/producer
2009, The JCS Project: "My Wings" (Sebella) - mandolin on "Best of Times"
2009, The Lennings: "Geographic Tongue" (indie) - electric guitar
2007, The Late Fees: "The Late Fees" (madhouse!) - musician/songwriter/singer/producer
2007, The Lennings: "Big Beige Car" (indie) - mandolin on "Hat" and "Bike"
2007, Mr. Brown: "Boderation" (Coinhead) - bass on "They're Dancing"
2005, Neil Kaiser & The Boxcar Angels (indie) - guitar, bass, drums, mandolin, backing vocals
2005, Zach Whitney: "Some Far Off Somewhere" (indie) - acoustic/electric guitars, mandolin, backing vocal on several tracks

Rich Restaino & the Obits:  "(EP, as yet untitled)" (madhouse!) - producer, engineer, artist, songwriter, musician
Heather Pharr: "TBA" (madhouse!) - producer, engineer, backing musician and backup singer



As much a product of his musical family's influence as he is of the early-1990s Do-It-Yourself movement, Rich Restaino has been self releasing original music most of his life. Touching on a wide array of Americana (folk, country, rhythm-and-blues, ragtime, and rock and roll, among them), Rich performs both solo and with his on-again-off-again band, the Obits. Rich grew up in New York and moved to Austin in 2000 with only the vaguest of notions of what he would do there other than play a bit of music and have a bit of fun. He has done both, spending time playing guitar, bass, mandolin, and drums with various Austin outfits, including the reggae collective Mr. Brown, alt-country/indie group The Lennings, and string-band folkies Sara Shansky & The Titanic Dance Band. He also co-founded Austin's own potty-mouthed doo-wop-punk outfit The Late Fees. After the release of their third record, "Before We Die," Rich disbanded the Obits and spent much of 2013-14 as a studio rat, recording his own songs and those of others. 2013 saw the release of "That's a Hell of a Thing to Say," Rich's first solo record since 2006, and The Brothers Restaino "Have Issues," an original project with his brother Stephen Restaino, a musician and producer in Cape Cod, MA. Rich spent a good portion of 2014 keeping to a schedule of songwriting with a loose collective of Austin and San Antonio writers. Some of these songs made it onto his latest full-length, "Lonely in a Crowd". He has bee playing shows in support of the new release, both solo and with a new version of the Obits. When he is not writing, rehearsing, performing, or recording music, Rich somehow finds time to hold down a day gig as a high school English teacher and cook meals that make vegetarians question their beliefs.

Band Members