Hold on to your socks-- Roosevelt Dime might just knock ‘em off!
This Americana quartet embodies the rhythms of brotherhood. Eben, Andrew, Tony, and Craig hail from different states and bring the country together through musical unity. Catch them closing out the Freefall concert series on October 28th.
For more visit: Roosevelt Dime Website
Opener: Hard Swimmin' Fish
Interview with Roosevelt Dime (Audio)
Interview with Roosevelt Dime (Transcript)
Audrey Parks and Chase Browning interview Andrew Green of Roosevelt Dime on the band’s style and upcoming appearance at the Freefall concert series on October 28th.
How would you describe the sound of Roosevelt Dime?
Well, we call it “Americana Rhythm and Blues” and...we sort of found, you know, you kind of look for- look for a home when you’re making original music. ‘Cause for better or worse, you like to think you’re the most original thing since sliced bread, but people like to know where you fit in on the spectrum of things.
So we kind of walk the line a lot, a lot of folk music, a lot of blues, and Americana, sort of at its essence, really captures all those different distinct American styles. But sort of the point of it is, to put those classic american genres together and combine ‘em into something new. So that’s something that really speaks to us and, and what we try to do with our music, but we feel like the rhythm and blues in the early kind of rock n roll that that early you know going back to Chuck Berry, and then a lot of the New Orleans guys that- that keeps it a puzzle.
It often gets left out of what’s put out in the Americana genre a lot so we sorta try to highlight that sound. Ultimately it’s just- we play the music that we like playing and that we like listening to and, you know, it comes out in our own way but, sort of the most streamlined way we’ve come up with describing it is just that: “Americana Rhythm and Blues.”
Very cool! So now, you’re kind of an amalgam of styles, and I know the members of roosevelt dime are from different states, is that right?
Yeah! That’s correct. Like, you mean originally, or...
Yeah, so how did you all meet, and how did you form Roosevelt Dime?
Well, I went to college with Eben Parisier who’s the guitarist and lead singer. We went to Oberlin college in Ohio. I’m from NYC originally, he’s from Maine originally, but both met up there. It’s got a real reputation as a music program- there’s a great conservatory there. Neither of us were actually students of the conservatory; we both went to the college, but it’s just kind of, the whole student body is is a little music obsessed. And, you know, at the house parties there, instead of a DJ, there would always be like a live funk band or a jazz band and that kind of thing.
So we met in that environment and then both ended up back in NYC after finishing up there. And pretty quickly, just as we were playing music, and kind of, you know, just joining bands and getting out on the scene, we met Tony Montalbano, who’s the drummer. He’s from California originally, but had been in NY for a number of years already by the time we met him- kind of doing the same thing, just playing in bands, doing some tours, and just just kinda getting his hand in a little bit of everything.
He really became the foundation of the band back in about 2008, and went through kind of some different styles and some different lineups. We were playing with a pedal steel player for a while- more of like, an alt country sound- and then really started working with a horn section full time. Those were the days when we were doing a lot of busking and we were playing out on the streets in NY, and the parks and the subways, and that was a real formative time for the band. Just ‘cause it, it was really great, ‘cause you were able to play music really directly for a much more diverse group of people than you ever do playing in clubs and selling tickets.
You know, what it comes down to is, when you’re on the live music scene, you’re really only hitting even the biggest acts in the world. Even U2 is playing for a small fraction of people- the people who can afford to buy the tickets, the people who are interested in that. Whereas, if you’re playing at the Times Square Subway Station at Wednesday afternoon at 5 pm rush hour, you’re- like you’re literally playing for everyone. You’re playing for all walks of life. And that really resonated with us in a powerful way, and we would just kind of hone our sound.
We wanted to see, well shoot! if we can get this lawyer on the way home from his, like, closing, and this single mom dragging her kids behind her, and this grandmother, and this homeless guy, and this substitute teacher, like man! if we can get all of these people together- even if just for a moment- just like, sharing this thing, that’s pretty special. That was a big time for the band.
So that kind of goes back to what I was saying before, when we were playing with the horns doing a very sort of New-Orleans-but-by-way-of-New-York kind of street band style. Then back in, I guess 2014 now, we started, we had the chance to start working with Craig Aiken, who’s our bass player now, and he’s a great bassist. Played many years on the Kansas City scene and then he moved to NY and we kind of started working with him right after. Once that all came together, there was just, sort of our sound just clicked into this other level and that’s what we’ve been doing going on for the past three and a half years now.
Wonderful! Now, when I saw you, Roosevelt Dime, at Lambeth Live a few weeks ago, I definitely picked up on a certain unity, and I guess part of that was your lyrics, but also playing to lots of different people.
How would you say that, sort of- your message of unity and goodwill- how do you promote that through your lyrics and through the places in which you play?
Well, I think music has a real rare quality to provide that context for people to come together. And again, that’s something we just really learned firsthand. It wasn’t necessarily something we set out to do. I mean, in a lot of ways, the reason we took to street performing and busking was frankly, in those days especially, you could make some pretty good money doing it. So that- if I’m gonna be totally honest- was probably our primary motive for doing it back then.
But the whole realization of those shared experiences really opened our eyes pretty early on in that, so that’s just something we try to bring to every performance we do, and the main thing for us is just trying to cultivate that wherever we go. And it’s really, what’s opened our eyes, is that you’re never quite sure what sort of rooms, what sort of environments, what sort of clubs are gonna foster that. So, you know, there’s these clubs that, within the industry, they’re sort of these stepping stones. ‘You need to play this place, you need to sell this place out,’ and we sorta go through that whole process.
And we’ve had some successes, we’ve had some sort of failures along the way, but ultimately we just found we didn’t care so much about hitting all those marks. We just wanted to get in the right environment where we we could cultivate that really strong shared communal experience. Sometimes it’s these renowned clubs because they have that reputation. Sometimes it’s like, a random church basement in some small town up in Maine where, you know, there’s not a heck of a lot else going on.
So it’s not like this big tour spot where people in other cities are gonna say ‘Ah you played this place! That’s a certain mark of your stature,’ it’s just these people want and need a chance to get together and have these shared experience, so we take those opportunities wherever we can find em and it leads us into some far field places, but we’ve got kind of good at sniffing those opportunities out and then really cultivating them.
So, beyond that, as far as music itself, so yeah, some of that is reflected in the lyrics of our songwriting, for sure, and some of that stuff is gonna be a little more explicit as far as what the message of our music is and that kind of thing. But I think just even musically, the sound of it reflects that a lot, as well as who we really are bringing together.
A lot of our personal influences, and everything from Bluegrass to Rhythm and Blues to Jazz to Soul to a lot of Country and Folk influences as well. And we just try to do it in a really organic way, ‘cause we can; we all have our own musical backgrounds and interests and we try to create a context musically within the band where each person can express those things. but still have it come together as a cohesive unit.
It’s really cool to hear about how you guys approach your lyrics and are so open to playing into all these different spaces, and it really provides you with very unique experiences in performance.
I’m curious as to how you guys go about writing the music: if it starts with the lyrics and then you make a song around it, or if you guys are just kind of jammin’ and then you just play something you like and stick with it, or whatever your “unique” sort of process is.
I’d say we’re sorta open to any and all of those, and have really gone about it in all of those ways, at sort of different points in the band. And maybe one or another method has been a little more prevalent. Kind of in the earlier days, both myself and Eben are are songwriters, and it used to be the kind of thing where I would write a song, I’d bring it to the band, I would sing it (we’d always arrange it together; we’re always pretty communal in the arranging process,) you know there was always a lot of stuff open for debate and suggestion, but it used to be that kind of paradigm.
You know, I guess it kind of goes back to the Beatles, or the bands of ‘you write a song, you bring it to the band, you play it, and you sing it’ but more and more, as we kind of honed in our sounds and everyone kind of honed in on their specialty in the band, and Eben was doing a lot more of the lead vocals, so we kind of had a little bit of a shift where I started saying ‘Alright that seems to be a lot of our prime material where Eben’s really doing the vocals, I’m able to focus more on the banjo.’ Tony and I really have a nice thing locked in doing the harmonies together and backup vocals and try to cultivate more of that instead of being kind of spread all over the place.
So I started writing specifically for Eben to sing, which was a really different process for me personally and a really liberating one in a lot of ways, because I think it allows you to be a little less self conscious. Maybe because it’s not you-- you’re removing that element of ‘is this my personal experience that I’m singing about, is this something that’s authentic?’, questions that inevitably creep into any kind of art you’re putting out in the world, and sort of, you know, representation of yourself.
All of a sudden, it was just ‘no, just write a good song’ and it also, since Eben and I, Eben and I are very different vocalists, and he’s got a lot more range. He kind of comes from that Ray Charles and Otis Redding school of real. He can do the real over the top soul vocals type stuff. I was writing vocal stuff, vocal lines with that in mind, that I would never write for myself. It frankly wasn’t in my wheelhouse. so over the past couple years, that’s been a really interesting process for us when we’ve been able to adapt to that and really write specifically for the sounds that are best highlighted within the band.
But as far as, you know, those initial sparks of creativity, they really come from everywhere- sometimes it’s just a little lyrical turn of phrase that you kind of come up with and mull over for a while and develop into ideas. Sometimes it’s just, it’ll be a groove that we kinda come up with during a soundcheck and it just sits in our ears and we’ll record it and just come back to it and come back to it over time and we’ll develop it that way.
So I think it’s important; that’s one of the main things as an artist and as a musician, really an artist of any kind I think, is just to be really open and really receptive to those ideas wherever they come from. The more you surround yourself with with the arts and with creative people, the more those ideas are just kind of out there and you just need to be a receptor for them.
Absolutely. I find that that’s a very interesting journey. Roosevelt Dime is closing out Freefall for WTJU on October 28th.
So, what are you all hoping to bring to that concert or to work on for that concert, and what’s going on with Roosevelt Dime between now and then?
For me personally, it’s always a real thrill to be able to play in in Charlottesville or in central Virginia because I moved down here in 2012. I live in Crozet now, so any chance for a band to come down here and for me to get to kind of share what we’ve been working on with all the great people I’ve met here is just a real thrill for me.
And Charlottesville is just, it’s such a great music scene! It really is pretty special having traveled most of the country and done this in a lot of different places. It really is a special little alchemy here, as far as just the size of the place and how much is going on and how invested in the scene people are. You know, just really looking forward to to the chance to be back here. We’ve done a number of things at TJU over the years, and done more in studios than I can count with Peter, and with we’ve always gotten so much support from the station.
And I put a lot of stock in the value of independent radio in the current music market for current up and coming music acts. I think it’s still just one of the most consistent means of support, and just spreading your sound, spreading your message. Sort of like, all bets are off at this point as to how you build, how you create a career in this. It seems like no two bands do it the same way, but I think one thing that’s common is the engagement and support of local and community radio.
And I think, as far as between now and then, we’re just gonna be doing, we’ve got some stuff up in the northeast, in New England, some other Mid-Atlantic shows as well. And kind of just returning to some of our favorite haunts, a couple of real good places up in Rhode Island and up in Maine. It’s not our busiest summer, because we’ve got a bunch of other really personal things going on in our lives, so a great thing about being in a band with people that really support you and nurture you is we’re able to reach these collective decisions.
I’ve got a five month old baby daughter at home, so I’ve been spending some more time at home, which has been great. One of the other guys has a kid as well, and just bought a new house up in Connecticut, so we’re all taking a little bit of collective ‘me time’ but that being said we’re still going out and hitting it pretty hard, getting back to some of our old stomping grounds. But like I said before, just the chance to to perform in central Virginia is just always a real special one for us.
Yeah, and I’m glad to hear that. And Congratulations! Sounds like a good time for Roosevelt Dime.
It is, it is. And you know, the whole ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ thing really is true with it, as we took a little time and space apart in a way we haven’t really done in a number of years since we’ve gotten back together and gone out on some tours. Since that it’s better and fresher than ever, so we’re really feeling good about it.
Alright! Well thank you so much, Andrew, I know you have a lot of fans here at the station, so we look forward to October 28th.
Yeah, thank you all. Thanks for making the time.