Chris Rattie and the Brush Valley Rumblers’ sound is evolving

Chris Rattie and the Brush Valley Rumblers return to the Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks this weekend.
Chris Rattie and the Brush Valley Rumblers return to the Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks this weekend. Photo provided

Saturday night at the Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks is roots-rock night.

Chris Rattie and the Brush Valley Rumblers — Ryan Alford on guitar, Mark Sosnoskie on bass, Forrest Schwartz on drums and brother John Rattie on the organ — will play the Millheim venue. The band has been together for more than a year and has performed throughout central Pennsylvania, giving them time to sync their individual sounds into perfect harmony.

Rattie said that the Millheim crowd will hear “everything from loud and proud electric guitars to gospel organs,” all in service of the band’s “old timey and sad old quiet songs.”

Below, Rattie offers some more insight into the men behind the music and the process behind their signature sound.

Q: When you guys formed, what were your expectations? Where do you see yourselves fitting into the Penns Valley music scene?

A: I think the only realistic expectations you can set are the ones you can control. So our only expectation of ourselves is to play a hard and honest show, every time. We can’t do anything else about the rest of it.

The “Penns Valley music scene.” I love the sound of that. It really is “a thing,” I think. There’s a whole bunch going on and it’s great to be a part of it. There’s support and appreciation here and that’s so important. There’s also a great venue, the Elk Creek Cafe, which anchors the whole thing. ...

Q: Has your collective voice or sound evolved?

A: I think our collective voice is definitely changing or evolving. It has to. If that’s not happening then you’re dying as a band. Who wants to hear you release stuff that sounds the same year after year?

So our sound is definitely evolving. ... We’re a pretty excitable bunch, so the older songs tend to have way more energy live now than they do on the album. A few of the songs we approach in a completely different way live. We’re also working together much more on arranging new songs, so this hands over some of the creative process to the rest of the band. Things tend to go in a direction you didn’t initially plan when you wrote the song, which can be a nice surprise.

I’m really excited to try and record with this band soon. The first album was just John and I, so building the new songs with four other guys has been great. We were recently featured on a show called “The Prava Sessions,” where we recorded totally live. We hit one or two new songs there and they came out sounding really good. It’s going to be great to record live with these guys and try to capture some of that energy.

Q: What themes have emerged in your work?

A: I’ve always been kind of the “sad bastard” songwriter. If you listen to most of the songs from “All These Things,” there’s not really much in terms of uplifting themes or positivity. I’ll just say it wasn’t written during the easiest times. The main themes were broken hearts, death, drinkin’, more death, no money ... and a little bit of paranoia mixed in. These days, in general, things are going pretty damn good. So now I’m trying to figure out how to write some happy songs.

Q: You’re in the process of trying to transform a living room in an old farm house into a recording studio. How is the work coming along?

A: I don’t want to bore you with geeky recording gear details, but there’s been a few hitches and I hope to get something up and running soon. I know the band is pretty excited to record and we’ve got a handful of new songs ready to go.

Q: What’s next for Chris Rattie and the Brush Valley Rumblers?

A: In the short term, we have a handful of shows booked through May. After that we are going to take a little break and plan on expanding our touring once August hits. Hopefully by the time we hit late fall we can start some real work on recording a follow-up album. I know I’m anxious to get started. I’ve got some good songs and a great band to play them with. I can’t wait to see where it takes us.