Roadside Funeral, a rock band from the Philipsburg area, is a high-energy trio — three friends who are celebrating the recent release of their first album.
“We got together probably about two years ago,” drummer Jeremy Bratton (aka Mr. Bratton) said. “We had all just played together in different bands. The guitar player called me up and asked about jamming at his house. I used to play with him a long time ago. He was in an accident where he lost the ring finger on his hand, and he only has partial use of his pinky finger.”
The guitarist, known only as “Mr. Long,” is joined on bass by “Mr. Washell” to round out Roadside Funeral.
“So, he hadn’t played guitar in a long time, and I was surprised how well he could still play,” Bratton said. “I went over and he was playing with this bass player, Washell, and we all got together and started writing songs.”
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Roadside Funeral’s sound trends toward a heavier end of rock music, but their tastes and tones are constantly changing.
“I think it’s still sort of a work in progress,” Bratton said. “A lot of the stuff on our first album were songs that people had heard from previous sounds. There weren’t many we wrote all together on that album. Overall, our sound is rock ‘n’ roll type of stuff, sort of heavy sort of not heavy. I don’t really know how to describe it.”
Bratton said believes in the band, and he believes in the connective power of music.
“Music, to me, is the medium,” he said. “The people that are attracted to different types of music, the whole spectrum of emotions it covers, (it’s like) how you might listen to an album and only like one song, but after repeat listens you might catch the lyrics to another song and suddenly that’s your new favorite because of what it says, not how it sounds. I like how you attach memories to music. A song can come on and immediately transport you to a place or time or make you remember a certain person or group of people.”
Roadside Funeral is first and foremost an original band. They write and play their own material. Rather than performing well-known or established cover songs, the band would prefer to bring their own honest style to their performances.
“While I completely understand why people love cover bands, I have always been more into the original music scene,” Bratton said. “(I’m) always searching for cool music that less people have heard of, allowing me to introduce people to new music, whether it was my own or someone else’s, always gave me a rewarding feeling. Playing music with other bands and meeting the creators of something I never heard before and hearing their stories, their influences and just meeting the people at the shows is, for the most part, always the best time. Cover bands can be great. ... I like hearing other musicians takes on great songs. I can tell in about three songs whether the band is doing their own version or if they are trying to be that band.”
Although Bratton and company do respect musicians putting their own creative spin on famous songs, they do not abide mimicry for the sake of an easy crowd.
“The ones who think they are channeling Led Zeppelin and are not ... it’s just not fun for anyone,” Bratton said. “I could spend my whole life practicing how to paint Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” but even if I got it down to where you couldn’t tell the difference between my version and his, I’m still never going to be Van Gogh. So I think any band that doesn’t play originals, they should. I believe all music has worth, and it’s fun to make it. Put yourself out there, someone might dig it, even if it’s just your mom.”
The band has no misconceptions about who they are or what they stand for. Their songwriting topics are similar to the bands they enjoy — artists like Faith No More, Tool, the Deftones and System of a Down.
“Most songs are written about the same stuff: relationships, happiness, sadness, anger, love, sex, drugs and death,” Bratton said. “The Beatles pretty much had the word love in every song they wrote. Maybe that’s why they got so big; it’s the one thing everyone is always looking for and they found it with The Beatles. Our songs cover more of the same stuff. I wish I could say we covered a brand-new topic, but we didn’t. Hopefully people like our take on it, though. Perspective, after all, really is everything, isn’t it?”
The band recently released its self-titled debut album, available for download. It’s been met with reasonable success, especially given the band’s lack of traditional promotion.
“It’s actually weird,” Bratton said. “We haven’t really been pushing the album too much, it’s not like we’re out there playing a bunch of shows at this time. There’s not a huge venue in this area for playing just original music and for getting together with other just-original bands. We’d love to play (more) shows with people. We have tons of new stuff that wasn’t on the album that we’d like to play live. But most of the bands around here are cover bands and ... that’s not really our thing.”
Roadside Funeral is looking to gain gigs around Happy Valley this summer to share their sound with the local populace.
“This summer we’re trying to play some local bars around here with anyone we can,” Bratton said. “There was a band called “Tread to Last” that was sort of heavy that got ahold of us… I don’t really know where yet, but we plan on playing a lot.”
The band’s humble goals are equaled only by their generous love of music.
“My whole goal would be to play a show where people actually knew our songs,” Bratton said. “That would be the ultimate gig for me. I don’t care if there’s 20 people there, it would be awesome.”
Together in friendship, and crammed in to a small shed, the band plans to be together as long as they’re still able to make new music.
“We literally play like we’re 15 years old, playing in our parents’ tool shed,” Bratton said. “This may be a 6-by-10 or an 8-by-10 tool shed. Everything in there is packed. We meet there Fridays. Even though I’m the drummer, I usually bring some new stuff in on the guitar. We usually come up with a new song about a week or every two weeks. We’re already in the process of making a whole new album.”
Bratton said he guarantees a good time to anyone who hears Roadside Funeral play live.
“It’s an interesting three-piece band,” he said. “It’s not usual to see a drummer singing lead. People seem to like that a lot. Plus, I think it’s just really good music. So, if you like music you’ll probably like us. Whatever style of music you’re into, we probably have something of that style, so you’ll like at least one of our songs.”