The rites of Robby

Roadsteamer’s new message of unity
By MIKE MILIARD  |  July 9, 2007

VIDEO: Episode Ten of Robby Roadsteamer's "Shitcom"

Roadsteamer, "The Dinosaurs Are Coming" (mp3)

Roadsteamer, "The North Shore is Where You're Gonna Soar" (mp3)

Spotted among a sizable crowd outside the Paradise on Saturday June 23: a stone-faced Secret Service agent, an A&R man for Yellow Trout Records beating the bushes for the next big thing, and a redneck in a green trucker cap singing pro-Bush songs and warning concertgoers that they risk eternal perdition should they set foot in the club. All of these are actors, hired by Robby Roadsteamer for the release party for his band’s fourth album, I’ll Be at Your Funeral (Yellow Trout).

As it happened, the night was just as notable for the perverse diversity of the bill: the power-pop SnowLeopards, the visceral-ethereal Fluttr Effect, space-time-continuum-skipping-post-punk-hip-hoppers the Campaign for Real-Time, and Roadsteamer’s comedy-metal rowdies. Danvers dudes in backwards baseball caps stood slack-jawed as Fluttr Effect rocked hard with chugging cello and MIDI marimba. Allston hipsters chortled along with everyone else as Roadsteamer manager Chris Coxen took the stage to introduce Robby’s band — noting that they’d passed up opportunities to open for Mel Tormé on his “Dangerous Rhythms Tour” and a chance to play “the Oatmeal Fest out in Ashburnham” to be there. It was a gathering of the Boston music tribes. And it was just the way Robby Roadsteamer envisioned it.

When he emerged six years ago as lead singer of the Sweatpant Boners — a joky but potent metal band who featured, at various times, members of Killswitch Engage, Seemless, Unearth, and Damone — Robby played the court jester to the hilt. From his home in Danvers, he cast a cold eye on the cliquishness and petty infighting of the Boston music scene.

“At first he was a douchebag,” says Roadsteamer (a/k/a Rob Potylo) of the character he created. “He hated the scene. He was the critic we always see on message boards: any band that does something, it’s ‘Aw, they’re trying too hard. They suck!’ ”

But three years ago, Roadsteamer moved to Allston, and that gave him a new perspective. “It’s so different being on the North Shore and watching the scene from the outside instead of being in one.” As he got to know the various players, he realized something: “I wanted to evolve the character. The problem was, I’d done it so good, nobody knew me.”

After the release of his debut, Okay Computer (2004), he rattled off two more full-lengths, The Heart of a Rhino (2005) and Postcards from theDen of Failure (2006). Then, six years into a musical career many had written off as a joke, Roadsteamer scored a subsidiary deal with Universal. Suddenly, his mind raced. Might the daytimes spent selling Red Sox souvenirs be over? “I thought this was it. You project. You get excited. Retail job at Fenway? That ain’t gonna matter six months from now?” But then, as quickly as it appeared, the deal fell through. “Out of that disappointment sprang this album.”

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