01 Sep Blues Guitarist Rafe Klein of the Name Droppers Talks Music, Dad Life, and Gigs in ’21
By Marisa Torrieri Bloom
Connecticut-based blues rocker and guitar-wielding dad Rafe Klein first caught my attention when I watched a virtual livestream of his solo set in mid 2020. But it wasn’t just his cool guitar chops (he studied with the legendary Charlie Karp in his 30s) and singing that impressed me. He had a presence — an unmistakable confidence and earnestness in his delivery — that piqued my interest and kept me listening.
So I was particularly excited about his latest project — a musical collaboration between his band the Name Droppers and international recording artist Carole Sylvan, which culminated in the record ‘Love’ that dropped earlier this summer. The record, produced by Vic Steffens, is loaded with funky guitar riffs, rich, soaring vocals, and danceable beats.
We recently caught up with Rafe to talk about what’s next, including his September 2nd show at Café Nine (New Haven) with Frank Viele.
Rockmommy: Hi Rafe! How would you describe your music for those who haven’t heard you?
Rafe Klein: The Name Droppers play blues rock. I really like the idea of using traditional blues riffs, but using them differently, maybe less frequently, or perhaps as a reprise. Then turning them into a non-traditional blues song, which could be, but is not limited to, the standard 1-4-5 progression, but still recognized as a blues.
Rockmommy: So when did you start playing guitar?
Rafe Klein: I started taking lessons about 13 years ago. At first just playing chords, mostly on acoustic. Then I started playing electric, and began to learn how to solo, started working my way around the neck. I’m still learning, and always looking for ways to improve my playing.
Rockmommy: How have you been making the most of gigging and playing out this summer?
Rafe Klein: We’ve had a decent amount of shows this summer, and fortunately, most of them were well attended. I think because of the pandemic, certain venues now have twice the budget, since most of last year’s budget is still available to them.
But now, because of the new Delta variant, bands, and booking agents are both thinking twice about booking gigs into the fall or winter. It’s a complete unknown, and it may be something we’re all just going to have to deal with for a while, or maybe even longer.
Rockmommy: You made a record with international recording artist Carole Sylvan (‘Love’). Is there anything more you can tell us about the music?
Rafe Klein: This record, produced by Vic Steffens, has been a work in progress for over two years. Besides the Name Droppers, we’ve got a great lineup of additional musicians, including soul man Bobby Harden, who is a guest vocalist on a song he wrote called ‘What Do You Call It.’
Carole’s ability to put together vocal arrangements and do all the parts and background vocals herself has really impressed me. I’m proud of the record, and think its collection of original songs, plus a few covers like ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ — one of my favorite songs — make it stand out, and hopefully make some noise.
Rockmommy: What are your hopes (and plans) for making music this fall?
Rafe Klein: Fortunately, ‘Love’ is being played on over 100 college radio stations in the United States, and we will be supporting the album. Carole Sylvan & The Name Droppers have two shows lined up this Fall: Cafe Nine in New Haven on September 2nd, and a return Triad Theatre in New York City on November 11th.
Rockmommy: What’s your advice for balancing parenthood with being a musician or creative person?
Rafe Klein: If you try to make your kids part of your creation, it can be rewarding. This is not easy, however. I have made a few funny videos where my kids are the main characters. Working with your kids in a creative environment is not the same as working with your musical peers.
There is a lack of attention, as well as the fact that you are their dad, and not their dance instructor or creative instructor. It can be frustrating, but really cool and rewarding when it works. Encourage your kids to play instruments. Especially the drums if you can handle the noise. Playing drums can open up all kinds of talent or curiosity. The ability to keep time can lead to learning other instruments, or better musicianship.
I also think if you over-encourage them it could be a problem too. Let them want to do it. If it comes from you, it’s probably not cool. But if a friend from class starts playing violin, for example, and then your kids come home and want to take up violin. Letting it happen organically is more productive then forcing them to learn or practice something that they may not value.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.