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. 

Rafe Klein (far left) and the Name Droppers with Carole Sylvan (center). Photo courtesy of Rafe Klein.

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.  

Rafe Klein (Photo: Kvon Photography)

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.

Richard Demko on Challenges, Changes and Keeping Connecticut’s Live Music Scene Thriving

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

If anyone my local music scene in Southern Connecticut is deserving of the ‘jack of all trades’ designation, it’s Richard Demko, longtime multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer, promoter and more. He has an ear for talent and a knack for making things happen. He’s a dad, too, which is awesome. 

I had the honor of meeting Demko — a.k.a., ‘Rick’ — in early 2020 at Café Nine in New Haven, through a mutual friend who invited him to see my band Trashing Violet play its third-ever gig. But although his reputation as a superstar engineer and founder of independent label NeuroTronix Records made me feel a little intimidated, his easygoing, engaged personality immediately put me at ease. 

For Demko, a man who is still busy juggling family life, with pressures to create, support and promote in spite of Covid-related restrictions, a pandemic silver lining was a surge of creativity. In early March 2021, Demko released his first orchestral single “Through Time and Space” (available on iTunesSpotify and Amazon), and is organizing as many outdoor shows as possible so his musician peers can play again. 

We recently caught up with Demko to chat about new music, summer plans, parenting and more. 

Richard Demko, of NeuroTronix Records, hard at work at Horizon Studio.


Rockmommy: What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months?

Richard Demko: My biggest challenges in the past 12 months have been juggling writing, producing, promoting and all the label obligations I have with my whole household being home due to distance learning and working. 

It’s also been a challenge promoting albums because live music is a big part of getting music out there. With no live music, I’ve had to be creative on how we promote releases and singles. There is no script to what has had to occur to try and keep everyone out there and moving. 

I have a lot of sympathy for working musicians and venue owners who have been hit very hard this year. I’ve been lucky because I’m blessed to have great clients who have sent me lots of remote mixing work, writing and session work, and some decent album promotional campaigns. Because if that, I make it a point to try and give back to organizations and places that are supporting local working musicians and various venue relief efforts as much as I can. 

Rockmommy: How did 2020 influence your music and creative process? 


Richard Demko: 2020 has had a big influence on my solo writing, as I’ve written a few pandemic-themed songs, including a Christmas tune released exclusively for the 2020 holiday season called “Merry Christmas From a Distance.” I’ve also written a few songs for sync licensing that pertain to certain aspects of the pandemic. 

Richard Demko “Through Time And Space”


Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 


Richard Demko: I am hopeful that the pandemic will come to an end and we can return to live music! I am also hopeful from a label perspective that Connecticut will gain some serious attention in the mainstream music scene, as we have so many great artists and bands in our area! 

Rockmommy: Any recent or upcoming projects you’d like to share? 

Richard Demko: As a solo writer, I plan on releasing of a few singles early in 2021, maybe a new Demkovic single will drop too. Passing Strange has a new album that we will be starting to track, which I’m really excited about. 

[SEE RELATED: Passing Strange Share Their Journey to ‘The Water and the Woods’ and What They Want Most in the Post-Pandemic World]

Rockmommy: What can you tell us about your new song? How did it come about? 

Richard Demko: This song was started 7 years ago. I never finished it and it just sat on the storage drive and I kinda forgot about it. About two months ago, I was going through some of the stuff on my storage drive and I came across this and decided to take a listen. One thing led to the next and I ended up finishing it. Normally a song like this I would submit to one of the music libraries I work with for sync licensing, but I really was digging this one and wanted to keep it for myself so I decided to release it to the world under my name. 

Rockmommy: You’re also a big supporter and promoter of indie rock– both independently and through NeuroTronix Records. What can artists hope for in Connecticut this summer? How are you navigating some of the new rules and challenges to bring live music back? 

Richard Demko: I think this summer is going to be pretty good for outdoor music. I’ve got a few places I’m working with to promote live outdoor shows, one being 10selden where I have exclusive access to the bookings calendar. During the spring and summer months, I tend to enjoy outdoor music under normal circumstances, so I think regardless of the changes in the indoor venue guidelines, I’m going to stick with promoting mainly outdoor shows — at least at 10selden. I wouldn’t say I’m just a supporter of indie rock, I support indie artists of all genres, and hopefully once things start to go back to normal, the label will be actively scouting again to expand its roster. I’ve got a few artists I’m keeping an eye on, but that’s all I will say about that for the moment. 

Rockmommy: What advice do you have on balancing parenthood with creative life?

Richard Demko: The best advice I can give to creative parents would be to just do the best you can with the time you have. Modify your creative schedule so that your family has the attention they need. When you get stressed, put that energy into writing or creating when you get the time, and it will not only come out more emotional, it will mean so much more in the end. I love being able to spend all this time with my kids and wife with everyone being home, however making the time to create is a very important part of having a balanced life.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy