Buckeye State natives Orefice Roth make songs “from spare parts and hummingbird hearts.”
With vocalist Skylar Keffer’s delicate voice backed by soulful and intentional instrumentations, Orefice Roth creates a sound that is celebratory of the often forgotten Midwest.
Consisting of Keffer (vocals, guitars), Austin Latare (percussion), Mike Abbadini (keys), and Lip Jaworski (bass), the band wields a cosmically acoustic sound similar to Fleet Foxes and Whitney, fostering a sound that’s intimate, honest, and preserves the integrity of the Ohioan spirit.
The band’s latest single, “Be Dust!”, is their fourth release of 2021, following two singles and a debut EP. “Be Dust!” is a collaboration with Clevelander Ray Flanagan. The tune is a wounded declaration of internal conflict propelled by an upbeat, nomadic rhythm. With Flanagan’s vocal harmonies supporting Keffer’s commanding yet passive voice, “Be Dust!” is all about not wanting to place doubt in the hearts of those you love.
The band’s “high-lonesome” sound is a product of their Northeastern Ohio origins, creating an attitude that is progressive and innovating while still preserving and taking influence from the country-western sounds of yesteryear.
Orefice Roth was kind enough to join us for a Q&A regarding the band’s name, their Cleveland influences, the new single, and more.
So what’s the backstory on Orefice Roth and how did it come to be?
Orefice Roth came to be on leap day of 2020. I’d known Mike (keyboard, harmony vocals) and Dizzy (bass) from playing in previous bands with them, and Lip (drum set) had been a fan of of those bands. The combination of his eagerness and talent made it obvious to me that he would work well with the new band I was looking to assemble.
What’s the inspiration behind the band name?
Thank you for finally asking about the name! I feel like others have blown past it and I was wondering when someone would finally ask.
The last apartment I lived in with my wife and stepdaughter had mailboxes directly outside the front door, and on the mailboxes read the last names of past tenants in beautiful trailer park sticker letters. It read on the top mailbox, “Orefice” and on the down unit mailbox “Roth”. I’d see it over and over again every day and it got stuck in my head. It just sounded like SOMETHING to me. It had a glow around it and about it. It sounded to me like an ancient author, or maybe a bank or a law firm. So with the combination of those feelings mixed with my interest in avoiding associating my music with things that carry a lot of baggage and expectations, the band was named.
Coming from a prosperous Cleveland music scene, what are some local or regional acts you guys find yourselves artistically influenced by?
I’m a huge fan of the songwriting of Jason Molina. His songwriting resonated so hard it cracked my bell. On a more local level, I love The Dreadful Yawns, Sure, Machine, Beach Stav, Talons, and honestly so many more that the list would be too long to put here.
Let’s talk about your new single, “Be Dust!”. What’s the story behind this song?
“Be Dust!” is about wanting to disintegrate, but being tethered to this form through responsibility to others and the brief triumphs, although vastly outnumbered by pain, that make it all still worth it.
I see you collaborated with fellow Clevelander Ray Flanagan for this tune. What was it like working with him?
Ray and I have been circling each other for years. We’d first met when we were sharing bills with some of our high school bands. We’re both songwriters, but we operate in different zones of music. We come from different places and were molded by different things, but we’re both strongly committed to the craft of songwriting and performance. The experience was great! I loved to observe how he worked in the studio. He had an approach like an old jazz musician. Run the song over and over and really really settle into it and I loved the process.
How would you describe your songwriting process? Is it a collaborative effort or an individual one? Do you lead with melodies or is it more based on lyricism?
I generally come to the band with a song about 80% finished. Then when we get together and work on it, I hear where everyone is taking the song and it usually answers any questions I had about the song. Then I take it back home with me and apply what I learned about my song from the band and really put the finishing touches on it. And… as far as what my process is like… I’ll take a song anyway I can get it.
A songwriter is a beggar to the heart and the mind. Sometimes it starts with melody, sometimes chords. I’m always writing in notebooks and in the notes app of my phone. Taking voice recordings. When I first started to try and write songs, I was searching for a trusty method, but it wasn’t til I abandoned that search that I realized it can happen in so many different ways and different processes yield different kinds of songs.
You guys have released a steady stream of music this year, including “Be Dust!” and your debut EP. What has it been like for you guys to record and produce music in a post-COVID (ish) environment?
We’re all vaccinated, so we’ve just been working nonstop. We’re constantly learning and writing songs, recording songs we have finished and on course for a steady stream of output in the near future. I’ve kinda figured out a process that works well for us time wise and financially through years of trial and error.
As far as live, I was very nervous to get back into it. Luckily the places we’re playing require vax cards or a negative test to attend. I wasn’t sure how crowds would be, but we’ve been incredibly lucky to have good turnouts with really enthusiastic and engaged crowds. I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am for that and everyone who has come out and supported us.
What does success mean to you as artists?
Doing the best work I can possibly do given my situation, and writing songs that resonate with people on a deeply emotional level. Make people feel less alone. That kinda junk.
What message do you want to convey to listeners of Orefice Roth?
What I’d like to say to our listeners is, you can run, but you can’t hide. Our songs have cloven hooves of fire. They make lightening haste and they will find you. Even after your time on this earth has expired, our songs will find your heirs because Orefice Roth will never die.
Lastly, describe your dream gig!
I would love to play at an old wooden amphitheater in a remote field opening for Will Oldham. I would join him onstage for his last number and we would sing so sweetly and effectively together. Afterwards, we would embrace and I would take in a deep breath, because I’ve kinda always wondered what the guy smells like. Or maybe Wembley.