Progressive indie band Raspberry Jam tunes songwriting skills

Five-member band works on third album, preps for Friday show

  • From right, vocalist Alouette Batteau, 17, and guitarists Rufus Seward, 16, and Mac Almeida, 19, rehearse with their band Raspberry Jam in the band’s Greenfield studio. “The goal is catchy, danceable songs, but with some more musically interesting elements,” Seward explains. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Vocalist Alouette Batteau and guitarist Rufus Seward rehearse with their band Raspberry Jam in the band’s Greenfield studio. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • From left, bassist Josh Gibson, 18, and guitarist Mac Almeida, 19, rehearse with their band Raspberry Jam in the band’s Greenfield studio. Raspberry Jam’s third album, which its members hope to record in the next few months, will be the first with the current five-member lineup. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Bassist Josh Gibson rehearses with his band Raspberry Jam in the band’s Greenfield studio. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Drummer Milou Rigollaud, 19, rehearses with his band Raspberry Jam in the band’s studio, which is set up in his Greenfield home. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • From left, guitarists Mac Almeida, 19, and Rufus Seward, 16, rehearse with their band Raspberry Jam in the band’s Greenfield studio. The two guitarists alternate their roles to complement one another. The rhythm guitar gives a framework, and the second guitar “thickens” the song, Seward says. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Bassist Josh Gibson, foreground, rehearses with his band Raspberry Jam in the band’s Greenfield studio. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Vocalist Alouette Batteau and drummer Milou Rigollaud rehearse with their band Raspberry Jam in the band’s Greenfield studio. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Guitarist Rufus Seward rehearses with his band Raspberry Jam in the band’s Greenfield studio. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

Staff Writer
Published: 2/6/2019 4:32:40 PM

When Greenfield drummer Milou Rigollaud and Turners Falls guitarist Mac Almeida entered a Brattleboro, Vt., battle of the bands in 2015, they were used to playing covers. But to compete, they had to break free from their comfort zone and write at least one original song.

“It was a setup for failure, I guess,” said Rigollaud, now 19. “But it pushed us to write stuff, and we were like, ‘This is actually not that hard.’”

Now, Rigollaud and Almeida, also 19 — joined by vocalist Alouette Batteau, 17, of Shelburne Falls; Greenfield guitarist Rufus Seward, 16; and Greenfield bassist Josh Gibson, 18 — are working on their third album as Raspberry Jam.

“We want the audience to still connect with it, but also have it be more advanced than our previous stuff,” said Batteau, who also performs with the rock band Kalliope Jones as a drummer.

Offering catchy, danceable songs

Raspberry Jam plays a style of indie rock that is both dense and catchy, which band members call “progressive indie.”

Basically, Raspberry Jam starts with a template that Almeida calls “generic western Mass. indie music,” then expands it with the technical advancements that characterize progressive rock: complex time signatures, jazzy chord changes and atypical song structures.

“The goal is catchy, danceable songs, but with some more musically interesting elements,” Seward said.

“Slow,” Raspberry Jam’s most popular song on Spotify, goes from a smooth, atmospheric verse to a driving rock chorus. The vocals alternate between asymmetrical phrasings in the verses, and a rhythmically even chorus. The guitars play winding melodies, then syncopated dance rhythms. After the final chorus, the tempo speeds up, the guitars jam with one another, and the song ends on a sped-up chorus.

Raspberry Jam’s influences are varied. Vocalist Batteau points to Lorde, The Cure and David Bowie. Gibson’s active basslines are influenced by funk, he said. Drummer Rigollaud points to Ringo Starr.

“Ringo Starr is an underrated drummer. He knows exactly what his role is in the music, and he doesn’t overplay,” Rigollaud said. “My role is to keep it danceable.”

For Almeida, on guitar, an interest in Rush led into progressive rock.

“I’ve always been into the instruments more than anything else … Stuff that’s fun for the guitarist,” he said. “My dad forced Rush upon me as a kid.”

Seward, also on guitar, listens to ’80s and ’90s alternative rock, such as the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr. and Pavement.

The two guitarists alternate their roles to complement one another. The rhythm guitar gives a framework, and the second guitar “thickens” the song, Seward said.

“Say I have something complicated,” Almeida said. “He (Seward) will be being more basic underneath it, because that’s his role in that spot.”

A few new faces

Raspberry Jam’s current lineup came together for the most part in September 2017, but Rigollaud and Almeida have been playing together for five years, since they were in eighth grade.

By 2017, Batteau had joined on vocals and Gibson on bass. That year the band entered the same Brattleboro battle of the bands, having been writing music for almost three years at that point. This time, Raspberry Jam won first place. The prize was 10 hours of time at a recording studio in Guilford, Vt.

In a single 10-hour session, the four recorded almost all of Raspberry Jam’s first album, “Something Electric.” The album’s outro was written in the studio kitchen, Batteau said, but all the other songs were written beforehand. Finishing touches were added later.

“Back then it took us so long just to write songs,” Rigollaud said.

In contrast, it took less than a month to write Raspberry Jam’s second album, the EP-length “Spacepaint,” Almeida said. The band took two weeks in August 2018 to record, mix and master the songs on a recording setup in Rigollaud’s Greenfield home.

Seward had joined the band earlier that summer, because the band wanted a second guitarist to play at the Green River Festival, bringing the band to its current five members.

Raspberry Jam’s third album, which its members hope to record in the next few months, will be the first with the five-member lineup.

Getting writing down pat

Raspberry Jam’s members expect the third album to have 10 to 12 songs, and have written three so far.

“A lot of it is us writing stuff individually at our houses, and sending terrible audio recordings in a group chat,” Almeida said.

“It goes really slowly when you’re writing with five people,” Batteau said. Seward added that writing with a group is less about writing songs and more about writing parts.

“We’re down to writing stuff now,” Seward said. “A lot of it, very quickly and very well.”

A song starts with a chord progression, Seward and Almeida explained. Riffs and melodies come after that. Lyrics are last, but are always part of the considerations.

“I have a hard time writing just the lyrics and putting them over music,” Batteau said.

“We always write choruses with the intention of there being a chorus on top of them,” Seward said.

One not-yet-recorded song, “Hung Up, Strung Up,” was performed as part of Valley Advocate Sessions, the recording of which was released Feb. 1 and includes five songs in all. Rigollaud describes “Hung Up, Strung Up” as “disco-ey.”

The songs from both “Something Electric” and “Spacepaint” are available for listeners on Spotify.

On Friday, Raspberry Jam is playing at the Parlor Room, 32 Masonic St. in Northampton, alongside Gabe’s Mystery Band and Stoner Will and the Narks. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30.

Staff reporter Max Marcus started working at the Greenfield Recorder in 2018. He covers Northfield, Bernardston, Leyden and Warwick. He can be reached at: mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 261.


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