One of San Diego's music fixture Rafter Roberts' many projects -- which include the indie pop duo Bunky, running one of the city's most popular indie recording studios, and producing and engineering albums for Castanets, the Fiery Furnaces, Arab on Radar, and more -- Rafter's kaleidoscopic noise pop features Roberts and a revolving cast of friends. Growing up in a California commune, Roberts wasn't exposed to much pop culture or music except for what his new wave- and punk-loving older brother played for him on weekend visits. Inspired by XTC, Devo, Talking Heads, and the Beatles, Roberts formed the band Faucet while still in his teens. He moved to New York after graduating from high school and worked on his music via four-track recorder.
After returning to the West Coast, Roberts settled in San Diego and soon became an indispensable part of the city's music scene, recording friends' bands and putting on house shows at night while helping to record music for commercials with Glen Galloway (of Trumans Water and Soul-Junk). Galloway and Roberts built a full-fledged studio and began recording and engineering music by artists ranging from Sufjan Stevens and Rogue Wave to Gogogo Airheart. Roberts continued to work on his own music, forming Bunky with Emily Joyce; Asthmatic Kitty released the duo's debut, Born to Be a Motorcycle, and also signed Roberts as Rafter. The label released 10 Songs, a collection of his four-track recordings from 1998 and 1999, in 2006; it was quickly followed by 2007's Songs for Total Chickens and 2008's Sex Death Cassette. The Sweaty Magic EP, which dove deeper into Rafter's funk and Afro-pop fascinations, arrived in summer 2008.
Rafter drew inspiration from modern R&B and classic video game music for 2010's Animal Feelings. After releasing two albums in 2011, Quiet Storm, which Roberts described as "Darkthrone meets the Kinks meets Lee Perry," and Eponymous, a highly danceable collaboration with Simian Mobile Disco's Simon Lord under the name Roberts & Lord, Roberts took a break to delve deeply into some new projects. The first result of his woodshedding was 2014's It's Reggae, an authentic and weird love letter to dub and roots reggae. He then spent some time working on his next record, which was a return to his earlier pop style, but a more grown-up and sophisticated version. XYZ was released by Joyful Noise in late 2016. ~ Heather Phares