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Pittsburgh Artist of the Week: The Roof

Olivia Dempsey

The Roof formed almost a decade ago while the guys in the band attended Penn State Altoona. Honing their craft in dive bars around town, The Roof developed a sound that they describe as “blending hues with psychedelic rhythm and blues.” Their song “Headstone” – inspired by a car crash – is a heavy examination of what it would feel like if life suddenly ceased.

The band’s drummer, Skyler Scholl, recently spoke with WYEP’s Joey Spehar.

This conversation may be lightly edited for content, clarity, or length.

What’s your musical history up to this point?

Our musical history dates back to 2015, about 7 years long! We met at Penn State Altoona in our freshman year at college. In the span of a few weeks, we had all crossed paths with each other, mainly as a result of my (Skyler, the drummer) overzealous & extroverted urge to find like-minded people.

Jake (lead guitar) lived in the apartment above me, so naturally I asked him to jam. We met Francis on an anonymous social app called Yik-Yak when he replied to Jake’s desperate request for a guitar pick.

We all got together one Wednesday night and had more fun than we knew what to do with, so we made it a routine. There just-so-happened to be an open mic on Wednesdays at the deepest dive bar Altoona had to offer called Pellegrines. We jammed with old heads there till 2am almost every Wednesday who taught us a thing, or three.. and they let us have our first full-band rehearsal there one day before the bar opened.

They would give us a new name every week and they were all awful, so as we began to rehearse in Francis’s attic, we eventually came up with the name The Roof, so the old guys would stop giving us sh*tty names, and it stuck! We moved up to State College junior year, started making our rounds at the bar scene, and decided we wanted to take a serious crack at making a living creating art. We’ve since gotten our engineering degrees, moved to Pittsburgh, added our new bassist Amico to the group, and are still chugging along towards that same goal!

How do you describe your sound? 

We’ve been saying that we blend hues with psychedelic rhythm and blues for years now, and although that’s not all we do, it’s the closest explanation we’ve come to the elusive truth thus far. Some artists we love include (but aren’t limited to) Tyler Childers, Gregory Alan Isakov, Grateful Dead, Zeppelin, Colter Wall, Mt. Joy, Hozier, The Lumineers, Caamp, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and Bob Dylan.

Tell us more about the song “Headstone.” What inspired you to write it and what does it mean to you?  

“Headstone” is a special one for us. It’s definitely the most serious song we have recorded so far. Francis and I got in a pretty bad car accident two summers ago on the way home from a gig in upstate PA on the border of New York. Fortunately, the totaled car was the worst expense, and Skyler’s missing front teeth, & Francis’s cracked ribs were the only physical injuries endured. It shook us up though and was a pretty loud reminder of the fragility of this life, despite our young & restless spirits. Francis wrote it from the perspective of the alternative outcome of the wreck, as if we were looking down on our loved ones, requesting our spirits’ desires.

What was the first album that really changed your life?    

Since there are four of us, and much of our sound is a result of the melting pot of our individual influences, albeit there is definitely some overlap, there has to be four. For Amico it’s "Songs in the Key of Life" by Stevie Wonder. Skyler’s is "Astral Weeks" by Van Morrison. Francis’s favorite album is "The Wall" by Pink Floyd.

Who are some other Pittsburgh artists you think more people should listen to?  

Paging Doctor Moon, The Commonheart, The Vics, and Wild Blue Yonder!

Any other super interesting things we should know about you?

We’ll let the music do the talking and use this time to promote our new single “La Petite Mort” which is an English song with a French chorus coming out in a month or so! We couldn’t find the right words to sum it all up in our native language so we flipped the script a bit.

Learn more about The Roof here:

Apple Music

Check out previous Pittsburgh Artists of the Week here.

Joey Spehar is a Pittsburgh native who started as a volunteer D.J. at WYEP, fresh out of college in 2006. He took on any job they’d let him do like editing audio, engineering remote broadcasts, and shoveling snow.