What A Concept: A Talk With Eric Bluebaum Of Riley

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Technical skill doesn’t make a band and it certainly doesn’t make a rock band. But sometimes it can make a group of musicians stand out from the pack of new acts constantly trying to "make it."

Such is the case with Riley, a band from Dayton, Ohio, with a remarkable sound that infuses precise guitar licks and jazz styling into something quite unique.

"We are really trying to make music for people who like music," said Eric Bluebaum, the band’s front man. Bluebaum went on to further explain the specific demographic he is targeting with his complex tunes.

"When we were younger, we were the kind of people who would hear a couple of tracks off of a CD, and, if we liked them, we’d go out and buy the record. And we’d listen to it over and over, front to back. Those are the kind of people we are trying to make music for."

The band’s newest release, Cat of Nine Tails: Part 1, is only the first installment of what the group hopes to be a three or four-part project. The story, penned by Bluebaum, is based on the life and death of "Jonah," a fictional character dealing with all types of trials and tribulations from the time of his birth.

"It’s not exactly a happy story," said Bluebaum of the project, "and it’s not really like I meant it that way. It’s just dark–a cat of nine tails is a whip that has nine divisions instead of one, and obviously that’s not very much fun to get hit with."

The story started two or three years ago after an atypical songwriting session with the band’s original members, Bluebaum, Colin Pauley, and Chris Warman.

"I wrote the lyrics on the spot when we were writing the song, which is something that is pretty unusual for me. And after I started, it was something that I really didn’t want to leave" said Bluebaum.

Concept albums are often tagged as prog-rock. Just think of Pink Floyd, Yes or the Alan Parsons Project: all of those acts have been associated with at least one concept album.

However, the kind of project that Riley is hoping to undertake with The Cat of Nine Tails isn’t so much influenced by progressive rock as it is by traditional rock takes on "story albums."

"I mean, as a band, what we are trying to do are things that people haven’t done before. And I can’t really say that I was influenced by Pink Floyd or anything like that. I wrote this story and decided to run with it, and if there is really any kind of comparison, I would think more along the lines of like, American Idiot," Bluebaum explained, referencing Green Day’s 2004 rock opera.

"I think as a band we all like to be a bit technical, and we all like to make intricate music, but I wouldn’t say that we are necessarily progressive," he said.

That desire to create complex, elaborate songs is deep-rooted in the band members. Bluebaum, Pauley, and Warman were all highly involved in their high school music programs, where they developed their chops.

"I would say that to an extent, we are relatively professionally trained, at least in a sort of scattered way," Bluebaum explained. "We all started playing music really young. And I think that if you ask any artist, regardless of whether they are painting or writing or dancing, that once you start, it’s almost impossible to stop."

In addition to touring and promoting the new album, Riley will also perform at the Madlove Music Festival at Sawyer Point in Cincinnati, Ohio, this Saturday. For more information, visit Riley's Facebook page.