Raffle House – Collected Discography: 1983-2017 (review)

July 17, 2017 by nate

Raffle House is a weird Milwaukee band that has been playing out for a bit less than a year. Members Peter (bass) and Max Woods (drums), brothers who’ve played together in the past in Tunnel Shepard, are joined by Joe Donahue (guitar). All members have been a part of Milwaukee’s DIY scene for a long time. Peter is the mind behind FTAM Productions, a noise/experimental label, as well as a popular experimental musician. Max has been in multiple bands, and Joe has played in Living & Wrestling and Statures.

In March of 2017, they recorded Collected Discography: 1983-2017 with Dante Fumo at his studio. It’s being released on July 21st but I was able to snag a tape prior to the release to write this article.

[Collected Discography: 1983-2017 was recorded with] Dante Fumo at his new studio. Wonderful experience that really produced a great sound.

Max Woods

The first song, The Fast, starts out with a lot of loud strumming and crashing and noise. It’s a harsh start but it cools down real quickly into a slow, groovy jam. The first thing I can liken this to is Off Minor. Throughout the whole album the guitar is either really distant or really present – the bass is always grooving though. This track also has a break that I find really nice, it’s just a guitar playing over a riff that is slowly joined by drums, vocals, and finally bass. It moves pretty quickly.

I really like the minimal recording. It doesn’t sound layered at all. It’s very dry.

The end of the song is also very groovy, jammy, whatever. It’s super mathy too.

To Elsie is a really groovy track, starting out with a confusing bass riff and guitar-talk-back. The drums come in and everything intertwines. It’s very “on edge”. This song kind of circles around that original motif but eventually kind of chills out and becomes very easy to listen to.

All these songs are around 4 minutes long (save for the 5th track clocking in at 6:51), and it’s kind of weird because though that may sound like a lot, 4 minutes is like the perfect length for these songs.

The difference in structural design is stark between the first two songs. I asked the band about their motivation behind this:

No real ‘motivation,’ per se. For me, at least at some level, form follows function. To begin with a structure and then insert content into seems a little like putting the cart before the horse. Most of the writing process, from my perspective, started with a riff coming from Peter or Joe and building out from that initial musical idea. For me, the songs are built more around a core, rather than in a linear fashion from a start to an end. The structure is a consequence of this process, rather than the other way around.

Max Woods

No real intention behind it, minus us trying to keep things interesting. I don’t think any of us wanted to be a band where the audience knows what to expect. A general sense of the sound we have, sure, but the ability to play with multiple types of structures and compositional approaches is really important.

Peter Woods

The structure definitely seems to flow organically. We write a riff, then another riff that would sound good after that, and then a few more. Eventually they get tied together and we smooth out the transitions somehow. Since the band is so bass driven, the ideas for the songs usually begin with Peter. As a guitar player, I really enjoy writing riffs and leads that compliment someone else’s ideas. I think I’ve been able to do that really well with the stuff that Peter and Max come up with together.

Joe Donahue

To Elsie ends in a great, building resolve with some really angry-sounding vocals.

But Warm starts off with a seemingly distant chat between three instruments. They’re very intertwined. The song kind of builds like a good conversation. It’s got a few resolves that are nice but also still a bit “edgy”.

I think parts of this album may have been recorded (or written) intentionally slightly out of key/tune.

The first use of “production” comes about halfway through But Warm, with a slight chorus effect on the guitar. It’s kind of light, though. This song ends on a pretty pounding resolve. I’d kind of compare the sound of this record at this point to a mix between Off Minor, Fugazi, and Piglet. When asked about influences, the band says:

For me: late 1990s/early 2000s Milwaukee post-hardcore (Hero of 100 Fights; Murder in the Red Barn; Managra; etc.) and Chicago math rock (Volta do Mar; Piglet; etc.) as well as 90s post-hardcore (e.g., Unwound). Personally, I’m also working with broader ideas coming from early-twentieth-century art and literature: Vicente Huidobro (Chilean poet) and Gertrude Stein

Max Woods

For me, the slew of rock music I listen to comes out loud and clear. June of 44 and US Maple have heavy influences at times, locals like Murder in the Red Barn and Hero of a Hundred Fights. The record also has a heavy dose of early emo music as well, which I’ve always had a giant soft spot for.

Peter Woods

At the beginning, I’d say my influences were Shellac, Unwound, Slint, and Faraquet. Although we slowly started writing more pretty and melodic songs. I’m not sure where the influence for those songs came from, but it might have something to do with the fact that Mineral is secretly my favorite band.

Joe Donahue

The Actress begins in an almost startling way and continues to be uncomfortable – the three parts seem to be “out of sync” then the vocals come in randomly and it’s all just a little weird. Nothing seems to be together, but it also sounds kind of “right”, because sometimes the parts sync up in a way that just makes it seem like they are all just modular beings.

Punchy starts off kind of quietly with a solo, chord filled guitar riff. The bass slowly intertwines around the guitars. A few seconds of silence brings about a slow bass riff (that really reminds me of the opening to “Echoes” by Pink Floyd) and a building guitar with some light cymbals. A lifting guitar riff cuts through and repeats. I think this section really exemplifies the dynamic of this band, especially when contrasted with the start of the album. As things build the drums start to come in more. Things come to a climax before the drums are fully in and it folds to a more structured part. The main bass riff seems to be the motif as the guitar and drums kind of syncopate with each other. A sudden wall of sound comes in with lots of polyrhythms. The resolve isn’t really a resolve, but more of an extension of this build. The song kind of ends on a hanger.

Split The Throne welcomes the listener in a slinky, mathy, intertwined three part set. The vocals are kind of lazily sung, more like distant moaning, I guess. They’re complimented by weird guitar things and an even weirder bass part. The break comes in and is accentuated by strong guitars. Another change happens that sounds like a stripped down metal breakdown. It kind of weirdly breaks up and the drums and guitars don’t seem to want to match. Things kind of come back to a drum beat that’s really in the pocket and a tappy bass line. It ends kind of surprisingly.

The Furious starts out with a very “emo” riff and turns into something much more post-rocky. But then it gets pretty. This song is a little confusing but it’s really well done. The vocals are choral and are resolved with a really interesting pattern. The verse/change resolves are kind of strange and seem like they were almost copy/pasted together, but it also seems very intentional. The song moves into a jammy section with a walking bass and groove before slowly crashing down.

Unfortunately after just this release, Raffle House is already calling it quits. The members are all extremely busy people and Max is moving out of country. However, you can expect a reunion.

Our reunion show, in ten years, has already been booked for the 2027 Lollapalooza. Look for us there

Max Woods

Reunions are dumb, so I’m gonna say no. But then again I said that about Galactic Cannibal too, so who knows. Reunions are still dumb though.

Peter Woods

I’m, like, up for whatever.

Joe Donahue

I’m gonna come right out and give this album a 5 out of 5. Serious banger, huge contender for my (and maybe Bottomed Out’s) “album of the year award”, which just is a Yoplait lid with “album of the year” written on it in permanent marker.

I wanna give a big shoutout to Raffle House for answering my questions and selling their tape a little early to their friends. Collected Discography: 1983-2017 will be released (digitally and physically) on the 23rd. It can be copped on Bandcamp. Raffle House is going to be on tour from July 23rd to August 3rd, follow that link to see where they’ll be.

Raffle House Cover
About The Author: nate

Nate is a host and writer for Bottomed Out. He develops and maintains the website and social media pages. He’s been in a few bands in the scene and has hosted a myriad of shows. Outside of the punk rock world, Nate is a freelance web-developer, owner of a start-up, and a bike courier.