Say goodbye to indie jazz band Really From
From a fan’s perspective, Really From’s announcement on Instagram that they were taking an indefinite hiatus came at a surprising time. After nearly a decade serving up their unique and elusive blend of indie rock, jazz, emo and hip-hop, and with three albums under their belt, they had captured a devoted fandom in Boston and beyond.
In December 2021, the group revealed that they had garnered over 1.5 million streams on Spotify. The national media were attentive. A few months earlier, SPIN Magazine had named them in a list of the 50 best contemporary rock bands. Popular indie blog Stereogum resumed its hiatus announcement on its social media and, to the surprise of the band members, followed their individual accounts.
And while it’s no wonder Really From’s deeply authentic and thoughtful music rings true with so many ears and souls, the band members were unconcerned about their own popularity. In fact, with the majority of the members approaching their thirties and the overwhelming experience of performing music during a pandemic, they were primarily concerned with what would be sustainable for them.
“We have achieved all our objectives for the group. It feels like a natural end point.
That’s why, while many – including band members – were saddened by the news, there was a lot of support and hope for the future. Everyone in the group agrees that it was the right choice. “I believe there is a musical lifespan,” says bassist and producer Sai Boddupalli. “We have achieved all our objectives for the group. It feels like a natural end point. Horn player Matt Hull agrees. “It feels good.”
As the band prepare for their final Boston-area gig at Somerville’s Crystal Ballroom on Nov. 4 (they’re also playing ALPHAVILLE in Brooklyn, New York on Nov. 6), they share their thoughts, feelings, and memories in interviews. with WBUR.
Guitarist and vocalist Chris Lee-Rodriguez and drummer Sander Bryce have been in a similar emotional place before with their previous band, I Kill Giants. Having achieved an equivalent level of popularity with this more emo-focused act, Lee-Rodriguez and Bryce decided to disband and start over.
Bryce expresses some frustration at the prospect, rightly feeling disappointed to have led two acts that were on the verge of breaking into the national scene before disbanding. “You know there’s potential for this thing that you’ve worked a lot in,” he explains. “But at the end of the day, I’m not the only person involved and I have to respect their choices and their needs.”
He lives off the money earned from private lessons and carpooling in his spare time. “You can’t really make money from your tours,” he explains. So, Bryce has adapted and remains optimistic about the future. “I’m in this industry for the long haul,” he says. He speaks surrounded by mostly packed moving boxes. He plans to move to Los Angeles to join his cousin, Jonah Levine, to pursue HAUNTER, a collaborative project within the larger community of artists they have come to love.
He’s not the only one leaving Really From’s playground in Boston. Trumpet, bugler, and FM radio player (yes, their ensembles feature a performance on a small, battery-powered FM radio), Hull has actually lived in Brooklyn for the past two years, where work for aspiring professional horn players is more ubiquitous. Growing up in the Greater Boston area, Hull feels the change of scenery was necessary for both personal and professional reasons.
“It’s good for the soul to have a fresh start,” he says. “Or at least that’s what I hear.” In New York, Hull plays weddings and concerts whenever possible. He gives private lessons and works on his solo music: calm, textural ambient, compositions that strongly echo his work with Really From. “The band has been a big part of my life,” he says. “In a way, it feels like a breakup, but I know they will remain my friends.”
Lee-Rodriguez, Boddupalli and keyboardist and vocalist Michi Tassey, meanwhile, have all planted deep roots in Boston. The bustling, harbor streets of East Boston have become Lee-Rodriguez’s chosen community where he hopes to live what he calls a simpler life. There he teaches children in middle school and after school around the corner at the nonprofit ZUMIX.
“Working with these teenagers and having a breakthrough with one fills me with more gratitude and means more to me than any applause for my music.”
Chris Lee Rodriguez
He describes the work as humiliating. “You can tell them all about the cool stuff you’ve done, but they’ll say, ‘we care’ and laugh at how big your head is,” he laughs. But he is very proud of his work. “Working with these teenagers and having a breakthrough with one fills me with more gratitude and means more to me than any applause for my music.”
“I had been hustling for so long, constantly, monitoring engagement, booking shows, comparing myself to my peers,” he says of his professional music career. “I just want to relax with my fiancé and my cat.”
Boddupalli and Tassey have built their own lives together. Falling in love while recording Really From’s deeply personal self-titled record in 2021, the two recently tied the knot. Living in Back Bay with their dog, Tassey works as a director of resident services and a music therapist at an assisted living facility, and Boddupalli is developing a nonprofit, Builders of Color Coalition, which seeks to increase access and diversity. in Boston’s commercial real estate industry. Like the others, Boddupalli has his own solo project, the meditative electronic act Mercet, which he plans to continue using as a creative outlet.
It’s obvious that the band members’ paths have diverged, and it could be a product of burnout. Lee-Rodriguez and Bryce have been playing in bands since high school. Many members describe the beginning of a reawakening of their true love for music, which had faded with the pressures of recording and semi-professional practice.
“I’m rediscovering a lot of the ways I used to produce music,” says Boddupalli, who never really considered himself a bass player and is in love with synths and movie soundtracks. He doesn’t expect his collaborations with Really From members to end anytime soon. “It was rooted in friendship outside of the band. If I ever want a drum part, I go to Sander, or if I want a classical guitar part, it’s always going to be Chris for me.
Tassey says she “craved silence” during the days the band was recording their self-titled album. Working in music therapy, coping with the increased stress of being considered an essential healthcare worker during the pandemic, and feeling undervalued in a profession whose value is not understood, Tassey felt emotionally drained, mentally and physically.
“Having to project my voice through a mask while singing for people who are hard of hearing destroyed my voice,” she says. Fortunately, the pressures have been eased and Tassey says focusing on his career seems like the right choice. “It’s about a sustainable professional future that I can excel in and be proud of,” she says. “It’s sad that I can’t do everything, but I just can’t.”
“Before, it was easy. Five years ago we didn’t have as much responsibility and we could just say, ‘let’s go on tour’, on a whim. It’s not like that anymore. »
Or, it could just be the natural result of people growing up – getting married, moving to a new town, or finding a new career – made public by the fact of a devoted fan base. “Being a five-piece band inherently means you have personal lives to contend with and all the sacrifices that come with being in a band,” Boddupalli says.
“Before, it was easy,” says Bryce. “Five years ago, we didn’t have as much responsibility, and we could just say, ‘let’s go on tour,’ on a whim. It’s not like that anymore. »
“Life gets real,” Tassey acknowledges. “We all have bills to pay and people who rely on us.”
Band members would agree that it’s a combination of those things with a healthy dose of existential crisis brought on by the pandemic. Whatever their reasons, they share a bittersweet hope for the future seasoned by nearly a decade of touring and recording memories, spending nights on strangers’ floors, including a bizarre one in the loft of hoarder in Ohio, dragging himself to Waffle House the next day. , sharing a stage with Kamasi Washington, smoking cigars on a rooftop during a release show for their “Verse” album, and long days debating the direction of their self-titled album.
“I’m really going to miss playing shows with these people I’m so close to,” Tassey says. “It’s so high, but at the same time I’m thrilled to just enjoy a friendship with my friends and not have group pressures in the way.”
“Anyway, Really From is proof that you can bring together a group of totally different people, and if you work hard enough, create something totally unique,” says Bryce. “Hopefully we’ve laid out the plan somehow.”
And fans can rest assured that while this may be the last time in a while they’ll hear Lee-Rodriguez sing the chorus of “I’m From Here” or watch Hull tease the mournful notes of “Apartment Song”, the musical spirit of Really From lives in the art and work of each of the band members.