Shadows in the Room
Rob Lafond, a 26-year-old up-and-coming indie artist and established producer - who once described his hard-to-classify sound as "BECK-meets-PINK FLOYD" to a rock journalist - is carving out his own sound. This East Coast-reared songwriter recenty released his self-titled debut, Shadows in the Room, and is currently busy playing a gigs at various clubs across L.A., including the hip spot Backstage Café in Beverly Hills. Rob is charting out a career for himself in the mold of likeminded luminaries such as the idiosyncratic, multi-instrumentalist BECK and composer/arranger/record producer JON BRION. And recognizing that - like Rob sings on his album single "Open Road," 'It's America, boy/Nothing is free,' this independent-minded musician has paid his dues and moving forward on his own steam. Sporting a difficult-to-nail-down sound, Rob cites indie rock (TV ON THE RADIO, the STROKES, NIRVANA), folk (NORMAN BLAKE, BOB DYLAN) old and new school hip-hop (BEASTIE BOYS, MOS DEF) and be-bop jazz (THELONIOUS MONK, JOHN COLTRAIN, HERBIE HANCOCK) as inspiration. Such influences can be found among the tracks on Shadows in the Room, which combines acoustic-based arrangements with electronic ambience and samples. As a musician, Rob loves to experiment with quirky instruments, vintage recording gear and cutting-edge technology. Everything from a Wurlitzer (a vintage piano) to a fretless bass, from guitar loop machines to a Mexican mandolin called a quatro, can be found in Rob's nimble hands. He's also equally at home employing CD turntables, bongos, synthesizers as well as creating his own samples with "found sounds," such as street noise and cell phone voicemails. His passion for creating his own sounds and crafting his own music started early on. Growing up, Rob contended with a childhood spent in the gritty, industrial city of Worcester, Massachusetts - which later became site of his first recording studio. Amidst a background of gang violence and stabbings, his musical talents began to flourish. As a teen, Rob began skipping school to jam with other groups, all the while absorbing the hip-hop and rap music from his surroundings - whose rhythms and vocal styles he would later incorporate into his recordings. For his 14th birthday, Rob received an electric guitar as a gift from his father. A self-taught musician, he began learning songs by MILES DAVIS, JIMI HENDRIX, JOHN COLTRANE, THELONIUS MONK, CHARLIE PARKER, DAVID GILMOUR, LED ZEPPELIN and the BEATLES by ear. The first album Rob taught himself to play track-for-track was Hendrix's The Ultimate Experience. By 15, Rob was sitting in on sets with seasoned blues players at local Worcester clubs such as Gilrien's. Eventually, Rob began to distinguish himself as a producer for a number of rock, hip-hop and R&B artists as well as a musician with a variety of jazz, blues and indie rock bands. The ambitious musician moved to Boston and began touring New England with a rock fusion band called GROOVE STREET JUNCTION, which went on to record two albums. Rob then decided to hit the books, attending a private college in Vermont, where he studied songwriting and composition. He set up a full 16-track recording studio in his dorm room and essentially set up a side business recording rock bands and solo artists. What had once been a dorm room had become a tiny, cramped hodgepodge of drum kits, cables, recording equipment, instruments and a diverse array of musicians. Soon, there was a waiting list to enlist Rob's recording talents. His early college years became a blur of recording sessions, live sets and late-night jam sessions in the college's music building. In 2001, Rob dropped out of college and opened up a five-room recording studio in Worcester, and produced everything from gangsta rap, indie rock and soundtracks for independent films. After a year and a half, the successful producer decided to return to school, still producing on a part-time status. After enrolling at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Rob co-founded an experimental indie rock band called MODERN LOSS, released an EP and played a dizzying string of dates at major clubs across western Massachusetts five-college area. Modern Loss tourmates included the Boston alt-rockers from ABERDEEN CITY and the Norwegian indie shoegazers in SERENA MANEESH. Rob decided to leave the up-and-coming Modern Loss and headed to Los Angeles to take the next step in his musical growth. He secured an internship with the Hollywood-based indie punk label - and BAD RELIGION-founding - Epitaph Records. Currently, Rob works for Mean Street Magazine, a 17-year-old monthly music magazine. As a producer, Rob is at home with anything from old school blues to new wave indie styles. He works with hip-hop producer Mean Johnny Barrows and indie-rock producer Ben Lester, who produced Shadows in the Room. Rob's arsenal includes 2- and 4-track recordings as well as a 24-channel digital recording studio. On Rob's layered album Shadows, he played virtually every instrument. Rob recently held a successful CD release party at Backstage Cafe, with a supporting set from Houston underground rapper LOW EYES, an event covered by Mean Street. With such a burgeoning track record, Rob's newest venture will break new ground because - citing his lyrics, "There's an open road ahead."