The Apocalypse Blues Revue is a hybrid. From their inception, the quartet organically became an amalgamation of wide musical styles that morphed in to one band that is both classic and modern. Co-founded by Godsmack drummer Shannon Larkin and guitarist Tony Rombola, and featuring vocalist Ray “Rafer John” Cerbone and bassist Brian Carpenter, the quartet honors Blues traditions while etching their collective stamp on the genre.
Drummer Larkin offers, “When I think of the public perception of The ABR, I’d like to think that perhaps because Tony and I are members of a successful rock band (and therefore may have musical influence on our fans), we can turn some younger people on to the Blues. Our approach is driven by pure feeling, and how to portray said feelings through the voice and the instruments in balanced harmony with one another. There is no formula here like there is in rock (and in pop and country, for that matter). It isn’t the tempo that makes you feel the Blues, nor is it technical prowess, it is something within the artist. It must come from the heart, and you had to have lived it to write it, and especially to emote it. I hope that people can perceive that we feel every note, and this isn’t just a ‘side project’ to us.” Guitarist Rombola adds, “It’s back to basics. I wanted to be able to go to a gig with no production—just an amp, a pedal board, and a guitar—and play.”
Singer Cerbone steps forward in to the global spotlight from the shadows of popular culture. Prior to the band’s formation, he was performing in the Southeastern U.S primarily as an acoustic singer/songwriter. He was always drawn to the Blues in his writing, and when performing the compositions of others, consistently followed his own path in offering a personal interpretation which in delivery became uniquely his own. He offers, “I was always drawn to music that had heart and honesty in it. The Blues is that. It’s not just words put to music…it’s a vehicle for what’s in my soul. From a soft refrain to a guttural growl I can relate what I’m feeling deep inside me.”
Drummer Larkin eloquently articulates this pure emotive approach reflecting, “This comes from within us, and we know we have to let it out on stage. We know where our roots come from, and we aren’t trying to mix genres or on the other hand, be traditional. We are what we are, and we love this band. Furthermore, this is not a one-off. We will be doing this for the rest of our lives, even if it’s playing the clubs locally with no record deal or touring (which incidentally was the original idea). This band happened organically over the last couple years with no plan except to play the Blues and write songs that folks can relate to in ways that we related to when we were growing up and discovering different genres of music. To me, the Blues is an underground music that has the potential to touch people of all ages, races, sexes, or creeds. We have found something that transcended our limitations, and made our fears irrelevant when it comes to public perception. When I heard Tony play ‘Junkie Hell’, or heard Rafer sing ‘Blues are Falling From the Sky’, and felt the magic in the practice room when Brian first jammed with us…I knew this was something special. People need to understand how important chemistry is between band members. It is not something that can be bought, or stolen. It is elemental, and only comes along once in a great while. It has to do with numbers and signs, letters and higher powers. It has to do with belief and will. There can be no doubt, and only conviction and dedication to something that is far more to us than a simple melody or lyric, career or lifestyle. Our first record is just now coming out, and the next set is already written. It is constant dreams in motion, and becoming reality. Becoming something greater than the four of us. Call it what you will, but we call it The Apocalypse Blues Revue, and we mean business.”
For Cerbone, his ability to approach singing with powerful, natural intonation evolved from a very young age. He reflects, “When I was growing up my father used to listen to Hank Williams Sr. His voice had a pain in it that couldn’t be denied. It stayed with me forever. Then, years later I stumbled onto a Blues station on the radio, Robert Johnson was laying it down. There was that pain..right from the soul. I kept my radio tuned there and one day a female acoustic Blues singer came on. It was Rory Block, a modern purveyor of traditional Blues. I couldn’t get enough! I saw her live several times and attended one of her workshops. There was that feeling…that depth…not just words but emotion poured out over steel on wood. Then there is the ‘other’ side. The ‘one note’ Blues of BB King..Eric Clapton. Bands like Led Zeppelin that turned the blues upside down. I felt it all. The pain in the voices, the bend of the strings. So much more than just music. I listened and learned what I could. The way they made me believe, the feelings.. the way they bent their voices to coax those emotions out. I wanted that. I wanted to make people know it was real. Ya can’t fake it.”