ATL-Collective co-founder David Berkeley had a quick virtual sit down with upcoming curator Robby Handley. They talked about Robby’s musical roots, what he loves about Ram and what’s so special about Atlanta.
DB: Hey Robby. Thanks for sitting down to answer a few questions before you the big Ram event. Let’s start with you telling us a bit about your musical upbringing.
RH: I started piano at 5. I played bass clarinet in band. I played lead guitar in a Death metal band in middle school. I moved to bass in high school when the band director needed a bassist in the jazz band. I fell in love with jazz. I went to GA State University for jazz studies. I fell in love with a girl, dropped out of college. I went on the road with some pop singers for a few years.
I love what I do. I play bass professionally with amazing singers and bands. I have been slowly writing the music of Sleepy Guest for about 3 years.
DB: When and how did you first encounter the Collective?
RH: Friends of mine, Daniel Clay, Tim Brantley, and the Telegram crew started doing shows with the collective and I had to check it out. The first show I saw was Paul Simon “Graceland”. It was hot as hell up in Danneman’s top floor.
DB: Has it altered your musical landscape or the Atlanta musical scene?
RH: This will be my 20th show with the ATL Collective. I’ve had the good fortune of playing with some very amazing and unique performers that I would have never met without the collective. That is a huge blessing.
DB: How do you feel about the Atlanta scene?
RH: I love Atlanta. I’ve had opportunities to move to other cities, but the amicable Atlanta music community keeps me here. There’s no recognizable and distinguishable Atlanta “sound.” You can write and perform anything you want here, and if its good and genuine, people support you. There are strong musicians in every style of music here.
DB: I like that. Got to say I agree after having lived in a bunch of different cities. Atlanta is quite special. On to the upcoming event, do you remember when you first heard Ram?
RH: Yes. My Dad had the record. He had an amazing record collection. RAM was one of the records I listened to most.
Can you describe what drew you to the album?
RH: I think it was the album art is what drew me in. I was 12 when I really discovered my dad’s collection.
DB: Maybe asking too much, but do you have any sense of how the record has
changed for you from when you were 12 and now?
RH: I think the overall feeling when listening to this record has remained the same as when I was a kid. It was very experimental and quirky. That’s what I liked then and now. The only difference is now I know all the words and every instrumental part which has expanded my musical vocabulary.
Every record I’ve had to learn and perform with the ATL Collective has expanded my musical vocabulary. Thats a valuable resource for me. As Johnny 5 says, “need input”.
DB: Any thoughts on how Paul’s writing changed post-Beatles?
RH: So RAM was like another Beatles record to me. It wasn’t until my 20s when I discovered “McCartney”, his first solo record, and Wings. I got really into Wings. I wasn’t so into “McCartney”, but I do feel like it was the most necessary record he could have done upon leaving the Beatles. It was a simple approach to recording that allowed him a fresh start on the next several records. I think he continued to be very revolutionary stylistically with RAM and Wings. I’m not too familiar with the Paul of the 80s although I’m about to listen to “McCartney II” after we’re done here.
DB: Do you have a favorite track on Ram?
RH: Heart of the Country. I like to garden. I want barnyard animals. But I’d love to bring that country living to the city. Atlanta is the perfect place for it.
DB: How and why did you choose the musicians you chose to join you for this bill?
RH: I wanted to bring some new faces to the ATL Collective. This will be Lera’s and Cicada RHythm’s first collective show. The musicians in Sleepy Guest are some of my best friends and they all have participated in many collective shows.
DB: Have you had to prepare differently for curating than you ordinarily
prepare for Collective events where you’re just playing?
RH: I’ve wanted to curate an ATL Collective show for a while now, so I’m very excited about this one. I’ve always been a side man singing back up occasionally. For this show, I’m stage front and center singing and playing and directing. To say I’m not super nervous would be unfounded, but It’s a stride I must make.
DB: Are you a big Beatles fan?
DB: Are you a Paul guy?
RH: I think we know the answer to that. 🙂