Following the tragedy, he picked up a guitar, learned some chords from his mother and made his first forays into songwriting. His participation in the family band was mostly as a drummer, but he was later forced against his wishes to lend vocals as well. Removed from the rigid house of worship that colored his early years, Rateliff can now see the similarities between that world and the one he currently inhabits—he likens the impressive communal spirit and collective passion of a massive gathering at a packed megachurch to a frenzied audience at a concert—yet he also freely discusses the moment when he knew it was time for him to separate himself from that community.
Then we also worked with Native Americans, and that was my turning point.
I love the history and culture and ideas of Native Americans—at least the ones I know about—but I just felt embarrassed to be there, on their land, essentially trying to convert them. That was what made me look at things differently and remove myself from religion. I grew into that self-discovery later on, years from then, in finding Alan Watts and Joseph Campbell and that sort of stuff.
It turned out to be quite a switch from small-town Missouri, but Denver allowed them to jump into the young-musician hustle with both feet. Eventually, serious doubts about their long-term career prospects in the music business began to creep in.
How do you raise kids and put them through college or get a house and have some sense of security that your spouse wants to have?
Maybe I should go to college or something. It was a crucial turning point for us, and we got lucky that what came out of that desperation was something that has changed our lives.
The songs were already in him; they just needed to be let out. We were both pretty lighthearted and liked hanging out with each other, so it made it easy to work together.
Pope remembers the moment he realized they had something special going: Sadly, Swift passed away in early July, succumbing to complications from hepatitis as well as liver and kidney issues that partly arose from his longtime battle with alcoholism.
My ears only listen for your voice and the sound of your laughter filling the room. My mouth opens only to release a song that is your name. My heart is forever broken. Richard, I will miss you for a lifetime. Good night my friend, may you find rest. After writing and recording most of the first album by himself with Swift and drummer Patrick Meese, Rateliff arranged for The Night Sweats—which gradually coalesced over many months of touring into their current lineup of Rateliff, Meese, bassist Pope, guitarist Luke Mossman, keyboardist Mark Shusterman, saxophonists Jeff Dazey and Andreas Wild, and trumpeter Scott Frock—to gather in an adobe house in New Mexico for an extended writing and demo-recording session.
So I went away to Arizona by myself to be sober and try to get some headspace, try to write. It was all of us in the room—no headphones—just listening to each other. I remember hitting the last note and feeling like I was hyperventilating, looking around the room and feeling this overwhelming emotion that came out of people trusting each other in the studio and leaning on each other.
We felt like the song was greater than its parts, and it became a much bigger and more powerful thing than we thought it would ever be when we started. We still have an underdog mentality, and part of that is the way we grew up. For more features, interviews, album reviews and more, subscribe here.
Following the tragedy, he picked up a guitar, learned some chords from his mother and made his first forays into songwriting. His participation in the family band was mostly as a drummer, but he was later forced against his wishes to lend vocals as well.
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