April 2023
Rob Reider is a musician, archivist, dad, and all-around awesome human living in Falmouth, Maine with his wife and son, Dallas. Shortly after graduating from Bowdoin in 2007, he joined the much loved pop-punk band, the Friday Night Boys, and toured with bands like All Time Low, Cute is What We Aim For, and AFI—to name a few. My middle school self was absolutely stoked to do this interview. In addition to an awesome music career, Rob and friends started the Sad Dads Club—an online community, creative outlet, and support network for parents navigating the grief of stillbirth.

How did you get into playing music?

When I was in the fourth grade, I saw the music video for Green Day’s “Basket Case.” I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. About a year later my dad got me a guitar. I couldn’t really make sense out of the instrument—nobody showed me chords and I couldn’t just look online—but finally I got a couple lessons from my sister’s friend’s brother, who was a touring musician. Every lesson he would ask me, “What song do you want to learn?” So I just learned how to emulate styles I liked: punk bands, ska bands, that kind of thing.

While I was still in middle school I started a band with two other friends. It was just two guitars and a drummer. Eventually I got a bass because I was, like, “I think we need this. I’m not sure why, but I’m studying band pictures and I think this bass is a pretty important job.” That first band was called Stalefish.

Great name.

It later changed to Local Disturbance, then Five Minute Delay, then The Exploited. Eventually it turned into what my high school band would be, which was a ska-punk band called Look Out Below. We had horn players and a whole brass section. I think there were, like, 10 people in the band.

How did you start performing?

I went to a Quaker school that was very supportive of artistic endeavors. They would have all the bands play in the student lounge or performing arts center. It was a really good way to just get the experience of having to understand all the logistical requirements for playing a show. And then recording—my math teacher was the bassist in a serious band that played out in DC, and he had a four-track in his basement. For a school project, people were filming an episode of the TV show Friends, or what was supposed to be a spoof of Friends. He was, like, “You guys should cover the theme song in your ska-punk style and I’ll record it.” And, like, “While we’re at it, I’ll just record whatever original songs you got.” That was our first demo tape.

What was the music scene around you, in Maryland and DC, like at that time?

It was thriving. The internet was an emerging tool and I could find other people locally—using, like, America Online—who were into the same music that I was into: The Unidentified, The Smizokes, The NoGoodniks, The Ratchet Boys. Paul Levitt recorded pretty much every ska-punk band, and later pop-punk band, in Maryland. He just had this humble studio in his basement but he was such a talented producer. Dan Hess and his partner, Michelle Chin, were also hugely influential. Dan was the singer for The Ratchet Boys and they put on tons of shows. Part of their whole thing was to make sure the younger bands got to play with the older bands, opening for shows and setting them up with bigger opportunities. All these factors just made for a really self-sufficient, tight-knit alternative music scene. Everyone knew each other. In some ways, it was the most fun period of time playing music in my life. It was so pure and uninhibited. There was no competition. I think when competition enters, even if it’s in a healthy way, it just kind of muddies the cause. This truly was a scene where nobody had a desire to do anything beyond playing in a band that was a part of a scene, writing the best songs they could, recording them, and then having those recordings forever.

After high school you moved to Maine to attend Bowdoin College, but you stayed pretty connected to the Maryland music scene.

I was just watching it all from the computer in my dorm room. I had reached out to an indie label out of Chicago called To Define Records and was doing some work for them. I don’t remember what exactly my role was, but I was, like, “I’m going to check out local bands and tell you if there’s anything going on here.” One of the bands I found for them was called The View From Here. When I came back to Maryland for winter break, they invited me to jam with them and we ended up starting a new band together called The Spotlight. I went back to Bowdoin but every time I came home on break, I was playing shows with them, practicing, recording, whatever. And then while I was at school I was just networking nonstop. At this point I was aware that some of the other local bands were starting to do their own touring, so Mike—one of the other guys in the band—and I pieced together a tour for the next winter break. Two shows in Illinois, then one in Indiana, Ohio, Delaware, New Jersey and Baltimore. We bought a van and just figured it out, and, honestly, it couldn’t have gone better. All the shows were great. We had a really good response from people. We sold shirts and gave out CDs and partied.

I imagine it was hard to focus on school while being so invested in the band. Did you ever think about leaving?

Definitely. Other bands from the area were starting to get signed to labels and I was, like, “These opportunities are out there and they’re happening for people our age.” I felt as though time was fleeting. This was towards the end of my sophomore year, and a lot of my classmates were going abroad, so I decided to take a semester off of school instead to focus on the band, with the understanding from my parents that this did not mean I was going to graduate late. So that summer we booked a coast-to-coast tour. We played nonstop—some really good shows, but a lot of really terrible shows too, where no one showed up. Tons of hilarity occurred and stories that we still, in private, relay to one another. But it was definitely an eye-opening experience to tour that long. Like, what if every show isn’t awesome like it had been the first time? Does it deflate you? Does it inspire you? Do you, like, go to the mall and hand out CDs?

When we got back from that tour, things were starting to get tense internally and it was just getting harder to coexist. Everything came to a head when we were practicing for a big show just outside Baltimore, where All Time Low was headlining. We got into a pretty big argument. We played the show but some people weren’t talking to each other. We effectively broke up right after that show. This was in December, so my and Mike’s time away from school was coming to an end. So, yeah—we hung it up and went back to school that spring.

Let’s fast-forward to when you joined the Friday Night Boys. I told you before we started, my sister and I were huge fans of your music. This was around my freshman year of high school.

Andrew Goldstein, who started the Friday Night Boys, was a friend of mine. He sent me a link to his Myspace page and was, like, “Check out these songs I’m doing.” The two songs I remember hearing were “High School” and “Better Than You.” I loved it. I was, like, “Let me play bass for you. This is awesome.”

You mentioned when we last spoke that you thought Myspace played a big role in the band’s success.

The numbers were meteoric. He’d post a new song and the number of plays would just explode. I think that people were sharing a lot of music those days and the songs that Andrew was writing were really resonating with that group of internet-rabid, slightly younger music fans who were into that pop-punk, power-pop sound.

Being in the Friday Night Boys was different from your other bands in that you weren’t having to bootstrap the entire endeavor. You had the same managers as All Time Low and went on to get signed by Fueled by Ramen.

We booked one more tour ourselves and played a showcase in New York City at the Knitting Factory for John Janick, who was the owner of Fueled by Ramen at the time. Not many people know this, but Fueled by Ramen started as a ska-punk label back in the ’90s, and it was one of the first labels that I was mail-ordering CDs from as a kid. They were being sent to me by John Janick from his University of Florida bedroom. Well, he brought us out to dinner after the show and a week later I got a text message from Andrew that said we were getting a contract sent over within the week.

You went on to record your album Off the Deep End, and tour with bands like We the Kings, All Time Low, Hey Monday, AFI, Sum 41, Cute Is What We Aim For, The Ready Set—so many bands that really epitomize an era of music in my life—before breaking up in 2010. What happened?

We had just finished a tour and were getting ready to record our follow-up album, but it just never happened. People were all over the place and eventually Andrew emailed us, like, “I’m sorry. I can’t do this anymore. I’m burnt out.”

It’s interesting to go back—I think we could have trusted ourselves a little more. I think a lot of us had really good and creative ideas that could have contributed to strengthening the band and the longevity of the band, but we all let go a bit and sort of thought, “Well, the label knows best. We’re just going to blindly follow what they say.” And it just didn’t work.

When you moved to Boston, you shifted gears and started the label Bob Records. What inspired that transition?

I’ve always loved DIY labels, starting with Asian Man Records back when I was 12 or 13. When I learned that that label was run out of Mike Park’s garage, the doors were blown open to me, like, “You can do anything yourself.” Up until that point I had been, like, “Yeah, I can book my own shows. I can make CDs for my band.” But I hadn’t thought about doing it with and for other bands. I never had any sort of vision of Bob Records being a full-time thing, it was just a good way to become initiated into a music community that was already so established.

What were some of the bands that you worked with?

The first two releases were a seven-inch and a cassette tape for a band called People in Cars. It was, like, prog rock and indie rock and metal-ly but also pop. Other local bands like Krill; Rye Pines; my own band, Rococo Bang; Gin War; Mohican..

When we first spoke you said something that stuck with me—that “the DIY ethic will never go out of style.” Why is it so important for people to put out music, even if it is in this small-scale, somewhat unpolished way?

A friend of mine who’s an author told me—and I think he got this from Stephen King—“When you finish something, it’s no longer yours. It belongs to the world.” Even if it’s a lo-fi home recording that you do on a whim—if it’s done, put it out there. There is going to be someone with whom it resonates. If you’re having fun then you’re achieving the ultimate goal.

At some point Bob Records transitioned to a mainly digital platform—tell me about that shift.

I had moved out of Boston and started digging through my collection of physical music. I was finding albums that weren’t anywhere online. I was, like, “I should digitize these.” So with the blessing of the artists I started putting them up for free download on my label’s Bandcamp page. Ten out of 10 times the artists were, like, “Yep. That’s totally cool. I can’t believe you still have that. I don’t know if anybody’s going to care.” But people do care. That’s the thing. I think a lot of artists are self-deprecating and they feel like once time has passed, or if they don’t get asked about it often enough, they think nobody cares. But that’s just not the case.

It’s amazing to me that you have this collection. I’d be surprised if I have one CD in a storage unit somewhere, and that’s kind of sad to me.

I am still buying CDs, tapes, records. I just got a tape in the mail the other day from this band, Pilau, who’s the best hardcore band in DC right now. I unfolded the J-card and there’s a picture of the band and where they recorded and who they thanked. That’s the stuff that I loved when I was 10 years old and I still love it now at 38.

Did you hold on to any of your own merch or CDs from your middle school and high school bands?


In our first conversation you mentioned that this digital archiving project was something that you undertook as you were navigating the loss of your daughter.

Absolutely. My wife and I—our first born was Lila and she was still-born on December 13, 2017. That February an old friend of mine from Maryland was visiting. He was doing his best to cheer me up and we spent a lot of time talking about the ska scene that we both came up in. There were all these bands that we could remember but the music was nowhere online. Since I had so much of it in my collection, he was, like, “You should put out a compilation.” It didn’t distract me from what was going on but it gave me a direction to move in. It was illuminating in a time that was really dark. I don’t want to suggest that I think it’s bad to spend time in sadness—because I do think that’s important—but there can be a balance. For me, that balance came in the form of putting together this ska/punk compilation. I wasn’t escaping from my present state, but I was acknowledging the totality of my being. I was slowing down a little and looking back and integrating everything that I had experienced in 33 years. It was an important lesson in grief for me. I was giving myself grace and patience, but I was also giving myself some direction.

Which is what you’ve been able to offer others with your platform, Sad Dads Club.

Two friends of mine, Jay and Chris, unfortunately both had the same tragic experience as my wife and I. We started an Instagram and website, where anybody can contribute writing. And twice monthly we do a meetup on Zoom, where we just chop it up. We laugh—we cry, too—but we laugh a bunch. Eliminating alienation is the goal of Sad Dads Club.

What piece of advice would you give to people who are grieving?

Know that you are not alone—that is the one thing I’ve learned through walking through life this long. I just have such profound compassion for everyone. I see people and I think, “You have to have something.” The gift of aging is profound and beautiful, but you cannot go through it without the tradeoff of—I’ll call it unimaginable pain. And somehow we survive and live with it the best we possibly can.

And try to see the totality of our lives.

Try every day.



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