Roger Rafael Romero, a saxophonist who recently started recording music under the name Feralcat, doesn’t want the baggage that often comes with his instrument.
“There’s a certain expectation that I’ve been trying to subvert for years on the saxophone,” says Romero. “You go up on stage, you thrust your hips, and you play whatever pop-gunk they want to hear. I’m not looking to work this angle as a jazz musician.”
On Sat., June 1, during a double-release party with Starship Mantis, Romero will release his first project, a self-titled EP, which he dubs as progressive and art rock.
“It’s the biggest release I’ve ever felt in my life,” says Romero. “Better than any drug. People keep asking me [if I'm nervous.] And I’m like, ‘No, not really.’ This is more like a coming out. I’ve been holding this part of me in for so long.”
Two years ago, Romero’s first serious musical endeavor, Eastend Mile, called it quits. Planning that the band would “become a thing,” Romero was without work when the band ended so began working as a freelance musician at weddings and the like.
Then, Romero met the lead singer of Sorority Noise, who invited the saxophonist to play onstage with the emo/punk rock band during a sold-out show at Spirit.
“That kind of triggered something in me,” says Romero. “I was, like, I want to play music like this on stage. I just want to thrash around. But I’m not a singer. So I have to write music where I could be the front man, even though I’m a saxophone player.”
Starting in March 2018 and finishing in October, Romero composed the six tracks on Feralcat. With Brandon Lehman and Drew Bayura playing guitar, Caleb Lombardi on the keys/synth, Chris “Trip” Trepagnier on bass, and Allen Bell on drums, Romero created a riveting and piercing rock EP, starring a saxophonist. “Squirtle Squad,” for example, begins with raw guitar licks, before the saxophone sneaks in, replacing the lines that might typically go to a vocalist.
“I think about that kid in high school jazz band,” says Romero, “that’s just like me, that had all these friends playing cool rock shows, and I just couldn’t do it, or if I did it was joining a ska band or something. The avenue for it didn’t exist then. And I’m trying to create that avenue.”
Saturday’s release show at Mr. Smalls will be the first time Romero plays the music with a full band live. He tested a few tracks from Feralcat at the first iteration of City Paper Live in Market Square on Wed., May 15, with only backing tracks and his lead guitarist.
“This music hits hard,” says Romero. “It’s high impact, high-energy music. If anyone’s expecting to just sit down, chill, and listen to some saxophone music, you have another thing coming. You’re either going to head bang or hate it and leave. Either way, there's no apathy with this music.”