Working the crowd through an energetic live performance on his iconic saxophone, Roger Rafael Romero, who performs under the name Feralcat, is not your everyday jazz musician.
Born in New York, Romero grew up in Scotch Plains, New Jersey before moving to Pittsburgh for college.
He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a degree in materials science engineering.
“During college, I would call my parents to vent and tell them how badly I just wanted to play music,” Romero explains. “After graduation, I actually worked at PPG as a chemist for about a year. But then I was laid off and that set in motion a series of events that led to me pursuing a freelance career in music.”
Who Else Has Feralcat Played With
In March 2018, Romero linked up with Cameron Boucher – lead singer of an emo rock band called Sorority Noise. During a sold-out show at Spirit, Boucher invited Romero on stage to play (with his band).
“Without even knowing it, (Cameron) was such a big, positive influence on me. He let me do something so different – I realized I could play with heavy guitars behind me and blend our genres. I would love to work with him again in the future.”
Romero was so inspired by that collaborative performance, he began writing a piece that would eventually become ‘Castle Song,’ one of the tracks on his debut solo album.
Feralcat: The (self-titled) debut album
“I literally could not do this alone,” Romero says. “It’s so important for me to give credit where it’s due. My bandmates have been instrumental in helping to get Feralcat (the album) complete.”
The six composed, final tracks on the Feralcat EP were produced with Romero on lead (saxophone) and backed by:
- Brandon Lehman, guitar
- Drew Bayura, guitar
- Caleb Lombardi, keys / synth
- Chris “Trip” Trepagnier, bass
- Allen Bell, drums
Feralcat reflects on Pittsburgh’s creative community
Romero, 26, has a very Pittsburgh take on being a creative in the Steel City. His experience is one of collaboration and playing alongside artists he admires.
“We are not competing with one another for work,” Romero explains. “We’re not competing to be the better artist or to be the one that gets this tour or lands that spot. We are working with each other.
“I hear about it from friends who are like, ‘NY is too competitive!’ Or ‘In LA, people are too fake; they’re just looking out for themselves!’”
“In Pittsburgh, people aren’t like that. We look out for each other. We grow together and we make better music, together.”
Beyond music, what else does Feralcat do?
When he’s not playing music, Romero carves out time to play video games.
“I absolutely love Role Playing Games (RPGs). Kingdom Hearts, Persona, Final Fantasy – the Japanese game soundtracks have been so important to my development as a musician. It’s music that seeps its way into so many of the things I do.”
Feralcat shares a word of advice
For folks looking to get into freelance performing or pursuing a full-time career in music, Romero says to brace yourself.
“Put simply, get ready to get your ass kicked,” Romero says. “Be conscious and aware that you can let yourself fail. Get beat down a couple times and if it’s not for you, you’ll know.”
“It was helpful for me to sit in on jam sessions and play with folks – then go back and work some things out so I could get better for future collaborations.”
Listen to Feralcat
[hearst-location place_id=”ChIJDZ5sNKjzNIgR5QIcsD-M-e4″]Mr. Smalls Theatre[/hearst-location]