Brick by Brick: The Story Behind Builder of the House

Rob Cimitile (left) and Elliot He'eschen (right) of Builder of the House, Portland's genre bending folk-pop duo. Photo By Dylan Verner Rob Cimitile (left) and Elliot He'eschen (right) of Builder of the House, Portland's genre bending folk-pop duo.

If you haven’t been to a Builder of the House in the past few years, you’re missing out on one of the most interesting and honest acts around.

After failed attempts with previous music, according to himself, singer/songwriter Rob Cimitile took another shot in 2011 at making music. The stars seemed to align that time around. 

After releasing a first EP, Cimitile carved out his project's proper place and form. By the time a second EP was released, Hourglass, musician Eliot He’eschen who’d been involved in the recordings found a solid, full-time spot in Builder, making it a duo presentation. 

Now with their first full-length release, Ornaments available online (in-stores soon), the pair seem to have hit their stride. Builder’s sound moves from the pretty and gentle hush touch of Nick Drake to the barefoot, organic, playful world beat movement Dispatch. Bare feet on the ground, head in the sky, and always heartfelt.  

As their latest album is upon us, Cimitile and He’eschen are ready to take Builder of the House to the next level. They deserve to be on the next level, even if they've already achieved inner peace. I spoke with Rob Cimitile of Builder of the House about his music, what the band’s intentions are and how he found happiness by giving his music another chance. 

I spoke with Rob Cimitile of Builder of the House about his music, what the band’s intentions are, and how he found happiness by giving his music another chance. 

Your music feels very personal. The themes and intensity make it feel like it comes from a place deep inside. 

The first EP, I Am a Tidal Wave, was hyper-personal. On the second EP, Hourglass, I ventured away from this and told some stories about others. One of these stories was tied to my ancestry so there was still a personal connection there.

On Ornaments, I’m writing outside of myself. One device I use is basing a song on a saying or story I find interesting or meaningful but from my perspective. For example, “Pray for Me” was based on a Robert Frost quote, “The best way out is always through.” Applying it to our current political and cultural crisis. “When No One Is Here” was based on the saying, “You are who you are when no one is looking."

Who has influenced you most in music?

Builder of the House would definitely not exist if it wasn’t for Conor Oberst and his band, Bright Eyes. They were a major influence on the writing style of our first EP and were the reason I got back into writing music. Our sound has evolved from those roots, but the influence is still there.

Your balance is remarkable. Great songwriting, great records, great artwork and some of the best music videos I’ve seen come from this music scene. I don’t feel you’d be the same band as a digital release only type of band. You’re not that breed. 

We could, but we don’t see that happening. For us, each piece of what we do — recordings, artwork, live performance, videos — are all part of the overall experience. If one piece were taken away, or not given enough attention, the whole just wouldn’t be the same.

Why do you make music? What do you hope to get out of the experience?

I got back into writing and performing music because I wanted to make some kind of a difference. I’d like to think some of the music has made a difference for people. I’m better at music than I am at anything else I know of. I just have to make music. I'm a happier, healthier person when I do.

The name of the band is interesting. Any story to it?

In 2010, I was going through a rough patch. Things started looking up after I discovered meditation. I attended a Vipassana meditation retreat, which supposedly is the form of meditation Buddha practiced, though I’m sure that’s debatable.

During the retreat, we watched video recordings of S.N. Goenka, a teacher of the practice. In one of the videos, he recited a story relating to Buddha. Picture the Buddha, sitting under a lotus tree, meditating for a very long time. Refusing to eat, or sleep, or move from that spot until he attained enlightenment. Then, the moment came. 

First, every memory he had in this life and in previous lives flooded his consciousness. One memory was of himself as a young man from a previous life. This man was trying to cure human suffering, just as Buddha was. The man approached a sage from his village and asked him how he can end human suffering. The sage said, “You must first know the builder of the house.” The young man did not understand what the sage meant at that time. Buddha then opened his eyes and said, “Ahh, Builder of the House I have seen you. You can no longer build a house for me because I have taken away your mortar. I have smashed all your bricks.” That story hit me hard. The phrase Builder of the House stuck with me as a reminder to always try and be better, try and do the right thing. 

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Builder of the House will celebrate the release of Ornaments on September 2nd at One Longfellow Square. You can find their new album now on iTunes digitally and in stores at Bull Moose very soon.

Last modified onTuesday, 01 August 2017 17:57