Photography Angela Cunningham

Four years ago in a dimly-lit apartment in Cincinnati, Robbie Fale sat down with a four-track recorder and a mind to depart from the standard blues rock that held him prisoner. 

“I knew nothing about music, and I realized you could just do whatever the fuck you want,” Robbie explains. Today, he is handing out the debut album Nothing Matters in a Dream from his band Leaf Borbie and The Family Tree and telling the story of how this gap was closed. 

When Robbie returned to Cleveland after spending a few lonely, drunken years in Cincinnati, he had a demo tape full of songs and no one to play with him. Enter a list of Cleveland music scene celebrities. Braxton Taylor of Samfox was his original guitarist. The Moxies bassies Tyler Adams hopped in alongside Ryan Fletterick of Oregon Space Trail Of Doom originally on drums. This lineup got Robbie and company was soon cemented in Cleveland’s lore of bands to watch. 

When a band has so many insanely talented members, they’ll often break off into their own projects. For the greater good of Cleveland music and unfortunately for Robbie, this happened. Robbie is not taking no for an answer on this project, however. The family tree filled out quickly. 

The recent and final lineup of Leaf Borbie and The Family Tree not only tears up a stage while cloaked and covered in makeup, they can also have a good time sitting around a table in a taco joint. 

“This is it,” says Robbie, looking around the table while his bandmates laugh. “These are the forever homies.”

The new lineup includes Alex Rendek on guitar. Alex and Robbie met each other at one of the first Leaf Borbie and The Family Tree shows at The Grog Shop. Alex was there as a fan, but after the exodus of the first band, he and Robbie started contacting each other. 

“They were Instagram flirting!” blurts out auxiliary percussionist Lauren Elizabeth. 

Bassist Tyler Adams, laughs and confirms Lauren’s accusation. 

“When a girl is posting sexy pictures everyday, you know she’s single and looking,” Robbie adds. “Alex was always ripping guitar solos on Instagram, I knew homie didn’t have a band.”

This habit landed him in one of the most sought-after bands in Northeast Ohio. From house parties in Athens to PressureFest, Leaf Borbie and The Family Tree plays out an average of six times a month in support of its debut album.

Nothing Matters in a Dream is a collection of 13 captivating songs. The rhythm section comprised of Lane Neumarker on drums, Lauren Elizabeth on percussion, and Tyler Adams on bass holds down the sometimes mathematically-challenging songs while keeping the listener in the pocket with them. This winding groove is complimented by Rendek on guitar, never overplaying yet never fading into the background. 

The music is given its “dark carnival” vibe mostly by Nathaniel Hunt’s haunting organ tones. The whole experience is brought together by Robbie’s guttural swooning. Now that Leaf Borbie and The Family Tree have tasted blood, the band is ready to unleash new music at neck-breaking speed. 

“I don’t know the right way to do shit, I just want to release everything,” Robbie says. “I don’t think too much content is a bad thing.” 

Robbie admits it’s hard for him to sit on material, like the band has with the debut album. The album was recorded in January at Akron Recording Studio. The band independently raised money to get the songs remastered for vinyl and then finally pressed, a point of pride for the group. 

Now the fundraising is focused on buying a van and heading straight south to the city the band sounds like they are from: New Orleans. Not bad for a one-time lonely drunk kid in a dimly lit apartment.