Rateliff has been steadily touring and recording for over 10 years

By Alex Heigl
Updated July 21, 2016 11:55 AM
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Credit: Malia James

It took a joke song for Nathaniel Rateliff to be taken seriously, but he’s taking it in stride.

Rateliff, who as of 2013 was being referred to in articles about other bands as a “local folk-pop hero,” has ridden the wave of success of his unexpected hit “S.O.B.” to national fame and a spot at this weekend’s Panorama Festival in N.Y.C.

Rateliff grew up in Hermann, Missouri, playing music in church with his devoutly religious parents. His father died when he was just 13, and his picked up the guitar before leaving Hermann at 18 on a missionary trip. After some time, he experienced a crisis of faith and returned to Hermann (and a job at a plastic factory) before moving back to Denver and starting a band called Born in the Flood with Night Sweats bassist Joseph Pope III.

Rateliff released his first album, In Memory of Loss, in 2010, when Born in the Flood ended. Another solo EP and full-length arrived in 2011 and 2013 before he began writing the material that would become the bulk of the Night Sweats’ material. In between, there was quite a bit of touring and hard work, which is what makes the success of “S.O.B.” so funny.

“At first we didn’t really want to record it,” Rateliff told the BBC in October 2015. “It was a joke song at the end of our shows and I didn’t know people would respond to it.” Respond to it they did – the song, propelled by the band’s appearance on The Tonight Show in August 2015, climbed into the Top 10 of four separate Billboard charts (Hot Rock Songs, Rock Airplay, Alternative Songs and Adult Alternative Songs) and earned itself a spot in Britney Spears’ Instagram feed.

Rateliff and the band are still on the road, with 50 shows coming up in the next few months. So if you’re not in N.Y.C. for Panorama, don’t worry: Rateliff and his band of S.O.B.’s will soon be bringing the party to your door.