- May 2015 -
HAVE A BEER WITH STEELISM
Great instrumental rock and roll, sadly, has become a lost art, but Steelism is resurrecting that tradition and adding new chapters of its own, and while they may not have a singer, they certainly have great things to say.” - Ben Tanner, Alabama Shakes
Vinyl junkies and other lovers of vintage wares will relish dissecting each track on 615 To FAME, connecting Steelism’s moves to everyone from Ennio Morricone to Duane Eddy to legendary steel guitarist Pete Drake…” - Ann Powers (NPR)
…on the reverently and cleverly titled 615 to FAME…they just may have single-handedly reinvented instrumental pop music for a new era.” - Steve Leggett (All Music)
The Band: Steelism
The Show: Steelism at Tonic Room // Friday, May 29
Kristen from A Beer with the Band: What’s your drink of choice or beer of choice?
Jeremy Fetzer from Steelism: I dabble in the art of the cocktail, at my home bar, and I’d say my favorite drink to make is the Sazerac. Ever since I started visiting New Orleans, I’ve been hooked. The drink includes rye whiskey, absinthe, Peychaud’s bitters, lemon and sugar. Spencer, being a Brit, enjoys my cocktails, but he really loves a Laphroaig Scotch. When it comes to beer, I love a strong IPA and Spencer misses pints of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord Ale in London pubs.
Kristen: The two of you met while touring the U.K. with Caitlin Rose. What was the turning point for starting Steelism? What made you finally decide to wholeheartedly pursue it as a project?
Jeremy: The beginnings of Steelism happened while on tour in the U.K. We started writing instrumentals during downtime and then recorded them in Nashville, when we got home, with a bunch of our session musician friends. We got such a wonderful response from our early shows and first recordings that we decided it was time to pursue it seriously! And the project is a blast. We can musically explore and experiment without having to worry about a singer or a lyric.
Kristen: You don’t see a lot of instrumental rock-and-roll bands these days. How does that make what you do more challenging and/or rewarding?
Jeremy: Even aside from instrumental music, I think there’s a lack of experimentation in today’s music, both mainstream and indie, and bands are afraid to get out of their particular genre. Since Steelism is an instrumental band it allows us to hop from genre to genre and develop our composing and arranging further. The combination of our extensive LP collections and attention deficit disorder has a lot to do with it as well. I think the world is ready for more instrumental music with all the distractions we have these days.
Kristen:Favorite piece of gear?
Jeremy: We love gear. But nothing beats a vintage Fender amplifier for me.
Kristen: What’s your creative process like?
Jeremy: We do all of our writing and arranging at our home studio and then take it to the rest of the band to build it into a larger production. A lot of the time we treat our instrumental writing process the same as you would with a singer, where we write a hook and chorus and build a story around it. The goal is to make it so you don’t miss the vocal because the song takes you on a journey. It’s more or less making a soundtrack to our own imaginary film.
Kristen: Steelism released its debut record, 615 to Fame, in September 2014. Was there a song on the record that surprised you? Is there a song you’re especially proud of? If so, why?
Jeremy: I think “Marfa Lights” is our greatest accomplishment on 615 to Fame. I’m always on a mission to put the pedal steel and telecaster in new musical scenarios. They are traditionally used in country music and we purposefully didn’t put a single country song on the record. We wanted our recording of “Marfa Lights” to give you a feeling of the paranormal mysteries that surround Marfa, Texas, while implementing a mechanical, Krautrock rhythmic feel with Spaghetti-Western guitar tones. We got a kick out of recording an instrumental like that at the historic FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, where so many classic R&B records were cut.
Kristen: You produced a number of songs on the record and some were co-produced with Ben Tanner. What were some of the challenges or benefits of acting as musician and producer? Did it ever get difficult switching between those two roles, or did it work pretty seamlessly?
Jeremy: We produce and arrange a majority of the music from home and when we take it into the studio, it’s all about getting the right performance. We are spoiled with amazing musicianship in Nashville so playing the producer role is pretty easy. Ben Tanner is one of three owners of Single Lock Records who released 615 to FAME. Ben has a great ear and helped us finish the second half of our record in Muscle Shoals. He’s currently touring with the Alabama Shakes.
Kristen: Who are some artists you’re currently listening to and what do you enjoy about their sound?
Jeremy: We’ve recently been into Brian Eno’s Another Green World, Pink Floyd’s Meddle, and Beck’s newest record. We want to sonically explore more in the studio and those three are great examples of that. We also both really love the new Inherent Vice soundtrack, both Jonny Greenwood’s original scores and the addition of Can, Neil Young and Chuck Jackson’s version of “Any Day Now.” Soundtrack music and original scoring is the direction we want to take with Steelism.
Kristen: If you could work or tour with one musician, who would it be and why?
Jeremy: Beck or Nigel Godrich at the moment! They have made the most beautiful sounding recordings of the 21st century so far. Most recorded music now sounds so digital and harsh to our ears.