Q&A: The Steelwells

19 Jun

By Allison Flaker

Their name may be The Steelwells, but their hearts and voices are made of gold and you can catch them every Monday night in June at Detroit Bar. Sharing the stage with Denny White, these are some of the busiest guys in local music. Also, the resident band at the Beauty Bar in San Diego this month, they are rocking their way up and down the Southern California coast making friends and new adoring fans as well as working on a follow-up EP to their hit Shallow On The Draft and three music videos.

And, it’s no wonder why. With booming percussion, irresistibly dancy grooves, and some furry friends (you have to keep reading to understand this one), their show is not to be missed. Popular demand hasn’t been their only form of recognition this year. The Steelwells were nominated for four (count em, four) OC Music Awards, which gives the band bragging rights that they wouldn’t take advantage of because they’re far too humble.

I got to chat with lead singer and guitarist Joey Winter about the band’s recent success, dueling residencies and what’s coming up as they hit the road.

Alli: You have two residencies this month, one at Detroit Bar and the other at Beauty Bar in San Diego. How would you compare the two venues and your performances so far?

Joey: It’s been a fun but busy month for us. Both residencies have had good turnouts and it is always good to see old friends and make new ones. The performances are hard to judge from the stage but the feedback has been great. We have been playing with some really great bands that appreciate what we do as well, which is always nice.

Alli: Who are some of the bands you’ve gotten to play with in San Diego that we should be looking out for?

Joey: One of my new favorite bands El Ten Eleven played at the first show. I had previously never heard them and they blew me away. Truly fantastic. If they aren’t everyone’s new favorite soon there is something wrong with the world. We also got to play with Little Hurricane as well as the The Drowning Men both of which make great music and performed well.

Alli: The band was nominated for four OC Music Awards including Best Song for the very bright and contagious song, “El Capitan.” What was it like getting that kind of regional recognition? Have things changed for the band since then?

Joey: It was really cool to be nominated and voted for, and of course we are incredibly humble and grateful for it. When we played the OC Music Awards showcase at The Continental Room there were more people than I expected and the reaction was good. I walked away with a “What just happened?” feeling. We just kept going along with it and couldn’t believe it actually happened. It is always nice to be recognized when you put your life and soul into what you do. Not to mention the work that Barrett Slagle (our producer for Shallow on the Draft) put into that record. Since then, of course, we have definitely been taken a bit more seriously and that always makes it easier to get things done in this business. Ultimately, we are just very grateful to everyone that voted for us.  So if you’re reading this, thank you.

Alli: I had the chance to talk to you before you played last Monday and you mentioned that some of you guys have some very interesting and heart-warming day jobs that I think your fans would be interested in hearing about. Care to elaborate?

Joey: Sure, yeah I think you’re referring to our jobs in Special Education. Andrew, Billy, and I work part time with children with special needs. We all love what we do every day and love seeing our students’ progress. We really support anything that has to do with furthering the special needs fields and more specifically in autism. I just started doing this work over the past year and fell in love with it. The people involved in the various programs are some of the most genuine, hard working, persistent people I have ever met and typically go unrecognized for the tireless efforts they put into their work. So support special needs and support autism please.

Alli: You played a very touching and beautiful song about your grandfather. Can you tell me more about it?

Joey: I grew up very close to my grandfather, as did everyone in my family. He was a pretty big influence on me growing up and in his last few years of life suffered from Alzheimer’s and dementia. It was a long, drawn out process and the family took care of him until he finally left. I wrote that song about him later on and it was just kind of a way of saying goodbye. In the song, I revisit some experiences that I had with him and some things he shared with me while at the same time being frustrated with the situation he was in.

Alli: For those who haven’t been lucky enough to hear you, can you describe your style of music and some of your influences?

Joey: That’s always a difficult question. Some say it’s like an indie folk alternative pop. If you like dreamy guitars, earnest vocals and driving beats then you may dig this music.  That being said we typically just make the music that feels right to us so no telling where that will lead. In the late 80’s through the 90’s I listened to lots of punk rock and also discovered Elvis Costello. In my 20’s, my tastes began to become much more eclectic to where now I listen to a lot of different kinds of music. It would be hard to pin down one or two but if I had to say just one I would say Costello and Jeff Buckley. Buckley is the form to Costello’s function for me…if that makes any sense.

Alli: Do you feel the band’s sound is changing or progressing from when you first started?

Joey: Definitely. We were still coming together and discovering our music at that time. I guess we still are really. It is a constant process of learning and progressing. While we are happy that we have made some good music so far, we know we still have a lot to learn and spend most of our days trying to be better at what we do.

Alli: This summer you have a tour coming up. Where will you be stopping?

Joey: We are trying to set that up right now. We hope to be playing the western US like Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and California. We will get more specific on the shows as we get them set up. We don’t have a booking agency doing this for us so we are trying to get this done ourselves, which takes time.

Alli: On the first night of your Detroit Bar residency you welcomed some masked friends onto the stage and into the audience. I think those that were there that night would be interested to hear the explanation for why they were tangled in caution tape.

Joey: Well the song “Our Fabled Little Rabbits” and Ryan Avery (a performance artist from Arizona) were the inspiration for that one. I like the idea of connecting the audience to ourselves and we set out to create that experience for everyone. It also ties into a video we currently have in the works as well.

Alli: Do you have any other fun surprises at your upcoming shows?

Joey: I have lots of ideas; some good, and some not. But you never know when one of those little monsters will show up. We feel like gimmicks at shows are pointless so if we have a reason to do something we will do it. You will have to go to the shows to see what happens I guess.

The Steelwells have residency with Denny White at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa (21+) every Monday in June as well as residency at Beauty Bar in San Diego (21+) every Friday this month. www.myspace.com/thesteelwells


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