New York, NY
What does the future hold for the world of music? For Steel Train, the answer just might lie in the past. 34 years in the past to be exact. "1969," the band’s latest EP (on Drive-Thru Records), takes a long look back at a pivotal year in music. Their faithful interpretations of six classics from 1969 show this New York-based quintet has done its homework, setting the stage for their full-length CD of original songs next year.
"We wanted to do something personal," says Steel Train’s Jack Antonoff. "We wanted to express our influences and feelings about culture, so we thought it would be cool to do a year that shows a little bit of what we're about."
One glance at the track list on "1969" shows what a great year it was: The Jackson 5's "I Want You Back; " Helplessly Hoping" by Crosby, Still & Nash; "Natural Mystic," a beautiful but little-known song by Bob Marley; "Space Oddity" by David Bowie; the Beatles' immortal "I Want You (She's So Heavy);" and "Bad Moon Rising" from Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Produced by the band along with longtime friend/producer Jon Naclerio, "1969" is a celebration of roots and a culmination of tastes brought together by the unique diversity of the band. To Bassist Evan Winiker, "1969 is a reflection of who we are, in the light of our influences. It is a project that has allowed us to show our fans the threads that make up who we are." Guitarist Matt Goldman notes, "It's a chance for us to give back what was given to us, but we've added our own twist to it, so there's a really interesting flavor."
That kind of musical experimentation has typified Steel Train from day one. Their story begins three years ago when New Jersey native Jack Antonoff, met, Harlem-born Scott Irby-Rannier, who had been singing professionally since age two. In fact, by the time he graduated high school, Scott had already scored major gigs, including a key role in the Broadway production of "The Lion King." Jack and Scott became friends and colleagues, practicing whenever and wherever they could.
They named themselves Steel Train (from a line in a Bob Marley song), and a demo or two later, they caught the attention of Drive-Thru Records. Though differing in sound from the Drive-Thru roster, Steel Train decided to sign. "They told us if we were making the music we loved, they would put out our records," says Antanoff.
As the summer of 02' wound to a close, Steel Train added Evan Winiker, Bassist and longtime friend of Jack's to the roster. The three peice played shows across the country, until meeting Matthias Gruber, in the fall. The talented German drummer was residing in California so the band decided to record there, setting up shop at Hans Zimmers' Media ventures Studios in Santa Monica. Their first Drive-Thru EP, "For you My Dear", was released in January of 03', the beginning of five months of touring across America and Europe, giving Steel Train the chance to play with The Crystal Method, Something Corporate, Robert Randolph, Finch, Idylwild, The Juliana Theory, The RX Bandits, Vendetta Red, Blackalicious, and many other musicians. Since then the album has sold over 15,000 copies.
For their upcoming CD, the band enlisted legendary producer Stephen Barncard, whose credits include albums by The Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Joe Cocker. Barncard and the band will be spending two months at legendary ranch/studio, Prarie Sun, just outside of San Francisco. The scene is set.
Steel Train live together 12-months a year, whether its driving in a bus or a van, or cooking together in their West Village flat, it's rare to find them apart and without an instrument in hand. Scott sums up the band pretty well in saying "we're just five people coming together doing what we love. It's nice to be able to jam whenever we want, that's really what we're all about-playing music all the time and pushing the boundaries of how far we can go"