By Rosine Alleva and Jose Oliveira, Rock At Night Journalist/Photographers–Colmar, France
Interview–STOLEN RHODES at Woodstock Guitars – January 2017
Everywhere they play, people ask for more!! These guys are not only wonderful musicians, they have amazing songs and what an amazing sound!! They originally performed exclusively in the U.S. and began touring in Europe last January. We had the chance to discover them and welcome them to France at Woodstock Guitars for their first European date.
RAN: From the Streets of Philadelphia to Ensisheim, it’s a long road! How did you come to the Rock scene?
MAT: I can give you a little bit of history gone back, we spent a good amount of time in the States, performing everywhere and anywhere and we met up with some friends of ours who did a lot of tours in Europe. They said “you guys would really go on very well in Europe”. So, they got us in touch with Teenage Head Music and fast forward, a couple of years and here we are. It’s exciting, we’ve heard amazing things about the crowds and the audience in Europe and how much they appreciate our kind of music. And this is our opening night and we’re very excited to be able to kick it off here at Woodstock Guitars.
RAN: STOLEN RHODES! It sounds like an Alsatian cake! What’s the meaning of it?
MAT: Laughs…..It’s an old story, it kind of goes back to the early days, before even we officially were a band, I was in between playing with different people, still writing a lot of music , had a lot of songs that had written and I needed some people to record with. To bring those songs alive, called some old friends of mine, we got together. One of the things that kind of tighten us together was this fender Rhodes piano that I had, it was stolen after we did a recording session and we may or not have required it back. it was one of those things, once we realized we were not only a project but a band we had something in our hands besides jut a recording project… So “what the hell are we going to call ourselves?” We were sitting there drinking some beers on this Fender Rhodes case, and we were like, why don’t we call us STOLEN RHODES, and it kind of stocked.
RAN: You’re doing this European Tour, which begins here tonight, to promote your first album,”BEND TO THE WIND” released one year ago. Are you happy with the welcome you had in your country?
MAT: Yeah! Everything has been great in our country, the new record is going on very very well, we had the chance to tour with some amazing acts like BLACKBERRY SMOKE, LYNYRD SKYNYRD, out on the road with MARSHALL TUCKER right before here in December so we had a lot of great mentors who‘ve been taking good care of us showing us the ropes, the all country. Luckily people are starting to catch on and we start to be more popular every time we get there.
RAN: How did you meet the producer DAVID IVORY and especially TED JENSEN, who worked with the EAGLES, JOHN MAYER and AC/DC
KEVIN: Dave Ivory is kind of one of the biggest producers in Philadelphia, he is the head of the Grammy Association for Philadelphia. He produced HALSTORM, SILVERTIDE, he produced the first ROOTS records, he was a pretty big name that you can hear about coming up to the Philadelphia scene, so when it came to making our EP SLOW HORSE which we released before this record, we knew he wanted to take a step up in the production and really have someone else joining the team. So we reached out to Dave and he kind of sold us a kind of show case festival we were doing , we quickly hit it off, it was a great relationship right from the start. We got in the studio that he build and just ideas bouncing off the wall, he is really good at kigetting everything together and really drilling down to the core of the song. TED JENSEN is actually friend with DAVID IVORY, it opened that door for us. We said
we wanted to take a step up to the production and step up the mastering as well for this record. If we wanted this right, Ted, up in NY, was “the guy”. So we ended up there so he made it sound amazing.
MAT: The records that we’re growing up listening to, like hearing his records for the first time, I would never have imagined that the same guy would work on our stuff too, you know, it’s a good feeling to have.
RAN: You opened for bands like Blackberry Smoke, Gov’t Mule and the Marshall Tucker Band, even along with touring on their own. How was this experience?
KEVIN: It’s great getting both sides, here’s what’s being with huge bands is, touring U.S, touring the world, seeing all that side of it and then doing our own thing too, because it’s just our night, we can play our music all night. It’s not a condensed set. When you’re opening for bands you have to remember that, the folks are there to see the headlining act, you’re a plus…if they didn’t know you that’s awesome, but it’s their show. So, just as much as we like going out, we like to go out on our own, zigzagging across the United States and now Europe, just playing our music and hopefully having fans every place where we can get to.
RAN: You also spent a month opening for the Marshall Tucker Band. A great name here in Europe! Did these old rock n’ roll names feel the same flame as when they were young?
MAT: I have to say, especially the MARSHALL TUCKER BAND, they’ve really been an inspiration for us, and also they’ve really taking us under their wings, kind of showed us the ropes, thrown a lot of support behind us. Especially the founding member and singer of the band. They’ve been very good to us, they put us on a lot of shows where we’ve got in front of audiences who may not have heard of us before. And they’re very excited about the music that we make, with the desire to come back and see us next time. So, it has been a very fruitful relationship to have with them, not only are they great guys, great musicians of course, they’re a legendary band!…But they’re also great people. I think they’re genuinely excited about our music, which makes us feel very good.
RAN: I think, from my experience, that the Americans are closer, more friendly with the support bands than in England for example…. I read that you have a special way of composing. You like to have much pressure coming to the studios and you find the inspiration there. Is this true?
MAT: Sometimes, I remember hearing a story a long time ago, that inspiration and song writing is like waiting for the bus.You know what I mean, you have to catch the bus, you never know exactly when it’s gonna come but the more you do it, the more you’re going to be able to catch it. Whether that inspiration comes when you’re writing at home, in your own space, or whether it comes in the studio. On the “Slow horse”record especially and also on “Bend with the wind”as well, I think one of the things that really stuck out for me in the all recording process was, coming up with a new line for a song for example, on the spot, and basically having a list of the prepared lyrics that you come in the studio with, and then scraping some of them on the fly, coming up with new ones. That really makes you test your abilities and in the end some of my favorite lyrics that I come up with, are the ones that were written like that. That doesn’t always happen. Traditionally the song writing process for us, is that one of us will have a song, almost or completely done and will bring it to the band. Everyone will add their own piece to it. I feel that those are some of our stronger songs as well, the songs that we write as a team.
RAN: It sounds quite strange nowadays that two bonus tracks on “Bend With The Wind” have been recorded in a cabin using a vintage tape recorder.
MAT: I love the way it takes sounds in the studio, I think that has a natural warmth that you cannot capture when you record it with more modern technologies. That was the one thing, recording it live, getting in that analog warmth of it. Those songs are some of my favorites of that record because of that very reason.
KEVIN: In the States, a lot of people come out and see the full band, lights, live guitars but we also do quite a bit of acoustic music while we’re on tour. Some of the rock nights, not everyone had seen that side of us, so it was important to us on this record that we wanted to do a couple of tunes that way, so people could see a different side of the band. DAVE IVORY, our producer, has this cool little cabin that he built, it’s all real, the real tape. It was just very organic in the way music used to be, everything is live, with the exception of maybe one solo, we’re all on instruments and it’s something you don’t really hear as much anymore and people seem to like it.
MAT: In the environment too, just to give you a little bit of perspective, it was in a smaller room than this (dressing room). With all the equipment in there and all of us cramped into one little space, if you moved just a little bit, you were going to bump the guitar, or the drums… It was almost like being on a bus, like all together in close quarters.
RAN:. NASHVILLE has a big link to Rock and Folk Music! What’s the musical color of Philadelphia?
MAT: The Philly Rock scene is kind of looking for another home. When we were first starting out in Philly, there was the club called the Legendary Dobbs, going way back to the early days. NIRVANA played there, PROJAM played there, so many great bands that we grew up listening to, played shows at Dobbs. That’s where we got our start in Philly. Dobbs closed a couple of years ago. I think the rock scene is still very much there, very much alive, it just needs to find a new home.
KEVIN: Philly has always been one of the cities not really being looked at as a breathing round. The same way Seattle was with the ground scene, it’s like the rock music has been with Philadelphia. People think of L.A, N.Y, Nashville, not Philadelphia. But there have been great bands who’ve come out of there, WHODERS, Motown, MICHAEL JACKSON kind of recorded in Philly, there’s a lot of artists who used to come to have the Philadelphia sound, even to more newer times, SILVERTIDE, HALSTORM, DR.DOG, kind of bigger rock bands that came out of Philly.
RAN: Are there many rock’n’roll clubs?
KEVIN: Dobbs, unfortunately, ran out of business and that was kind of our home base so…There are some clubs but nothing that has the atmosphere that that club used to have. It was a venue where you could go any night of the week and see a bunch of your friends, or the musicians, all the musicians were hanging out there, you could go to open mic nights, open jams nights, they were blast! It’s kind of a club right now, we actually just did a big reunion with the all Dobbs family. The place gets about 125 people. TOOL played there, with 5 people at Dobbs….it was a cool place to cut your teeth. So, right now hopefully there are some ups and it goes back to how it used to be.
RAN: Is it your first time in Europe?
MAT: I’ve been to Germany, Switzerland, Austria. Today is my first day ever in France! KEVIN: I travelled to Germany, Portugal, but not as a musician.
RAN: Portugal is my country, now there is a big market for Rock’n Roll with summer festivals well known in Europe. What are your expectations from this European tour?
KEVIN: I hope to come over, hopefully have some fans, plant a seed for us so we may come back, in about a year, continue to built a fanbase, like in America and spread more our type of Rock n’Roll over here.
RAN: Spain and especially Germany are great countries for Rock n’Roll but with such different audiences. Are you ready to discover them?q
MAT: Absolutely, whenever anyone who tells me they’ve done tours in those countries before, they always mention those places like some of the best shows they’ve ever had. Despite the fact that these
audiences are different in the way they react. Spain is like one big party, a lot of fun, and in Germany they really get into the music, they’re both equally exciting audiences to play for I think.
RAN: AMERICA chose DONALD TRUMP for President! Do you think that he will be able to be a good President?
MAT: We’re all about music and try not to put politics into it, try not to make any political statements.
RAN: Nobody wants to sing on his inauguration day. Would you accept this job and be immediately world famous?
MAT: It’s the same, cause if you accept that, you’re basically showing your support, alienate half of the people. I try always not to put politics in what we do.
RAN: What about your future ?
KEVIN: “Blend with the Wind” just came out in 2016, we’re still touring through that circle.We’re having talks with our producer, we’re really going start writing stuff. We’re touring since 2016 and didn’t stop until December 18th, we had 3 weeks off…now we’re here in France for a month. Mat and myself we’re having a bit of harder time riding on the road… we definitely want to continue to write, it’s amazing seeing the countries, the world. But being in the studio is incredible. I really enjoyed the process this time around, a little more than last time, comfortable, we knew the producer, we were making a longer record, we could do a bit more, we could have some different songs, get across acoustic songs, we covered Rosalita from Bruce Springsteen…
RAN: What music are you currently listening to?
MAT: Right now, Jason Isbell, his song writing is very much what I aspire to, such an honest song writing. Can’t get it out of my playlist.
Chris James : Same I was listening to Jason Isbell on the bus today. Growing up it was Keith Moon, John Bonham. Right now Alex Steve Jordan is one of my favorite drummers, very tasty from a producing standpoint of drumming.
KEVIN: The Struts we’ve got to meet this summer and then all the heavy stuff too, the guitar players Panthera, Iron Maiden, things we go back to, the heavy music keeps you awake so …
Jack Zafares : Recently I listen to a lot of Jazz, Snarky Puppy, Joe Alexander, a prodigy piano player, I love Marcus Miller, his production and his playing, what a phenomenal player.
RAN: Is there a song in the last 30 years that you wished you had written?
KEVIN: Stephen Kellogg ”I don’t want to die on the road”. MAT: Anything by Tom Waits, he’s my favorite song writer.
RAN: Do you have a message for Florida?
MAT: We absolutely love you down there in Florida, we can’t wait to come back. Keep your eyes open for our schedule, we may coming back soon!
RAN: Thank you very much, it was a pleasure to meet you!!
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