The Band Steele comes to the Still Bar and Grille Friday night to bring a little rock and roll and a whole lot of country.
This is the band’s first show in Gadsden, but the Alabama natives from Winston County have been playing music around the state for years after teaming up at 14 years old to play rock songs and making a switch to country a few years ago.
A viral video of lead singer Bo Steele singing gospel hymns in an ICU waiting room propelled the band into the spotlight, securing them a record deal with indie label Fire River Records and an on-camera spot singing songs in “Life on the Line,” a John Travolta film released in November.
On Dec. 3 they released a video for “Tan Lines,” the single from their EP “Tan Lines and Moonshine.”
We spoke to the band about their rock past revealed in YouTube covers of Alice in Chains and Cage the Elephant, their song “The Lineman” and what they’ll bring to the stage at the Still:
You’re definitely a country act, but you play these killer rock covers. Where did you come from musically?
Bo Steele: We started out in ninth grade in our first little rock band. Ben’s brother used to play with us but he went to college so we were down a guitar and we really couldn’t do rock anymore. We went to acoustic. That’s where Ben and me picked up our harmonies. From there we picked up more dudes and went to another rock band and got tired of it and wanted to do something a little more peaceful, home-style. Had kids, wanted to settle down to a more peaceful lifestyle, and we liked country and had never really given it a shot. We started playing country and it was like, “Yeah, this is our roots.”
So the switch was natural?
BS: It’s a pretty different style to write. I was going through some things back in the day and that came out in the rock, it could be more angry or sad. Nowadays we’re pretty happy people! It’s easier to portray that in country. You can’t really write songs about fishing and drinking a cold beer on the porch with your best friend in a rock song. It doesn’t sound right!
I’ve heard Alice in Chains’ “Rooster” a million times since high school, but I didn’t realize that it lent itself to a kind of country interpretation and it worked really well. Was it a choice to make it more country, or does it just come out that way?
BS: I think that’s just how it comes out, cause back then we were trying to rock it up!
Ben Rubino: We knew the direction, the country was where it kind of belonged. We still love rock and we want to be known for country with a rock twist to it. I think his voice, that’s just where it’s supposed to be.
BS: That was probably about the time we decided to start to go country. We didn’t really have a choice, we just let it lead us. [laughs]
What do you want people to feel when they get a chance to listen to you?
BS: We started out with music wanting to help people, because it helped us get through the day. We wanted to write stuff that could make you either sad, but in a good way, like someone else knows how I feel, or peaceful – it’s a good day, song’s grooving, it feels good, I remember when I used to do that, or I do this sometimes. Put a smile on your face and portray true feelings and how people are. Our fans are the most important thing out of the whole thing. A lot of bands say that, and a lot of them are probably telling the truth, because without your fans and that connection, seeing how they react to it, all the messages of how it’s helped people get through this, it just makes you feel good. That’s what we’re doing it for.
You’re officially a duo, but you’re going to be coming to town with a band to back you up. What’s it like working with them? Were they friends of yours or are they a touring band?
BR: We didn’t know them prior to this, but they’re really great musicians. This is the first time we’ve played with a band that wasn’t friends of ours, so it’s a new experience for us. You can tell that they like what they’re playing, and I feel like a lot of musicians play music they don’t really like, but these guys genuinely enjoy what we’re doing up there.
You had a part in a film, and that in itself is great, but it led you to write one of the quintessential kinds of country song, a “working man” song. That’s something you’d hear more often in the past, but not so much nowadays. What about the inspired you to make the song?
BS: When we were told we were going to go and be a part of this film, we met a lot of inspirational people. We didn’t know about the lineman business, either, but we met with the executive producer of the film and he introduced us to a ton of linemen, and the stories they would tell…; anybody who has the time to research the business, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. They’d tell stories about how they lost their brothers, and how they go out in storms together and about friends and family that were killed. It was just really inspirational.
BR: It wasn’t easy.
Is there anything you want to say to the people who are going to see you on Friday, and to people who don’t know you so well that are thinking of coming out?
BS: To the people that are coming to see us, we’re looking forward to seeing you just as much. We can’t wait. The people who haven’t seen us yet, check us out if you’ve got free time because I think you’ll enjoy it, but if not you can still meet us after the show. We’re not too bad to hang out with. [laughs]
The Band Steele performs this Friday at 9:30 p.m. at the Still, 221 S 3rd Street in Gadsden. For more information about the band and their EP, “Tan Lines and Moonshine,” visit their website at www.thebandsteele.com.