Elm Treason’s self produced debut album, Days Of Reaction dropped in May of 2014 to critical acclaim and there is no looking back for this indie rock band. Formed in the Fall of 2010, Elm Treason are based out of Staten Island, New York, bringing to us a unique brand of classic rock, layered with a hippy-trippy groove and some funky Philadelphia soul (think Hall & Oates).
The dynamic duo, comprised of Andy Roman (lead vocals, bass, guitars, percussion) and Bobby Steel (lead vocals, guitars, keyboards, drums) bring to life a variety of old school genres and smooth sounds blended with outstanding harmonies and complex acoustics; making them a force to be listened to, no matter where you are on the musical spectrum. With Days of Reaction, Elm Treason are making quite a stir in the local pubs and clubs, as well as the international indie scene, with their distinctive sounds of funky progressive grooves.
As I channel my inner flowerchild, a fast favorite is a track called “Honey Feet”, bringing to mind bonfires on the beach, good friends, some wine and groovy tunes. If you don’t do a ‘happy dance’, or at the very least have ‘happy feet’ to this one, then you’ll need to listen to the ten other tracks and get your groove on!
The guys of Elm Treason are really personable too! You can find them on Twitter interacting with fellow musicians and fans alike. They’ve been busy gigging in the Tri-State area lately and generously share their acoustic gigs, so don’t forget to wish them luck and have a listen while you’re checking them out.
In between their busy schedules, Andy and Bobby were kind enough to answer a few questions for me and without further ado, here they are!
What are your favorite instruments?
Bobby: I love the piano and the guitar. I also love my Moog little Phatty. There’s a bunch of non western instruments I’d love to own and play someday like the sitar, oud and the koto. The mandolin is nice too.
Andy: I’m a guitar man. No nuance, no two ways about it. I’m all about the guitar. I LOVE listening to all kinds of instruments, obviously – and I love finding the right instrument for the right moment in the right song. But for me, it will always be guitar.
What’s your favorite song on “Days of Reaction”?
Bobby: It changes from day to day! Seriously…one day the title track might be my favorite and another day it could be “Living For Living”.
Right now I’m hooked on “Everything” (no pun intended). I’m like that with all my favorite bands’ albums as well. As my moods change so does song preference.
Andy: I’m probably going to have to be a big disappointment and dig deep into my bag of musician’s clichés on this one. I truly do not have a favorite song on the album. Of course, I find it hard to sit down and just listen to it for pleasure because I am so close to it. However, let me give you this: I really like the poetry on the song “Everything.” They may be my favorite lyrics on the album – for today. Bobby’s waa-waa pedal work on “Days of Reaction” is stunning.
I like the bass line on “Living for Living.” The harmonies on “Another Year Gone” are really quite good. It’s easier for me to pick out highlights than to name a favorite song. I’m proud of the album. I can say that.
Who are you influenced by? Why?
Bobby: Progressive rock has had a profound effect on me since childhood. I’ve probably listened to so much of it, that it has become part of my DNA. I think it’s the boundless creativity and experimental atmosphere that draws me to it (and of course the musicianship). Baroque and Classical music has also been a major source of inspiration for most of my life; namely Bach, Hadyn and Beethoven. I particularly admire these composers’ sense of harmonic beauty, contour of melody and sonic architecture and of course innovation. I enjoy jazz for basically the same reason as progressive rock (namely: Miles Davis, Coltrane and Sun Ra). Actually, I listen to so many genres of music my list of influences are huge. What inspires me is a person or group that is innovative, unique, skilled at composing as well as creating, and present a bit of a challenge to listeners instead of “spoon feeding” them. It doesn’t matter if they are heavy metal or bluegrass and anything in between. Some of my favorite teams of songwriters are Lennon/McCartney, Page/Plant, Lee/Lifeson to name a few. Guitarwise: Lifeson, Hendrix, Van Halen, Satriani, Howe, and even Ravi Shankar. I’m also a huge fan of classical Indian music, Middle Eastern and Asian music (near and far east including Indonesian gamelan music). It is my hope that all these experiences will continue to make me a more well rounded musician and composer.
Andy: I’m influenced primarily by great songwriting. The craft of being able to put chords together and drape them with a melody that is memorable – or a hook or a riff that sticks – is the kind of thing that will, until the die I day, impress the living hell out of me. There are millions of songwriters out there – bedroom composers, garage pensmiths, multi-track home-studio mavens – all of whom want to write great music, many of whom believe they can write great music. Not many can. It’s the truth. That doesn’t make them bad artists or inauthentic or any less relevant in what they feel or want to say, but the absolute gift to be able to weave notes, paint a tapestry of sound, melody, harmony into music that touches people is beyond my capacity to accurately praise. And it’s not about being commercial or selling the most records either. That’s crap criteria these days. Some artists just “have it,” if you get what I mean. That’s why I revere them so much. The people I admire range from Glibert and Sullivan to Cole Porter to Carol King and Jerry Goffin to Lennon and McCartney to the great bluesmen of long ago to the 80s hair bands who put out memorable music that will span generations. I don’t why it influences me. It just does.
What’s your favorite musical memory?
Bobby: Well, recently Andy and I did an acoustic open mic and after my solo on the first song (which was “Everything“), the audience erupted in applause! At an open mic! That’s never happened to me before. So right now that’s up there at the top of the list. As far as a distant memory, I think of growing up jamming with the neighborhood guys in my friend’s basement. What patient parents he had! That was my learning ground and “boot camp” of songwriting. That small band of kids ended up doing a show at CBGB in NYC ! I have many fond memories of that time.
Andy: I love thinking back to being a kid, lying in bed at night with a hand held radio under my pillow, listening to music when I should have been asleep. The music just filled me up. I would look out the window, sometimes the train would pass by, sometimes the stars would be so bright they would almost blind me. The music would pour out from this little box. As a kid, I could almost see the musicians in the air, riding the radio waves, through my window into my room. That’s how my little boy brain worked in those days. It was amazing.
Who are you currently listening to?
Bobby: What’s in the Steel jukebox? Well this week I have: Rush : first album & Clockwork Angels, Genesis: Selling England By The Pound, Arienne Moffatt: MA, Teagan & Sara: Heartthrob, Dream the Electric Sleep: Heretics, David Bowie: Heroes, Ravi Shankar: the Very Best of…, Beethoven: the “Razumovsky” String Quartets, John Coltrane: Live at the Village Vanguard 1961,The Beatles: Please Please Me, Fleet Foxes and I’ve been really enjoying some excellent bluegrass from Rhonda Vincent and her band. I also have discovered a new found appreciation for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
Andy: I think the best way to answer this is to just pick of my Smart Phone and read the first few tunes on my play list. I warn you. It’s VERY eclectic: Ann Margaret (I Just Don’t Understand), Stone Temple Pilots (Sex Type Thing), Beck (Loser), Buddy Guy (The First Time I Met The Blues), Beatles (I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party), Focus (Hocus Pocus), The Chords (Sh-Boom), Iron Maiden (The Prisoner), August Redmoon (Bring Down The House). Seriously.
Best gig so far?
Bobby: Playing on the TV-Cable show “horses sing none of it” in New Jersey. I had a lot of fun and the host and crew were very nice people. Lovely audience too. So far that’s been my favorite.
Andy: Maybe doing the TV show “Horses Sing None of It.” I also really enjoyed a mid-March rooftop gig we did for Epicuria Radio in downtown Brooklyn. It was freezing! Bobby played an amazing solo on our song “Mood” with numb fingers. I still don’t know how he did it. That was fun.
Sexiest song you play?
Bobby: Elm Treason sexy? Wow I’m really going to have to stretch this one… Well the closest thing we have to a “chick song” is “honey feet”. Some men find women’s feet sexy. The title track also has a certain virile swagger to it. So I guess it’s a tie score between those two tunes. One for the ladies and one for the gentlemen.
Andy: I don’t think we have a sexy song.
Do you get nervous?
Bobby: Yes. Before every performance I get the butterflies in the stomach. I get revved up and I put what Andy calls my “game face” on. It’s good to be a little nervous when you play; it keeps you on your toes. If you get too nervous you freeze. You get too relaxed you run the risk of playing sloppy. Usually by the second or third song, I get settled in. I love interacting with a great audience. It’s a natural high for me. I can buzz for hours on the endorphins after doing a great show.
Andy: Except for the butterflies, the anxiousness, the jitters and the fact that I forget the lyrics to every song I’ve ever written two minutes before getting on stage, never.
Where do you find inspiration from to write songs?
Bobby: OK I’m going to hesitate to use clichés like : “the human condition” and “everyday life” (although sometimes those actually are sources of inspiration); however if I was to be completely honest my answer is, sometimes I just don’t know. There are times when I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea saying “now!?!” “For goodness sake stop it! Just let me sleep! I have to get up for work in like three hours…” But the muse won’t have it. So I have to drag my tired butt downstairs and work out this riff in my head that has been driving me out of my mind. That’s the nature of being a creative person- a composer. Comes with the territory. Then with my initial idea I’ll just see where I can take it and it becomes pieces of a puzzle that need to be assembled- sometimes forward, other times backward; even from the middle out to the perimeter. There are specific things that inspire me as well. For instance the lyrics to “living for living” hit me while I was watching my kids having a riot of a time at the playground. I love to read. My wife affectionately refers to me as “bookworm”. Sometimes a line, a story, a concept may leap out at me. Then I’ll forget it. Then a week later I have a song based on it. But for the most part the inner workings of creativity are largely a mystery to me. For Andy and I the song is the boss and we are just the employees.
Andy: This is always a difficult one to answer in a way that is satisfying to a reader or listener who doesn’t write songs. I hate to be esoteric or sound like I’m trying to be coy. Songs, like anything else that is created, have to be crafted and shaped into something viable in order to be recognizable and accessible. There is no set formula for that final product, of course, but even the most inspired piece of music needed a lot of work and fine tuning and craftsmanship for it to evolve from an idea into a song. That part of song writing is just as important as to what it was that inspired the piece to be written. The thing is, no one really has a lot of interest in how many hours we spent getting the right notes to work with a certain chord progression, or how many variations of a harmony track we did before we were ready to tear the hair out of our heads trying to get it to make sense. That part doesn’t make for great copy, admittedly. So, we stick to the more intangible end of it. In terms of where the original inspiration for a song comes from, it is so varied as to require too much bandwidth to adequately answer. I could be tinkering around on the guitar and suddenly, for whatever reason, a certain riff or chord sequence grabs my fancy. Then I’ll torture it for three hours and see if it develops into anything. Sometimes, a phrase you hear in the street or on TV inspires you to write a line or a rhyme down. Sometimes – and this is more rare, but it does happen – a song is sort of like a living entity that finds you, or wakes you up in the middle of the night and demands that you write it. This kind of inspiration is the most difficult to explain, but I have, indeed, been woken up with melodies in my head that would not let me go. “Mood” and “We Go On” are just such songs, for instance.
What’s coming up next?
Bobby: Well we are currently working on an EP of acoustic arrangements of our first album. Plus we have a second album in the works. We are also excited about getting out there and just playing all this material in public. So far the responses have been extremely positive and we are looking forward to expanding our fan base. We feel positive and optimistic about the future. It seems to get brighter every day.
Andy: We have a few really nice shows coming up in Brooklyn, Manhattan and one somewhere near the Meadowlands in New Jersey. We’re working on an acoustic EP, featuring songs from our first album in interesting arrangements, plus we have our second album we are working on as well. Lots of good stuff on the horizon!
Thank you so much guys for your time and insight into the world of Elm Treason! I love your answers and seriously can’t wait for the acoustic EP and the next album. Both I’m sure, will be new additions to my playlists!
If the dreamy groove of Days of Reaction is any indication, Elm Treason will surely be scooped up by a label, and I for one will be standing and applauding as Andy and Bobby take their rightful place in the industry! I think the following quote from Carmen Allgood; Producer – WorldWideWavez Radio Showz sums it up best: “The only way to find out how much you are going to love Elm Treason is to take the plunge and soak up the rays and essence of this great band.”
So readers, if you haven’t had the chance to hear the lovely tunes Elm Treason has to offer, please do your wee ears a favor and listen now! You’ll smile, you’ll most likely sing along and perhaps like me… do a bit of a happy dance!
I leave you now with an unplugged version of Mood:
Take a trip back in time to the world of Elm Treason… you’ll be glad that you did! And don’t forget to say ‘Hey’ on Twitter and Facebook, let them know you like their tunes!
It started with a song…
.. and ended with a smile!
If this inspires you… a cup of coffee would be lovely!
For more on Elm Treason and their music, please check out the following links: