Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Without a voice. Dublin band Steerage turn to the tunes.

For an instrumental band you’re quite traditional, in terms of the instruments – is that deliberate?

(Conor) It’s more of a case that we arrived at instrumental music coming from a very tradional 4-member alt-rock band setup. I think if I was to sit down and plan out an instrumental act I’d be more in the Do Make Say Think arena. Two percussionists, subtle horn section, some electronic bleeps, maybe throw in some strings too but at our level it’s just not practical. I would love to have two drummers though…

(Donnchadh) I suppose it depends on what you consider usual for an instrumental band…? At the moment we’re basically a rock band without a singer, therefore ‘instrumental’. As for playing live, the more musicians on stage the harder it becomes to maintain a cohesive sound but who knows what may appear on the album…

More than one reviewer has suggested that you’ve great songs and hooks, that lack a singer – and that a singer will be the finishing touch – are you tempted?

(Conor) Again, maybe we could add ambient vocals here and there, but as far as someone singing lyrics over our tunes I’d have to say I’m not tempted. In our defence I think those reviews have come from the EP that was recorded as a three piece with 1 guitar and the current live setup with 3 guitars is much more engaging and hopefully adds whatever is lacking on the EP. It’s funny that some people will happily listen to classical or electronic music with no vocals and not bat an eyelid but once they hear an intrumental guitar band they go ‘where’s the singer’.

(Donnchadh) It’s definitely a common theme in answering questions about Steerage, the whole singer thing. I'd only ever be tempted to introduce vocals if they were of the My Bloody Valentine – 'Loveless' vein – where the vocals are more an instrument, they're unobtrusive and complementary to the music itself. I'm interested in music for music's sake, singing lyrics, in the usual front man way, on top of what we do, would take away from it in my opinion.

(Dan) When I hear that (the question) it makes me even more certain that Steerage doesn't need a singer. Doing the obvious can be so boring. Music without words can be so much better because it allows your mind to wander and find your own meaning from the music rather than being given the meaning by a singer. The listener can make the song their own. Besides I'd like to hear someone try singing over a Steerage song….it'd sound pretty bizarre and more than likely wrong.

What plans have steerage for the future?

(Conor) Hopefully we’re going to record and release an album before the end of the year. My own approach is going to be to make sure that it’s not just a collection of songs, I really want to put together an album of music that fits together.

What do you make of MP3’s – the future or killing music?

(Conor) I’d say MP3’s are the present to a great extent and that the future is a better quality digital format. The single as we know it is dead. When mobile ring-tones outsell most records, you know things are changing. At the end of the day for me though, nothing beats physically owning an album that someone has worked on, MP3’s for me work like videos 10 years ago, in that I use them to find out if I like the act or not. I don’t usually listen to them recreationally, I prefer to buy the album.

(Donnchadh:) I think more room needs to be made for other formats of music and alternative ways to access it. For me, the MP3 phenomena highlights how bloated and self serving the record industry has become. The larger labels, the big 5, have been saying for ages that file sharing and MP3 downloading is killing their business, but I have a feeling the general economic downturn post Sept 11th has a lot to do with this also. I personally think that they’re shitting themselves that the larger public are finally realising what a rip-off buying CDs has always been, when you consider the manufacturing price next to the retail price. I think the best incidence of this sort of hypocritical panic was probably Lars Ulrich of Metallica, threatening to sue Napster for file sharing Metallica tunes – this from a band who sell ludicrously expensive T-shirts at their concerts which pretty much disintegrate at the slightest hint of a mosh pit. And we’re the ones ripping them off… In answer to your question I don’t think mp3s will kill music – they might go towards the record industry having to rethink how it operates to stay alive, but I think that has been long overdue.

(Dan) It's the future, because its killing record companies, but making music more accessible. In the whole mp3 / music debate, the word music could often be replaced with the word money. Some people don't realise they are different things.

Steerage official Site

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