The reason we like Alectro so much is their ability to tell a story… To set a scene… To transport the listener to another time and place. In their case, this time and place is the old west and just like in the classic spaghetti westerns, this land is populated with mysterious women, danger and desolate spaces. Session men and soul brothers Jeff Eyrich and Steve Kirkman have created a vibrant and unique project with Alectro, and with this – their first album together – they have suceeded in crafting a masterful collection of rock and roll classics.
They’ve slowed down the tempo, giving each note enough space to make an individual statement. All collected these notes weave a fascinating narrative through visions and stories tinted with yellowing and age. Like a dustbowl tumbleweed rolling through a nearly-abandoned town, you’re caught up in the hot desert winds and subject to the harsh law – or lack thereof – of the west. This is the kind of music you want to have playing if Selma Hayek is dancing with a snake in front of you.
School of Desire is the work of experienced, mature and masterful musicians. It’s what happens when people really care about the fine details of their craft and display excellence in every detail. The result of their hard work is that this album has defined them as heavyweight contenders in the dustbowl demolition derby.
With a couple of covers added to spice things up, and a couple of friends stopping in to jam a little bit, School of Desire is a great album with a vintage western theme. From this recipe book, Jeff and Steve have cooked up some great signature musical dishes while maintaining their individuality. That’s a tough balance to keep and these guys do it easy and slow through the whole album. RUST Magazine enthusiastically recommends Alectro’s new album School of Desire, and we were curious about the people behind the music so we reached out to them with a few questions:
RUST: First Jeff, can you tell us, in the proverbial nutshell, what Steve does so uniquely that made your collaboration work so well on School of Desire?
JE: I love the grit and reality in Steve’s lyrics, the depth, the simplicity, the stories he tells. Musically Steve and I are on similar wavelengths, we compliment and balance each other perfectly. We don’t have similar backgrounds – he grew up on a farm out in the country in North Carolina and I’m a beach kid from Southern CA – but we love those twangy guitars, roots music, and we’re puttin’ years and years of experience on the table.
RUST: Steve, what is it about Jeff that impressed you the most during this album’s creative process?
SK: Well aside from being a great and solid player, I think he’s very good at sizing up a song and knowing how to get it to it’s potential. He’ll try lots of different things and maneuver around in the rhythm section to change the feel of a song and make it more interesting to play. It was also him who fairly early in the process realized we could incorporate some of the sounds from the past that had so influenced both of us. Like Jeff said we come from different parts of the American landscape but he shares a love of our diverse American songbook and that gives us a real connection to build on.
RUST: What made the moment “right” for each of you to do this project?
JE: It really wasn’t a conscious decision. Steve and I have shared a lot of stages together as sidemen, backing up different people, all kinds of music. I always loved the guitar sounds Steve would get, for me reminiscent of the instrumental surf music I played growing up. I was at Steve’s one day, putting some bass on a record he was producing. After the session we were messin’ around with one of Steve’s songs, “Take Me To the Highway,” just me, Steve and the rhythm box. The flow was so easy, natural, and fun – we just kept goin’.
SK: The sound of it. From the get go every song we played took on a unique sound and then almost anything we threw at it seemed to work. That made it something to look forward to each time we got together.
RUST: You had some friends help out, can you tell us a little about them?
JE: Rich Zukor and Kevin Hupp (the drummers) are friends, and seasoned, working musicians. Both Steve and I have played many times with these guys – they’re solid, they groove, they’re both good in the studio and we wanted them to play on our record. Steve Rossiter (the mixer) is someone I’ve mixed many records with. He’s in-tune with his studio and the way the mix sounds in there is the way it sounds everywhere else. Scott Hull mastered the record. Scott’s depth of experience is what you want in a mastering engineer, somebody you can trust, easily communicate with… somebody that can take your record to the next level.
SK: Felicia Michaels who sang that almost operatic part at the end of The Debt, she had been brought into my studio by another singer-songwriter for some backing vocals and one day after a session I asked her to take a pass at this song I had. She pretty much nailed it from the start. Tim Ouimette, is a great horn player I’ve known for years but never had the right thing to bring us together. Even though the song could have flown as it was I wanted to throw one more thing at The Debt. I guess it was a “Ring Of Fire” moment and even though we had to cut some stunning guitar, Jeff and I agreed that Tim’s mariachi-styled trumpet gave the song it’s unique voice, and even gave the whole project a benchmark for where we might begin next time. Steve Rossiter who did all the mixing for us, is someone Jeff had worked with on other projects. Steve I think tapped into the essence of these songs and highlighted their obvious strong points without loosing any of the subtleties and nuance. The mixes Steve did, I felt, could have been the record but knowing and having worked with Scott Hull in the past, we wanted to get his take on these songs. Scott amazingly pushed it even further and gave it yet another level of depth and personality. Scott and his team are just the best.
RUST: Thanks guys, last question, are there any artists doing really exceptional work right now that people should know about – besides your selves of course?
JE: Pretty much anything that Ry Cooder does; Tom Russell; Ray Bonneville. That new Neil Young book is really cool too.
SK: Daniel Lanois’s latest “Flesh and Machine”, Mark Ribot’s “Ceramic Dog”, anything Bill Frisell is doing, and John Trudell for reconnecting to humanity.
For more info visit http://alectro.net/