Canadian Musician’s Hal Rodriguez caught up with the three members of Saskatoon-based dance rock trio The Steadies in early July 2020 to chat about their latest single, “Undeniable,” from their 2019 collection Tiro de Leone, as well as the making of the album, how they’ve kept busy through the COVID-10 pandemic, and more.
CM: We’re in the middle of the COVID-19 era, but I tune into The Steadies’ Instagram wall, and you guys are busy. You’ve got a new single and music video called “Undeniable” from your album, Tiro de Leone, and you even have a tour lined up for the summer. How have you stayed active during this challenging time?
Earl Pereira (Bass & Vocals): It wasn’t easy. We’re still not out of the woods yet, either. In the beginning, we were like other musicians - we panicked, almost. We had to cancel so many shows like everyone else had to. This is our livelihood and this is all I do for a living. It was a little bit scary at first, but like you said, I re-invented myself; I did a whole bunch of solo acoustic stuff. Kurtis [Schultz], our drummer, lives in Edmonton and Jesse [Clark], our guitarist, lives in Victoria, so we were all split up. Luckily, just before COVID happened, we shot the “Undeniable” video. It’s a live video – one take, live off the floor. We wanted to make a really cool, high quality video of what it’s like to see The Steadies perform. It was great because we had that content. We could work on the editing and get it finished during COVID.
In the meantime, I was working on back-end business things – stuff you never really have the time to do that’s super important. Being a touring band like us, most of the attention usually falls on touring, so actually having this forced time off was really good for us.
CM: Were you lining up shows for the tour you’re about to start?
Pereira: Yes, for sure. I had known there was going to be a slim chance that later in the summer, things were going to open up and we were going to be able to play some shows. The first place to reach out was on Vancouver Island. I thought that was great, because it was a festival we were going to be playing that converted into an indoors live streaming event. The date was the same. Everything stayed the same for us, so we said, “Yes, we can do that.”
The perfect thing about it was that it would give me and Kurtis a chance to go out to the island, reunite with Jesse, and all of us could play music together again. That was our main goal – not really to play shows, but just to play music together. We could stream it, whatever we wanted to do, just to be together again.
Then, shows started coming. Kelowna called me – we do these boat parties every year and they’re my favourite shows to play. The captain called me and said Transport Canada cleared us, and I jumped all over it. We sold out three shows, so it turned into a tour, and then we added a few more private house concerts and made a nine-show tour out of it. It was pretty amazing, considering I didn’t realize no one else was doing this. People started commenting, “I think you’re the only band in the world that’s touring this month.” I thought it was kind of funny. It’s a testament to what the band is all about: we love to play. Nothing can really stop us from doing it, not even COVID, but with proper protocols. Everything’s under control. They’re small shows and we’re doing whatever we can to make everything as safe as possible.
CM: Since I’ve known you, you’ve always had this relentless work ethic. How did you stay positive during self-isolation?
Pereira: It wasn’t easy. I was dealing with a lot of personal things as well, which was a tough time for this to happen. I just lost my dad. He was our number one fan and our number one supporter. That was very, very difficult. So dealing with that and losing all of our shows, it was tough to stay positive. I’m not going to lie.
But I have a really great support group: a strong, tight family, good friends, and I knew I could call on anyone if I needed to. My bandmates are great for that. I can always talk to them and we communicate pretty well with each other. It was a matter of talking and saying, “This is a bump in the road. Things are going to get back to a new normal, and we’re going to play again, so let’s focus on other things.” Like, “Kurtis, you take over the merchandise store,” “Jesse: Spotify,” and me, dealing with other back-end business.
We have a new management team as well, and they’ve been very, very helpful during these times trying to create opportunities, pivot, and brainstorming new ways to do things every day.
CM: Kurtis, could you talk about your experience mixing the new Steadies album, Tiro de Leone?
Kurtis Schultz (Drums): It was actually a kind of strange process, because we recorded the bed tracks in Saskatoon at Pulsworks Studio. Then, we recorded all the guitars in Earl’s house. So already from the beginning, we were jumping all over the place. Then, I proceeded to mix it partially on tour, so at one point, I had a setup in Tofino [BC] where I was mixing part of the record down and other times I’d be at my home studio in Edmonton. All in all, at the end, we took it to Night Vision Studio in Edmonton. I got to run it by Jake Roberts, who’s a really great electronic musician who runs that studio. I thought I’d have someone who knows their own room have their ears on it as well, which was a great help.
The Tofino part just kind of made it real and gave me four full days to put into the record. I was isolated. I just said, “OK, I’m going to disappear.” I had a bunch of food all around me (laughs), and my bed was right beside the studio, so that was definitely a moment where it all took shape. It was a great place to do it. I could take a break and walk down to the beach. When we had the mixes finished, then we brought them back to Earl’s studio and cranked them up and we were celebrating. That was also a great moment, as it always is when something is finished and accomplished.
CM: Jesse, let’s talk about the writing process for this album. Did you pitch guitar parts to Earl or did he already have a specific vision in mind going into these tracks?
Jesse Clark (Guitar): When I joined the band, there was a good portion of the record that had already been written – I would say four or five songs that Earl had kind of worked through that already had some outlined skeleton guitar parts. We were living together at the time and collaborating on what would work the best, so we’d try different parts and keep working through things. I’d pitch ideas and he would have an idea. After those four or five songs, I would come up with ideas to match something he had written on the bass. Usually, I’d be writing my own guitar parts to what he had already started. Then, we just kept trying things out with trial and error.
This is my first actual record. Honestly, it’s been an honour working with Kurtis and Earl. They’re just fantastic musicians. Before, I was doing a lot of smaller bands, just playing local gigs and getting out as much as possible, but now being in a band where I can be part of something that big is just an incredible experience.
Hal Rodriguez is a published writer, freelance music transcriber, and music teacher based in Toronto. He has studied with Greg Howe, transcribed music for guitarists such as Oz Noy, and interviewed artists such as John Scofield. Contact him on Instagram @jazzscriber.