Preluded by a girl, her guitar, her band, and a violinist magician; Steel Train took the candle-lit environment radiating feel good energy throughout the room. After their set I stole guitarist/ backing vocalist, Matt Goldman, to ask him a few questions in a bustling 6x6 room off the stage, where people were in and out finding coats, bags, instruments, and signatures. It did not occur to me right away, in my abundance of foresight, that the commotion of this cell in addition to the trickling in of the after-show PA music that the quality of my recording would probably be hindered. So until my brain decided to kick in, Matt told me how he acquired his membership into the band. Steel Train was birthed by Jack Antonoff(vocals/guitar/piano) and Scott Ranniar(vocals), who later picked up members Evan Winiker(bass/backing vocals), Matthias Gruber(drums/percussions) and finally Matt Goldman(guitar/backing vocals). It so happens when he was asked to come play with them, Matt was living in Boston and his house had recently burnt down. (brain kick-starts and I ask Matt to hold the tape recorder)
AP.net: The music Steel Train is producing, obviously falls under a much different "label" or genre than the other bands signed to Drive-Thru. How do you think this has affected your audience base?
Matt: Well, our audience is our audience. (Matt is now talking to Evan, who just realized there was an interview going on) I was just about to say in the beginning when we started playing, we played to the Drive-Thru crowd primarily. Then we ended up picking up a lot of really core fans.
AP.net: What effect, if any, did the reception of the crowd on the Finch/From Autumn to Ashes tour have on Steel Trains members and/or its creative approach?
Matt: Well we realized, when you play in front of two thousand kids there's bound to be a hundred kids that don't like you. Right? When we happened to play those one hundred kids just happened to throw stuff at us. You know? But the thing is, those hundred kids, that's not the whole audience, there's a whole other ocean of people to play to. So whenever kids would start throwing stuff you would just try to look to the person next to them, that they're trying to get into it. It's a give and take sort of thing. We made a lot of core fans, and that's all that really matters.
AP.net: Do you find that certain areas of the country relate more to your music?
Matt: We seem to do really well in California and New Jersey, because we're from New Jersey and I don't quite know why we do well in California. I don't know maybe it's because the seeds of Laurel Canyon have spread through many generations. Like the Crosby, Stills, Nash and eventual Neil Young theme. I don't know, maybe that seeped into the ground. I couldn't tell ya.
AP.net: What bands, both past and present have influenced Steel Train the most?
Matt: Everyone in the band, we all bring something different to the table. I can speak for myself, bands like, Crosby, Stills and Nash, The Grateful Dead, Neil Young, the Stone Roses who were like a British groove band. They started off pop groove and they were hailed as like the next Beatles. Then they came out with a record like five years later that was just fucking the grooviest thing you've ever heard. Like British blues, practically. Bob Dylan, lyrically, is extremely influential.
AP.net: Aside from other artists, what or whom do you find yourselves drawing most of your inspiration from?
Matt: Well most of the songs have to do with relationships. Be they, romantic or just friendships, you know, platonic relationships. So I guess all the characters we surround ourselves with are really influential, all of our friends, all of our girlfriends, ex-girlfriends. It's all fuel for the fire.
AP.net: Describe how you guys most productively indulge in your music writing process.
Matt: Well we like to jam a lot. We write songs out of jams. We'll get together and plug in at practice and Matthias just throws down a beat and Evan just comes playing some line, and we'll just run with it. We'll go with it for maybe 45 minutes. And if we play anything that's really catchy or if something catches our ear we'll be like 'Oh let?s throw that in the pile and we'll go back to that later.' Otherwise we write songs individually and bring them to practice if they're not written in the jam formula. Jack writes songs, Evan writes songs, and I write songs. We work really well together.
AP.net: After a show, what do you hope your audience walks away with?
Matt: The sense of something new. Hopefully that music isn't as stagnant as it appears to be.
AP.net: What do you hope will come out of your upcoming tour?
Matt: Well it's going to be our first major, major nationally wide headlining tour. (an intern that was shooting a video of the band for something comes in for Matt to sign a release) Where were we?
AP.net: What do you hope to get out of the upcoming tour?
Matt: I look forward to meeting many new people. I love meeting people. I hope to be inspired by new places. I look forward to traveling. We haven't been to Colorado yet, or Idaho, or Oregon... I do look forward to being in those places?I love nature. I hope to take some inspiration home...
AP.net: What can you tell us to expect from the new album?
(Matt begins to mock me for what I believe to be his perception of my folly of calling his "record" an "album." Which was amazing)
Matt: The new album gonna hit sometime in late April... No, it's fourteen songs and a very eclectic array, ranging off of blues, country, rock. Got some really good groove tracks. Vocally challenging, lyrically challenging. A really intriguing record, something we all hope will draw people in.
AP.net: What is your ideal aspiration for the future of Steel Train?
Matt: To just be able to make music that I love and to speak clearly through our music.
Evan: Can I make a comment there? To be able to succeed as musicians. That is what we want to do. This is our job that we like to have.
AP.net: Is there anything else you want to let everyone know?
Matt: Just that they should be really excited for the new record. Cause it?s definitely something new. It's gonna throw kids for a loop but hopefully they'll think it's a fun ride.