Continuing our series of interviews with unsigned and independent acts, we had the opportunity to submit questions to Heather Jay from Hampshire / Wiltshire based band Steam Shed.
1) How did Steam Shed form?
Steam Shed started as a recording project by founder member Richard Pellew. He persuaded bassist Doug Irvine (formerly of Marillion) and drummer Paul Skidmore (worked with Bob Dylan, Ronnie Wood & Bob Geldof) out of retirement for the project. Having produced a bunch of songs, they went searching for singers to finish off the variety of styles. Heather Skull was originally drafted in to record the operatic/choral sounds but stayed on to record the more blues, jazz and rock-influenced songs. She also provides piano & keyboard and – if asked nicely – quantities of cake for rehearsals. Richard & Heather took an acoustic duo version of Steam Shed out to test drive a couple of songs in November 2016 which proved successful. From there, they convinced the other two to take the fully electric version of the band out on the road for a number of live gigs and festivals in 2017 and now in 2018.
2) How would you describe your music?
Imagine a cousin of a family made up of Vivaldi, Metallica, Nina Simone and Django Reinhardt and you’re nearly there. Because we have four musicians from a very broad background, to us no song idea is off limits. We have a drummer who started off in jazz and became a successful professional rock musician, a prog-rock bassist, a guitarist who’s done everything from classical to punk and a singer who is classically trained who loves blues and folk music. From that, you can see that no starting point is discounted We never know how a song is going to come out of the Steam Shed as we can often all bring something different to it. This is a band which has charted on the internet with everything from electronic dance music to jazz.
3) How do you go about reimagining a song?
If a cover song goes into our ‘shed’ for retuning, sometimes we adapt a song because it better suits Heather’s voice, or Paul will change the drum feel. Or sometimes it’s simply, ‘Wouldn’t it be a laugh to play this in a jazz style?’ For us, the question is always based on whether we can keep the recognisable song while pushing it as far as we can.
4) Have you any albums out there?
Not at the moment. We have a number of tracks that are in the making and we’ve put a series of those out in different styles on soundcloud and bandcamp. If we put all our tracks together on one album, it would be a very eclectic album – so we’re trying to group them into separate albums to release into separate genres. Watch this space!
5) What are your live gigs like?
We try not to take live performances too seriously, in the sense that quite often songs don’t come out always as they were originally rehearsed or recorded. But the bottom line is that if we’re not enjoying it, how can we expect others to? Audiences respond to that and we try to react to that response. Heather is good at getting audiences to sing along with songs they’ve never heard before. Occasionally, we swap instruments around – Paul plays a mean saxophone when we can persuade him out from behind his drums – which confuses the audience. And us, frankly.