Catch up with Nick Throop of New York-based Americana group, Steamboats, and be sure to listen to and get your copy of their recent sophomore release, Chosen Peace.
What brought you all together?
Nick Throop: Me and Jon were high school friends. We went to high school in Newton, which is right outside of Boston, and pretty much since freshman year we've been playing in some amalgam of a band together. So, we played in high school and we went to college and found ourselves rooming together in New York, still playing music, and Mario, the third member of the band, went to Purchase, which is also where Jon went to college. Jon recommended he was a great player and, I think, around the Fall of 2011, we all got together and started playing folk traditional songs and I had a couple originals, Mario had a couple originals, and from there it kind of steamrolled [laughs] no pun intended.
Where does your name, Steamboats, come from?
You know, it's tricky [laughs]. It was one of those things where we were just sick of calling our project by each others names and I just suggested, 'hey, why don't we call it this?', and none of us feel strongly against it or for it, so that means it probably can stand the test of time. Me and Jon have been in so many different bands and we've come to acknowledge that if you initially like a band name, chances are, a month from now, you're going to hate that band name, so we picked a name that we were like, 'this is fine; I don't feel strongly about it, for it, or against it,' and, from there, it just became something where the music and the band name, they seemed to fit together pretty well. It's very nondescript, but it also harkens to what we do with our folk band and steamboats are this old-timey, not used form of transportation anymore which is similar to folk music, in general, which we're trying to revive in our own way.
You had your own originals and I read you took your time making sure your voices could harmonize well, so how does that creative process work in your group?
Yeah, there was a lot of development of harmonies and stuff like that. We had been singing in choirs - each one of us were in a choir in high school - so we're used to singing with a group, but we really leveled up when we really focused on the blend of each one of our distinctive voices; like, how Mario says a certain vowel versus how I say it and how Jon says a certain consonant versus how Mario says it, that kind of thing. We just blended them all together to see if we could create this unified voice that is Steamboats [laughs].
Which musicians have you been influenced?
My parents pretty much fed me Beatles from the womb, so my mom was a musician, my dad was a musician, so they recognize the importance of all that stuff and I appreciate that. In the new school of thought, I was really influenced by bands like Fleet Foxes, Band Of Horses - those indie bands that are doing a lot with vocal harmonies and blending - as well as the more bluegrassy numbers, like Nickel Creek and Crooked Still, they just shred on their mandolins and banjos and I'm a sucker for all that stuff. Using those, that new school folk and old school folk, seeing what we can combine and put together, see what comes out the other end.
What's in your playlist now?
[Laughs] Right now, this is interesting, I'm actually going through a hip-hop phase but, for the sake of Steamboats, my top albums that I always go back to are Fleet Foxes' Helplessness Blues, the Dawes album, North Hills; anytime someone plays anything by the band I tell them to turn it up, so that band is always there. Some of the more traditional ones, like James Taylor, I'm a sucker for his voice and his songwriting, all that stuff. Probably, as a guitarist and as classical guitarist, Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey Buckingham's guitar playing is just out of this world; I'm listening to Rumours once a month, at least.
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never heard Steamboats before?
I would say that we're a folk band at heart, but you can hear those influences of some of the more indie bands coming out of California and Seattle, like Fleet Foxes and Dawes but, at the end of the day, "Magnify" is a very simple, traditional folk song and, even in the lyrics, it's about a musician and he's on the road and he's tired of being on the road he's excited to be coming home to his own bed. I think, if I were to give three words, it would probably be a folky Americana band, with a heavy emphasis on musical arrangement; kind of guitar, mandolin, banjo interplay - there's complex arrangements throughout all of our songs.
So what was the inspiration behind "Magnify"?
Steamboats was coming along as a band and we were touring more and more and that was my first introduction to touring regularly. I'd been playing gigs here and there but doing four day runs and every night you're in a different city and then, come Sunday, you see the lights of New York City and you're like, 'oh great, I'm finally home and I'm going to sleep in Brooklyn tonight, that's great'. Yeah, that was my inspiration for "Magnify".
That's off your new album, could you tell us more about Chosen Peace?
Chosen Peace is definitely a level up from the EP. The EP we recorded, that was in our first year and a half of playing together and we were like, 'we just need it as a product so we can give it to venues and stuff like that and this is going to be just a simple, here's what we sound like, these are our four songs and if you like us, you should book us'. The album, Chosen Peace, was a little bit more premeditated. A friend of mine from college who is an engineer, he works at Electric Wilburland Studios, which is where we recorded the album, up in Ithaca, New York, and he has worked with a number of different bands very similar to our style and he was just very integral in creating an overall sound for the album. Each song has their own distinguishing qualities but, as an album, our engineer was really pivotal in making it, I don't want to say conceptual, but these songs flow into one another and there's one thing that you can find in every song that is similar. And, in those couple years that we played together, our songwriting and our playing and our blending, singing-wise, has doubled, if not tripled, in quality. So, it was really a level up for us, we're really proud of what we did with it and it surpassed all of our expectations in terms of the final product. These songs were good on their own, but then we put them down on the album and we had all these ideas in the studio; it was a fun experimental path and we're really proud of Chosen Peace.
What do you hope your listeners will take away from your music?
I want our listeners to put on this album - they just want to check it out because they're a friend of mine or something - and they're listening to it, doing whatever they're doing, and they stop and they're like, 'whoa, wait, what was that song? I need to go back and listen to it again'. For me, personally, the first time I hear an album it usually doesn't stick with me, it's usually the second or third listen where I'm really like, 'wow, this album is really good'. I want that for Steamboats, I want people to listen to us and be like, 'wow, that was really good,' and then, the second time they listen to it, be like, 'wow, this is like really good,' and then the third time they listen to it, they're like, 'I need to go see them live,' that kind of thing. Kind of an evolution of their appreciation for Steamboats.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Just that we're excited to tour. We've been mostly touring the Northeast, but we're trying to expand outward; we're going to LA this weekend just to feel out the scene and see if they would be amenable to any shows that we would want to put on. But if there's anyone out there that wants to check out Steamboats in their local arena, we'll be in Manhattan playing shows for the foreseeable future.