Our latest New Groove, selected by our readers via the Jambands 250 poll, is Roster McCabe. Here is our interview with the Minnesota based group, which describes its music as funky reggae dance rock.
Can you talk about the development of the group? How did you meet and how did the current line-up solidify?
The group started out with Drew Preiner and Alex Steele doing an acoustic project and performing at open mics on campus at the University of Minnesota. Mike Daum joined soon after and the group made a few demos and continued performing. In Jan 2007 the project got a new vision and direction and Scott Muellenberg joined in on bass. Between Jan 2007 and Jan 2008 the band split with a saxophone player and solidified the line up with Jeff Peterson on drums in Jan 2008.
What led you to move from an acoustic group to a full-on electric band? Would you say that there were growing pains along the way?
We always felt the band was going to grow into a full band, but we wanted to be performing and writing along the way, so we started with just a few acoustic guitars until we met the right players. Our growing pains were the same as any other band multiple members quitting/joining, finding our sound and direction, and evolving as songwriters, players and performers. Nothing out of the ordinary. Overall, we all feel lucky that things have gone this well and we are a full time touring band.
In terms of your musical backgrounds and interests, what does each of you bring to bear?
We all more or less enjoy the same music and certainly respect ALL styles. We are all comfortable with our music being described as funky reggae dance rock, but we each have our own personal favorites. Drew is the strongest jamband fan, Alex knows the most about reggae and R&B, Jeff and Scott really like tight funk and rock, and Mike digs powerful singer/songwriting styles.
How would you describe the vitality and support of your local music scene?
Minneapolis has a great local scene. There are plenty of venues, bands and opportunities to get your name out there. There is an especially strong jam scene partly because of all the festivals that are held in MN: 10KLf, all the Harmony Park festivals, Log Jam, etc. These festivals are great because we get to meet so many bands and hang out with everyone. In Minneapolis there is always a show going on and the venues, bands and audiences are always supportive. We feel very lucky to be a part of it!
What is the farthest you’ve gigged from your Minnesota home base and how would you describe that experience?
The farthest away we have ever been was Telluride, CO last winter. It was a full 21 hours from home. It was part of a large tour that had gone thru MN, CO, IA, WI, IL, MO and the Dakotas. The gig in Telluride along with all the other CO stops was great. The people were friendly, hospitable and very open to our music. The Telluride venue was called Fly Me to the Moon Saloon, a bar nestled in the super fantastical majestic mountains of CO. Phish recorded their live album Colorado 88 there and String Cheese had recently played there. We met some awesome bands in CO and they help us out whenever we are in the area. Big thanks to HOME and KINETIX for the love!
Who writes the band’s music? How it is typically presented to the group and how does it then come together?
Most of the songs, chords, riffs, melodies, and lyrics come from Mike, the lead guitar player. With that said, Drew, Alex and Jeff also write. Generally, when the main arrangement and vision for the song is done we will then jam it out full band and make a demo. We then take the demo and solidify the melodies and lyrics. Alex, the lead singer, will modify the melody and lyrics to his liking, and everyone else comes up with their own parts in the song. We usually try to get a live recording of new tunes early on and make the necessary changes and improvements based on how it sounds live.
How do you approach original songs in the live setting?
We have been playing only up-tempo originals and generally try to increase the excitement as much as possible. We also like more down-tempo stuff and have even talked about doing an acoustic style release at some point. But when we are touring and playing for new crowds it is easier to keep the party going with more danceable material.
We do often get requests for some slower tunes off our 2007 release, like Take Me Higher and Southern Shore, but we rarely play them live.
What about covers, can you talk about what songs you toss in from time to time? Who selects them?
Everyone brings new covers to the table from time to time. We try to pick songs that catch people off guard, songs that people haven’t heard in awhile. We do tunes like Ghostbusters, Regulators, and King Without a Crown". Covers give us the opportunity to relate to many different people in the audience and a chance to display our flexibility with musical genres.
In terms of cover tunes can you talk about any spectacular successes and failures?
We get a positive crowd response with our hip hop throwbacks like California Diggity," a mashup of 2Pac’s California Love and Blackstreet’s No Diggity. One memory that stands out was our recent show in Chicago. We played the song to a packed crowd and had the whole room throwing up their arms and screaming.
How often do you rehearse? What do you focus on when you get together for rehearsal?
As a rule of thumb, we practice as much as we can. Currently, our main focus is the new songs and demos for the upcoming album we plan to record in the winter.
Can you talk about some of your performance highlights thus far. Is there a gig (or gigs) that stand out? Why?
The festivals are always a highlight for us, because of the crowds and their ready-to-party attitudes. Our set at Bella Madre this year was wild! We had a spectacular light show and jam-packed tent. We did our version of Darudes techno classic Sandstorm and had glowsticks flying from all angles. Summerfest in Milwaukee is another unique gig we do every year. The people in Milwaukee have always been very open to our music and we get a lot of support there.
Your site indicates that you are working on a new studio record. Can you talk about what you learned from your prior experience in the studio and where you seem to be headed with this release?
Our last studio release was 2007s The Rhythm/The Elements which was our first official full-length album. We were young – Mike was the oldest at 23 – and not really prepared for that session. We were still unsure of our actual direction and style. We titled it The Rhythm/The Elements as a way of saying Ok, we have some styles, rhythms and elements we like right now, but this is a transitional piece and we are growing as artists. Since then, we have settled on funky reggae dance rock as our style and the new album should reflect that. We have matured as players and writers and I think the new disc will sound like a smarter, tighter Roster McCabe. The two drastic changes will be the absence of the sax, and the introduction of some groove-rock influenced music.
*Any final thoughts to folks across the country who may be hearing about you for the first time from this piece? *
We are a young, new band with a lot of growing to do. We are touring and writing as much as possible and trying to find our sound the best we can. Our new disc that should be out Spring 2010 (fingers crossed) will be the milestone in our career that better defines what we are doing. Until then, check out our free live shows at Archive.org and our iTunes store.