The life of a rock musician is often glorified. Booze filled nights, drugs, desirable women, slow mornings and well basically non-stop bingeing. Sure some of this is true but what about all that hard work? Yeah that’s right some actually work, and you need not look any further than Melbourne boys Howlin’ Steam Train. Front man Mathew ‘Boots’ Stott spoke with Tone Deaf about all their recent shows, recording and future plans on the eve of launching new single ‘Ramblin’ Man’ at The Tote.
March was certainly a busy month for the boys, with a residency at Fitzroy’s Old Bar and recording an EP with producer Steve Schram. While an EP launch is likely to take place a few months down the track, ‘Ramblin’ Man’ stood out most as highlighting were the band is currently at and where they’re heading.
“We felt ‘Ramblin’ Man’ was probably the strongest track. We were all really happy with how it all turned out that was just going to be the introduction into the sort of direction we’re moving in.”
“We recorded with Steve Schram who’s just done Clairy Browne and the majority of The Vasco Era album. It was a bit of a jam out song when we first wrote it. We worked on it with Steve and ended up getting the song to a point to where we thought it would sound good on the EP.”
One of the first things that shines through after hearing ‘Ramblin’ Man’ is that it must particularly stand out in the live setting. “That’s the way we choose our songs, if we all enjoy playing it and we all think they sound good. The live aspect of it is good as well, that’s a big thing, we know we’ve got a good song if the crowd reacts well to it,” says Stott.
Having played so many shows recently and working so hard at developing a strong reputation for playing a cracking set the band still works at mixing things up. While some bands may resort to more outlandish things to engage the audience, it’s the simple things that make the difference for Howlin’ Steam Train.
“The set list is really important with us, we find that when you’ve been playing the amount of shows we’ve been playing, we know what song works at what point in the set. It’s kind of like making a mix tape, you know, you start off strong but not too strong, take it to a little bit of a lull and then finish off with a few big ones.”
Stott further expands on the philosophy and thinking behind playing live. “Our live show is a really important part of us. When we were doing those residencies we would have to change it up a little bit to keep it interesting for us, if you just played the same set list over and over again it just gets boring. So we would change things up. On some occasions we just wouldn’t write a set list and call the songs as we felt, which was kind of cool as well.”
This idea would work extremely well in a festival setting, where each crowd varies. Here’s hoping we’ll see this happen at festivals in the near future. “We’re going to start shooting at festivals this year, we’re going to have a really good crack for Bluesfest next year. I think we’re releasing this EP to try and get on a festival people radar and start getting out and playing festivals, I think we’d be really suited to them as well”.
While there may be a tendency to categorise Howlin’ Steam Train as simply blues rock, closer inspection reveals far more than that and a clear focus on simply playing what feels right. Stott expands on their focus, “we don’t necessarily want to restrict ourselves to a genre, I think that just gets boring and doesn’t make it as fun. Feeling like you can write whatever you want and whatever you feel like at the time.”
And speaking of writing, there may be an album awaiting us soon. “We really like it in the studio even though we’re predominantly a live band the studio is really fun. I do think it would be really great to get in and record an album at the end of year, that’s something the boys and I are pretty keen on doing.”
Expectations are no doubt high for the weekend’s single launch and don’t fret extra effort has been made. “We’ve got something planned, we’re going to see if it’s going to work but we want to try and get a few things happening just to make it a little bit extra special.” With an already healthy reputation for rocking socks off, expect nothing short of a barn stomping knee slapping good time.