Talk Music: Two Tons of Steel unveils latest rockabilly record
By Melissa Crowe
July 3, 2013 at 2:03 a.m.
In the tight-jean-clad world of rockabilly, a scrappy musical subculture that combines blues, rock and Americana, Two Tons of Steel fits right in.
But frontman Kevin Geil can attest that time and status aren't necessarily synonymous with peace and harmony.
After a major shift in band members last year, Two Tons is back with a new album and a renewed energy.
Geil caught up with Get Out to talk about "Unraveled," fireworks and where he's going from here.
Two Tons has been around more than 20 years. What's the craziest thing you've seen?
One of the craziest things that ever happened: We were in playing for the Fourth of July. They had us on this trailer, but right behind us was a propane refueling company. They started popping the fireworks like right next to that thing, and these huge fireworks were only going up like 30, 40 feet. They were exploding and shooting fireballs onto us, the crowd and the propane company. Everyone was just oohing and ahhing, and we jumped off the stage. We were the only ones that were really scared.
There was this crazy guy out there, he said, "You've just got to enjoy life." He was blind.
The band went to the fans to finish recording the album. How did you decide to do it that way?
We had been with labels, like most bands that are out there. The majority of those have closed up shop or changed the way they do business.
A buddy of mine told me about this website where people are raising money. You give perks, and people pledge the money through your fans. We cut this video and put it out there; we got a good response early.
We set a goal of $10,000. We spent about $7,000 out of our pocket. Three days, 72 hours to go, we were right about $6,000 short. I just started calling and emailing people, and we ended up raising right at $18,000. We ended up being able to finance the whole thing.
Right now, we're autographing CDs and getting everything sorted. We ended up with more than 100 contributors.
What does that say about Two Tons fans?
They just really care about us. We have a really close relationship with our fans, and we just got really lucky. A lot of bands have raised more, but a lot fall way short. I'm just glad we ended up on the plus side.
They wanted a new album, and they're going to get it.
The new album has been described as more "in your face" than Two Tons has ever been. Do you think so?
It's raw. It's just the four of us playing. There's not a lot of fluff to it. The songs are more direct. There's always been kind of fluffy, love songs on the past albums - they're still great songs, and we play them every night - this album just turned out to be a little more on the rockabilly side.
Which songs are you most proud of?
All of them are pretty darn good. One of my favorite tracks is "Ease my Mind." It's kind of a mellow, love-has-ended song. "This Life of Mine" is a cool song about my life and silly things that have happened. "Once a Girl," which is a crazy, rocking song, and "Hell Cat" is a great song. We do a version of "Busted." Harlen Howard wrote it, and Ray Charles and Johnny Cash both had hits with it in the 60s. We have a whole different take on it. We cover stuff, but it's usually so far removed from the original, most people don't even know it's the same song.
The album has 11 new songs, and was produced by Lloyd Maines.
Where does the album name Unraveled come from?
My wife came up with hit. I went through some line up changes, so it just kind of worked. It's unraveled and a new beginning. The new band has phenomenal players.
Every CD has had a title track. Unraveled is a line in "This Life of Mine," which is basically this title track. "A judge slammed the gavel, my whole world unraveled."
How are things with the Two Tons personnel change?
It's like having a new girlfriend. You want to get dressed up every day and make sure you're looking good and feeling good. It's a breath of fresh air. The guys are so great. They're young and they're ready to hit the road. We do a lot of shows, about 200 a year. We fly over to the French Riviera Aug. 2 for a festival. It's new and exciting. There's no old baggage or settling in your ways.
It's great that you're able to pick up and continue on. It seemed like the break up got personal.
Unfortunately, when you run a band, even though it's Two Tons of Steel, I'm the founder. I hired the players and they become like family. It just got to a point where I needed more and they just pretty much didn't want to do it. I had to make a change. When people lose their jobs, they get upset. That's just the nature of the game, you just move forward and keep your head down. Everything passes in time.
Where will you go from here?
I have no plan on slowing down. We are going to be doing more touring than we've ever done in the history of this band.
You spent some time as a photographer for the San Antonio Express-News. Do you let your journalistic eye shine through your music?
I had a dual-life as musician and as a photographer in San Antonio Express-News and with the AP. I think most things have settled down now in the journalism industry. I saw things that most people will never see. I covered every major event in San Antonio.
I've written many songs about where things have happened to me. As a photographer, you tend to look at things different. After I stopped shooting, I always found myself watching confrontations, or being in a position of seeing stuff. I'm always looking. It comes across in my inspiration and writing.
There's a line in "This life of Mine," "Laid me off, tried to shake my hand. Told them to kiss my a**."