THREE TIMES BOBBY STEEL MADE A SONG IDEA OF MINE INFINITELY BETTER
by Andy Roman
Elm Treason is a collaboration.
In every sense of the word.
Those who follow the band beyond the rudimentary know it all too well.
And while one can accurately make generalized statements about the band (Andy plays bass, Bobby plays drums, etc), the fact that only two members of the group exist means that each person’s input carries considerable weight.
There isn’t a song in our arsenal that hasn’t been touched, molded and brought to life by the two of us as a team. We do, in fact, feed off of each other.
It’s interesting, because each of us come from backgrounds and experiences where we were the creative driving forces in whatever music project we happened to be in.
Elm treason is different.
No one here is in charge. No one is more of a creative force than the other. With Elm Treason (notice I refer to the band as a separate entity apart from Andy Roman and Bobby Steel), for the first time, we each have someone we can trust with our most valuable non-human assets: our songs.
Elm Treason tunes almost always originate from one of us as a raw idea. Sometimes these notions are partially developed, sometimes more so. When inspiration hits a brick wall – or when it starts to feel forced – the song’s originator will take it to the other person to begin the “back and forth” of making it a finished product.
Here are three instances where a song idea of mine was made better by something Bobby did that would not have occurred to me. Sometimes, that “something” seems incredibly minor. Other times, it comes across as far more ambitious. Either way, the music was brought to a different level thanks to Bobby.
1. STILL AROUND – This is a song I had laying around for a long while. When I brought it to Bobby for possible admittance into the newly created Elm Treason canon, he (among other creative yummies) did something that, at first glance, might seem pretty simple and nondescript. But for me, it made the song so much better. He simply doubled the six note riff after each of the first two verses. When I originally demoed the tune for him, I was only playing it once. He simply doubled it, the second time being a harmonized version. Game changer. Simple. Brilliant. Never occurred to me.
2. MY SPECIAL FRIEND – Loosely inspired by John Lennon’s “Girl,” this track (one of my favorites, frankly) underwent a magical overhaul once Bobby got his hands on it. He loved it from the get-go, he said, but he decided that having the song in 4/4 time wasn’t bringing it to its full potential. He turned it into a waltz (3/4 time) and transformed it into one of our most popular songs… ever. A complete time signature shift. Nope. Never occurred to me.
3. UPTOWN Q – Here’s a tune that has emerged as, perhaps, our most popular song. It’s a bluesy romp that, in an offhanded way, pays tribute to our hometown. But thanks to Bobby, it morphed from a nifty one dimensional jam into a musical train ride. I shared the original idea with him and it immediately inspired him. He thought the song itself should become the train and created the double time ending meant to recreate the subway picking up steam and racing down the track. The piano represented the wheels rolling along the rails. Even those stop and go chords bridging the slower first half of the tune and the grinding second half represents the motor of the train “firing up.” Very clever. Again, it never occurred to me.
These are three that immediately come to mind. There are lots more.
That’s what Elm Treason is all about, really. The song. Not the egos.