A LITTLE MORE ABOUT...
ELM TREASON is a two-man operation out of New York City - one guy from Staten Island, the other from Brooklyn.
In a shotgun biographical nutshell, it goes something like this: They met in a church in Staten Island. Andy fell in love with Bobby's piano skills. Eventually, they got to talking (almost exclusively about music). Before long, they got to playing together. Soon, they would form a band.
To date, they've recorded and released three albums. They play all the instruments on those albums.
That's the gist.
Yes, there's much more - juicy tidbits, engaging stories, insights and delights worth sharing (we'll add a link or two below for that) - but this particular part of the page will be focusing (almost briefly) on each band member leading up to the creation of ELM TREASON. (People often like that kind of thing, so here it is):
Bob's whole life has been surrounded by, infused with, and defined by music. Growing up, he heard his living room gush with the sounds of Al Green, Janis Joplin, Donna Summer, Diana Ross and the Eagles. His Dad filled him up with Dylan. His brother, the Beatles. His grandfather added generous helpings of Sinatra to the musical bouilliabasse. His cousin turned him on to Yes and the Who. However, it was Rush's "Fly By Night" that ensured a musical life for Bob. That was it for him. He was hooked.
He started singing and playing drums around the age of 5. He started on piano age 7, and then guitar at 9 (self taught with the exception of piano). He studied trumpet with Rich Caspari at 9 and played in the school band. He studied piano with Pete Paratore (who toured with big bands and the NY Philharmonic).
Bobby Steel's previous bands included "Ambience" (playing under-age in Staten Island clubs with bands almost twice their age). His second and third bands were "Steel" and "Black Teacup Yorkie". One was a heavy metal band, the other was an acoustic based East Village coffee house group (with the same members). Steel's self-titled EP received a four star review in The Aquarian. His fourth Band was called "Isko Suno" (a multicultural blend of rock, hip hop and trip hop). A review in the Village Voice called their music "Ethnic Groove".
As a pianist for the Brooklyn College Jazz Big Band and Small Ensemble, Bob performed at Amherst Unitarian Church in Amherst MA; at the Abrons Arts Center in Manhattan; and at the University of Connecticut in Storrs CT, for which he received a write up in the Hartford Courant.
Bob's credentials include: BA Music: College of Staten Island 1992; MA Music Education : Brooklyn College; Recipient of 2011 Kadish-Millet Award for Excellence in Songwriting.
Like Bobby, music was in Andy's blood (and surrounding his whole life) from the get-go. His Dad played guitar. His Mom, having grown up during rock and roll's infancy and eventually raising a family during its more progressive years, could literally be playing the Platters' "My Prayer" one minute only to slap on Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti the next. Indeed, his mom's legendary massive record collection, to this day, is his greatest connection to music. Additionally, his grandfather loved old time popular music: Bing Crosby, Glen Miller, Mills Brothers. His grandma loved classical and opera. Then, of course, there was the radio. Always with the radio.
Andy has played music over the years in a few groups/projects that never amounted to much, save for some critical experience and a bucket full of memories. His partnership with his buddy, Gil Baldwin, in Washington was short-lived, albeit a load of fun.
His collaboration with keyboardist Matt Werning was equally short, but inspirational.
Perhaps the best collaboration was with his long-time friend, Rich, in a little project called Red Ant Picnic featuring such tracks as "Sister Alice," "End Game #3" and "Innocence Then."
Mostly, however, over the course of his musical life, he had been an open-mic night, busking-for-his-supper, open guitar-case in the park and subway platform kind of guy.
To pay the bills, he has been a freelance music engineer and producer, recording other artists, for years. He has made his living in audio and video production. He was a minor TV celebrity for a time in Fort Wayne, Indiana as part of the "Shane and Andy On The Road" series on Fox. He also created and hosted the wildly popular Major League Baseball radio program "Diamond Stuff" in Northwest Ohio. He is also a professional voice over actor and has won five Addy Awards for radio commercial writing/production.
ON ELM TREASON
Bobby: "I met Andy at St Mark's United Methodist Church in Staten Island where I was working as an organist/pianist.
We had numerous conversations about music and discovered that we had much in common. Andy invited me to co-arrange and record songs he had written for his wife Amy. I found him to be very open to my ideas and he had a very friendly "my songs are your songs" aura.
Most importantly, we discovered that we clicked together instantly; we could read each other's musical minds so well that it felt as if I've been playing with Andy for years. This uncanny unspoken connection of creative instincts became the impetus for the formation of a band and a very rewarding partnership.
I got the idea of the name Elm Treason by creating an anagram of the letters of our last names. Out of the long list of interesting, strange and downright hilarious results we decided we liked Elm Treason the best. We liked the clever pun of the title.
Our motto, we decided, would be E Pluribus Ulmus (elm in latin) another obvious play on words (from many experiences come one Elm).
Andy designed the logo.
Andy and I both agree that what we do is all about the song...we let the song lead us, not our egos. We also agree that although songwriting craft can be developed and nutured with instruction and feedback, the ability to pull inspiration out of the air and think creatively, then create a piece with distinct originality and voice can not be taught.
Andy's musical ideas, sense of humor, wit and production abilities inspire me. Not only is he a brilliant artist but he is a great friend, a brother in arms, a fellow sonic soldier.
I feel that Elm Treason is the culmination of our influences, learning experiences, rites of passage and stylistic mannerisms in one big amazing collaboration. All of our past efforts led up to this moment."
Andy: "When I first met Bob, I was impressed with his piano playing. That's what it was. I eventually asked him if he wanted to help me work on some songs I had written for my wife over the course of our marriage as a birthday present. We both agreed that we weren't the type for syrupy “love songs," but he said he liked the songs and agreed to play on them. That’s how we began working together. I basically told him he could do whatever he wanted. He enjoyed having that kind of creative freedom. He came up with amazing stuff for those songs. Those recordings were out first songs together. One of those tunes wound up on our first album.
Bob has had numerous dealings with record companies over the course of his musical life, and he’s been very interested in pursuing a project like this - total creative freedom on every level, including promotion. Plus, we actually play everything ourselves – all the guitars and bass, trumpets, harmonium, ebow, everything is just us.
We’re not anti-midi or sequencing anything, don’t misunderstand. We just wanted to create a natural sounding - classic sounding, if you like - uncompressed, not overly processed collection of songs with great production value that does NOT necessarily sound like a home demo. That was the original intent. It’s dry, honest, musical, creative and filled with guitars…
The irony is: It was Bob’s piano playing that caught my attention, but there are hardly any pianos or keyboards on the first Elm Treason album.
Bob is a terrific composer. Indeed, he has far more technical musical knowledge than I. Normally, that would be a turn-off for me… but he plays with soul. He can readily separate the so-called book knowledge end of music from the soulful spark that defines inspired musicianship. His knowledge takes him into the valley, but his feel guides him through.
Whatever is best for the song is where we go. It’s not about who has “contributed” the most ideas or who has more musical exposure on each track. If Bob has all the ideas, then great… IF it makes the song better. If all the contributions are mine, and they work, great. The truth is, it is SO 50-50 on just about everything, I seriously don’t remember who brought what to the table half the time.
Fame is uninteresting to me…but a strong, diminutive, obsessive, slightly demented, enthusiastic following would be nice. I’ve dealt with “fame” on a small level when I was on TV, and did NOT like it too much."
...AND A FEW MORE ELM TREASON TIDBITS