An Interview with Andrew Bauer of Steady Ups and The Dynamos

I talked with guitar player of the Steady Ups and The Dynamos about whats been going on in his bands, Dr. Echo, the Sacramento scene and more, check it out!

Can you introduce yourself and what you do?

My name is Andrew Bauer, I play guitar in Steady Ups.

How long have you been in the Steady Ups?

Going on two years. September '99 was my first gig.

What got you into listening to and playing reggae and ska music?

Well, I was mainly into punk and pop-punk when I was younger. I listened to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Operation Ivy, but never really thought about the ska part of it. Then I heard Skankin' Pickle and was intrigued by them. Very weird. I started listening to all of the modern ska bands I could. After about a year of that, the music started really getting boring and I heard a little bit of Ken Boothe. He really turned me on to rocksteady and reggae. When I moved back to California I met Mike Bruce (Steady Ups guitarist) and we would listen to and play guitar with his record collection often. Which leads me to where I am now.

When did you start the Dynamos? Can you tell us what that is about?

Sure. When I moved back to California from the East Coast, I returned to college. I joined the Jazz Ensemble (mostly, I just sat and soaked it in). Several of the folks in the Jazz Ensemble were in a band called the Irradicats (swing-ska-jazz group on Moon's Ska Satellite label). We were friends at the time and that Ska-Jazz was exactly what I wanted to be doing at that time. I recruited a few people from the horn section and tried to start a group. I met a 17 year old keyboard wiz named Ray Jacildo through a chance meeting on the internet. Even though the direction I wanted to go was Ska-Jazz, I couldn't write a lick of it. I was writing more reggae and rocksteady. We recorded a few songs by borrowing Steady Ups bassist Mike Brown and a drummer from LA named Luis Farfan. Mike Bruce joined us about this time. The horn section were kind of snobbish and felt things needed to be handed to them. I didn't agree. We split ways. Ray and Mike and I attempted to fill out the band over the course of the next year, but we could never get a full lineup. We did record a couple of songs in that time, though. In September of '99, Mike asked Ray and I to join Steady Ups and we did. We recorded a few more songs, for the Dynamos, but we put that on hold when we joined Steady Ups. Ray left Steady Ups last year to concenrtate on school and other things. Ray and I still plan to do some more recording of the Dynamos and maybe even play a couple of shows with it.

Any plans on releasing the material that you guys did record with the Dynamos?

Yes, definitely. I've spoken with a few labels about releasing an album. Mostly, I've been really bad about keeping in contact with these labels, which is why nothing has been released so far. We have a demo album of sorts--all of the recordings we did over the years--with nine songs and four dub versions. Only one of them wasn't written by us: a reggae version of Ken Boothe's Artibella with Vic Ruggiero from the Slackers singing and playing piano. I hope to work out a deal with a label soon to help pay for us to record our first album to be released. I can't afford to pay for it anymore.

With the song you did with Vic Ruggiero, were any other songs done with him or just that one?

No, just that one. We really didn't even have time for that one. I picked him up at Lars's place in San Francisco and hustled back to the studio (about 50 miles away). We only got three takes on the rhythm tracks (drummer was having some difficulty with his timing), but the last one was good enough. Vic took a couple of shots at the vocals and then we did a quick cassette tape mix and headed back to SF for their show with Hepcat. Recorded the horn parts a few weeks later. I listen to it now and the only thing I like about it is Vic.

Really? I thought the whole rhythm and feel sounded pretty tight

Naw, there's a mess up on the intro. The drums weren't right and I was really upset with the bass player putting the latin feel on the solo section. I asked him repeatedly not to. What was I going to do, though? One of us had to give so that we could get the session done and I didn't want to chance it.

What has Steady Ups been up to? Seems like you guys are putting out lots of dub on

That's done by our friend and soundman Craig. He's done that on his own. Steady Ups have been writing a lot of material lately. Laying low and playing local shows, mainly. I'm hoping for us to get an album out sometime soon.

Whats been going on with the album? Ive been hearing about Steady Ups album for quite some time now.

So have I! Basically there is an album in the can now. A few tweaks here and there and it should be done. Perfectionism is a bitch.

Is there any particular label you guys have been talking to?

We've talked to several. Jump Up! Records from Chicago, most recently. I don't know if that's going down or not. We've probably taken too long and they may have lost interest. Who knows? I don't really get involved in the business end of things with this band.

whats the song writing process with a band like Steady Ups? Is there one particular writer or does everyone get their own say?

Everyone has their own say, their own feel to contribute. Usually, someone will come in with a rhythm that they've been messing around with. Some of them have basslines, some of them don't. We arrange the song together. The vocalists pick out their own words most of the time. Every so often one of us will come in with everything written already, but I think that we work best together. Kenny, Mike and myself are the ones that bring songs and rhythms in to work on, though. Mike Brown writes a bunch of the basslines or tweaks them a bit to his liking. Lesley and Shannan are starting to write their own lyrics which is really cool.

what about in the Dynamos? do you handle most of it there with the organist? Because that bands studio oriented isnt it?

I do a lot of the writing with that project. Ray has written a few songs that we have recorded and a few others beside. Mike Bruce hasn't really been involved in the process much since mid-'99, but he was definitely a presence. We have probably 30 songs that we never recorded. At this point, yes, the band is studio-oriented. But I hope to change that sometime. Also, Steady Ups have been slowly intergrating some of the Dynamos' songs into our set. So, I consider them more Steady Ups songs now than Dynamos ones.

Oh really? Thats pretty cool to hear, to be able to hear the songs live until you bring the Dynamos to the stage

No, we probably won't play those songs as the Dynamos. Like I said, I consider them more Steady Ups songs now, anyway. So the Dynamos can play more of the other songs we have, instead.

who makes up the current lineup of the Steady Ups?

Kenny, Lesley and Shannan on vocals. Dominick on drums, Mike Brown on bass. Mike Bruce and I play guitars. We sometimes have a percussionist named Matt, but he plays drums for another local reggae band called the Story Tellers and he's a professional skater, so he doesn't always have time for us.

Why dont you guys use an organist or horn section anymore?

Well, we were really pushing toward an organ driven sound when Ray and I joined. That was the sound of the Dynamos and the sound that the guys in the rhythm section really liked. We weren't happy with what was coming out of the horn section (not really upset with it, but some of us felt the horns were just taking up space) and ended up ditching them. Susan, Steady Ups' original keyboardist quit soon after--she's in Nursing school now. Ray quit a few months after that because he didn't have the time. We are really leery about adding horn players again and we were just plain spoiled by out last two keyboardists. We don't want to settle for something less than what we feel that we need. We feel that we're a strong enough group to keep playing without adding someone for adding's sake.

Dr. Echo used to play with Steady Ups too didn't he?

Yeah, Justin was the drummer from Day One. He quit in December '99 not long after Ray and I joined. We were real lucky to find Dominick. We auditioned a few drummers before we found him, though. Dominick suits us better, I think. Justin is still one of the most talented drummers I've ever met, played with or even just listened to. He got compliments from just about every drummer in bands that we played with. Oliver from Ocean 11 said that Justin was the best drummer he had ever seen. Oliver's father had a lot of good to say about Justin, too. But Justin had his own things in mind. He left to concentrate on his Dr. Echo material and run his recording studio, Soundlab. He's moving to India in a few months, maybe, to study percussion.

Is Soundlab where Steady Ups record?

Where we recorded. We won't be recording there anymore, especially now that Justin is leaving.

Have you worked with any other bands besides the Dynamos and Steady Ups?

No, I haven't. I was asked to produce an album once for a ska-pop band, but for some reason that fell through. I hope to do some producing of some vocalists soon.

Why do you think so many ska bands these days seem to have stopped playing ska and started playing in a more reggae style with dub feel and so on?

Maturity. As a listener or as an artist. Ska feels rather juvenile to me. Nothing wrong with that, I just don't want to play much of it. Tastes change. Its just the natural progression, the same as it was in the 60' and 70's in Jamaica. You're seeing more groups play rockers and dancehall styles now, in addition to the roots. Hell, Steady Ups have a couple of dancehall tunes now.

wow, id like to hear these dancehall tunes

Well, show up on the 30th when we play in Santa Monica and you will probably hear at least one of them.

are there any bands out right now that you think are rocking and deserve more attention?

Irie Beats are my favorite band. The Vessels, the Debonaires, SeeSpot, the Tile Renters and the Speakeasies (both are from CT). Pressure Cooker from Boston. Go Jimmy Go, of course. Everyone deserves more attention. Even King Django and the Slackers, which are also ranking up there on the favorites list.

Whats the ska and reggae scene up in Sacramento? Are there any bands up there that people should check out?

Filibuster is still pumping it out after all of these years. They sound more Sublime-like these days than their old R&B sound. Storytellers are a real good roots band, but you really have to dig the long songs and rasta lyrics. That's about it, really. They're both well worth checking out if you're into the styles that they produce. We do have a close knit group of reggae fans here, though. I'm missing a reggae party right now, in fact. I'll be going to that when we wrap it up.

hahah sorry about that

No rush, Kyle. I was just teasing.

what else do you listen to besides reggae?

Oh, I listen to anything I can get my hands on. Mostly I like pop-oriented music, though.

yeah i think that about does it for there anything youd like to add...tell the people about, anything at all?

If they want to get a listen in on some of our material, they can check out our sites. But other than that, nothing really.

Steady Ups

Steady Ups Dubs

Steady Ups Live

The Dynamos

Great, thanks very much for doing this interview, I really appreciate it. I'm looking forward to seeing you guys again in Santa Monica

Thanks alot Kyle, I'll see you and your awesome girlfriend Kelly soon.

All pics of Andy taken by my awesome girlfriend

Back To The Interviews:
Ive Got To Go Back Home: