The Steepwater Band
Slippery Noodle Inn
The image of Northwest Indiana is blue-collar, hard-working, persevering even after many of the factories have closed. The Steepwater Band is a product of these elements plus blues, rock and boogie.
Bassist Tod Bowers said the band is so committed to the musical cause (five years and counting), they all live together in one house in St. John. That’s right, one quartet in one house.
Sounds like bad reality television.
“Some days are better than others,” Bowers says with the rest of the band laughing in the background. “It’s actually worked out. Five years ago we were all working day jobs [full-time cook, delivering postage meters, etc.] and had trouble finding a rehearsal space. Finally, we ditched the jobs, got the house and everything goes into the house.”
Steepwater is also known for their musical flexibility. One day they’re a blues band that has impressed audiences at the Chicago Blues Festival. The next night, they’re wowing the jam band fans at The Double Door. It was a full-blown rock concert when they played The Bitter End and CBGB’s in New York City. Their last album, Dharmakaya, can be played at all three venues, although uptight blues snobs may turn away.
“Obviously, we’ll be doing a blues show at the Noodle,” Bowers said. “However, the blues has changed. When we were starting out, we were playing Johnny Winter, Elmore James and Muddy Waters. Our goal was to start writing and take the blues in our own direction. Now it’s about songwriting and being blues heavy. Being influenced by The Stones and Faces, which were heavy blues-based bands.”
The band tips their hats to the blues-based rock roots by covering Free’s “Oh I Wept” on Dharmakaya. Other answers to the Music 101 “What do they sound like?” include The North Mississippi All Stars and Canned Heat.
“We don’t mind any comparison so long as the band doesn’t suck. We love The All Stars and Hooker and Heat is one of my all-time favorite records. It would be stupid to be influenced by Zeppelin and the Black Crowes and then say, ‘Oh, we don’t sound like any of them.’”
Bowers said when the band started out, they had to hide their Indiana residency to get into Chicago clubs of all genres.
“The Northwest scene, for what we do, is The Kinsey Report, Highway, us and a lot of jukebox bands. When we moved into the house, we didn’t tell people where we were from. We were afraid Chicago clubs wouldn’t hire an Indiana band. ‘They won’t make the trip out here. If they’re so good, why aren’t they living in Chicago.’ We let our music speak for us. Once it got out, we decided to not be ashamed of where we are from.”
Steepwater will be on one stage at the Slippery Noodle that weekend while Kokomo’s own Mike Milligan and Steam Shovel will be on the other. The band just released their first live album (Live!), which was recorded at the Noodle this past August. Yours Truly did the band’s introduction and the album’s liner notes. Be afraid.
Matthew Socey is host of The Blues House Party and co-host of The Art Of The Matter, both on 90.1 WFYI FM.