The Steelwells Re-Make Themselves at Home

The Steelwells. Remember them? They're that Fullerton-bred indie-rock outfit that toured with Foster the People and Grouplove, then went into the studio to record an EP . . . two years ago. Well, they want you to know they're alive and well, and they're sorry they never called or sent post cards. They'd like to make it up to you–all of you, Southern California.

“It should be called the 'Waste Your Gas' tour,” Joey Winter says with a smirk between sips of tea outside a Starbucks in Santa Ana. The Steelwells front man is speaking of the band's ludicrous schedule for the next 30 days, which includes residencies in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. “I hope we start something,” Winter says, eyes wide. “I hope this kicks off a bunch of bands doing the same thing.”
The band's hiatus was neither intentional nor appreciated by any of the Steelwells, but was brought on by issues the members had no control over. “We've got music we want to put out,” Winter explains, skating over the details of why it has taken two years to do so. “We put out the Cool Kids EP that we recorded ourselves. And that was out of frustration because we had recorded with Jacquire King [Modest Mouse, Kings of Leon, Of Monsters and Men] a year ago, and we were really happy with what we did with him, but because of many factors . . . we just couldn't get the songs out. . . . We decided to take our favorite songs from this batch and make our own EP–record it ourselves, do it ourselves.”

They also wanted to remind their fans they were still around and making music. “Make Yourself At Home is the record we've been sitting on forever,” Winter says, clearly frustrated. “It's five songs, an EP. We're just really proud of the work we did with [King], so I think we're going to put out a song from that soon.”

After spending a month on the road with Foster the People just as their popularity was exploding, the Steelwells reaped the benefits, too, garnering fans up and down the West Coast. But the attention span of today's music fan is comparable to that of a goldfish, and a few years off the grid is detrimental to an up-and-coming band.

“We have no money. Taking this break really hurt us financially,” Winter says matter-of-factly. “We have no momentum. We've got some things on the fire, but nothing's clicking or happening. We decided to just take it back to basics–go back to songwriting, go back to doing things ourselves–the way we used to do it. . . . We have to do this ourselves. No one is going to be there to catch us if we fall.”
It's this mentality that spurred the idea of a three-city residency.

“It's reconnecting; it's saying hello to Southern California formally with our new songs,” Winter explains jubilantly. “This is kind of like 'let's see what people think.' If they're diggin' it, we'll know by the end of June, and if they're not, that doesn't mean that's a final thing. . . . We'll keep making music.”

The Steelwells perform at the Constellation Room at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; Every Tues., 9 p.m. Through June 18. Free. All ages.

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