In short, Essentials is an ongoing series that provides artists the opportunity to discuss a specific topic while giving their fan base a chance to connect with their various interests and inspirations. But in this case, we are totally okay with things getting weird and uncensored. With the holiday season upon us and dispatching carols at will, we got STEADY HANDS’ Sean Huber to dig into his storied history (see Modern Baseball, Vicky Speedboat) and open up about his favourite bands from the Philadelphia area.
Restorations have always been the elder statesman to what we were trying to do with Steady Hands: massive sounding recordings, Springsteen-esque vocals, lush arrangements, and one million guitarists. When everyone in the punk scene seemed to be aiming for a lo-fi vibe, these guys weren’t afraid to create some epic rock songs. One year, they actually brought a physical Echoplex tape delay with them to Fest to run their live mix through. I know nothing about gear but I know that is pretty badass.
They only play shows and tour from time to time, but they are one of those bands you feel like will be around forever and that is completely okay with me. All hail the kings of dad rock!
Earth Telephone (@earthtelephone)
Earth Telephone are a band formed by DIY veterans Chris Diehm and Max “I love that guy!” Stern. I met Chris when he was playing with Thin Lips and we did some touring with them. You only need to be in a room with Chris for 30 seconds before you realize he’s really someone special. Earth Telephone have released a small amount of music, but the songs are so packed full of passion and honesty that they feel like they could blow down a wall. We definitely share a love for The Hold Steady, and I think Chris’ lyricism is absolutely on par with that of a Craig Finn. I cannot wait to hear what’s next.
The Districts (@thedistrictspa)
The Districts came on my radar when they were in high school and would trek from Lititz down to Philly to play college house shows every weekend. I can’t say whether or not I was clever enough as a 17-year-old to do the same or if I just didn’t have the drive that these fellas do. I would throw the guys on $5 keg party shows and it was painfully obvious they were going to be massive. In a very short time, they have proved themselves to be prolific songwriters and it has been incredible to see their rise.
MoBo was the split backing band with them for a Daniel Johnston show and Braden [Lawrence] and I had to literally jump back and forth onto the drums as Daniel started each song with no breaks in between. It was hilarious but they’re going to be the biggest band on earth.
American Trappist (@itsatrappe)
American Trappist is the brainchild of fellow New Jersian-turned-Philly musician, Joe Michelini. I first became a fan of his work when he played in River City Extension, which is still one of my favorite bands to this day. Back when he played a show with one of my old bands, I pretended that I smoked cigs so I could shoot the shit with him on the balcony all night without seeming weird. I realize now it was probably very obvious that I didn’t know what I was doing.
This newer project takes everything RCE did and continues into new dimensions. It’s a bit folk, a bit rock ‘n’ roll, and a bit of Bowie, and his songs deal heavily with the truth of growing up with religion and being forced to look back upon those ideals and values as an adult — which is something I identify with greatly. Plus, they know good beer.
The Menzingers (@themenzingers)
What can I say that hasn’t already been said? The Menzos were the elders to us shit-kickers when we showed up to our first DIY gig in Philly as when I saw them live for the first time, I had to buy 40s for the other MoBo dudes because I was the only one of age. When they finally got the recognition they deserved or the day that we all first heard our leaked copy of On The Impossible Past, it felt like a win for the entire city of Philadelphia. After that, they took MoBo under their wings and had us on some of our first ever big shows. So many of the choices we would make in the future could be attributed to “Well, that’s what The Menzingers do” and I continue to look up to those four guys as songwriters.
Every new record they put out actually feels like a massive step up from the last and they have never been anything but the most genuine individuals. “So what do you say about me and you? Buy some booze for breakfast soon?”.