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Monday, 17 March 2014

The S4L Interview: Stephie Peeka and The Seeking 7 - The Girl Can Rock!





It gives me great pleasure to present this little interview with the front woman of a band that will be quite unknown to many, but hey, there's nothing like discovering something new is there?

Stephie Peeka is a girl who can truly rock and she's one of only a few that I know that can get as excited as me when talking about music! After flying back from London for a gig she kindly gave her time to do this interview for Soundtrack4Life.

Seat belts on and get ready for the ride of your life and don't forget to breathe!

S4L: Stephie Peeka and The Seeking 7 is the name of your band, can you tell us a little bit of how you came together and introduce your band mates?

Stephie: First of all let me say much thanks for asking us to be a part of your music blog, Doug. Very cool and appreciated. All the people that are a part of Seeking 7 are family to me and I am honored to call them that and have them share their gifts and energy on our music.



 I probably should start with Jeff Armstrong (drums) since he and I were first introduced by our mutual good friend, TBone (Tom Tolman) and played all together in a psychedelic power trio called 13th Ray with the live lineup as me on vocals & bass, Jeff on drums and Tbone on baritone slide guitar, vocals & harmonica. Jeff is a like 100 wild horses running at full speed on a stampede, just a frakin dynamo that can and does do it all. He is an amazing musician and my spiritual brother. I had known TBone since I was around 14 and met him when he worked at the mall guitar shop. He sold me my first decent amp and we stayed buds since. He is a fierce harmonica player and a legend to all who knows him. Tbone has been a guest player on harp (harmonica) on "Yearn" from the first album, "Battlescar" on the 2nd album and now, "Believe" on the 3rd.


Sean McLaughlin (bass) I had known already and was a good friend and tremendously tasteful melodic bassist in the vibe of Paul McCartney, which is why his nickname is Macca.


Rose Dewitt (piano/vocals)
I met in early 2008 on MySpace. We both had a mutual love for Freddie Mercury, both of us agreeing he's the best singer ever.
(Stephie and Rosie snuggling up to Freddie Mercury!)
She had trained as a classical and opera singer and piano and organ player, and I mean those huge 50ft church organ kind! She has sang for the Pope in front of 50,000 in Rome and played in Germany on piano and organ in churches all over the place there. She is a genius at harmonies and I am proud to call her my best friend/sis.


I consider Joe Clapp (Ultra Sound Productions) our fab gem engineer as part of Seeking 7. I met him thru Tbone when we recorded the 13th Ray album with Joe engineering and he's been a part of this since day one.

Stephie

S4L: With the band spread far and wide how often do you get together and how do you deal with issues like recording and gigs?

Stephie: Jeff, Seany & Rose all 3 are monster musicians. They are each immensely gifted and I am the raw punk musician of the band who needs the extra rehearsing and does it quite often! We get together as needed for me showing them new songs and rehearsals for recordings and shows. These guys all get their parts locked down pretty fast. They get their ideas that work with and for the songs and know what they want to do with them because they are pros. It is all about the songs, Doug. 
When we recorded the first album it was just Jeff (drums) and me (vocals, guitar, bass) playing on it with the fab Joe engineering. I really like the energy and rawness of it, Jeff and I captured something special. The first pressing of it was as a 'Steph Peeka album called, Seeking 7.' I had a picture of me, Jeff and Pat Quinn (bass) on the back even tho it was just Jeff and I on the record, so people would know that live it was a trio. Sean was in L.A. at the time being an assistant engineer for Jimbo Barton (producer of Men At Work among others). The first gig of the band was on February 13, 2003 under the name "Peeka's Quest" and had the lineup for the first handful of shows with Pat on bass, Jeff on drums/vocals and me on vocals/guitar. We hadn't recorded the first album yet and I booked the first half dozen shows using the album I made in my basement, recording on my little analog 4 track, playing guitar, bass, drums and vocals myself. Soon after this I changed the name of the band to Seeking 7 because as Jeff pointed out, Peeka's Quest sounded too much like a video game Sean moved back to the Boston area around this time and joined on bass with me and Jeff. 
The 2nd album, Inside The Big Picture was recorded with us 3 and Joe engineering. It's a solid 16 songs with unpredictable arrangements and a good one to have on if you need a lift to your spirit. The new album, was recorded like none I know of! It was done in Germany, and in 3 studios south of Boston. We recorded some with me and Rose there in Germany then some more with Joe in the USA. Sean is a fab producer/engineer in his own right, working with many Boston bands making fab music. He engineered his bass part himself in his studio (37ft.com) after Rose and I started it all in Germany with Billy336 engineering ( ulead productions ) and Jeff and I recording the drums ( me on guitar, Jeff on drums and percussion) at Jeff's place with him engineering that. Then I took it all and I mean ALL these sessions to Sir Joe Clapp who deserves a big shiny frakin medal for sorting all that out! Joe and I mixed it. He's the best of the best of engineers and a top notch producer/musician. Can't say enough about Joe, he's a gem pro that I put up there with any you ever heard of. We have a blast mixing on every record. The first two Seeking 7 albums I would go home, listen to all the mixes and make my notes on frakin kleenex and bring them in the next session. So I'm reading to Joe the notes, "can we pan this left and bring up more guitar there..etc...wait, what the frak did I write here ?!!!" This new album I graduated to making my mixing notes in my Clash first album cover of Joe, Mick and Simo on the stairs near their Rehearsal Rehearsals in Camdentown journal! Ya, we def make a good team getting fab stuff done and LMAO with Joe. You can't beat that. I spend time in Germany thru out the year and Rose and I have done shows in London, Germany, Montreux Switzerland and Jeff also with us in London at the Dublin Castle. Then Rose comes to my house in the USA and we all play together shows in and around Boston, NYC and CT. Also recently I have done shows in a solo version of Seeking 7 in London and Denmark. And because the songs are able to be played live whether its just me on vocals/guitar/percussion; or me doing that with TBone on harp; or me, and with Jeff on drums / percussion and TBone; or just me and Jeff; or just me on vocals/guitar and Rose on piano/vocals with Jeff's live drums on the p.a. (ya, London likes that version very much and treats us like family there); or me, Jeff, Sean as a trio; or me, Jeff, Sean, with Joe guesting on 2nd guitar; or me, Rose, Jeff, Sean the full version of all of us (haha you got all that?! it's all Seeking 7 and it's all 1000% full blast in your face. confusing?! Not to me. I think it's a strength we have, the dynamics of variety that says a lot about the songs being strong enough to do it, in my humble opinion. Again, the songs are the focus here.

S4L: You have have been working on a new album recently I hear? How has the recording been going?

Stephie: The album is now finished and mastered but we are finishing up the artwork. I am completely proud of it and it is a raw honest collection of songs that are rock n roll chocolate and something that I would want in my record collection if someone else did it. The name of the new album is,The Unicorn. It is a metaphor for one who is often misunderstood, does not go along with the crowd and goes their own way, someone rare and unique and beautifully fierce.


S4L: I take it that you put your own music out rather than have a record label do it?

Stephie: At the moment, yes, we did for the first 2 albums, Seeking 7 and Inside The Big Picture on cdbaby and amazon iTunes, etc.

S4L: Do you think that gives you a more creative edge? (Meaning you alone have the power to decide what music should be on your album).

Stephie: Yes, it does Doug and as I have my hand in every step of it, it's perfect for us cus I'm a greedy bitch! To quote Freddie and I need to have complete control, to quote the Clash haha ....well, at the moment DIY has been the way to develop the vision and its served us well. If the right record label connected with us, one with frakin vision and foresight to know "hey, maybe here's something worth backing, we think you are worth the bankroll chance" then that's what I want. There are so many great bands out there but major labels are so into making mindless protools clones. We need the Dave Grohl's of the world in charge of A&R and giving some much deserved bands a chance to get their music to everyone proper.

One important way is our YouTube page:  Its all live videos of Seeking 7 performing and studio session bits of Joe and I working on the new album. There are over 100 videos on there that documents us pretty well. It's like our personal Mtv.



S4L: When can we expect the new album to be released?

Stephie: Early summer or autumn in the USA. In the UK and Europe probably Autumn.

S4L: Who are your main influences as a band (I know you are a big Joan Jett fan) and what was it that made you want to pick up a guitar and play in a band?

Stephie: The Dublin Castle in London had a fab quote saying we reminded them of Queen and Bowie with punk always in sight, the Clash meets glam rock. That was pretty bang on. When I was in the 4th grade our music teacher would give us these sheets of Beatles lyrics to learn and ask us what did we think Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds or Eleanor Rigby meant. Here is a lady asking 9 year olds what the song was really about. God bless you Miss Wood, where ever you are! That had an impact on me tho I didn't realize it then, of course.

 (from google images)

I liked the Beatles and Queen right off. But the first female musician I ever saw was Suzi Quatro. My brother was watching Happy Days and here comes Suzi as Leather, and me as my 5 or 6 year old self instantly knowing that her whipping around her big, semi hollow bass with that huge, rich, voice was completely badass cool. I remember thinking, "ya so, I can do that" what a little shite!!! But that definitely had an impact on me from day one and I can also appreciate the fact that she went to London, all alone at 20 or 21 years old when it wasn't as nice a place as it is now and fought for her music there. This year marks her 50th year in rock n roll, and still going strong. Completely badass, Wild One. 
 (from google images)
When I was 12, my older sister took me to my first concert, Rick Springfield. I had no idea who he was or his music but just the fact that everyone was standing on their chairs going nutters while this tall guy sang and jumped around onstage made me know, yeah I want this. He made me want to get a guitar and I got one, a cheap copy of his guitar, on my 14th birthday. I would like to thank Dave Grohl for having brass balls and showing Rick the respect as a songwriter and performer he deserves, and not giving a flying f what anyone thinks. I played my guitar to all of Rick's albums every night jumping on my amp in my white converse like he had! 
 (from google images)

Songwriting I have always gravitated to, whether its Christmas carols when I was little or Beatles or Queen. If I have to pick the teachers I inhaled the most from its them and Bowie is a genius as we know, Joe Strummer/ Mick Jones, Prince, Rick Springfield, Mike Peters ya all these people I learned much from as a songwriter, performer and just ideas on how to expand the sound and vision. Prince I learned so much from not only as a producer and arranger but as a guitar player. Also I got a lot from early U2.


Stephie with Cherie Currie
The first Runways album was so important for female musicians. Cherie with her huge fierce low Bowie ish voice at 15years old and Joan's fire and attitude leading the way. Those songs are pure punk to me. Also, Joanie's early Blackheart records I got a lot from being that they again are punk in nature and I could figure them out to practice my guitar playing and singing to. Ricky Byrd played some tasty stuff on top of that. I respect Joan as a musician and I don't know how any female singer and guitar player honestly could not. That being said, Chrissy Hynde starting off in London with the Pretenders I respect and relate to and Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde is a fab songwriter, bassist and singer I learned from also. More recent songwriters I really dig are Noel Gallagher /Oasis and Alex Turner/Arctic Monkeys.


S4L: You have recently played a show in London, do you still get excited at playing live?

Stephie: Yup, I did 2 solo shows in Londontown. One at the completely cool, top gem 12 Bar Club on Denmark Street and one at the coolest club in Camdentown, The Dublin Castle on Parkway. I feel very honored to be welcomed in London at these clubs that are rich in rock n roll history. Just kind, cool people that treat you with respect and because they are such a place, they have people that just go to the clubs knowing they will see good live music of all types and don't need to know the bands but discover them then performing live. Its all about kindness and respect. London is like this which is why I feel Seeking 7 is kindred to London. And a huge, huge YES I do still, and always been excited to play live shows. It's frakin Peace on Earth to me, my friend. I am thankful for every millisecond and appreciate people standing there taking in our music, its a gift from them I don't take lightly.

S4L: Can you remember the first ever gig you played? How old were you and how you went down?

Stephie: Yes, most def! Let me answer like this. Mick Jones said his first gig was playing Beatles songs to people walking by his mum's on a tennis racquet when he was 10 years old. When I was 5, I had a plastic red and yellow guitar with a lion picture on the front I had wrote in some forward and backward letters on the front, "the Stephanie band." I remember jumping around playing that guitar having a ball. Also, when I was 2 or 3 years old my brother tells me I used to jump up and down in my bouncy chair, the kind you roll around in, drumming on the kit they had. He said I had good time on the snare and would step on the kick pedal too. I don't remember it tho drums was my first instrument! I do love playing the drums tho The first gig played in front of an audience was on my deck in front of friends and family on my 25th bday. I did some Prince, and was crazy scared. The next bday on the deck, Seany joined me on bass with our friend Gabe on drums, performing for more friends, more family and also neighbors. We did more Prince among others, and a longer set. I enjoyed the rush of playing a show by then and was not scared anymore. 
The first 13th Ray show was at the Kirkland Cafe in Boston with me on vocals/bass, Jeff on drums and TBone on baritone slide guitar/vocals and harp. The Boston music critic Jeff Breeze loved that band and was there for the show. I mentioned the first Seeking 7 show already. The first NYC Seeking 7 show was at the badass Continental near CBGB's. That place had live pics on the wall of Iggy and when we finished our set with I Wanna Be Your Dog some guy jumped up onstage and sang the chorus with me! The place went nuts I have the audio from thru the soundboard of that show. Too bad the club closed down. Many fab clubs in Boston also closed down because the idiots who shot fireworks off in the Station nightclub in Rhode Island that caused a horrible fire that needlessly took 100 lives. Every band before that in the New England area had common sense enough to not do something completely clueless like that. Frakin shame in every way. After that happened they passed a law that every club had to have a $50,000 sprinkler system or they had to shut down. We lost some of the gem places because of this, ones that treated us great in Boston. The Abbey Lounge and we even were a part of the last show ever at The Sky Bar. The first show with Rose joining us (Jeff and I) live was at the Dublin Castle in London on November 11, 2008 and it went down fab. My first show in London was in October 2007 solo on a borrowed fab Guild acoustic some cute guy had and it went down awesome. They asked me play 2 more songs in the set It was at Upstairs at Edwards on Hammersmith. And the biggest audience so far, was when I sang "I Get Excited" onstage with Rick Springfield at Foxwoods in CT to 4000 people. After we finished I gave him a copy of our first album onstage which a kind gal took a photo of and sent me capturing the moment perfect. What a blast, my 14 year old self would have had my head fly off! But somehow, I just knew someday I would do that with him.
 
S4L: One question I always like to ask folk that agree to be interviewed is what is on your soundtrack4life?

Stephie: Oh man, that's so frakin hard to pick! They are all old friends that I feel protective and fiercely loyal to. There is way more than 5 a piece oi! But let's do this: Queen, Night At The Opera (I want to put every Queen album they made and I mean, ALL) The Clash, their first album (and I mean in the UK, the green one with them on the steps of the Rehearsal Rehearsals in Camdentown because those knobs at their record label put their first album out 2nd in the USA thinking the Americans wouldn't get it! (Again, I want to put London Calling and Combat Rock too but because I love the sound of their first album's energy and rawness with the songs, I put that) Beatles, Sgt. Peppers album, Rick Springfield, Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet ( I would put Working Class Dog and Living In Oz also for all the songs are very ingrained in my being from playing them and singing/playing guitar to them every night of my 14 and 15 year old life), Prince and The Revolution, Purple rain album (Sweet Moses, I want to put also Dirty Mind, Controversy, 1999, Around The World In A Day, Parade, Sign O The Times, and Lovesexy too being that I frakin inhaled all these and many a live concert video of Prince. He is def an important teacher of mine).

And for 5 songs: David Bowie, Fame, David Bowie, Fashion (oh man, I completely need to put at least another 40 Bowie songs here!). The Clash, London Calling ( like to put at least Radio Clash, Casbah, Mag 7 and 20 others also). Suzi Quatro, Cat Size. Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Do You Wanna Touch Me.


S4L: If the Stephie Peeka of 2014 could step into a time machine and go back to when you first began making music what three pieces of advice would you give her?

Stephie: First, always be bold, don't let anyone's ignorance take a millisecond of your peace, energy or focus. Second, learn German you're going to need it (I spend time in Germany and still only speak kleine Deutsch) and third, give myself the winning lottery numbers.

A huge thanks to Stephie for taking time out with us. For more information on the band check out the official website and their facebook page. 
Music from Stephie Peeka and The Seeking 7.
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