By Harriet Kaplan
Steal Away is a new three-piece pop-rock band out of San Diego, CA fronted by brothers Matt and Chris Babers and their childhood best friend Brandon Martin. The group, influenced by 90s indie and classic rock, is promoting their new debut single, “Flower Shop.” They plan on releasing an acoustic EP in June and a fully produced follow up to that by the end of the Summer. BoC spoke to Matt Babbers to discuss how they band came together and their close relationship and bond. Matt also went into great, thoughtful and specific detail about how the music business is now. He spoke about how Steal Away is different from the pack and sets itself apart with a solid and meaningful focus on the songs and lyrics versus a demographic target with a certain sound in mind.
What’s it like collaborating and writing with your brothers and best friend?
Matt Babers: It’s the sickest thing ever. If you’re a musician, you’ve probably collaborated with plenty of other artists. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes, not so much…and that’s usually just because there are so many factors that come into play when it comes to writing and playing songs. Everyone always has their own personal style and taste musically, and there are just so many additional factors that are even more intangible, like whether or not the guys you’re playing with are the most annoying people on earth. Luckily, with the dynamic in our band, we don’t have to deal with those problems as much as other bands might have to. We all compliment each other’s style perfectly, and we each helped one another grow into the musicians we are today. My brother Chris and I have gotten into full blown fist fights growing up, and everything would always be cool right after, because we’re brothers, and that’s just the way things work for us. It’s no different now. We all grew up together, so we have a way of understanding each other both in music, and in life, that makes the writing process very natural and honest. We also understand that there may be times that call for the occasional fist fight, and that’s okay too, it’s all just part of the process.
Matt and Chris did you come from a musical family? Brandon?
M: Definitely. Our mom played music and was in marching band growing up, and got us into music very early in school, starting with orchestra in 4th grade. Our dad wanted to be a drummer like me, but our grandparents only bought him a single snare drum as a Christmas present when he was a kid, so when I hit 7th grade, my parents bought me a FULL drum set so I could carry on what my dad started! They were always playing the greatest bands when we were growing up: Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, The Eagles, Queen, Bob Seger, George Thorogood; those were the only things we ever heard growing up if my parents were in charge of the radio.
Did you guys start playing at a young age?
M: Chris and I first started playing in the school orchestra in 4th grade, and then by the time we were in middle school, around 12 years old, we had already started on our career path, playing drums and guitar in private lessons, as well as at school. By the time we were freshmen in high school we were covering Led Zeppelin songs and writing our own!
Have you been in other bands before and how does being in Steal Away differ from other bands?
M: We never have. We came up with the name “Steal Away”, a Led Zeppelin reference, very early on when we started playing, and this idea and this dynamic has been the dream ever since we were kids. We all graduated high school in Tucson, Arizona, one year after another, so when we finally all made it out to California together and got our lives set up, we were right back at it like we always have been. I think what makes us different from other bands is that we’ve all had a very specific idea of the sound and the impact that we want to bring to the table, and what we want our audience to be able to take away from our music. Our material isn’t as demographic specific as a lot of other bands, who have to try to sell a lifestyle or a vibe with a lot of manufactured context on top of it, simply because their material, their songs, don’t hold any weight on their own. A lot of bands and artists are out there making sounds; we’re out here to make music. I think audiences are starting to get tired of being talked down, they’re tired of not being mentally engaged by the songwriting and the lyrical content. More people can appreciate and identify with songs that can stand on their own, that have more meaning and depth the closer they’re scrutinized or the more their listened to, as opposed to a lot of the disposable music we hear nowadays, which seems to just be a lot of smoke and mirrors as far as real content goes. I think the fact that we’re bringing real songs written by real people is the reason so many people support us. That’s what makes us different from everyone out there who’s trying to sell music based off their image, instead of their sound.
Does Steal Away plan to release an EP or LP in the future?
M: Both. We have an acoustic EP planned for release next month, with a fully produced follow up scheduled for completion toward the end of Summer,
Is releasing singles the plan for now and why?
M: Yes and no. Cutting a single is always easy and quick to get done and get it out, but at the same time people always want more! We’ll probably release a single just before our EP this summer, but we figure if we can get it done, why not hit everyone with 4 songs instead of just one?
Has the band played live anywhere yet?
M: Yes, we play out around San Diego as much as we can. We’ve played a lot of the local venues around downtown and North County, including the House of Blues, The Del Mar Fair, The Merrow, SOMA, as well as a lot of the local breweries and bars around the area, who are always super supportive of local bands.
How did Chris Bellman get involved with your new single and why was he chosen?
M: Our manager Michael Drentea had built a relationship with Bernie Grundman and Chris Bellman at BG Mastering. When Drentea took the track to get mastered they loved song and we’ve been working with Chris and Bernie ever since!
What music bands or other artists have influenced the band as far as Pop rock?
M: We’re all ‘90’s kids, so we love us some pop rock. We’re primarily classic rock guys, but when the old stuff gets old, Third Eye Blind, The Offspring, Lit, Blink182, Sugar Ray, Weezer, or anything along those is right up our alley.
Who have you or who do you listen to?
M: If we all had to pick one band each, it would probably be Led Zeppelin for my brother and I and The Offspring for Brandon. Growing up I think those were the two main bands that influenced our musical taste and playing style, even now that our musical scope has grown. We’ve always listened to everything from the early blues, Robert Johnson type stuff, to ‘50’s rockabilly like Elvis and Chuck Berry, to the powerpunk of the ‘90’s, all the way up to the folk rock of today, like the Kings of Leon, who are also a huge influence for us.
What’s the music scene like in San Diego right now?
M: The music scene in San Diego seems to be more alive than anywhere else I’ve been. There are all kinds of great bands playing at a slew of local venues all the time, and it actually feels like something is starting to happen with all the local support making it that much easier to get out there and get noticed. In San Diego, if you tell someone you’re in a band, it’s not something you’re going to have to defend or justify. Not only is it something that people respect, but they’re overly supportive. People in San Diego want to know where they can come see you play, when they can hear your new stuff coming out, and are just generally supportive in every meaningful way possible, to the point that you’ll be playing a packed house on a Tuesday night. People here just seem to get it, and in my opinion, there just isn’t a better place to be an up and coming musician than San Diego. There’s such an eclectic mix of people doing so many different things with so many different sounds, but they all still have that one universal thread of continuity holding them together, and that’s the overall passion for the music that translates into everything. I think the general level of talent, commitment, authenticity, and community support are what’s helping to create such a vibrant scene here in San Diego at the moment.