Interview with Steven Kiely from Monster Truck (Welcome to Rockville 2016 – 4/30/16)
By: Morgan Bates
When I think about genuine Rock N Roll, I imagine coming home at the end of a long day full of hard work and putting on an album that made that day seem a little less painful. That album that gets you singing along as loud as possible and your feet moving as it sets your soul ablaze and turns all the negatives of your day to positives. A lot of today’s “Rock N Roll” falls short of this passion and fire. But, if you’ve ever heard of Monster Truck, you know the search for down to earth, soul-reviving, true southern Rock N Roll is officially over!
Though the guys from Monster Truck originally hail from Ontario, they are rising above the pressure that is not only creating a new album and opening their own studio but, touring the United States breaking the mold in modern day rock! Monster Truck is living proof that real rock n’ roll does exist in today’s fast-paced, over technological, and tough as nails world.
These guys kicked off the day with such incredible energy! I have to say I was more than thrilled to get the chance to sit down and talk with totally down to earth drummer Steven Kiely after their amazing set. We talked about the long process that was creating “Sittin Heavy”, how fans here in the U.S. differ from fans back home, and even how Monster Truck has gone Nascar!
Hang up your hats, get off your cell phones, pour yourself a beer and get your rock on with Monster Truck!
Morgan: You guys had an amazing set! It was a lot of fun and so entertaining! Everyone was so into it! What a way to kick the day off!
Steven: Yeah! Thank you! It was nice to see a good crowd especially being the first set of the day. The crowd was great!
Morgan: Congratulations on all of the amazing success with the new album “Sittin Heavy”! Can you tell me a little bit about the album?
Steven: It’s our second full-length album. It came out a couple of months ago. The second album is always a bit if a tough one especially when you start to get a little bit of momentum going with the first. The second one is always very important. It took us a long time and it was a hard process making it. But, it was totally worth it! We’re very happy with how it ended up and it shows a little bit of a progression with the band from our first album. Which is what you always want.
Morgan: Was there a lot of pressure going into making this album with all of the success from the first?
Steven: We thought we had finished making the second album at one point and then our label and management came to us and said we think we need some more good tunes. We were pissed off at first but then we were like ok and so that was kind of the first time in our careers we had been under pressure to go in a write good songs. You’ve got to write good songs. So it was tough and little stressful. But, we got through it and we got some of our strongest songs out of that last session.
Morgan: At least they wanted you to keep writing instead of giving up!
Steven: Yeah, and that’s a tough thing for them to say. Ya know. It’s gotta be tough to tell a band, “Guys the album’s not good enough yet” but good on them, that’s their job. And they were right and they pushed us to come up with even better product.
Morgan: Everything came out fantastic! When writing for an album can you tell us a little bit about the creative process? Like you said, it took longer than you’d expected.
Steven: Yeah. Well, the writing normally starts out with Jeremy or Jon coming in with a guitar riff of some sort and maybe a basic song structure. With us it really takes the band playing the song over and over and over in the jam space. And were big fans using a recorder and doing a little recording. Which lets us listen to the song when we’re not playing them and then that gives us a different perspective. You hear things that you wouldn’t have heard otherwise. That’s a real big part of the writing process. Another reason why it took so long, is because we actually built our own studio in our hometown. So we recorded more than half of the album there and because its own our studio we weren’t under the gun. We weren’t on the clock. So we were like “Ahhh we’ll come in late” or “We’ll leave early” so we didn’t have that sense of urgency that you would have a lot of the times going to an expensive ya know. So that was a part of it too.
Morgan: Making an album already has to be a long and tough process. Not to mention, you are your own worst critic. Was there anything that made you guys think “We need to change this” or we can’t do this this way”
Steven: Not during the recording process. We more or less know what songs we’re going to be putting on the album before we start recording. So it’s more in the pre-production process when we’re writing those songs that we all tend to have our discussions about which ones we think are good enough to make it and which ones were gonna have to stop working on or stop wasting time on. We normally have it fairly focused before we do the final recording and then we always end up with one or two and the end of the final recording that we just don’t end up using. And then who knows! They might get used some other time or they just stay in the vault until we’re all dead and gone and then its like “New Monster Truck!”
Morgan: Well hopefully that won’t happen soon and you’ll be around for a long time!
Morgan: Since you guys are from Ontario, are your American fans different from your fans back home? Is the vibe different at shows?
Steven: Yeah, well first and foremost because there are less of them. We’re definitely much less known in America and because of that, the fans that we do have at this point are real fans that don’t just like us because we’re a popular band. Because we’re not really a popular band in America. Ya know, we’re still working on it! But, we’re still at that point where people don’t like us because it’s cool to like us, American fans like us because they really like us. So when then come out they’re really passionate at shows and they’re first in, right at the front rail waiting for us. They talk to us after and get pictures and stuff like that. We’ve been told year after year how well that people think we would do in America because of our song and people are relating to it. Ya know it’s a tough egg to crack here in America. But we’re working on it.
Morgan: Rock n Roll itself leaves some pretty big shoes to fill already!
Steven: Yeah, you’re starting already in a tough spot. But, days like today are pretty awesome!
Morgan: So ya’ll have definitely been on the road coming from Ontario. Any fun stories or anything ridiculous ya’ll have been getting into lately?
Steven: Well actually, two days ago we were at Talladega Speedway in Alabama. We have the hood of a nascar for the race which is actually racing right now in the Xfinity series! Last text I got he was in 13th. So we went to Talladega to meet the driver and hang out in the garages and see the car and everything. Like, we’re Canadian Nascar’s not really existent so to really to get our first Nascar experience in the VIP way that we did like going down and seeing our name on the hood of a car.. We’re actually going back tomorrow for the Spring Cup race. Unfortunately, we had to miss the Xfinity race because of this but.. Boo hoo ya know! So that’s been kinda the coolest thing we’ve done on the road in a while.
Morgan: Well we’re happy to have you here! Speaking of Talladega, have you ever seen the movie Talladega Nights?
Steven: We watched it at Talladega Speedway in our bus during the day. It was so cool! Our driver is the son of famous Nascar announcer Larry Mcreynolds who was actually in Talladega Nights the movie. He’s of course one of the announcers and were all like.. We were just talking with him earlier today!
Morgan: My friends and me always joke about the “I don’t know what to do with my hands”
Steven: Yeah! That’s my favorite part!
Morgan: And actually my last name is Bates and my roommate’s is Cates. So we’re always like Bates N Cates!!! Yeah we totally stole that!
Steven: (A good laugh at that one!!) Nice!
Morgan: I know Talladega is of course pretty cool. But, are there any other places you’ve been on tour that you enjoy more than most?
Steven: There are some places in Europe where we end up that are just like wow. Gorgeous. Like Amsterdam is such a beautiful city, Paris,. And I love when we’re traveling in places when there’s actually not that many people. Like when we’re traveling through the mountains. It’s places like those. I love nature. I’m always a fan of taking the scenic route rather than the expressway.
Morgan: I know you’re heading back to Talladega but, if you guys get the chance you should take the scenic route in St Augustine not too far from here. Its absolutely beautiful!
Morgan: What are some of your favorite songs to perform on stage?
Steven: I really do like playing them all. The only reason I would not love a song is because it’s difficult for me to play it and sing at the same time. Little things like that where maybe it makes me tired or something. But, For The People and “To the Flame” those are a couple of my favorites. They’re a little different for us from our last album. It’s cool because they incorporate a lot more vocal harmonies into our music and those songs are a pretty good showcase of that. I like that. Not enough people are singing in bands these days. Ya know maybe we’re lucky cause everyone can sing in our band. But, if you can sing get on the mic and sing because the more people the better!
Morgan: Singing in front of all of those fans must be so nerve wracking. Do you get nervous before a show? And If you do, do you have any pre show rituals to calm your nerves?
Steven: No nerves anymore. The only time I ever even double think it is if it’s a hometown show and I have lots of friends and family. It’s not so much pressure but, it feels a little more important than a normal show because you know they’re watching you. I pretend not to get really nervous. But, I get more excited. I think I channel that nervousness into excitement and I get anxious to get up there.
Morgan: Do you do anything fun before a show? Do you have a beer or take any other pre-show traditions?
Steven: It’s pretty quiet and lame before a show with us. Yeah we don’t really do anything to get pumped up or anything. With everyone it’s just pretty much stretching. We’re all getting old now so everyone’s stretching and sometimes Jeremy will be playing the guitar and we’ll practice some singing, and I’ll hit on the edge of the sofa with my drumsticks and warm up that way. But, it’s pretty quiet. I think everyone really enjoys just kinda just relaxing and just the calm before the storm. When we get out there it’s pretty full on so it’s nice to kind of just rest a little bit and think about what you need to do.
Morgan: Absolutely. Ya’ll do have so much energy so I have to say I’m kind of surprised that it’s not crazy backstage beforehand.
Steven: Yeah! That’s probably why we are resting to make sure we can up there and just rock!
Morgan: So what do you like to do when you are home or have any downtime? Any hobbies? I know you said you like nature.
Steven: I have two dogs. I’ve got an 8 year-old named Moody and a two year old named Bootsy. Me and my fiancé we love to go walk our dogs in the woods. That’s one of my favorite things to do at home. Where we’re from in Canada there’s a lot of beautiful conservation area and trails and waterfalls and everything. So that’s what I do. I like to see my family and my friends and I like to walk my dogs. I almost think trying to picking up some type of a hobby or something like that would be trying to force too much in because I am so busy on the road all of the time that when I get home I just want to focus on my friends and family and my dogs. I’m a crazy dog man now!
Morgan: As a dog mom I totally understand that!
Steven: Yeah! I can’t wait until I can bring my little girl Bootsy on the road!
Morgan: One last question! Are you going to get to see any of the other bands today? If so who are you excited to see here at Welcome To Rockville?!
Steven: Yeah! Our tour manager Tom is a crazy Brit and he grew up touring and hanging out with the dudes in Bring Me The Horizon from the same hometown so he’s been chatting about how cool those dudes are for the whole time we’ve been working with him. And somehow we’ve never crossed paths with them. So today is the first time we’re actually playing the same festival so I’m excited to check them out.
Morgan: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today! I know you are crazy busy but, I truly appreciate it! Congratulations again on all of your success!
For more about Monster Truck, check out their website http://ilovemonstertruck.com/ and be sure to get a copy of their new album “Sittin Heavy”