Rock and roll has had its share of poets, but most of the time bands will admit that its their lyrics that need the most work. In true punk style, the Steel Pier Sinners kind of started out backwards. Instead of being good musicians that learned how to write better songs, they were a pair of poets that learned to become better musicians.
The Sinners, who are based in Asbury Park, consist of Trina Scordo and Meagan Brothers on guitar and vocals and Stony T on drums. They recently added Dave Pol on bass.
Since forming in the beginning of 2003, the band has played shows throughout the tri-state area and are about to play their first gigs in the midwest. They can regularly be found banging away at clubs like CBGBs in New York City or the Brighton Bar in Long Branch. They blend their poetic lyrics on top of Hank Williams inspired country music mixed with Clash influenced punk. The end result is songs filled with introspective lyrics and biting guitars - kind of like a garage rock band that flirts with going alt-country but keeps one foot over on the punk rock side.
"When we first started playing I used to dread the question when people would ask what do you sound like," said Trina Scordo. "I would fumble. I didn't know what to say."
Fans of bands from the Jam to the Rolling Stones fill their audience. "It's not like we sound like any of those bands," adds Meagan Brothers. "It's that vein of rock and roll."
This summer will be key for the Sinners as they travel around the country in search of building and finding their audience. They have a couple of shows scheduled for Chicago at the end of May including a Memorial Day concert for VVAW?(Vietnam Veterans Against The War). ?They'll be heading down to West Virginia in June before playing their biggest concert to date - a spot at the Capital Pride Festival in Washington DC on June 13th.
The Capital Pride Festival will find the Sinners on stage staring out at hundreds of thousands of people in front of the Capitol in Washington, DC. It's part of a whole market of fans that, until recently, the band didn't even know was out there.
"There's this misconception that all gay people just love dance music," explained Brothers. "That's really not true. We've got a lot of gay fans who love rock and roll music and are really glad to see us because it doesn't have to do with being gay or straight. We're just a rock and roll band."
The band is comprised of one gay member, one bi-sexual, one straight and one that they're not sure of yet. Their musical "outing" occured in Trenton and may have helped the band in more ways than they know. They invited people from the publication "Out In Jersey" to a show at the Conduit Club. The editors loved the band so much that they decided to do a feature on the Sinners in their April issue.
"That's when we started thinking that maybe there is some crossover," said Scordo. "For a long time, I didn't even think of gay venues or anything because I didn't think they listened to garage rock. And that was because I couldn't find any queer people that liked it."
While the band doesn't want to be labeled a gay band, they do realize how amazing the times are for gay musicians right now. "Only recently has that not been a stumbling block," explained Brothers. ?"As recently as ten years ago you had people like KD?Lang and Melissa Etheridge and so forth coming out and not having it hurt their careers. This is really such a recent development that it's kind of uncharted territory. We're like walking on the moon."
The Sinners will be releasing their second full-length CD in April. As with many indie bands, it has been a tough road to get radio airplay. For bands with a sound that's hard to categorize like the Sinners, it becomes that much more difficult. ?Thankfully, they have begun getting airplay on college and Internet stations like WRSU (Rutgers University) and Altrok.com. And when people hear their music for the first time, they're not thinking about what the band's sexual preference is - they're just hearing the music.
"I think the cool thing about rock and roll is that it can kind of break all of that down," said Scordo. "If the music is good then people are there because of the music and that's how it should be. ?It shouldn't be a judgement or based on how somebody looks or what somebody's sexual orientation is. It should be do the songs stand up. If the songs stand up, we're doing our job. For me, that's what matters."
You can catch Steel Pier Sinners at CB's Lounge in NYC on April 17th and at Paradise in Asbury Park on April 29th.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.