For the past three years, The Crown Vics have worked hard to establish a reputation as Maine’s premiere rockabilly band. Now, with the release of their first official CD, “Hell Yeah,” that could all change.
“We’re trying to shed the rockabilly skin a little,” drummer Steve Peer admitted in a recent interview. “All of us are very different,” he said, explaining that all five members agreed that the songs on the CD should reflect this diversity.
Not that the group has abandoned its roots. “The Boss” and “Smokin’ and Drinkin’” will sound familiar to anyone who has seen the band live. But tunes like “Cheshire Moon” and “Little Boy” strike out into new territory. The former wouldn’t sound out of place on the Americana charts; the latter Peer described as a “mini rock opera.”
The other members of The Crown Vics are bassist Gordon Fellis, guitarist Frank Schwartz, and vocalists Andrew and Jennifer Myers. They began working on “Hell Yeah” in May 2016. While individual members contributed songs, the finished product is a collective effort. The recording was done in Peer’s living room; Fellis was recording engineer and did the mixing. Peer, Fellis and Schwartz laid down the basic tracks.
“We recorded it all in a day,” Peer said. Vocals and contributions by other musicians were added later.
“Where everybody got bogged down was the mixing,” Peer said. Opinions differed as to where certain instruments or vocals should be in the mix. After months of work – and discussion – the CD was ready in April.
Peer said the band perceives “Hell Yeah” as a way to document its music and not as an attempt to break into the big time.
“We’re really just looking to get attention,” he joked.
Still, the CD is getting some radio play and in unexpected places, thanks to iTunes, Spotify and other digital platforms. Two songs, “Cheshire Moon” and “The Boss,” are number ten and 11, respectively, on Valley FM 89.5 in Canberra, Australia.
The title cut, “Hell Yeah,” is a raucous anthem with a don’t-give-a-damn attitude and the one cut the band chose to make into a video. The video, shot at The Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor, can be seen on YouTube.
“Hell Yeah,” like the other 13 cuts on the CD, hovers around the three-minute mark. There are no long solos or extended slow fades on any of the songs. This is by design, Peer said.
“I was adamant that these songs have to be like Beatles songs,” he said. The tight craftsmanship of the Fab Four’s three-minute pop songs was a goal, he explained.
The Crown Vics have some help from other local musicians on the CD. They are Kyle Duckworth on harmonica, Gus La Casse on fiddle, keyboardist Rob Rhiel, Thomas Stott on baritone saxophone and Gregg TeHennepe on pedal steel guitar. Each adds immeasurably to the cuts on which they play; filling out the sound of what basically is a guitar-bass-drums trio.
The band came together three years ago after Schwartz and Fellis approached Peer.
“They had this notion of starting a barebones rock-and-roll band,” he said. “I was all for it.”
Drew Myers was tapped to do vocals when Schwartz and Peer spotted him one night in Finn’s Irish Pub in Ellsworth. Peer had performed in a pit band for the musical “Grease” where Myers sang and performed. Jennifer Myers, Drew’s wife, later joined the group.
The band did record another CD, “Rock and Roll Invasion.” Only 100 copies were made.
“It was all cover stuff: Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, The Yardbirds,” Peer said. “We used it more as a business card. That’s how we broke into playing clubs.”
Today, The Crown Vics are one of the hardest working bands in the state, playing at clubs along the coast from Portland to Lubec and in constant demand for private events.
“We’re at a point now where we have to turn down gigs,” Peer said.
Check out the band’s website, thecrownvics.me, to find a schedule of their upcoming performances. The new CD is available on iTunes and Spotify, and hard copies are for sale for $10 at their gigs. Stick one in your car’s CD player, and you’ll be shouting “Hell yeah” along with the band even before you get home.