Americana, state-line style
has been an idea in the minds of John Stevens and Scott Roth since the 1990s. Unfortunately, the two have never been “single” at the same time, to allow such a project to come to fruition. Until late 2005, that is, when Scott contacted John and the two decided to get together. Things immediately came together…John had been playing with his brother, Jerry, for many years, and Scott had recently been in a band with a bass playin’ Dane named Scott Petersen. They began rehearsing in Jerry’s garage in Council Bluffs, and things started to work...the beginnings brought forth more of the electric, “dollar’s worth of love” and “Cheryl” acting as examples.
Eventually, the western started to come to the fore. Covers of songs by Hag, Cash, and Paycheck provided a fresh outlook on the actual simplicity of the craft, and the boys went back to work. Classic honky tonk themes, the anger and heartbreak of state line have given way to storytelling in an abstract form. Their first release, state line, emerged in 2006 as one of the more original, if underappreciated, debuts in the Nebraska/Iowa region.
John Asa Spomer joined the band a few years in, contributing pedal steel guitar and keys. This helped solidify the western aspect—compositions became more twangy, and the cover songs obliged as well. Christopher Hawk replaced Petersen on bass, and the band found its final form. Live shows became more rambunctious, a reflection of the sense of Americana and roots rock that defines the band. As the band worked together, their definitive sound emerged, captured on the 2015 release Death and Obligations. Recorded mostly from 2007-2010, Death provides a variety of sounds and styles: “Los Angeles” opens the record with an up-tempo rocker, carefully incorporating multiple instruments and ideas; “satan” is based on a deadly pedal steel hook and lyrics about the evil some people share…in a somewhat comic voice; “Rodney!” is named for the late, great Dangerfield, and delivers a charging instrumental that mandates some movement of the feet and body; “Smells like fall” revisits the times in our lives when we were bulletproof and knew it all. “Put a sign in the yard” finishes the thirteen-song set with a lament over destruction caused by divorce, bankruptcy and foreclosure…a perfect ending to a longer story of the everyday pain we all experience.
John contributes his trademark Chuck Berry meets Neil Young meets Jay Farrar guitar licks, brother Jerry provides solid drumming; Hawk crawls on his p-bass, forcing the rhythm while pacing with Jer, while Roth sings in his style, slow low and crooning about lost love and alcohol. Asa fills in gaps at times, while offering the main thrust at other times, contributing an original combination of keys and pedal steel that set the band apart. W.E. truly comprises more rock and roll than twang, but each does play an effective part. In the constant search for categories, one could classify W.E. as no depression, as electric folk, as country rock…as a hybrid of the Mats, Uncle Tupelo and the Silos. But Western Electric actually has a sound all their own. A sound that is ripe for drinking and carrying on, reminiscing about the golden days, and preparing for what comes next.
John Stevens, lead guitar
Jerry Stevens, drums and percussion
Christopher Hawk, bass
Scott Roth, guitar and vocals
John Asa Spomer, pedal steel, keys and guitar
Jerry and John have played in Hanna’s Porch, Gauge, Green Lantern, Box, Hong Gyn Corporation, Midwest Dilemma, among others;
Roth played in Such Sweet Thunder, Love Grapes, King Construct, King City Miracles, and Four Corners/el guapo.
Altogether, the boys have about fifty years of experience writing, recording, and playing live; they have played all over the Midwest, and recorded approximately fifteen full-length projects in their various acts.
Contact Scott Roth for booking or promotion or any inquiries:
Give them a listen. Western Electric may be the best band you have never heard.