ROCKING ENGINE is a band that I have just recently gotten to know about. Anders Ekdahl ©2019
Steve O Leff – Vocals and guitars
Ste Vy Leff – Guitars
JP Buzzard – Bass
Joel Bilodeau – Drums
A band name says more than a thousand words, or does it? How important is a band name to get people interested in your music?
(Steve O) I personally think a band name is as good as how you’re able to sell it. At some point, the band name becomes a brand, a trademark, and not just a means of identification. In our case, we didn’t put countless hours thinking about the perfect name for the band, we just sat down and said « What do we love most? » . The answer was quite easy… Rock music and cars! From that moment, we decided to create the band’s sound, image and attitude that would later let rock and metal enthusiasts identify themselves through our different passions.
(Ste Vy) The band name projects what we became as a group, what we do live on stage and when we record music. Does it need to say a thousand words? From my perception no. It needs to be to the point with a hint of intrigue.
When you finish recording and then sit back and relax, what kind of feelings do you get? Are you glad it is finished? Does the anxiety grow, not knowing if everybody will like it?
(Steve O) Being an underground low budget self produced band in a saturated mainstream music world means countless hours trying to learn the tricks of the trade in order to sound somewhat like our metal heroes. Although we’ve learned a lot in the process, we still have so much to learn in the recording world. So after spending hours and hours recording and mixing, I most likely sit back and think it sounds like crap (laughs)! Then the anxiety starts growing and deception sinks in slowly. However, that moment when you finally nail the mix you were working so hard for, you suddenly get that huge feeling of relief and a large smile on the face… That moment is worth all the work!
(Ste Vy) EXCITEMENT is what I felt for the first album, even though the writing and recording was spread out over a few years as a learning experience, the flame was burning high. I never really felt anxious about what others could say about the album. I wrote music because it felt good for me and the band. If others like our music or if the radio plays our songs, I consider it as an honor and privilege. Critics are more than welcomed which can only help us improve ourselves.
What is it like to be in a studio recording your music? What kind of feelings and thoughts race through your heads?
(Steve O) It’s always a great feeling when you finally get to the recording stage of a song. Now having our personal home studio, we have pretty much all the time in the world to lay down our tracks and try out different recording approaches. We do however strive to learn more on the recording and mixing business and really hit hard with our next album, which we are currently working on. When it comes to recording, we’re always relaxed and layed back. There’s no use working under pressure, it would just be counterproductive in our case. We also make sure to make stupid faces while the others are recording just to keep things interesting (laughs)!
(Ste Vy) Recording in the studio is to be at home as we do our own recordings. We try to be relaxed as much as possible, even though the excitement of hearing the product all blending together is very high.
Today I get a feeling that the promotion of a band lands a lot on the bands themselves so how does one promote oneself the best possible way in order to reach as many as possible?
(Steve O) Easy… SPREAD THE WORD!!! These days, you just have to work with all the social media platforms to get your name out there. Reach out to people who either share the same interests, or people who can actually promote your product. In my experience, maybe 5% of people I sent our music to actually gave us feedback and shared our material. So the more you get your stuff out there, the better chances you have of reaching out to someone who will actually make a difference in your overall success. That being said, a band has to find original ways to promote on social media, otherwise they’ll just fade in someone else’s shadow and end up relying solely on overpriced so called « promoters ». Don’t get me wrong, there are amazing promoters out there such as METAL MESSAGE, but you have to be careful when it comes to choosing the best investment for your band.
(Ste Vy) I believe having fresh material and engaging with third parties is the key to promote the band. The music business is very instantaneous, and we need to be able to follow the pace of streamers and keep them engaged with us.
Today we have all these different sub genres in metal. How important is that you can be tagged in one of these? Why isn’t metal enough as a tag?
(Steve O) I remember the time when I used to go in a music store and go straight to the « Metal » section to spend a lot of time looking at the new releases and the cool artworks. I always ended up buying a new album even though I didn’t know the band. At the time, you didn’t care if it was a sub genre, it was Metal! But nowadays, with the easiest possible access to music all over the world, it’s almost overwhelming when you try to find something new to discover… There’s just so much music to choose from! I think it’s now essential for a band to classify itself as clearly as possible so it can attract the specific public it wants to attract. It will also be easier for the band to be placed accordingly into playlists for people searching new music in a specifc genre. However, in my opinion, I think this evolved classification prevents people, who are more conservative in terms of musical taste, to discover bands in other metal sub genres that could probably swipe them off their feet.
(Ste Vy) Rock n Roll fans have evolved to really define what they appreciate in the music genre. As metal fans, everyone knows the difference between Death Metal and Progressive Metal, as one fan may appreciate one style more than the other and really focus on the one he likes. Giving sub-genres or “sub sub-genres ” can really ease your access in finding out new bands that have a similar style to a well renowned band. For us, I think it’s important to open up our music to those metal fans that are looking for songs in the same “sub sub-genre” they really dig.
What importance is there being part of local/national/international scene? Does playing in a band make you feel like you are a part of something bigger? I know it does to me knowing that in some slight way I was part of the Swedish death metal scene in the 90s.
(Steve O) Everybody has to start somewhere, right? You play the empty venues, you get paid twenty dollars for a three hour gig and you spend a shit load of money on gear and accessories. But the moment your local scene starts showing you some love, it’s just the best feeling in the world! And when you grow as a band, I think it’s your responsibility to give back to your local scene in order to motivate upcoming artists to continue working hard and putting the sweat and tears in everything they do to eventually succeed. My favourite part of being in Rockin’ Engine is when we get to personally meet our fans after the shows and get to know them. That connection is worth all the money in the world!
(Ste Vy) I feel that Rockin’ Engine is a big moving train for which many music fans like to get on board. I think it is amazing that I am one of the drivers of this amazing ride. We are making history in our own little way! If you google our band, you will find plenty of material and all of this will be there in 50 years from now. My grand-son and his children will be able to look at what I did back in the days and possibly dig our music and share it to their generation.
Ever since I first got into metal the art work has been a main motivator in buying a record. What part does art work for album covers play in the world of the band?
(Steve O) The artwork says a lot about the band’s personality. In our case, we wanted the album cover to not only reflect who we are but also what you should expect in terms of music. We’re huge fans of horror movies and muscle cars, and a lot of our songs will depict that. So it was important that the album cover showed something spooky and « manly » at the same time (laughs). So we got in touch with Jakhangir Zeynalov from Zjartworks and told him a bit about what we were looking for… The guy nailed it first hand! We were very impressed by his work and how quickly he delivered, we’ll definitely work with him again.
How important is having a label to back you up today when you can just release your music on any sort of platform online? With the ability to upload your music as soon as you’ve written it, the freedom to create has become greater but are there any negative consequences to music being too readily available to fans now that every Tom, John and Harry can upload their stuff?
(Steve O) Being associated with a respected label will definitely spread your music to the masses in a fraction of the time it would take an independent band. But before going there, it’s important that the band establishes a solid fan base and music quality to be « worthy » to some of the big guns. Is it absolutely necessary? Not at all! It all depends on what you want as a band. For example, if a band wants to hit big and play the mainstream festivals, it better be ready to jump through the loops, work it’s butt off and always keep in mind that TIMING is everything! On the other side, today’s ease of access to all the softwares and platforms to record and distribute music, many unknown but extremely talented musicians get to unleash their passion to the world and express their art in every way possible. That itself is the ultimate reward!
What is a gig with you like? What kind of shows do you prefer to play?
(Steve O) We love to interact with the public! For Rockin’ Engine, it’s not about playing a few songs, get paid and get out. It’s about the experience, the interaction, the passion and the energy. Weather we play in front of ten people or a thousand, it makes no difference at all, they all become part of the show, shouting, fist pumping and head banging. After any performance, we want to leave people wanting more, we want them to remember us and say « Holy shit! That was insane! ».
(Ste Vy) Hahaha, I always get stressed out. But with the experience, I just learn to deal with it. And we are always greatly satisfied with our performance and so are the fans. We get so much love from the crowd, it’s amazing!
What lies in the future?
(Ste Vy) More music, more shows, more everything!
(Steve O) This is only the beginning for us. Our first album was quite an adventure with a few mistakes here and there, and we still have a lot to learn about this amazing industry. We have several great shows coming up with well established headliners and we can’t wait to book a tour in Europe. We’re currently working on our second album and it already sounds so great and intense! We will also release our second professional music video later this year, you definitely don’t want to miss that (laughs). But none of this would be possible without the love and support from people all over the world, and for that, we are eternally grateful!