by Mike Huberty
September 2009

Madison's Steez

Madison's Steez

Combining elements of jam rock with electronica and improvisation, Madison band, STEEZ, has been slowly shaking their way through the Midwest since 2003 after forming as classmates at the University of Wisconsin bonding over luminaries of the genre like Phish and The Grateful Dead. Their first album, entitled Creepfunk Crusade, was just released in August on the Mason Jar records and STEEZ just finished an east coast tour to celebrate the new CD.

First of all, what’s the name all about? Guitarist and founding member, Steve Neary explains, “We used to be called Super Nintendo Entertainment System back in 2003. We were just sitting around night looking at a Super Nintendo and thought it would be a cool name. But then were worried about a year later that we’d be sued if we ever decided to take the band seriously“, he laughs. ”We couldn’t get our keyboard player to agree on anything that didn’t involve Star Wars or (keyboardist) Bob James, so we eventually settled on STEEZ, which is slang for style, so we thought it fit our M.O. a little bit.“

As far as the musical style goes, Neary says they’re diverging from the usual decidedly organic feel of the improvisational music scene. He remarks, ”I feel like the electronic aspect is slowly seeping into what we’ve been doing now. I hate to use the term ‘jam band’, but we are to some degree. We still jam, but definitely the synth is a huge part of us as well. That’s slowly but surely creeping its way into our sound as well. Even when we’ll be playing a rock or funk feel, you just add a crazy synth into it and there’s even a Talking Heads influence.“

The album name, Creepfunk Crusade, is unusual but it’s how Steez labels themselves as a band and their mission. As Neary says, ”Creepfunk is how we describe our music. Definitely funk is the bottom line with all of us, we all get down to the funk. That’s at the core. The creepiness, I like to say, is funk but with creepy kinds of beats, which I mostly attribute to synth and our playful lyrics. In a way we are on a crusade, I guess, spreading our music around and opening people’s eyes to what we’ve got going on.“

After a successful summer where they saw a tour (with a triumphant performance in New York City for their record label), an appearance at Minnesota’s famous 10,000 Lakes Festival, and their first CD being unleashed on the world, Neary is anticipating a great show for their Milwaukee CD Release Party at the Up and Under bar on September 18th. As he warns, ”People can expect a packed house with some dancing, a lot of beer flowing, and funk flowing through the air. It’s gonna be hot, it’s gonna be smoky, and that’s how we like it!“

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