of the hidden pop treasures right here in Queens, NYC, Tan Sleeve
features Lane Steinberg and his Tan Sleeve cohort Steve
Barry. Featuring a dozen fresh original tracks encompassing a
range of pop and rock moves, Too Big Too Fail captures all
that is best about the Tan Sleeve pop approach. Although both Steinberg
and Barry go back a long time in the pop world, all the way to their
early '80s, Florida based band, the Wind, on the 2011 release of Too
Big To Fail both Tan Sleeve members sound in-synch on a 21st century
pop album that gets you where you want to go without even
gears. Clearly, both of these singer-songwriters are capable of writing
and recording sublime Beatles inspired pop songs. Just give a listen
to the near hard rock rave up on the 11 minute Fading Out
with its excellent Neil Young like sonic guitar trance. The fact they
they can usher out that rare form of audio barrage with their exquisite
McCartney flavored CD closer We Try just goes to show
you that these guys are truly experts at combining power pop with
rock and more again. www.TanSleeve.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
STEVEN BARRY and LANE STEINBERG of Tan Sleeve
Where did you grow up and how and when did you two meet?
Steven Barry: I grew up in North Miami Beach, Florida, a melting
pot of Jewish people from all over the Northeast. Lane and I met in
one of those senior year elective classes. It was a piano class. Lane
had just moved down from Long Island. He hated Florida. I came to
class one day with a Frank Zappa songbook. Lane said Zappa,
somebody likes Zappa... as though he could hardly believe it.
Lane Steinberg: I grew up in Long Island during the golden
period of AM radio and WABC. My grandmother, who can be seen cutting
the ribbon on the cover of the new CD, bought me this little clock
radio when I was 7, and that was it... I became addicted to WABC,
and that was my musical schooling. I met Steve when I moved to Florida
during my senior year of high school music class. He was walking around
holding a Zappa book wearing an earing that had a dangling moon and
star, and he immediately struck me as being distinctly distinct break
from the vanilla mediocrity that inhabited the halls of that wretched
windowless building! We started writing songs soon after and got Steve
Burdick, another inmate at the compound, to play drums. Thus, the
Wind was born.
mwe3.com: It seems like the song writing was pretty evenly split on
the new Tan Sleeve Too Big To Fail album. Its amazing
that you guys sound so similar. How would you compare the styles of
singing and song writing between both and how do you balance and blend
your approach song writing and guitar sounds?
funny, as some have said that. I suppose it's because we are striving
for a common aesthetic in Tan Sleeve. I write in more different styles,
whereas Steve works in a narrower bandwidth. The more quirky, outside
stuff is usually mine, but he's got a natural and rare gift for melody.
Like a sense of rhythm, you can't learn that...either you have it
or you don't. I look forward to a new Steve song as a fan. We rarely
collaborate, but we just knocked off a song together for a Florida
band, Garbo's Daughter, to record. It's called Fight Like A
Girl, and it's quite good. As far as instruments, Steve plays
bass and most of the keyboards and I play the guitars. We sort of
arrive at the sounds as we go along on a need basis.
SB: Not to flatter ourselves, but I'm more like McCartney and Lane
is more like Lennon. I stay between the 40 yard lines, Lane will go
for the hail mary pass. He likes going out on a limb with edgier stuff.
But there's plenty of overlap between our styles. Lane doesn't listen
to that much pop/rock, but he understands that he's still a pop/rock
musician and songwriter. I'm more into hunting down the most obscure
vintage pop/rock and using it to provide fresh inspiration and to
heighten my understanding of the music of the 60s and 70s.
I don't play guitar. I'm a bass and keyboard guy, so Lane handles
the guitar sounds.
mwe3.com: Can you remember the first Tan Sleeve album and how would
you describe the sound of the early Tan Sleeve with the latest one
and the overall journey thus far?
SB: I'm not sure if you're talking about the very first Tan Sleeve
album, which wasn't an official release, or Bad From Both Sides,
our first full blown CD. The very first Tan Sleeve CD was just the
two of us playing as an acoustic duo, doing mostly covers of old pop
classics from the 30s and 40s. We made a second CD like
that one as well (White Lie Castle). I love both of those CDs.
I think they're very pleasant to listen to and show a certain aspect
of our sound. As far as Bad From Both Sides, as well as the
follow up American Blood, both of those albums cover a lot
of different styles, which has kind of always been our modus operandi.
With Too Big To Fail, I wanted to go for a more consistent
sound and focus on upbeat material, so that it would be easier for
people to get a grasp on. It's a little strange putting out new CDs
these days with all the changes that have gone on in the music industry,
combined with the fact that we're no longer young guys in our 20s
with no responsibilities, who can devote all their time to music.
As a songwriter, I'm still constantly working on new material. But
it's not liked we've got a full fledged band and a place to rehearse
and all the time in the world to make music and make it our first
priority. It took us a long time to finally complete this CD. And
now we're like, okay, now what?. We can't just jump in a van
like some kids from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and travel all over playing
gigs. And people are hardly buying CDs these days. So on one hand,
we love making music. On the other hand, it's pretty daunting trying
to figure out a way to get exposure at this stage in our lives.
first Tan Sleeve CD was all covers of old songs, stuff that Sinatra
and Tony Bennett would sing. It was just acoustic guitar and piano.
Very soft and gentle. The second CD, White Lie Castle, continued
in this style, but we added some more originals and some more contemporary
covers. After that, we sort of took off where The Wind (our original
band) left off, and went back to full blown productions on Bad
From Both Sides and American Blood. We even got Steve Burdick
from The Wind to play drums for us, and he is also on this new one,
where he really shines. There was a conscious decision on Too Big
To Fail to narrow the focus and make it mostly rockers. I just
turned 50 and Steve is right behind me. We started working together
as teenagers, now were both married with kids. This album is
a meditation on that, a sort of 'do not go gently into that good night'
sort of thing, and there's some of that angst and frustration that
comes through. It's more than a collection of songs, this one; it
holds together thematically. At our age, the Rock Stardom
dream may be finished, but the desire to write songs and make albums
that can stand alongside the ones we grew up with still persists.
Dan Penn once said (I'm paraphrasing) a songwriter can be swimming
in a pool, eating dinner in a fine restaurant, even making love, and
in the back of his mind all he's thinking about is that next song.
It's a double life, an illness of sorts. Every time I get disillusioned
and think I will finally turn it off, three new songs come roaring
forth. This new CD was made in fits and starts over five years, by
far the longest it ever took us. There was a new baby in Steve's household,
so that took precedent.
mwe3.com: Tan Sleeve always sounded influenced by the mid 60s
American and British pop sound. What were some of the early influences
that lead you forming Tan Sleeve? I also saw you mentioned pop icons
like The Easybeats and Roy Wood on Lanes myspace page!
LS: I mean,
we listen to everything. The Wind was basically an amalgamation of
The Beatles Second Album and The Temptations Greatest Hits
- it was very distilled. What goes in isn't necessarily what comes
out. I'm a student of song writing, whether it be Richard Rodgers,
McCartney, Lord Kitchener, or SD Burman. I have no particular predilection
for 60's pop, power pop, or blow pops. I just like great songs. There
was a lot of great stuff during the 60's/70's, but like any era, there's
a lot of crap. Historically, the good stuff hopefully gets filtered
through the sands of time. Still, some great things from the 60s,
like Duncan Browne's first album, never even registered at the time
and barely had an audience, even today.
SB: Being born in the early 1960s, our first exposure to music was
all the great stuff on the radio during the height of the British
Invasion, plus Motown, Burt Bachrach, etc, etc... Then, as we got
a little older, old enough to learn how to play an instrument, I took
piano lessons, there was even more great music in the early 70s,
like all the great singer songwriters, and all the Philly soul stuff.
So you just took for granted that there was always going to be great
music on the radio forever. But then it changed, and some people were
more sensitive to it than others. Looking back, I can think of a lot
of great "car radio" songs from the mid to late 70's, like
"Evil Woman" (ELO), or "Couldn't Get It Right"
(Climax Blues Band), or even "Fly Like An Eagle". But at
the time, I remember hearing fewer and fewer standout tracks, and
even the good stuff lacked the excitement of, for example, "Get
Off My Cloud". You could sense that bands were thinking in terms
of "will this sell" and "this is the sound people want
to hear now", as opposed to trying to recreate the excitement
of their musical idols, the way the Stones wanted to sound like Muddy
Waters and Chuck Berry.
mwe3.com: What guitars and instruments do you each play on the new
Tan Sleeve album?
LS: Steve has this Fender Jazz bass that sounds incredible...all you
have to do is plug it in. Maybe a little compression, that's it. I
play a slew of guitars: an ESP Fender Strat, a Dearmond M77, a Rickenbacker
360, a Fender Jazzmaster, Martin 00-18, a Martin 12 string, a Telecaster
thin line, a borrowed '73 Telecaster. I've been really into Telecasters
lately. I have a Sohmer upright piano. And, of course, there are samples.
SB: I play bass, keyboards, and some percussion. Lane plays all guitars,
and the more complicated percussion parts. He plays bass on "Butter
mwe3.com: What are the newest tracks on Too Big To Fail and
the early tracks?
my wife and I had a baby, and my wife started having a lot of health
problems, Lane and I were only able to get together once a week, if
we were lucky. So we were working at a very slow pace. At the same
time, I was still going down to Miami on a yearly basis to visit my
parents, and I'd always get together with Steve Burdick, who was the
drummer in our old band The Wind. We would record basic tracks, and
then Lane and I would finish them in New York. So after a certain
point, I had amassed several upbeat songs of mine that featured Steve
Burdick on drums. That's when I told Lane that we should make the
whole album really upbeat. So we needed a few more upbeat songs and
wound up putting a few other completed tracks on the shelf. I think
"Don't Get Too Comfortable" and "Clone" were the
last two songs we recorded. We also re-cut "Butter & Sugar"
with Steve Burdick on drums when he came to visit in New York. Lane
and I had done an earlier version with a drum loop that was too slow
and lacked energy. "Squaresville" was the earliest song
that was recorded specifically for the album. "We Try" is
the oldest recording. It was supposed to be on "Bad From Both
Sides", but never made it. We thought the lyrical theme complimented
the lyrical themes of both "Fading Out" and "The Bitter
LS: I've been carrying a few of these songs in my head for years.
Syd Barrett once said that it's good to carry a song in your head
for as long as possible before actually writing it. Sometimes all
the best work is done internally, just walking around and going over
it again and again until the pieces fall into place. It's also selfish,
for I've found once you finally write it, you can no longer enjoy
it as a work in progress. We Try is the oldest recording
- it was actually left over from White Lie Castle. It fit thematically
with the others and served as a nice coda after "Fading Out."
mwe3.com: Lane, how do you balance your sound and vision between Tan
Sleeve and your work in Cracked Latin? Also can you compare the Tan
Sleeve sound to your solo album work too?
LS: Tan Sleeve is Steve and I trying to write classic pop songs and
giving them their just due via recording. Cracked Latin starts with
a sound, as opposed to a song. The songs are usually rendered out
of hours of improvisation. It's a completely different way of writing
for me, almost like being a trance medium. My solo stuff is always
changing. Right now it's almost completely on hold, as I am finding
collaboration so much more satisfying.
mwe3.com: What's coming up for Tan Sleeve?
SB: Well we're certainly not going to let another six years pass before
putting out another CD! Right now, we're working on a more acoustic
based CD. I really want to get away from the whole "smorgasbord"
approach to making CDs, and pick a particular direction for each CD.
What's nice about keeping things simple is that we can finish a song
in a relatively short time, so that's part of the motivation.
LS: Tan Sleeve will hopefully play some shows to support this CD.
We are already a few songs into the next one, which is sort of a hybrid
of everything that's come before...some acoustic, some loud, some
covers. Very exciting. We'll
see how it takes shape. We do a great acoustic version of The
Stroke by Billy Squier! Cracked Latin is almost finished with
its next studio disc, which is like nothing you've ever heard. I've
been working in a project called 8X8 with a gifted musician from Kiev,
Alex Khodchenko. We exchange tracks over the internet, back and forth.
We're three fourths into an album which is turning out amazingly well,
very sumptuous and visual music. And I am embarking on a similar email-styled
project with David Grahame, who is a brilliant songwriter and old
elementary schoolmate of mine. He wrote a big hit in the 80s,
To Be With You, which Mr. Big recorded. And, of course,
there is the brilliant R. Stevie Moore, who I am always doing something
with. I consider myself blessed to be involved with such talented
people, which was always the dream. I love to be busy, but I could
really use a clone or two!
Thanks to Steven Barry and Lane
Steinberg @ www.TanSleeve.com
photos by Jaime Lyle Gordon