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Breaking Into A Scene, Then Breaking Out
Steel Pier Sinners
The funny thing is, when I was a kid, I swore I'd leave and never come back to NJ. How wrong was I? I left and came back only to write about the people and places that have shaped and continue to shape me. - Trina Scordo
by Matt Mrowicki
 [Chorus and Verse] Steel Pier Sinners
Steel Pier Sinners

In any artistic endeavor there are scenes, places where music, art, literature or some other form of expression comes together and builds upon itself. The more the artists interact with each other, they share - or steal - ideas and continue to evolve into something new.

But, the definition of a scene is harder to quantify. One simple way to tell a scene when you see one is to see who comes to be a part of it. Whether it's the Village in New York City or the Strip in Los Angeles, when you have people coming to a place to seek out the promises that it offers, then a scene is born.

By the definition, at least, Asbury Park has been a scene for the better part of thirty years. Artists, mostly musicians, have sought out a piece of the dream for longer than there's been one. One of the most recent bands to settle down and develop strong roots are the Steel Pier Sinners, who have just released their debut demo EP, titled SPS 1.0.

Sinners guitarist and lead singer, Trina Scordo, grew up in Northern New Jersey, who hung out around the New York poetry. There, she met North Carolina native Meagan Brothers, who was living in Queens at the time. Brothers became the new band's second guitarist and singer, and the two formed a songwriting bond.

Seeking the area's artsy vibe, they re-located to Asbury Park, enlisting Brothers' college friend Ryan Thorpe on bass, and plunging head-first into the live music circuit. While seeking a permanent drummer to complete the line-up, a search which recently ended successfully, Steel Pier Sinners have played a number of rooms well-known to local concert-goers, such as the Brighton Bar and the FastLane, as well as nationally-recognized venues as The Stone Pony and New York's CBGBs.

SPS 1.0 includes six tracks, melding a variety of different musical styles, from early rock and roll and country, to early punk. They relish a raw and uninhibited sound that is present in their live performances.

On Stage at the Brighton Bar

The Sinners have proven to be adept at making contacts around a local scene, and now look to expand their touring area, and use the new demo CD as a means of greater promotion. Scordo chatted with Chorus and Verse about her adopted hometown and, having become a part of the scene, how the band plans to break-out of it.

You've recently released your self-titled first demo CD. Start off with where and when the seven tracks on the EP were recorded and who played a role in putting the album together. How can fans get their hands on a copy?

We recorded the CD in June at Metro Music in Bayville, NJ; their engineer is Mike. The band produced the CD and decided which songs to record. People can purchase a copy of the CD at our shows, The Olive Pit Music Store in Bradley Beach, The Groove Spot in Red Bank, or visit www.steelpiersinners.com. The CD is $5.

The band has been really getting around the local Asbury Park scene, already playing at The Stone Pony, The Saint, the Fastlane, Harry's Roadhouse and other area venues like the Brighton Bar. How have you gone about making contacts around the scene, getting to know the bookers and landing gigs at all of these rooms? Have you found these places receptive to working with you, and interested in having you return?

The best way to make contact is show up with your demo and talk face-to-face with the person who books bands. Our band manager does a lot of that footwork and follow up. You have to be very aggressive because the booking people want to know you can hustle. Jacko at The Brighton and Scott at the Saint are great for supporting local bands.

As far as places working with the band, the bottom line is they want to know you can turn out people and put on a good show. So far, we’ve been asked back to all the venues we’ve played.

While playing around, what do you think about the health of the original music scene on a local level? Have fans been coming out to the shows, and do you find people are coming back again to support the band?

Steel Pier Sinners

The music scene in Asbury Park rocks! We are very lucky to have so many diverse original music venues. There are bands playing all styles: rock, punk, ska, rockabilly. There are some fantastic local musicians, Mark Prescot, Barry and the Penetrators, Brian Saint, as well as bands from around the country that come to play in Asbury Park.

More recently, two of the new venues started open mics that are a great place for original bands to get heard. The venues are Harry’s on Tuesday nights and Jimi’s Park Rock Showcase on Thursday nights. Both are in Asbury Park.

The most difficult thing about being a new original band is getting fans to turn out. We have been consistent with our core base of fans. They come to see us play regularly.

Our goal is to get Steel Pier Sinners out there as much as possible and increase our fan base.

What do you think about Harry's Roadhouse, the newest venue in Asbury Park?

Harry’s is a great venue. We have played there twice. They support local bands regularly and their open mic on Tuesday nights is huge. I think that Harry’s is quickly becoming a place for local musicians to get together and play. They also have a kickass bbq pulled pork sandwich that goes nicely with a Sam Adams.

You recently had a chance to perform in the intimate setting of the Asbury Park Stage Door's "Mezzanine Gallery" for John Cavanaugh's Storyteller Music Series. How did that gig go, and when you look at the photos in the gallery there, how does it make you feel about the musical history of the area?

The gig at Storytellers was a lot of fun. We had an opportunity to play our songs acoustic and try something new. Plus, our fans got to see a different side of the band and hear how the songs came about. John Cavanaugh asked us specific questions about the band, as did the audience. We would play Storytellers again in a second.

Meagan and I loved being in that room with all those photos of Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny, Gary U.S. Bonds, Bobby Bandiera. These people are the reason I picked up a guitar and a pen! I am very proud of Asbury Park’s rock and roll legacy and the energy of that legacy is in that room.

Is there any place where you haven't played at yet that you're hoping to get a booking at in the near future?

Yeah, Giants Stadium opening for Bruce!

Seriously, this band has been very lucky. We have gotten just about every gig we’ve wanted in the last six months. We are looking to play some new places: The Court Tavern in New Brunswick, Cadillac Ranch Saloon on the Asbury Park boardwalk. We’re also looking to play a few more places in NYC like Arlene’s Grocery and Meow Mix. In September we’re going to Philly to check out some venues.

With song titles like "4th and Kingsley" and "Get Me Back to Jersey", you are obviously attuned to the local area. How long have you lived in Asbury Park, and how important do you consider where you live to the development of your songwriting and performing style?

I have lived in Asbury Park for 2 years. I grew up in northern NJ along the palisades. Sense of place is everything for me. Asbury Park is under my skin and in my heart. So is where I grew up. I am inspired to write something just about everyday; that’s from watching life in NJ and living life in NJ. There are stories inside every factory and building and on every inch of Asbury Park’s boardwalk. The Casino alone is a whole album! The energy of the places I write about come through in the live shows.

The funny thing is, when I was a kid, I swore I’d leave and never come back to NJ. How wrong was I? I left and came back only to write about the people and places that have shaped and continue to shape me.

Since you are connecting so strongly with New Jersey music, how has your sound translated to audiences when you've played outside the area, such as in New York City? Do you have plans to expand outside of the tri-state area, and do you think the band can have appeal in other areas of the country?

At CBGB in New York City

Our songs have been very well-received outside of NJ. In fact, the first time we played CBGBs, a young kid from Oregon came up to us to tell us how much he enjoyed the music. The second time we played there, a couple from Nebraska really dug us and bought the CD. I think the appeal of the songs are the strong sense of place and good music. The songs about Jersey set a mood and that’s what grabs the listener.

We definitely have plans to expand beyond the tri-state area. In the future, we plan on doing a tour of the east coast. I think that our songs are far-reaching because of what we write about and the style of music. For example, "The Girl Don’t Like to Rock and Roll" and "The Last Ride of Hank Williams" are very different than "Busted" or "4th & Kingsley". And, "Get me Back to Jersey", that’s just a fun, fast punk song! It’s that diversity in the music that people really go for.

You've been searching for a permanent drummer to add to the three full-time band members. How has the search been going, and what qualities are you looking for in the person who will get the spot being the kit?

Actually, the search for a drummer is over! Our official drummer is Tony Sabo. The qualities Tony has to fill the spot: 100% dedication, hard-hitting, solid beat, with superb computer skills to run our website!

Now that the demo is finished, what are your plans to distribute and promote it? What are the short-term goals for the band, and where are you hoping to take your music next?

We have been promoting the CD through our website and shows, putting posters up in stores. Olive Pit in Bradley Beach and Groove Spot in Red Bank have been great to us.

There are some local radio stations that we are hoping will play and we are sending it out to record labels.

Short term goals the for the band? Expand the places where we play; I mentioned some of those earlier. Keep working on new material. I don’t know if this is short term, but we are looking for a producer and a label.

Some of the new songs we are working on sound very different than the ones on the CD. I think the band is getting to a place where we everyone feels comfortable adding to the creative process and that is going to have a huge impact on our songs.

Any plans to record a full-length album? Do you enjoy being in the studio creating new music, or do you view albums just as a means of getting people to come out to the live shows?

We absolutely want to and will record a full-length album in the future. The recording studio is new for us. We all love the energy of a live show and this first time in the studio was a learning experience. We had an engineer, but no producer. Self-production is a lot of work, especially if you’re new. We’d like to have a producer for the full-length CD.

I think that albums are more than just a means to get people to shows. Fans like to have something to take with them after a show. And for a new band, there is no better way to get your music out there than with a CD.

Finish off with your thoughts about the ongoing redevelopment effort in Asbury Park. Are you optimistic about the prospects for the city as a whole, and more specifically for the live music scene? Where would you like to see both the Steel Pier Sinners and your hometown in three years time?

Asbury Park has always had a live music scene. Now with new restaurants and bars opening, the scene is growing. I think it is going back to the days of the Upstage Club. The energy in Asbury Park is hot for new bands.

I am very optimistic about the future of the city. In the two years I have lived here, it has changed a lot. New stores, restaurants, lots of renovation, people moving in and more people coming to the beach. People equate Asbury Park with live music and entertainment; that’s what they come here looking for.

In three years, I would like to have a few more CDs out, a tour under our belt and a very strong following along the Jersey Shore and the tri-state area; and the beginnings of a national following.

In all fairness, Asbury Park is my adoptive hometown. I grew up in Fort Lee, NJ when it had lots of factories, woods and dead-end streets. That was before the hi-rises and yuppies ate it!

But, Asbury Park is my home and in three years, I am hoping that there are even more music venues, a re-done boardwalk with restaurants and rides, some hotels and the same strong diversity in community that we see building right now.

[ Website: www.steelpiersinners.com ]

Matt Mrowicki
Matt Mrowicki [[email protected]], is an Internet entrepreneur and owner of Chorus and Verse. In 2002, he founded Impression Technologies LLC (www.imprtech.com) a digital design company offering website development, graphic design, online marketing, social media and technology consulting. He has been interviewed on topics ranging from how bands can best use their websites for promoting their music to current trends in social media. He has successfully launched over 100 websites and branding projects for clients and continues to develop new online opportunities and promote effective uses of technology and online media.
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