Christie Ots sat down with the guys from Street 66 andchatted about their recording habits, musical aspirations and the one thing they really want people to know. —–
It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting in the sunshine with the guys from Street 66, who are browsing the menu at The Joynt and appreciating a cold beer on a hot day. Bassist Liam Butler is keen to jump into the interview, cracking jokes and keeping the table laughing.
I ask them the most obvious question you can ask a band – how did the band name come about? “Julian introduced us to this guy Linton Kwesi Johnson, he’s from Jamaica and immigrated to Britain. He was a really big black rights activist” explains Butler. “And we’re all black,” interjects drummer Jackson Martens, gathering laughs from the rest of the band.
Liam chuckles as he reveals, “he does a lot of reggae-dub spoken word and one of his songs is Street 66. We spent ages trying to find a band name and one night I was talking to Julian after having a few drinks and I was listening to Linton and I just said ‘What about Street 66’? He messaged me the next morning and said that was a great name, which I had to be reminded of”.
Lead singer Amir Hack leans Houston web design forward and describes what Street 66 means to the band, “It’s also really represents us and where we come from. It tells the story of people judging you straight away based on where you live or your culture and different aspects. We have a lot in common coming from Palm Beach and having really different cultures and backgrounds. We also have a huge respect for Jamaican music; a lot of the music we love is derived from Jamaican music. We also made sure that we contacted Linton and asked his permission to use street 66 as a band name and we were so grateful that he said yes”.
The guys all come from very different music backgrounds, from jazz to classical and freestyle. When asked how this influences their music Hack was quick to point out that they all have similarities in what they listen to and all of that music backs up what is heard in the studio.
Butler adds to this, stating “there’s definitely underlying differences and similarities, but at the end of the day we’re all just adaptable musicians”.
Lead guitarist Julian Holland agrees. “We’ve all listened to a lot of music and what we’re making at the moment is reflecting what we like”.
The band bucked trend and found themselves recording before they had performed live. Questioning how that affected their experience, Martens explains how it solidified their bond, “I think it did have an impact on the way the band formed, everything we’ve done since our first recording has been about writing and creating as a band,” he said.
Hack nods and interjects, “It was a different way to do it, where we didn’t know what the outcome would be, but it made us want to keep doing it.”
Joining each other in the studio the band discovered something new about Hack, Holland reveals, “It was great just a clean slate to perform from, what is on the first two tracks is just us being blown away by hearing Amir sing for the first time.”
With great bands like the Beatles erupting in disputes over songwriting, I asked the boys how they deal with collaborating song inspirations. Holland describes the bands creative process, stating that, “I think with Jackson recording a lot of our jam sessions, we have the chance to look back on what we’ve done and decide what to work on in a space where we feel comfortable”.
Butler goes into more detail, expounding that, “One of the songs off the new EP we’re doing started off as Jackson playing a beat and it all came together. In recording all we’re trying to do is recapture that natural moment. It really is a democracy, we will try anything and you can feel if it works or not. We’re pretty egoless when it comes to each other”. Holland agrees with Butler as they share a smile, “There’s not the format of a lead songwriter who writes a song and brings it to the band. We develop songs out of jamming and we all know when something sticks and that’s when we work on a song”.
Discussing one of their first tracks Ganja Grunge, which seems to represent some sort of cathartic release, Hack seems filled with an energy as he swigs his beer, “I wrote the verses first and I wrote them when I was frustrated with where I was,” Butler adds to the story asking Hack, “Well you were up north weren’t you? Amir was living on an island in the Northern Territory?” Hack laughs, knowing where the story is leading, “Yeah and when I finally got back from there the first thing I wanted to do was surf and I broke my leg.”
Holland hooks an arm around the back of chairs and chimes in, “In a sense everything that we write is a release, we aren’t shying away from acknowledging the negativity in life and just bringing it into the light”.
As the talk begins to diverge onto different paths, from the idea of supporting One Direction to different experiences they’ve had in previous bands, I ask the guys if there’s anything they really want people to know. Butler looks at his band mates and laughs, “Yeah, you can’t boil an egg in a kettle!”