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Sam Steinig, lead singer and organist for Mount Airy garage soul band the GTVs, was riding the train to the city, casually talking to Scott Galper, someone he’d known from his neighborhood’s babysitting co-op. He’d mentioned his band at the time, Mondo Topless, was on Get Hip Records. And much to their surprise Galper, drummer of The Heretics, was on Get Hip as well.
“What are the odds,” Steinig says with wide eyes, “That the guy that lives two blocks away from me, is in the same babysitting co-op – I mean, I babysat his daughter! – played in a band on the same label just before my last band got on it.”
After Mondo Topless parted ways in 2011, Steinig told Galper he wanted to form a new band. Fast forward two years, and The GTV’s about to release their first LP, Sh’Bang!, on Italy’s Teen Sound Records. But how they got connected to the label, which specializes in garage, psych, mod and powerpop bands, is even more surprising.
Steinig was creating the GTVs Facebook page on New Year’s Day of 2012 and posted some rough recordings the band had done; music they eventually decided to scrap. Before they took the music down, though, he says the band received a message from Massimo del Pozzo of Teen Sound, saying he wanted to put their album out and bring them to Italy for a tour.
“And I’m like, ‘well… we haven’t even played a show yet,’” Steinig says. “I was so surprised about it that every few months I would message him and ask about it, just to make sure he was still interested. It was nice to always have that as a goal.”
It couldn’t be more fitting that the GTVs are working with Teen Sound, too. Their mod garage heel-clickers are complete with screaming organ like on “RnBnD,” an instrumental tune that sounds as if it’s nearly about to fly off the tracks. They change pace dramatically on other instrumental tracks with shimmying Bossa nova beats on the title track, “Sh’Bang!” and the cinematic “Sleeper Agent.” Here may be where Jude Dandelion’s bass playing is highlighted best, as he’s locked in with Galper.
Seven of Sh’Bang!’s thirteen songs are instrumental. Collectively, the band feels that’s something that makes them stand out, but stresses the playing is kept under control. They’re a garage band, not a jam band, meaning their solos short and succinct, according to guitarist Pat Wescott.
“We don’t sit and jam on a groove for ten minutes,” he says. “We work on arranging every part, making it like a hook and keeping it to the point.”
Steinig’s love for Stax Records soul is a major inspiration of his songwriting. And the band covers songs from the Stax repertoire, including the Artwoods’ version of Booker T and M.G.’s “Be My Lady.” She’Bang! also includes a harder hitting version of Ray Charles’ “Just About to Lose Your Clown.”
The musicality of the soul men of yesteryear appeals to Steinig and the rest of the band; they make it a point to incorporate elements of the Stax Soul sound into their garage rock. Specifically, they feel their use of dynamics sets them apart from other garage-leaning bands.
“Booker T knew exactly when to make it go fast, when to make it go slow,” Steinig says. “He knew how to make that emotion come out. So, we try to mess with dynamics. And that’s not garage.”
When the band was recording Sh’Bang! this summer, recorded in the same room, allowing their amps to bleed into each others’ mics, and used as few overdubs as possible. This old-school technique forced the band to restart entire songs and play it repeatedly if somebody made a mistake.
“And we didn’t use a click track,” Dandelion says. “So the tempos are a little up and down. There are mistakes on the album too, but we kept them for the feeling”
The GTVs also boast they didn’t use a single microphone newer than 1975 and recorded Dandelion and Wescott’s background vocals “gang style.” Without a doubt, these guys have a deep and long-standing appreciation for a specific style and time period of that style. But don’t call them a reival band.
“Sure, a lot of the stuff we do is ‘retro-based,’” Wescott says. “But it’s more genre-based and it does put us in some sort of catergory. But I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.”