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Signal Path Podcast: Steel Beans

Listen to the final SIGNAL PATH podcast with JEREMY DEBARDI, the creative force behind the project STEEL BEANS that broke the internet with his furious one-man-band videos.
April, 26 2024 |
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Episode 069: STEEL BEANS

In this final episode of Signal Path, Marc Young speaks with Jeremy DeBardi, a multi-instrumentalist who plays multiple instruments at the same time as Steel Beans. Marc and a very sparkly Jeremy chatted at the Shure booth of this year’s NAMM music industry trade show in Anaheim, California. They discussed his musical origins, his meteoric rise after breaking the internet, and what's next after opening for bands like Tool and Tenacious D.

This episode was recorded on the very noisy NAMM floor with the SM7B, showing once again why it’s the podcaster’s microphone of choice.

Marc Young: Right, we're here at NAMM 2024 with Steel Beans. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me at the show. How's your visit been so far?

Jeremy DeBardi: I think it's, it's been fantastic. You know, I thought it was strange when I was having lunch with The Rock and you came up and said, Hey, will you do this podcast?

I thought, hey man, I'm eating with Dwayne Johnson. Other than that though, no, it's been really cool. Yeah. Yeah. Dwayne forgives you.

Uh, he did give me a bit of a Side eye. I was a little scared.

Yeah, he looks at people crossways 

When I saw you I immediately, recognized you as like, oh my god, that's Steel Beans I got to go talk to him see if I can get him on the podcast and I'm guessing that's happened to you more and more often because of your amazing videos on social media right when I first came across it maybe it was like a year or so ago, right? I was blown away. It was like who is this force of nature? But how long have you actually been doing them?

Well to try to make a shorter answer out of a really long one, which is what i've always done, first off thanks for the kind words and really, the video is particularly of me doing my solo show, maybe the last couple years.

Cause I've been writing songs a little over 20 years. And for about 16 years doing Steel Beans as a full band. On the recordings I play all the instruments separately except for horns and strings. And then live I teach them the parts and I become the guitar singer front man. I was promoting a tour that I had booked, kind of recklessly and ambitiously, to come down the coast and back up through Arizona, Colorado, Salt Lake City, you know.

And so, I did a 15th year anniversary of the band, and I had a bunch of different guests that have been in the band over the years come up. I'd worked on booking this tour down the coast. I had like 300 to my name from mowing lawns. I thought that that was going to get me to, you know, Portland, Bend, Eugene, Reno, cut over to San Francisco, down to LA, and back up, you know.

There's no way $300 would have even got me one night of hotels. It was an ambitious thought, but within one week before that tour and the few venues that I had got to book me this video that I had posted I just made it with a tripod and running the signal right off my board  It popped out of nowhere and there is no marketing campaign.

No money behind it Anything like that. It just happened to take off and a really good time right before this tour So a lot of small to medium venues including the Brick and Mortar in San Francisco, which could have been like five people in a thousand person room, suddenly were calling me from taking chance on me to saying, we're getting a lot of phone calls and we haven't announced a pre sale yet or whatever.

It's a crazy story, man. It's a fairy tale. It's, you know. A lot of, uh, just crazy stars I've met in the last year have been equally fascinated with the story as they are with what I do.

Yeah, you were saying it was a full band, so, but, but this tour was just going to be you, or it was going to be with other people?

Me down the coast for logistics reasons. I mean, I'd love to take my eight piece band with the vibraphonist and, but all those guys have real jobs and girlfriends and other grim realities that come with being a, uh, a regular human.  And it's just nothing practical about it. But my bassist. He's phenomenal. He's a good friend of mine, and he's a younger guy who's kind of a free spirit as I am, and, uh, he was gonna go along with me just for the fun of it. Helped me load my stuff in, it's a road trip, and I called my good friend Willie, who runs the camera for me, and we all have a great chemistry, the three of us, and I said, man, now that this has happened, like, you have to go with, man.

And he quit his job at the bar that he was bartending in Seattle. He's phenomenal. And he's like, I'm in, you know, I said, I'll take, I had 70 t-shirts to my name. You know, when this, when these things happen, you're not prepared for it. You don't, you don't have merch already. So I'd like maybe even 60, 70 shirts.

And I go, I'll pay your rent out of the shirt sales. And we have every day of that first tour, October, 2022, just terabytes upon terabytes of. Everything that happened on stage and off stage which includes running out of gas in the middle of the Tenderloin, San Francisco Getting the tires stuck in the desert and Joshua Tree doing a generator gig with Mario Lolli kind of the godfather a desert rock. We got t-boned in Tempe, Arizona. It smashed my window out. The door was stuck shut. The tires were like cambered, like those drifter cars. It was undrivable and the door guy replaced the strut for $300. We were back on the road. We drove through snowstorms on the way home without the driver's window. Long answer, sorry. But that is, uh. The kind of stuff we have on footage with that first tour.

I thought it was interesting, just the idea of Steel Beans  as a multi person band. Because obviously what catches a lot of people's attention is your, talent to play, just as you by yourself, as a one-man band, that power that comes from it.

Yeah. If it had been any other way, like I was going to tour with, imagine I was about to tour with a four piece or something and then the solo video blew up.  Yeah. You know, I would have to go on stage.  Hey, you may recognize me, but here's my band. Or, I wouldn't have had the heart to do this, but I would have been like, Hey man, I'm gonna have to do this by myself, you know.

So what came first though for you? I speak to people, introduced them as multi instrumentalists. You're a multi instrumentalist playing multiple instruments at the same time. Let's dial it back,  many years. What came first? Was it guitar? Drums? Something else? Piccolo?

For me it was definitely drums. Okay. And you know, I was banging on pots and pans. My grandparents, they got me a little kit when I was two. So when I'd come over to their house, I'd have something to bang on. And, um,  so about 7th grade, I got more serious into guitar.

To want to kind of learn to write songs. Right. And so, from there. And so there's a percussive application of whatever other instrument that I'm doing since I started with drums. Because guitar can be very percussive. It can be a very percussive and especially if you, if you play it that way without realizing it, you know.

I started as a drummer just playing along to Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins, Alice in Chains. All these things that were happening like 30 minutes from my house in Seattle, south of me. It was also inspiring to know that the booklets I was looking at of these gods were real people.

And I'd hear stories like people, everybody you went to school with was like, Oh, my uncle's friends with Kurt's dad or my so that,  made it very real to me. Like, these people are, they're real people. And  And so,  by the end of the 90s,  rock kind of lost that spark and, I mean, a lot of those guys died.

The record labels kind of tried to recreate that and they kind of brought all these bands that sounded like them, whatever. It lost its spark. I discovered, like, 60s rock, psychedelic rock, 60s rock, and I just went like, oh, this is exciting. So then I, um,  So then I just started collecting records one at a time.

And listening to those really sharpened my chops for writing. You know, getting every Beatles record. Uh, getting into Dylan's, all the Henry's, Floyd, Zeppelin, all the greats.  And I could play drums, you know, pretty dang good. And I was an okay guitar player, but it was complicated enough that I couldn't crack the code.

Listen to the full interview with Jeremey DeBardi and subscribe to Signal Path with the podcast provider of your choice below. Thanks for listening over the years!

Check out more from STEEL BEANS here.

Marc Young
With a background in journalism, Marc is an editor for Shure covering anything and everything that has to do with sound. He tries to compensate for his mediocre guitar-playing skills with his writing. He is based in Portland, Oregon.