Art for the Cash Poor 14 revs it up retro-style on Sunday, June 9 with 60s garage band The GTVs. We caught up with founder Sam Steinig in the meantime.
Give me a bit of background on your first band, Mondo Topless.
In the musical world, I’ve always been a fan of 60s garage type music. For me it seemed like nobody cared about it or thought about these weird offshoots. I started a band called Mondo Topless back in ’92. We were really bad at first. It was just the kind of music I always wanted to play. That band lasted for 18 years. We had stuff out on multiple labels, small labels. There were a couple of labels that went defunct so I thought we were the band that closes labels.
In 2007 we toured Spain, we did 9 shows in 11 days. It was amazing because over there people were singing along to our songs and yelling out the song titles. Over in Europe, they really love real rock and roll.
The latest incarnation of Mondo Topless was probably the best musically, but it was starting to come apart and so the band broke up in early 2010.
My first thought was to find some other people and keep going. The thought lasted for about two or three weeks, and then I thought maybe I should just do something completely new.
Now how about the GTVs? Where does the name come from?
The GTV was my first car, it cost $3000. I had it for a couple years, it ran about 50% of the time, but when it did it was great.
Our first practice was three guys who had never played together before, trying out a fourth guy, and it sounded good. We’re still relatively young, we formed mid 2011. But we’re not a product yet.
What made you decide to delve into music?
I was taking piano lessons for a while, of course every little kid does. I got tired of playing stuff from The Sound of Music. I was getting into photography so I quite piano lessons. From adolescence to age 17, I knew nothing about popular music.
My brother got me a job working as a stock boy for a store called Sound Odyssey in Northeast Philly. It was an interesting place, a combo of clothing and music. All the kids would hang out there with the fashions of the 80s: pastels, sweatsuits, off the shoulder this and hair up to there.
As stock boy I started listening to Top 40 radio. I thought, there has to be something better. So I got into classic rock. There was this guy John Freedman who came on as manager of the music department. He saw that I liked the Doors, so he put on an album. It was a band called The Nomads. The album is called Outburst, the first song “The Way You Touch My Hand”. My jaw dropped. It was garage.
I started going back into the 60s. My cousin had this old organ under his bed for years. Typical story, he gave it to me and I started listening to stuff and banging away. I had an ear and was able to pick up the stuff. I went to the music store, got a “You Too Can Learn How to Play Keyboard.” They had little dots where you can figure out where the chords are, so I ripped that out and took it home. Once I was done with that I threw it away.
How has performing in Philadelphia affected your creative growth?
I noticed a lot of bands really put so much emphasis on doing really well in Philly. With Mondo Topless, we always tried to travel. The great thing about Philadelphia is it’s very centrally located: DC, New York, Baltimore. It’s better than living in New York, you’re closer to things farther south. Being in Philly shaped us in a way that it made it really doable to make it seem like we’re on tour. There were even a couple of reviewers who said we toured relentlessly, but we only played a couple shows a month. Half the time we would draw flies, and wouldn’t get that much of a following here. But it didn’t matter, because there were people who heard our stuff in other places and bands who wanted to play with us.
What kind of reactions do you get from audience members?
Surprisingly, the audience is reacting really well. The stuff that we do is a little more accessible than Mondo Topless was.
I want the audience to have fun. We’re there three hours early, we’re not gonna sit around and mope in the corner and wait to play. We’re going to talk to people and enjoy the experience, it’s all part of the fun.
This band really enjoys each other’s company. That was a big part of forming the new band. There were difficult times with Mondo Topless, but we were together for 18 years. Any band together that long is going to have difficult times. The most important thing for me is that we really can be friends. We’ve not had an argument since we formed.
I always thought that if you enjoy each other’s company, you want to play together, you’ll also sound better. We also happen to be good musicians. The audience can tell whether you want to be up there. We have fun when we play and I think the audience picks that up. We haven’t cleared a room yet. We’re getting it from audiences that come to seee punk bands, and from families with kids. You can’t play music just for the sake of playing music. You spend hours driving around and play for 25 minutes, so you really need to enjoy it if you’re going to be spending that kind of time.