Despite releasing one of the genres most fondly remembered CDs from the early nineties, New York's Tall Stories were another band that suffered from changes in the musical climate of the time. Vocalist Steve Augeri though quickly became a sought after singer and frontman by joining forces with the likes of Tyketto and most notably spending almost a decade as frontman for AOR legends Journey. Now in 2009 we see the long awaited follow up CD from Tall Stories 'Skyscraper'. Augeri kindly spoke to TrashPit about the bands return.
How does it currently feel being out promoting a new album with Tall Stories - almost twenty years since the release of the original?
It’s a little odd, but, we wanted to wait until the new GnR CD came so that we might have a shot at getting into the Guiness Book of World Records!
Can you tell us how the new record came about and what prompted the band to re-group?
After my departure with Journey, I did a personal re-evaluation of myself and decided it was time go back to my roots. Vocally as well as musically, and try to reconnect with what “I” was about. As an individual. Singing with a band like Journey that has had such an established, trademark sound, almost single handedly created by Steve Perry, you tend to get lost in “that” world and can eventually lose your self-identity. After eight and a half years of singing someone else’s repertoire, well, you get the picture. So, I knew that prior to Tall Stories splitting in early ’96, that we had an abundance of songs written and partially recorded that, to me, were like buried treasure. Not in the monetary sense, although that would be nice. But, songs that we had worked very hard on preparing for our second release, that were as good if not better than our debut. Songs that I felt strong connections with creatively. Songs that expressed myself a little more as well and sonically seemed more of a better fit. This project would be just the thing to get me from point A to point B.
You returned to the UK live scene with a performance at FireFest in Nottingham - how was that for you? It was a really cool lineup.
It was a really cool line-up, you're right. Frankly, many of the bands were new to us and we got a chance to mingle and raise a few pints as we got acquainted. There was a great vibe between the bands and we left England after making quite a few more friends and fans. As far as the show went, I personally would have preferred a few more rehearsals, but, that's life. The show must go on and it did. Just a little more rough and ready than we had anticipated. We’re a rock and roll band before anything else and it was a rock show. Plug in and go! We had a blast. And it was great to be back on stage with those guys whom I hold very dear to my heart. It brought back some sweet memories. They rocked!
Is there anything you particularly take from your time with both Tyketto and Journey?
Sure, so much really. Too much to answer in just one sitting. But, more than anything…life experience. Music to me is an extension of your life. A reflection of who you are and where you’ve been. And working with both bands has brought me a wealth of friendships and more songs to sing than I ever dreamed. I also need to add that one of the perks of touring in a rock and roll band brings you to some of the most beautiful places in the world. Not the obvious, although those are great. But, the desolate cornfields of the Mid-west, a little hole in the wall pizzeria in San Francisco. Or some dive in Chicago that serves breakfast all night. It’s those little things you take away from touring, surely…always the little things.
Since Journey, have you been working within the Music Business or did you take this time to do other things and get 'the fire' back for the new Tall Stories album? Did you ever consider putting out a solo record?
Well as I mentioned, Tall Stories was already a train in motion. But, for me, one that needed to complete it's journey so that I could resume and start fresh with something else. I did however take a well-needed and well-deserved break from singing and touring. Doctors orders really. I was one of the lucky ones that were able to return with a voice and not have to undergo any surgery or worse, lose it altogether. I’ve lived to tell the tale. Now I‘m currently and finally working on “In the Moment”, which is the working title for my next CD.
Can you tell us a little about the new material on the CD.... is it all brand new songs or is there some older material too?
“Skyscraper” was entirely written between the years of ’92 and ’96. It was the follow up to our first CD that never materialized due to mainly the shift in the industry back then to a fresher, grungier, less produced sound. Our debut was released the same day as Pearl Jam’s and by the same label. It was an uneasy time for us who did not wear flannel. But, change came and you couldn’t stop it. Sometimes you can roll with it, sometimes you can’t. We wrote and experimented during those next few years trying to find “our” new sound. Trying to be true to ourselves all the while. It was painfully exciting. We were fearless. We drew from all of our influences. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. I like to think that in writing “Skyscraper”, we found our true voice. I think we found that the band had more layers than we had originally set out and more depth. To me it’s a very satisfying record and I am extremely proud of it. The proud Papa!
Do you have a game plan for the new CD and possible touring / promotion or will you wait to see what offers come along?
Well, a little of both. We are currently working out the logistics of getting all four of us out on stage, the original line-up first and foremost. If we can’t work that out for the time being, perhaps an acoustic promo tour just to get the word out. Then the electric to follow. I would prefer to do it right the first time, but sometimes you’ve got to improvise.
In my opinion, Tall Stories had a really slick and classy sound, yet still felt 'real' and had just enough of an edge which I think set you apart from a lot of melodic rock bands. Was there anyone around that time who you saw as your contemporaries in the music scene?
I could name a few but, really, I think the “sound” that we achieved on the first record was a combination of the band which was “polished” and rehearsed as any band ever was, and a producer and manager who had cultivated and worked with bands such as Foreigner and Giant just to name two. So it was our raw, yet polished New York energy and their expertise and experience that seemed to make a winning combination. I do recall the band collectively getting off on Enuff Z'Enuff, The Cult, Extreme and Living Colour.
Are we right that we read your son Adam plays drums in a band called Tragedy Awaits Us? How did you feel when he wanted to go into music and what advice did you give him? Is he a fan of the Tall Stories work and your other projects?
We never pushed anything on my son Adam; he just always had everything at his disposal if and when he chose to pick up an instrument. So, one day it was the bass, and he really excelled at it immediately, I was like, wow, where did that come from? Then one day it was on to the drums, in fact Deen Castronovo bought him his first kit for Christmas one year. Deens like Elvis Presley in that way. Awesome. Anyway, bam! He’s playing like someone who’s been playing for years within a couple of weeks. So after all the fancy schmancy private schools it’s most important to follow your heart. That I can encourage him to do. Where it takes you only time will tell. Hopefully to a happy place, ha ha!
Are there any current bands you enjoy listening to at the moment?
The truth of the matter is I have one foot in the future and one deep in the past. I continue to revisit music that originally inspired me to get involved in music in the first place. I’ve got a Muddy Waters CD in my car along with the latest Alicia Keys, 'Viva La Vida' by Coldplay, the brand new Seal CD and last but not least, The Who’s 'Quadrophenia'. Hey you know what’s a surprisingly good CD is the latest Rick Springfield. I guess I was ignorant of this guy’s talent and he blew me away. Very versatile. Don’t judge a book by it's cover. I thought he was only a chick magnet but not only does it rock but it’s a smart record too.
Anything else you wanna add.....
Yeah, I do want to say hello to all our fans. Some from our past and some I’ve had the golden opportunity to meet during my years with Journey. We’re happy to finally release this record that I feel shows a evolution and growth spurt that could only have taken place over such a long period of time. I guess some things are just meant to be. One thing I can tell you is it is a true representation and expression of this band. One I’m very proud of and if you get the chance to hear our new music, we hope you enjoy it.
Til we meet again.
The new Tall Stories album 'Skyscraper' is out now.
For more information please visit www.myspace.com/tallstoriesamerica