Interview by: Surf Rock Music
OYSH! Oh You're So Hot! Spinn, that is! It doesn't matter if they're belting out an a capella version of the National Anthem at the Long Island Ducks baseball game or drinking the boys under the table, this Jersey Alternative Country band knocks you off your feet. After checking them out, we couldn't wait to interview them.
Talk about a GAS! Not even Hank Hill cooks with gas like Spinn does. The women who originated Spinn are honorary triplets. In fact, they are so much alike that their schoolmates renamed Megan Battaglia 'Megan Spinner'. A teasing smile lights up every space they enter. Add the great talent of Steve DeSteno and you have four hip, hot, hell-raising musicians.
Hitting the clubs and airwaves with their own special blend of "Northern Roots and Southern Dreams", Spinn's recent City Country isn't just a song and an album, it's what we would call a class of it's own. What about Alt Country? Yeah, that's them, too, but it doesn't give credit to their creativity as much as needed. They unabashedly lay claim to a desire to be Dave Grohl - you know ... the Nirvana/Foo Fighters multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, producer, film director, breaker of boundaries and beater of mundane-itis. All we have to say on that topic is, "Ha! Dave Grohl has yet to go where Spinn is heading!"
They're cute, funny, talented, funny, driven, funny - hey, did we mention they're a gas?
Spinn is: Stephanie Spinner, Cheryl Lynn Spinner, Megan Battaglia, and Steve DeSteno
We want them in Nashville, Las Vegas, Seattle, Austin, LA, Miami - we want them anywhere we can get them to show up. For now, though, they're playing in New Jersey and New York City.
Oh, sure, you can catch them at The Stone Pony. Uh, yeah, THAT Stone Pony! You know - the uber famous one in Asbury? But, hey, why not also catch them at the Kremlin because, if we are gauging this group right - and we are - if they ever set their minds to introducing country music to the ghosts of a tsar or two, they'll be there in a flash. Actually, after due consideration, we are pretty sure Spinn might be the answer to the zombie apocalypse. Everyone has to rock when they take the stage so, badda bing, there you go!
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SRM: Spinn, New Jersey, country, crazy women who wear masks when they ask for donations on their crowd funding campaign. We're in love. How did you get together and become a band? We just have to know, so tell us the insider history of Spinn!
Spinn: Glad you like the video!! We have a tendency to get pretty ridiculous, we're convinced our common crazy is what drew us together initially! Cher and Steph are twins (obviously) and us three Spinn girls formed next door to each other during our freshmen year of college at Monmouth University in New Jersey. We instantly bonded over insomnia, a mutual honey mustard addiction, our love for tequila, and our (at the time) super-uncool obsession with country music! After many late nights of hair-brush belting to Lila McCann's With You, we decided that three-part harmony was much more exciting than singing by ourselves could ever be, and that's where Spinn got its start.
SRM: How did you decide on Spinn - an enchanting play on 'spinning records' - for the band's name? Is it a clever shortened version of Spinner, Stephanie and Cheryl Lynn's name? Were there any other ideas in the running?
We played with many uber talented musicians in college, right up until we graduated and moved home. Spinn's guitarist, Steve DeSteno (or Steve D as he is so affectionately referred to as), is one of Steph and Cher's best friends from growing up, and he just happens to be an extremely gifted acoustic guitarist. When the four of us started playing together, the stars aligned creating a solid foundation for not only a unique band, but a family of fun, energetic, truly silly human beings.
Spinn: In college Steph, Cher and Meg were pretty inseparable, not unlike now! Roommates, bandmates, and best friends can have that effect! So all of the older students in our music classes just eventually started calling her "Megan Spinner", and even put it like that in their cell phones! Battaglia was out! A few days before our first gig we still didn't have a band name - little back story, we're horrible at naming things, pets, songs, cars, it's too much commitment. So our guitarist at the time was like let's just cut off the last two letters and call ourselves "Spinn" for now. We're like ugh fiinnneee, and I guess it stuck ... so if you want to call it clever, yay! We're just lucky our last name wasn't Hoeser!
SRM: Have any of you ever thought it would be good to change the road you're taking or is music the only road you can imagine traveling? And, while we're on that subject, do you think you will ever follow the crowd to Nashville or is it a lot more fun to be a country band in Jersey?
Spinn: We definitely see ourselves becoming at least frequent partial inhabitors of Nashville. We actually have a trip planned in March! But, for now, we're excited at the challenge of being a country band from a place where the listeners are just recently opening their minds to the possibility. It's thrilling to have audience members approach us when we get off stage to say that they didn't think they liked country, but we totally changed their minds. It's quite a high!
SRM: Other than the obvious innate talent all of you have, what are the musical backgrounds of the band members? Any special training?
That's where the whole mantra behind our new single City Country came from. There's a certain idea that you have to be from the country to love country music, but we, like many others, are not the kind of people to be put inside a box. Unless your intention is to have your box smashed to pieces from the inside!
As far as changing the road we're on, we all feel like music is something that we're meant to do and will always be a part of in one way or another. Meg is in grad school for psychology, Steve D is a successful business dude, and Cher and Steph hope to one day open a music club/restaurant. But, our music is the thing we most love doing. It's what we look forward to, and what our minds are constantly wandering off towards. It keeps us sane, and we certainly need something to do that - since we're clearly out of our minds! We all have plenty of dreams outside of music, but music will always be in our hearts.
Spinn: Aw, thank you! Oddly enough, none of us have any real formal training on the books! Besides piano lessons for Cher and Steph for a few years, a little voice training for Meg in high school and college, and all of us participating in various church and school choirs, one-on-one lessons have never been our thing. I guess that makes sense since now, years later, we prefer to be all together on stage as opposed to on our own. Steve is completely self-taught on guitar, which is amazing. This year Cher added another notch to her instrumental belt by teaching herself how to play the autoharp! It's a really cool Appalachian instrument, a cross between an accordion and a guitar that Mother Maybelle Carter used to play. Totally old school country! We all really learn by doing, figuring out which harmonies work and don't by trial and error. We've really trained our ears over the years and now it comes so naturally we even surprise ourselves sometimes! More and more frequently at shows other bands have been calling us up on stage with them to add harmonies to songs on the fly after our sets. Scary and exhilarating at the same time!
SRM: Have any groups and/or solo artists influenced your sound either as individuals or as a group? Are there any new influences you've recently discovered?
Spinn: This is gonna sound super clich? coming from a Jersey band, but The Boss is definitely up there! Bruce Springsteen has written some of the most meaningful, soulful, heartfelt lyrics ever and that's truly what moves us more than anything. Powerful lyrics that tug on those heart strings are where it's at! We're also big Patty Griffin fans. She's another artist whose songs are so hauntingly deep that they stay with you. As far as our sound goes, we love adding new and exciting harmonies to our songs, and in country music nobody does that better than Little Big Town! Outside of country music, The Beach Boys are the original pop music harmonizers. They've always spoken our musical language. God Only Knows is harmonic genius! We love boy bands and the new rage of a capella groups makes our hearts explode. In a good way of course!
SRM: We noticed that a $100 donation at Indiegogo will get the donor a Spinn-written theme song. Pretty cool! How do you write music? Which of you are involved? Where do you get ideas? How long does it take to get from a blank page to a finished song?
Balancing our vocals is the incredibly rhythmic and melodic acoustic guitar. Steve D pulls influence from a variety of strong acoustic players like Jack Johnson, Mumford & Sons, ZBB (Zac Brown Band), and his largest inspiration - Dave Matthews! With our flair for the dramatics in lyrics and his steady strumming, we've come up with a sound that definitely takes influence from all of these great artists. On certain songs we think you can definitely hear it creep in, but we'll let you decide which for yourselves!
Spinn: A song usually starts with an idea that inspires either Steph or Cher. It could come from a personal situation, a friend's love life, a TV show story plot, or even a single cool word that we've never used in a song before. They'll bring up the idea and do a little brainstorming of where the song could take off to. Honestly, a lot of our writing happens at work - don't tell our boss! A lot of the time when we feel like there's a powerful muse in the room songs seem to write themselves, but other times they're a pain in the butt to get those last few lines the way we want them. At that point we call in backup and Meg swoops in with a few bottles of wine. Things tend to get sillier before they get better, but eventually we pull it together. After the lyrics and melody are mapped out we get together with Steve D, and he really puts the musical flair or "Spinn" (ba dum-bum) on the songs and BAM. Done!
SRM: We know you write songs. But, we also know you started as a performing band before you began recording. So, do you now, or did you ever, play covers as well as originals? How did you make that decision?
Spinn: We are an original band, of course, but that doesn't always pay the bills at our level, honey! We do perform a few cover shows a month. It's a great way to get our music exposed to new fans, as well as putting a little scratch together for the piggy bank! Win win situation, and we sure do love winning!
SRM: Take us behind the scenes of your live performances. Do you play different tunes in a different way on stage than you do in the studio? Do you plan your stage presence in advance with things like choosing what you wear, who takes the lead announcing songs and things like that?
Spinn: We are most at home when we're on stage, there's no doubt about that! We're all pretty chatty, both on and off stage, and we tend to continue conversations with the audience on stage that we started while at the bar! We laugh, take shots, dance, and sometimes even sing! Everything we say on stage is organic and unplanned which we think helps draw people in and get to know the real Spinn. And sometimes we tell completely embarrassing stories about each other ... but, hey, it's for art! We do coordinate outfits based on what color one of us wants to wear. If someone has an outfit idea the other two scour either their own closets or each others! We share A LOT of clothes and jewelry and have become pros on bargain and clearance shopping!
SRM: What instruments and FX do you use to get your sound? Do you have any favorites and are there any pieces of equipment you're coveting right now or plan to get?
Spinn: Steph and Cher are obsessed with their S08 Yamaha keyboard right now. It has all 88 keys and they're weighted which gives it that full piano sound - but we mostly like it because the case is "small human sized" and we can roll Meg around in it! It'll be great if we ever need to disquiet a dead body. Kidding...ish :)
SRM: How much time and effort do you put into practice and rehearsal for recordings and performances?
Steve Ds favorite guitar to both record and play live shows with is his Martin DXK2 acoustic guitar. He has like eight guitars, but he says that one has the best tone and feel for the Spinn sound.
Spinn: We practice as much as possible. We're total music geeks, all of us, so anything involving music is a release for us. Practice is kind of like a weekly therapy session, a play date, and a jam session all in one! Between practice, shows, interviews, and meetings we see each other at least three times a week. Thank goodness we like each other! Not a lot of sleep happens during the few weeks before scheduled recording sessions. We mainly just eat, work, play and repeat. Those times are the best and worst, where you feel you accomplished and completely lost all at the same time, and it's totally exhilarating. We work and rework songs until the very last second to make sure they come out just the way we envisioned. Sometimes that comes naturally and sometimes it takes a little finesse, but they always get there!
SRM: We think you're all an absolutely delightful kind of crazy! We can't imagine what your rehearsals must be like. Dish for us - what happens when you get together for practice? Do you have any ironclad rules for the band members or other people you work with?
Spinn: Oh, why, thank you! Actually our only rule is to always have fun! Obviously there are certainly high-stress situations, but we always try to stay true to our crazy selves! At practice there's lots of laughing, joking, and teasing! The teasing mostly comes from Steve D who also agrees we're nuts! But he tolerates our wackiness to the best of his abilities and usually wrangles us back when we go off the deep end! (Unless he's the one setting us off ;)!) We also have cuddle fears where we all end up on one couch, which Steve hates cuz we're usually all on top of him, but that's only on Thursdays, haha. We like to keep the same fun, energetic vibes with everyone we work with!
SRM: You've played everywhere, even Asbury Park. How do you prepare for gigs, what do you take with you, do you have a road crew? Are there any tricks of the trade you can tell us that make it all run smoothly?
Spinn: We bring everything we own! Seriously ... you should see ours cars: clothes, CDs, equipment, make-up everywhere! Sometimes we barely use any of it, but we're firms believers in Murphy's Law so we try to prepare for anything. Cables break and, on occasion, so do heels! Having such crazy schedules has taught us not to sweat the small stuff, because even when things do go perfectly, as long as we keep our sanity and stay on our toes we can turn anything into an awesome experience!
SRM: Do you choreograph your live performances? One thing we really want to know is, taking into consideration your fame for being vivacious, do you get unexpected 'audience participation' along the lines of Bigfoot taking the stage to do a Dirty Dancing routine with one of you? For that reason, we would love to know ... do you have special cues for certain - ahem - situations?
Spinn: We never choreograph or stage any part of our performances which, at times, is quite comical because things that happen unexpectedly catch us off guard and send us into fits of laughter! But we think that's one reason people who are hearing us for the first time are so drawn into our performance, it's so spontaneous and real - not only do we keep our audience on their toes, but we do the same to each other! And we have been known to jump off stage and into the crowd for impromptu dance parties during instrumental parts! Just saying. ;)
SRM: Tell us a secret - what was your most exciting experience while playing live?
Spinn: Hands down, singing at the New York City Marathon the past two years! Our spot is at around mile marker twenty when the runners are really losing steam. To see them hear our music and literally watch them get life back in their stride because of it ... is an unexplainable feeling. We literally sing and scream our hearts out for four straight hours, to the point where we have no voices for days after. But to be able to pump up runners that are raising money for charities when you can see them losing faith, it's such a rush! Sometimes runners jump on stage or stop to dance in front of us, we watch them sing and clap while they run past, it's a crazy amount of fun! So inspirational!
SRM: Tell us your secret dreams, too. (We're snoopy that way!) What is the most amazing thing you hope to achieve as a group or as individuals?
Spinn: We want to take over the world! Isn't that what everyone wants?! That's the end goal anyway, but we would LOVE to be at the CMA awards; presenters, performers, audience members, nominees, we don't care how we get there! Obviously CMAfest is a big goal, to get music videos on CMT, and to infiltrate what is very obviously a male-dominated country radio. Not that we're complaining OF COURSE. We're girls, bring on the bro-country! But we are very excited about the possibility of our City Country being heard all over the world. DREAM BIG.
SRM: In spite of being young, younger and youngest, you have a lot of music work under your belts. Do you have any advice for other musicians who want to make it big?
Spinn: The way we work is by making short term AND long term goals, setting them up and knocking them down! Because most of the business end is handled by us and our lovely manager (as opposed to having a whole team support us - which is in the works), we find it best to keep lists upon lists of what we need to accomplish to help us keep on track! At shows and events, always keep your head on straight. We all can drink ... pretty known for it actually - haha - and we certainly do at shows, but you never want to blow an opportunity to gain fans or make connections cuz you're a lightweight ;).
SRM: Getting back to the future, what does it hold for your sound and the band in general? Will you record/perform all original tunes or do want to do covers as well? How is Spinn going to evolve?
Another piece of advice is to never sell yourself short. Most times if you go out for something and you get rejected, it's not always because they don't like you or your music. It could very well be because it is what fits in with their style. Don't take rejection personally because it never is. If you don't ask, the answer is always no. You never know what taking a chance might do for your career!
Spinn: We wanna be Dave Grohl! Just kidding ... kind of ... but have you seen Sonic Highway?! We've followed him since we were little monsters that were jamming out to Nirvana at a way too young age, and he's still completely relevant twenty years later. Now that's a career to emulate! In Spinn's more near future we have our EP coming out in early 2015 called City Country, same as the title track lead single. It's your basic, well-rounded four song EP with an anthem, a cutsie little love song, a party song, and a song about Wonder Woman! Is any album really ever complete without a track about a superhero?! We think not!
SRM: We can't imagine Spinn not taking on anything that crosses your collective minds, but our readers really want to know. Is there any one song you would love to perform or record that you never will do for one reason or another?
Although our passion lies in our original songs, we're not opposed to throwing a cover song or two into the set. We actually have been toying with the idea of doing a "Tribute" night, we're thinking Miranda Lambert! She's one bad-ass chick, all of her songs speak to our collective souls, and she loves animals which makes us swoon! We don't really plan too, too far ahead because you know every day can throw a wrench into what you thought would happen - so right now we're just enjoying the wild ride!
Spinn: Like you said, we're very much the "never say never" and "you'll never know until you try" kind of people, so we don't rule out covering or recording songs for the future! We have a YouTube channel called The Spinn Cycle where we post new cover songs every Wednesday at 12 noon, so if anyone has a song they'd like to dare us to cover, we're up for the challenge!
SRM: One last question. Do you have any surprises in store for your fans - for instance, what are your future plans, where do you see yourself in another five years or ten years?
We do, however, have one song that we have recorded and just CAN NOT play live! It's called Shine from the album A Little Crazy. The song came out awesome on the recording, but when we played it live at the Release Party... I don't know, man, something just did not click. It was bad. BAD! So bad we never played it live again! It's funny though because lots of our fans LOVE that song, and no one in the audience noticed there was anything wrong with it at all! But for the band, bad vibes. No good vibes. RIP Shine.
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2015 looks like it's gonna be a big year for Spinn! We're making our FIRST EVER official music video for our song City Country
which we're so excited about! This whole year is going to be about pushing boundaries for us. Being a country band from New Jersey, a place where country music was kind of lost for the past fifteen years, this is a very exciting time for us both as a band and as country music lovers! We certainly have some tricks up our sleeves for the next few months, but if we show our cards it's no fun! Guess you'll just have to try and keep up, catch us if you can! We're all about the socials and we have a brand new website being launched in December so connect with us and you'll never miss a beat!
Thanks so much for having us!
"Guess you'll just have to try and keep up, catch us if you can!" Oysh, Spinn! Now, how do you expect us to do that? There isn't enough triple-caffeine latte in Seattle to do that and you know Seattle is famous for coffee-drenched everything! We guess the best thing to do is gather up everyone we can, hit one of your shows or buy your CDs, toss a friend or two in human-sized crates and hit the Spinnacle - oh, yeah, the pinnacle of Tequila Hot. Because, as this group said, "There's not much in life that can't be fixed with great music, good friends, and a few shots of tequila." Which brings us to what we said ... SPINN'S A GAS!!