By Kathryn G. Menu
Sometimes you have to experience the dark to find the light.
For brothers Alan and Jarrett Steil the last year and a half of their journey as musicians breaking into the Los Angeles music scene has been just that.
In 2011, Suddyn, the band the brothers formed in their native Montauk almost a decade earlier, had the promise of exposure in their own backyard through MTK — a world-class music festival planned for East Hampton.
But that festival fell apart without ever coming to fruition and shortly thereafter, the group’s Irish drummer Brendan Connolly left the band.
However, for Alan, the group’s lead singer, keyboard and trumpet player, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Alan was ready to move on from Suddyn, a band that had brought he and Jarrett success in Ireland, including a top-10 hit in 2004, and taken them out to Los Angeles in 2011 where they played sold-out clubs on the storied Sunset Strip.
“We needed to wipe the slate clean,” said Alan in an interview from the Montauk Bake Shoppe. His parents, Alan, Sr. and Celeste own the bakery and this week the brothers and the band’s manager — muse and champion, Linda O’Connor — were gathered to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.
Earlier this year, Alan and Jarrett regrouped and formed the indie-rock band The Rebel Light with 22-year-old drummer Brandon Cooke, a California native. With the success of a video for the band’s first single, “Goodbye Serenade,” which has earned close to 5,000 hits on YouTube, on November 13 The Rebel Light released a self-titled EP.
“The Rebel Light” EP features “My Heroes Are Dead,” “Goodbye Serenade,” and “Wake Up Your Mind.” It is available free to download through the band’s website, http://therebellight.com.
“I think our name, the music we are doing, and the way we are doing business is a lot more current,” said Alan. “I think our first year [in California] we were ignoring aspects of the musical journey in Los Angeles.”
“Whenever I thought about playing in L.A. I thought about the Sunset Strip,” he added. “But there is this great grassroots music scene in places like Silver Lake and Eagle Rock which is where we find ourselves a lot more now these days.”
Grassroots would certainly be a way to describe the recording of “The Rebel Light,” which was completed in a shed at Cooke’s parent’s home in Yuciapa in the San Bernadino Valley, as well as Alan and Jarrett’s bathroom and closet in Hollywood.
“I think people really respected that we literally did this completely on our own,” said Alan. “”We recorded it ourselves, we produced it ourselves and I think people have really liked the sound.”
With the addition of Cooke — who is not related to Alan and Jarrett despite a little joke the band played on an online magazine where they identified Cooke as a long lost cousin, a fib that has spread across the web — Alan said the sound he and Jarrett cultivated through Suddyn has also evolved.
“I think we have a little more of a retro sound,” said Alan. “I hate to use this word, but it really is more organic for us. It is more who we really are, less contrived and forced. Towards the end of Suddyn, I almost felt like we were too polished. We are a lot more relaxed now, less alternative pop rock and more indie rock.”
For Alan, some aspects of an evolved music business — which is largely funded through tours, rather than album sales, and includes the ability to produce a high-quality record without a major label or formal studio — are appealing.
“There is a lot more music out there and it is much harder to get to the top, top than it used to be,” he said. “But we also have a lot more control over our careers, and we can reach thousands through the Internet.”
“There are so many avenues for us to pursue our music,” added Alan. “For someone like me, I’ll give my music away because I would rather hand out 200 EPs, have people listen to it, love it and come see us at a show sometime than charge people $5 for some songs.”
For Alan, the possibilities for the future are both endless and bright, and you can hear it in The Rebel Light’s music — hope overcoming the angst melancholy Suddyn was often known for in its early years.
“It’s in our favor to continue to focus on the West Coast, promote the EP, record new music, just keep pushing forward,” he said. “Every band’s path is different and we are just figuring out what ours is. It’s hard work, but we are creating our own kind of luck.”