Glenn BurnSilver on October 10, 2014

Instrumental Monsters

“Not having vocals doesn’t concern us or worry us, really. People are going to get it,” says pedal steel player Spencer Cullum Jr. of Steelism, the all-instrumental band he shares with guitarist Jeremy Fetzer. “We connect with the audience even if there isn’t a singer.” Classic 1960s instrumental artists such as The Ventures, Pete Drake and Booker T. & The MG’s, along with soundtracks by Ennio Morricone and John Barry serve as Steelism’s primary inspirations. For these in-demand session musicians, writing instrumental music began as a change of pace. “It was a way to pass the time, but as soon as we tracked the first song, it got the ball rolling. It turned into an instrumental monster,” Cullum, a London transplant, says with a laugh. No theme is off limits for the duo—funky soul, aggressive surf, Latin escapades, psychedelic-rock explorations and string-filled cinematic send-ups inhabit 615 To Fame, Steelism’s debut. “I can’t see it hitting No. 1, but I think the album will be great for music fans,” Cullum says. “We switch off genres, but it’s all about melody. [Instrumental music] has to be driven by the melody” to work. It certainly works—better than many might expect.

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