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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Band Rock


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"Steamship Jesus stays afloat on Three Rivers music scene"

Published: Sunday, March 15, 2009

Updated: Sunday, March 15, 2009

For music lovers looking for a band with a unique sound and laid-back style, it’s time to set religious beliefs aside and hop aboard the Steamship Jesus.

The Pittsburgh band was given its eyebrow-raising name by a man who heard it playing The Rolling Stones’ song “Sympathy for the Devil” one night in Schenley Plaza.

He exclaimed that rather than pitying Lucifer, the musicians ought to “get on the Steamship Jesus,” inspiring one of the Pittsburgh music scene’s more unusual band names.

Pitt alumni Tom Craig, Iggy Marcinkevicius and Carnegie Mellon alumnus Mike DeLuca began playing together casually as an acoustic trio in fall 2007, later adding a drummer, current Pitt senior Kyle Smetanka.

“Originally, we had no intentions of starting a band,” said bassist and vocalist Marcinkevicius. “Our friends just started saying we would [be] good.”

The band members have wide and eclectic music tastes, resulting in a sound that draws influences from genres such as folk, indie, blues and rock.

Vocalist and guitarist DeLuca described the band’s sound as “using force only when necessary. A lot of bands punch it up just to punch it up. We don’t always look to do that.”

“You listen to it and you decide what it is. We just make what we make,” said harmonica player and guitarist Craig.

“We’re not looking to define ourselves,” said DeLuca. “We’re looking to have fun. Not having a genre can work to our benefit.”

But not fitting into a category gives the band a disadvantage, too.

“Stylistically, it’s hard to find bands to share a bill with,” said Smetanka, the drummer. Despite this, the band has managed, playing frequently at local venues including Spice Cafe and Jekyll & Hyde’s. The band usually can get along with whatever group it plays with, aside from one instance when it was billed with a group singing ballads in Japanese — a style with which the band didn’t really mesh.

Steamship Jesus’ unintentional rebellion, defying conventions and splicing genres, creates a sound of its own.

“In our heads we’re just playing what feels good and sounds right,” said DeLuca. “The irony in that is that while we’re not trying to be different, somehow we are.”

But in the current Pittsburgh music scene, Steamship Jesus members said that being different isn’t so difficult, thanks to a large number of sound-alike bands playing dated material.

“It’s easy to replicate the ’70s idols,” said Smetanka. “A lot of bands are heavily influenced by older music but aren’t trying to create something new from those influences.”

But the band is not above playing covers for the sake of entertaining an audience, or even indulging the one jerk who always asks for “Free Bird.”

“We’re not brilliant enough yet to be cocky,” said DeLuca.

“When we look out and people are into it, that makes us into it,” said Marcinkevicius, “and that’s when you get your best performance.”

Important as their music is to them, the band members have priorities other than taking on the music world.

“I’d rather the band stop playing and that we stay friends,” said DeLuca. “It’s cool to do something constructive with people that you like and have a good time while you’re doing it. It’s not anything more than that.”

Craig agreed.

“We didn’t start playing music to grow our hair out and put on makeup,” he said. “It’s about liking to play.”

The band has written about 20 original songs, nine of which are the EP demo released in late December 2008.

Steamship Jesus will play next at the Double Wide Grill on March 27. - The Pitt News


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