the fastest steed on earth
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the fastest steed on earth

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The best kept secret in music



The year that just ended was another great one for music, both locally and nationally. Here are my favorite albums of 2004 - and what I'll be looking forward to in 2005.

The Fastest Steed on Earth, "It's Slang For Heroin": A great ride - unpredictable, chaotic and, at times, disturbing. - The State Paper


11 tonight: The Fastest Steed on Earth at Hunter-Gatherer, 900 Main St.; (803) 748-0540. It’s about time the jolly fellows released a CD of their impressive indie-prog rock. The disc, “It’s Slang for Heroin,” is an exploration and mash-up of several genres. It has the sonic qualities of the electro-rock explosion, the guitar-guitar interplay of smart-rock like Santana and the aggressive time signatures of math-rock. The sound will swallow you.
Visit for an interview and to hear a few tracks.

The Fastest Steed on Earth features Heyward Sims, Simon Griffeth,
Zach Alberto, Matt Owen and Jon Stone.

The Fastest Steed on Earth is a glamour band.
Not because the guys are exceptional dressers (although they do look good on stage), but they are glam because their rock music shines.
This is glam rock.
Boasting searing guitars, rabid bass lines, piercing synths and crazy percussion, The Fastest Steed on Earth has become one of the best bands in town in under a year.
The band has written some of the best prog-rock you will ever hear.
The debut, “It’s Slang For Heroin,” will be released today and the band will play a show at Hunter-Gatherer at 11 tonight.
We talked with guitarist Simon Griffeth about what he has created with band mates Zach Alberto(drums), Matt Owen (keyboard), Heyward Sims (guitar) and Jon Stone (bass).
Q: Your sound is marked by fantastic transitions. It obvious you guys have been playing together for a long time, but how long?
A: We (Alberto and Stone) went to high school together in Hilton Head so we’ve known each other. We’ve been dabbling for a while, but we’ve only been together for a year and a half, two years.
Q: When the band formed, what was the outlook?
A: It actually started with me and another guy, Mike (Nienow), just messing around at his place. Mike moved to Chicago We wrote these songs and decided to ask Jon and Zach to play us. As far as vision, we were just messing around. We knew that we wanted to be instrumental. We always thought we’d have some vocals — not verse-chorus vocals, but as another instrument — but that hasn’t happened.
Q: You lost a guitarist (Nienow) and added Sims, who plays in Bolt. How did that fit come about?
A: I had known Heyward and he liked the band. We kind of both asked each other if we could play together. One day he came over and jammed with us and it kind of clicked.
Q: How would you describe your sound? And you can’t say indescribable.
A: It’s fairly kinetic. It moves a lot. A lot of instrumental bands keep the same groove. Me, personally, I think our music is more about creating images rather than a sound.
Q: What is something people don’t know about you guys that they might like to know?
A: We’re all unmarried. I don’t know what anybody would like to know about us. I don’t know if I want anybody to know anything about me.

Glam rock at its best

By Otis R. Taylor
Staff Writer
« Published: Friday, Nov 19 »

- The State Paper

"I don't know when else I've had such a good time"

I can't wait to hear what's new on the scene this year, but first I'd like to recap the best of 2003.
Here are the top 10 shows I had the pleasure to see - in no particular order, I don't think

The Fastest Steed on Earth at the Art Bar: Instrumental bands are hit or miss. They either have intricate and imaginitive transitions, or they play the same hook that allows only one member to improvise. The Fastest Steed on Earth is the former, an indie-rock jam band in the vein of Don Caballero. A lot of dueling guitars and a drummer who dominates the tempo with precision. The loops and hooks were tight, and the constant transitions were easy to follow and refreshing. - The State Paper

"Infernal Racket: A compilation of Columbia acts"

“Infernal Racket” might not be the best way to describe this eclectic collection of local acts, ranging from the experimental ramblings of Kurse Go Back to the Americana of Petrillo Relents.
Released by fledgling local label Race To Rock, “Infernal Racket” brings together eight of Columbia's finest bands, as chosen by local music fan Chris Powell. It seeks to show the musical diversity of a city that has been largely overlooked on a national scale.
Here's a brief rundown of the songs:

1. If The Fastest Steed On Earth's song “Spaceboyz” isn’t mathrock, I don’t know what is. Carefully constructed harmonized guitar parts are largely static through each respective movement in the composition (and there are quite a few), all the while bolstered by a propulsive rhythm section. As I said, the song shifts its approach a number of times, beginning with a tight prog-jazz segment and voyaging through several movements before culminating at the end in a progression that feels almost Celtic. The result is a song that ironically sounds as if it was birthed by stream-of-thought jams, then reincarnated as the well-oiled machine heard on the compilation.

2. Petrillo Relents sounds like the love child of ‘60s super group Cream and its Southern mistress. Though there are clear traces of country, soul, and most notably blues, “Crawlin’ Back Black and Blue” is still essentially a rock ‘n’ roll affair. The dirgy bass line carries this tune, with bluesy piano fills and conservative drumming accompanying only where they are needed. Crunchy, wah-laden electric guitars faintly fill all the space left between. Singer Andrew Francis belts it out in the Southern rock ‘n' roll tradition, demanding that you “put your money where your mouth is.”
If The Fastest Steed On Earth's songs are all about technical merit, then Petrillo Relents take us to the other corner of the globe, playing only when it is needed, giving the song a simplicity that is all too rare in music these days.

3. From Safety To Where's “Pin You Down” is further proof of what locals have known for years: one of the best post-punk bands in recent memory lives and operates right here in Columbia. Over the years they have been consistently compared and contrasted with seminal acts like Joy Division and Mission of Burma and while the relationship is clear, it is also worth noting that From Safety To Where have long since come into its own. Still jagged and melodic, still starkly produced, but notably catchier than early fare, this might be my favorite track on the comp.

4. Kurse Go Back is the hardest band in Columbia to corner, and “Photosynthesize” may just be the perfect introduction to their unique brand of painstakingly assembled beautiful noise. The music's foundation lies in the clever incorporation of computer effects and sampled sound bytes, held together by explosive afro-jazz drumming.
Sampled voices from old radio broadcasts and hypnotic vocals float over the track. There is no definitive melody. Indeed, the song harmonically transforms even as you think you're beginning to catch on to what’s going on. Kurse Go Back make valiant strides towards transporting the listener to a different place; one in which what initially seems like chaos comes to make perfect sense.

5. Hungry Models' contribution, “The Glamour Of Disconnection,” is a crunchy garage rock you've probably heard before. Hungry Models are relatively new to the Columbia scene, but I get the feeling they will have a following before long.
Muted swipes at the guitar establish the straight-ahead tempo from the start and before you know it the rhythm section is off and running. Snarling vocals are quick to follow, along with tinny, fuzzed-out guitar. This band seems to be pretty pissed off, but I’m not sure what they're rebelling against.

6. Nervous System is a change of pace with its offering “Fall of Troy.” This song is catchy, lolling, and vaguely alt-country. Like Petrillo Relents, which features some of the same members, Nervous System borrows elements from various genres: country, rock ‘n' roll, pop and surf music. I’m not particularly sure what the lyrics are meant to convey. One verse begins “I was there at the fall of Troy,” while another starts with “I hate the Taliban.” Even so, the melody is easy to hum along to and you might just find it floating around in your head when you least expect it.

7. So you say you like Fiona Apple and Tori Amos? Roni Zagoria and The Whole Lotta Man Band is in the vein of crooning, bluesy pop-rock. “Speak Dangerously” begins with a dynamic minor piano part, but a few steps into the trip it is joined by what many consider to be one of Columbia's best backing bands. Zagoria wraps her husky, full voice around all of it, quickly establishing the vocals as the centerpiece of this combo (it is her band after all). They are clearly a very talented group of musicians, and of all the bands on this compilation, I would venture to say that Roni Zagoria and company have the most commercial potential.

8. The album closes with the wailing guitars of Rockefeller Horsecollar's “C'mon Go Back.” I found the verse appealing: lyrics muttered rather than sung over a saturated backdrop of distorted guitars. It's all very subdued, as if they're waiting for something to happen. Then, of course, comes the chorus. They begin shouting the title in unison, repeating each word several times. It is at this point that the rhythm section explodes into full volume and it sounds as if one guitar is having its strings sawed off. A solid offering from one of Columbia's better-known rock bands.

Powell and Race To Rock did an admirable job representing the diverse musical community of Columbia, though I feel they omitted several of the more notable bands in the city: Perfect Sleeper, Cuatro Mono, The Heist and The Accomplice, Pink Flamingos, etc. Whatever the case, this is one man's take on a city brimming with talent. Take it or leave it, “Infernal Racket” still set out with an admirable cause, and achieved its goal in large part.


2004 - "It's Slang for Heroin". 12 tracks. A few are on and And a few are streamed at


Feeling a bit camera shy


Zach, Jon, Simon, and Mike Nienow (our original rhythm guitarist) all grew up together on Hilton Head Island. Zach and Jon have been playing together, in many different incarnations (and sometimes just the two of them if no one else was around) for 10 years. Simon was originally a bassist, which is why we didn't play with him, but he switched to guitar after learning 'Flight of the Bumblebee' on the bass. We drank with Heyward a lot, and when Mike moved to Chicago, heyward stepped up as our new axe man (sharing the lead role w/Simon, and playing a lot of lead too).

Zach was accepted to Berklee College of Music in 2004, but hasn't gone because of his 2 bands in Columbia (the other being Roni Zagoria and the Whole Lotta Man Band).

We met Matt through a mutual friend and he has been playing Roni's keyboard w/us ever since.

We were 'discovered' in the summer of 2003, because we practice in a storage shed, where almost every band in Columbia practices (not the same shed, but the same complex). We were booked on a punk rock festival and started getting gigs ever since.

Our 2nd show ever was named 'one of the top 10 live shows of 2003' in SC's official State Paper. Cher was on that list. Awesome.

Our influences range from The Residents to Nomeansno to Tool to Tortoise to Tori Amos to Zappa to Floyd to Holst to Mr. Bungle to NIN to the Pixies to Slint to Brainiac to Primus to Ween to Sleepytime Gorilla Museum to Devo to Antony and the Johnsons to the Mars Volta to Stevie Wonder to James Brown to Parliament to Gwar to Helmet to Jane's Addiction to the Vandals to Suicidal Tendencies and the Infectious Grooves to Wu Tang. At least one of us likes something from every genre of music, that's why we do it. We love it. Sometimes we like to shred, we always like things that sound beautiful, and we like to utilize dynamics and mood changes to get the audience going.

That's probably enough for now.
Thank you.