Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Interview with Henry Berger from S.S. WEB

Hailing from the booze-soaked, frozen tundra of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, S.S. Web fuses elements of Folk, Punk, Americana, Rock, and Country into a style all their own.  For the better part of 7 years S.S. Web has been plying their trade, honing their skills as musicians and songwriters. They self released their debut album, "North", in 2011 and released it's follow up, "1933", in 2013 through Wayward Parade Records.
Taking to the road like marauding pirates take to the sea S.S. Web has played countless shows from coast to coast, bringing the party and a glorious racket wherever they go, making new fans and friends at every stop. 2014 sees the band heading back out on the road, writing and recording material for a new record, and continuing to establish themselves as one of the premier bands in a burgeoning underground roots scene.
I recently spoke with the Henry Berger, the vocalist and guitar player in S.S. WEB and here's what he had to say....

DodoBird: Ok, So Whats the backstory on S.S. Web, how did you guys form and give us a brief rundown of how you got from there to where you guys are today?

Henry Berger: Davey and I have known each other forever and had been messing around with acoustic instruments for some a while. I was living with Kyle at the time, and Jon we met through shows of a previous band. We all got together one drunken night in 2007, and liked what happened. Originally it was me (Henry) on acoustic guitar and vocals, Davey on acoustic bass guitar, Kyle on acoustic guitar and Jon on the cello.
That was the way things were for probably about a year or so, then Kyle moved to Texas, and we asked Jon to leave the group leaving just Davey and me. It was a while before we actually found some more members that fit, we went through a new bass player as Davey had switched to Mandolin by that time. Tried out some folks on drums that ended up not panning out. Kyle moved back to Milwaukee from Texas and we decided we wanted him on drums, having played in previous bands with Kyle on the kit, I knew his style would fit. Our good friend Bryan who moved up to Milwaukee from Indiana to be in a different band that did not work out, ended up with the spot of acoustic bass because he is a rad guy to be around and we wanted his attitude to be part of this group. In 2013, Kyle moved to California with his wife, and we found Cris to be his percussive replacement. Having known Cris through friends, we thought he was a blast and he was a great drummer, however he picked up the washboard and started to do more percussion than drums, kind of accidentally. But that is another story. We have all played music for a long time and are very happy with what we fell into with S.S. WEB.

DDB: Where did the name S.S. Web come from?
HB: The name just came to us at an early practice. I think it was Davey who came up with it, Steering Ships With Empty Bottles. A few days later it just came to me that we could go by S.S. WEB for short, I figured people might not remember such a long name, but it turns out people screw up S.S. WEB all the time too.

DDB: You guys have released 2 albums so far, 2011's "North" and most recently "1933" last year, in 2013. What can you tell us about the writing process within S.S. Web and the recording of the albums?
HB: We are all very proud of both albums 'NORTH' and '1933'. They were the first full length, professional albums any of us had actually ever been a part of. The actual recording process and writing process of all of these songs was very fun and interesting or all of us. We all write at least a little bit, I usually end up sitting down and 'editing' the songs, changing words here and there or a sentence or two, to things I think either fit better or I think would sound better. I would say that I am the primary song writer, however everyone gets a say and everyone contributes.

DDB: So what's next for S.S. Web? Is there a new album in works?
HB: Our next venture is to record an album with our new percussionist Cris. We have not gotten to record with him yet but I am sure it will be a blast. His percussion has taken us in a slightly different direction musically, but I believe it is a step in the right direction. We are working on finishing writing a few more songs for this next album, and hope to have it done for our upcoming May tour, but we have to wait and see.

DDB: You guys tour quite a bit, so you must enjoy life on the road, what's your favorite thing(s)about life on the road? And are there any things you really dislike?
HB: My favorite thing about the road is meeting new folks, and randomly running into old friends. Being in a different spot with so many vastly different people each night. Of course being able to get to spend all that time with people I consider brothers on the road. Yeah we get tired of each other here and there but overall its the best thing you could ever experience. Also getting to see so many amazing musicians do their thing each night is something unlike anything else. I do not like how much time we waste though, driving forever or showing up to a venue super early with nothing to do. I keep telling myself to pick up a hobby that can be done anywhere but then I think I could be using that time to write more music, however I never do use it that way, maybe one of these days.

DBB: You guys have a very unique, original sound, How do you describe your sound when people inevitably ask "What do you guys sound like?"
HB: Our sound or genre is something we have struggled with explaining to people from the get go. We are not rockabilly, we are not what people think of when they hear 'folk' or 'bluegrass', and we are not rock or county either. Its just drinking music really. Young or old, rich or poor, if you are into the drink you probably will be into S.S. WEB.

DDB: I feel if you're playing music, especially in this day and age, if people have a hard time describing it or attaching a genre tag to it, then you're doing something right because so much as been done and so many people are content with mediocrity and just rehashing the same shit over and over. I truly believe you guys are doing something really unique and special. I also think Cris adds a really cool element to your sound, and as you mentioned, I am excited to hear a new record with him involved. Both "North" and "1933" are great records and the songwriting is killer, but it will be cool to hear a record that matches your current live sound with all that Cris does percussion-wise. I've seen alot of Washboard players over the years and most don't really do anything more than just your standard "clickity clak" with their fingers on the washboard, but Cris has added so many different little things like cans, and all sorts of little pieces to his Washboard that he really gets so many different little sounds and nuances from his instrument. Its just cool to see someone think outside the box and add his unique twist to something. Well, I'll leave you be for now and we'll see you guys on the road.
SS Web's Reverbnation page: www.reverbnation.com/sswebmusic
Wayward Parade's page: waywardparade.com/

Live photos courtesy of my wife, Bethany Sweitzer
Andy Sweitzer, Dodobird 2014

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