How does a would-be bass and drum duo, with admittedly endless instrumental jams, musically morph into a fully fleshed songwriting personality?
If you’re drummer Bill Lieback, you take all of your accumulated years of experience and turn it into your very own vision – welcome Dragster Motor Kings to the Northeast Pennsylvania music scene.
In Lieback’s case, however, it’s more of a “welcome back,” as Lieback’s been here a while. A former member of longtime NEPA favorites Mere Mortals, and more recently, NewPastLife, Lieback has taken to Dragster Motor Kings with the vigor of an artist needing to vent their soul. The music that he’s created as Dragster Motor Kings will undoubtedly kick up a little dust locally with a raw, “straight outta the garage” sound – the perfect balance of Led Zeppelin meets Jack White (just two of Lieback’s inspirations, incidentally). He’s just released the outfit’s self-titled, six-song EP, on which he plays drums and handles lead vocals, and will also showcase the new music at a special live performance at the Wilkes-Barre Mundy Street location of Joe Nardone’s Gallery of Sound at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 9.
“These songs just began as jams with our bass player, Mike Lukasavage,” Lieback said. “We would jam in his basement, just for fun – this started about three years ago.” Lieback’s lack of a guitar player led him to test the duo’s hand at playing the material as simply bass and drums, a task for which Lukasavage wouldn’t have.
“He didn’t want to do that,” laughs Lieback. “So, I said that I’d have to start writing some lyrics, and maybe we can turn these 20-minute jams into three-minute songs. So, I turned these into three-minute songs; giving them melody lines, and picking out little parts from our jams. When they were ready, we just went in and recorded them. But, this wasn’t meant to be a band or anything; it was originally all about jamming and having fun.”
Lieback turned to Windmill Agency Recording Studio in Lake Ariel to finalize his ideas, a place the Lieback already frequents from filling in on drums for various studio projects. This current trip into the great aural unknown would connect him with his musical past, so to speak.
“Eric Ritter, our guitar player from NewPastLife, owns the studio,” Lieback said. “I asked him if we could come up and record. I actually had a guitar player ready; he came up the first day to record this CD, but I didn’t like the way things were sounding. So, Eric actually became the guitar player on these songs.”
Even though the debut Dragster Motor Kings EP contains two of the members of NewPastLife, Lieback is quick to strike down any assumption that his new vehicle is a NewPastLife redux.
“It’s totally different,” Lieback said. “For one, there’s no way to replace Ian’s (Ritter, NewPastLife vocalist) voice. If we wanted to do the band again, everyone’s here anyway to do it. Right now, what’s happening is I’m looking for players to go out and play this stuff live. Eric doesn’t have the time because of the studio, and my bass player is not currently with me. Now, I wind up with Eric doing as much with me as he can – we will be doing this as a two-piece for the Gallery of Sound show.”
Lieback said his ultimate goal with the new band is something a little more than the confines of Northeast Pennsylvania can offer, and he’s looking for like-minded musicians that can supplement his dream.
“I want to travel, I want to get out of here,” he jokes. “I’m not one for playing every weekend in the same area, because people get sick of you. I look at it this way – when you buy a record from a national act, you usually only get to see them once on the tour, if you’re lucky. I’ve seen too many bands burn out around here because they play too much. Well, they used too – now that won’t happen because there’s nowhere to play (laughs).”
NewPastLife again comes into light when speaking about such extensive touring ideas and taking his music to the next level – Lieback’s done this before to moderate success.
If the past experiences have taught him anything, it’s the need for tenacity in this business. Lieback certainly possesses this quality, as demonstrated by the Kickstarter campaign that helped him to complete the Dragster Motor Kings debut. Shortly after the campaign began, Lieback posted some interesting black and white concept clips of the songs to YouTube to further entice backers. It was a great way to solicit through some artful imagery.
“I tried it a first time and it failed,” said Lieback of the Kickstarter effort. “Then, I did it again beginning in June, and I just didn’t stop. I kept promoting it every single day; Facebook, word of mouth. By the time this was over, I was beat – I spent eight or nine hours at the computer just promoting it and telling people. Then, after that, I realized I needed to prepare the artwork and all that, which I do myself. So, you’re never really done.”
Lieback is just now, after so many years immersed in music, seemingly getting into the thick of things as far as his ultimate culmination as a musician.
“When I first started writing these, I wanted to write them to see if I could,” he laughs. “I really didn’t know if I could write songs. I’m just glad I know what makes a good song from all the people that I’ve worked with. If any of these songs sucked, they wouldn’t be on the CD.”
He’s also aware that there is a new found business savvy that needs to accompany any 21st-century musical experiment.
“I was motivated by money, too,” he jokes. “That’s why I got with TuneCore Publishing, so they could shop the songs. One of the songs on the EP, ‘Feels Good,”’I wrote those lyrics to try to get it into the movie “50 Shades of Gray.” That was the idea behind that song. I also thought it would have been great in “True Blood” as well. If you listen to the lyrics, anything with blood.”
Lieback said that the Dragster Motor Kings music is meant for a certain audience – he’s a man who knows his target demographic and makes no apologies for clearly defining who his music is geared toward.
“I wrote this music for people that like this kind of music,” he says. “So, those that aren’t into this kind of stuff probably won’t like it anyway. I told myself, if there are 20 people that don’t like it, there will be 20 people that do – that’s who you are writing it for. I don’t think you hear a lot of this kind of music anymore. If there’s anything I’d want people to get out of my music, its’ just for them to like it.”