Where were you during the years 1968 to 1975? In 1968, the Beatles create Apple Records and record Hey Jude as the first single on the label, the English rock band Free formed in London and 60 Minutes, the CBS television news magazine, debuts. In 1969, Richard Nixon becomes President of the United States, the first man is landed on the moon and that famous phrase is uttered for the first time, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Brian Jones, one of the founding members of the Rolling Stones, is found dead in the swimming pool at his home in England and The Beatles do their last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records. In 1970, the English rock band Black Sabbath releases its self-titled debut album in the United States.
In 1971, Led Zeppelin releases their untitled fourth album, Jim Morrison of The Doors is found dead in a bathtub in Paris and five months after her death, Janis Joplin’s album, Pearl, began a nine-week stay at the top of the Billboard Hot 200 album chart. In 1972, The Godfather takes over the silver screen, Atari kicks off the first generation of video games with the release of PONG; the first game to achieve commercial success, and the United States gives federal copyright protection to sound recordings. In 1973, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert premieres on syndicated television and in a tennis match, billed as the battle of the sexes, Billie Jean King defeats Bobby Riggs. In 1974, Mama Cass Elliot passes away in London; the rumor about her choking on a sandwich begins with an article in the London Times shortly after her death, though the official cause of death was due to obesity and natural causes. In 1975, the first strike by medical doctors in the US causes hospitals to reduce services, Bill Gates and Paul Allen develop a BASIC program for the Altair 8800, the name “Micro-soft” (for microcomputer software) and Microsoft becomes a registered trademark, Led Zeppelin releases Physical Graffiti on their own label, Swan Song, and Aerosmith releases Toys In The Attic, with their first top 40 hit, Sweet Emotion.
So many world events took place over those seven years and the music of the time defined an era, which most can relate to; the melodies set off memories of events and they play out like a movie in your mind’s eye just as they do for the band, 68-75 out of Altanta, GA. Suzanne Sledge (vocals), Andrew Cylar (guitars), Eric Young (drums) and Steve McPeeks (bass) embody all that in a refreshing throwback to a time when music was not so….sanitized.
We knew what we wanted to achieve when we were naming the band so we were just joking around with names like the 68-75 Rock ’n’ Roll Review.
“It actually started out when we were just working on the new record,” explains Cylar, a very even-tempered hip cat with a smooth voice. “We knew what we wanted to achieve when we were naming the band so we were just joking around with names like the 68-75 Rock ’n’ Roll Review. And then we started to try to come up with band names and 68-75 actually kind of defines what we sound like or are trying to sound like. We started playing together in late 2001 and we put out one EP back in 2002; and that’s something we just re-mastered and re-released last week actually. The older one is newer and the newer one is older! And what we hope we sound like is something pretty raw with an element of soul and rock. One of the bands we really love is Free.”
“Yeah, every link was as strong as the other and it was very spare, but it was also very finished, so that’s how we look at things,” states Sledge, with a sweet southern Georgia drawl. “It’s certainly not a case for us that the more you pile on the better it’s going to sound. We’re all about stripping it down to what the basic sound is and make it work on that level, because that’s what it feels to us. 68-75 pretty much encapsulates what we’re trying to do and the feel that we’re trying to go for. And the name is pretty easy to remember; you know with band names, most of the time you want something that’s short and sweet and will stick in people’s heads.”
“And everything else we came up with was just….” says Cylar.
“Horrible,” finishes Sledge with a chuckle.
68-75 brings to the table a sound all their own, but drawing on inspiration from artists popular over 40 years ago. Everyone talks about the token Zeppelin or Rolling Stones influences, but when a band speaks of Mott The Hoople, Free or Steppenwolf as the artists they’d most like to emulate within their own sound, it’s a new take on a vibrant feel, and sparks interest in what 68-75 are doing with their music. “We’re definitely ‘back to the future,’ ” exclaims Cylar, “and the funny thing about it is not to say that if it wasn’t recorded in 1976 we don’t listen to it; we’re always talking about new bands. In fact, we went and saw Graveyard last week—they’re a Swedish band and they were amazing.”
“They were unbelievable,” interjects Sledge, “and they were definitely drawing on a Deep Purple, Steppenwolf vibe so the mindset that we have is really not that unique. It’s just that it’s scattered about, but there are definitely people with our mindset; they’re just doing different flavors of it. We’re honest about what we do; we’re not trying to imitate anybody. We’re just drawing from people that we love and kind of have an expression of that, but not a blatant imitation. But this is what Andrew and I would like to see if we went to a show; we just want to see someone or a band who brings it. We don’t need to have ten thousand instruments on stage, we don’t need to have the lights show going; we don’t need any of that. We want to see someone who puts their money where their mouth is.”
“The other thing that’s really encouraging to us,” explains Cylar, “is back when we were doing this in 2002, we’d always have musicians come up to us after the show and say they kind of got what we were doing but we didn’t really see anybody doing anything like it or doing a version of it. And now you’ve got everything from Alabama Shakes to Mount Caramel out of Columbus, Buffalo Killers out of Cincinnati—who I just love,” says Cylar. “Buckcherry is a good example of that, by the way,” continues Sledge. “Their idea of performing; they wanted to be a Free prototype and I thought that was amazing because at that time, when they got together literally nobody was doing what they were doing. So it was a real breath of fresh air! I think that people really want to respond to something that gets under their skin and get a little bit dirty.”
“Stonerider out of Atlanta; they’re an amazing band!” states Sledge.
“It’s cool when you see bands like Rival Sons,” states Cylar with a smile. “We don’t sound like them or are perfect fits, but at least we can get the idea that they’re trying to do the same thing we’re trying to do.”
“I think Rival Sons and us would be a kick-ass show,” says Sledge in all seriousness; then breaks into laughter. “Just club them over the head and tell them we want to play with them. They’re just an amazing band and doing really well in the U.K. And we’ve been told we would probably be huge in the U.K. and eventually it might be the case that our following might be overseas. I don’t know; personally I thought L.A. would be a great rock town if you’re in the right venue with the right support. We’ve not been to Los Angeles yet with this band, but we’re getting a lot of opportunities that we never got because of social media. We’re getting airplay five to seven days a week on several different stations and U.K. stations playing songs from both EPs all the time, so it’s a pretty heavy presence. Government Mule’s manager has a show on Sirius. She would probably like us and probably play us, but it’s a matter of getting through the different channels to get her to listen to it. It will happen; it just takes a little while.”
“It’s out there and people will support this kind of music,” continues Sledge. “It’s just about being seen by the right people; the right audience. When we get compliments from other musicians, friends or fans, I think basically what it says is that you’re forging your own path and you’re looking forward and looking back at the same time, and we’ll take that all day long. But everybody has different reasons for listening to different music, but the thing that I keep hearing from people is that they want to hear something that is real. Everybody has gotten really tired of the computer sound-driven stuff and some of that stuff is amazing, now don’t get me wrong. I like a lot of that stuff too, but they want to have something to connect with because there’s a lot less to connect with these days. So if they hear something, even if it’s over the web, but if it reaches out and grabs them in a very intimate place, then we’re doing our job.”
68-75’s sound and philosophy takes one to a place maybe visited many times but always a fresh turn once you get there; like your favorite spot to vacation after a long period of the same old grind. They’re on the verge of something blatant and fun, and people from all over are picking up on it everyday: their music.
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