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The Stedwells find their place in Rochester's indie pop cadre

Princes of the Rochester sound


Rochester doesn't have palm trees. It doesn't have sunshine, and it doesn't have a Planet Hollywood. But Rochester has that sound unique unto itself - call it "the Rochester sound." That rootsy, jangle-pop joy is being championed by an ever-growing number of locally based artists who reverently and referentially abscond with one or two aspects of indie jump and jive, and take a monkey wrench to it.

These bands have as many commonalities as they have differences- artists like The Demos, Mikaela Davis, Dangerbyrd, Ben Morey, Maybird, KOPPS, and Joywave, to name a few. They're the kings and queens of the scene and sound.

Joining them in the ranks of the illustrious is a fairly fresh-faced, three-piece band full of hooks and horsepower called The Stedwells. Founded in 2016, this trio delivers maximum rock 'n' roll stacked with full-throttle thrills. Two parts garage rock, one part pop, one part wow, shake well, and you've got The Stedwells.

Flash back to New Zealand, where brothers Ryan and Brendan Warren were feverishly writing songs.

"We went to New Zealand on a working holiday visa and worked there for a year," Ryan says. "There was this guy named Brendan Milward we were jamming with in Rochester. He was from New Zealand. The initial plan was to go down there and make music with him, but when we got down there he got approved for a visa in America. It all started with us wanting to be in a band together. The base of it is we just want to have fun with our friends."

Other than busking and the occasional open mic, the Warren brothers didn't perform all that much while on the other side of the globe. They were there, in New Zealand, to write songs. It doesn't necessarily seem like a practical move, until you hear the music.

The Stedwells, with Ryan Warren on guitar and vocals, his brother Brendan on bass, and Alex Durr on drums, definitely tip the indie pop scale.

"I think it's an indie, off-the-cuff sound," says Ryan, "which fits the definition of the Rochester sound. I think we're a very eccentric city, and the sound seems to be growing to encompass more sounds and types of music. Rochester has a broad selection of music."

Upon listening a little closer to The Stedwells' sound, there is some heavier stuff brimming just below the surface, along with a decidedly English slant, not unlike bands like The Jam. The emphasis is put on the songs - not how they are played, but how they are. And, according to Ryan, it's important to save them as they get fleshed out and turned into actual songs. Like brothers will do, Ryan and Brendan finish each other's sentences.

"Usually it comes from me and my brother jamming," Ryan says as Brendan chimes in with "We still have flip phones and we'll use those to save an idea."

Symbiotically, this flies even for drummer Alex Durr, who hangs in the balance of the fraternal songwriting dynamic of the band. The Warren Brothers see him as just another brother.

"I like to consider myself the adopted brother," Alex says.

Ryan says, "He's really the only one I say 'I love you' to."

"Sometimes, I say it back." Alex says.

The trio begins work in the studio on EP numero dos this winter, promising a little more cohesiveness and weight than on last year's eponymous release. And the trio is softening its reluctance to add additional tracks, citing the difficulty it sometimes poses live.

"Being a three-piece is great," Brendan says. "But in the live aspect we sometimes want more."

"Sometimes it's kind of hard to pull that off," Ryan says. "We don't mind adding more parts in the studio, because at the end of the day, it's still us."

The Stedwells, with Ryan Warren on guitar and vocals, his brother Brendan on bass, and Alex Durr on drums, definitely tip the indie pop scale.