Stefano Capobianco walks into the front entry of historic Capitol Records, greeting me with a big smile and humming a tune. One might think that this is because he’s excited to once again record at the studio which has chronicled The Beatles, Sinatra, and almost every popular music icon of nearly the past century; you’d only be partially correct. Today, he’s recording new songs with King Leg, the band he’s been a part of for the past 2 plus years. Chris Lord-Alge is at the board and Dwight Yoakam is present to listen to the progress. A rock band with obvious blues and country roots is a departure from Capobianco’s own recently released Stefano and the Slightly Irregulars record, but he handles each with respect and creativity. The lineage of sidemen who have something musically and lyrically to say is well-established. Stefano and the Slightly Irregulars is a cocktail with hints of earthy classic rock, dreamy R&B, and straight-up anthems. He’s playing both sides of the spectrum with his two gigs and it’s made him more appealing to both sets of fans. Having seen him perform as the KL guitarist and leading his own group, it’s without question that Stefano Capobianco is an artist who is self-aware, with something to say and the maturity to understand when to say it.
Professional musicians with long careers will tell you that the most essential part of that long career is riding out the changes, the career ebb and flow that everyone experiences. Taking risks and not letting it shake you might be the greatest skill of all for a musician. From 90’s big label deals (with Little John) to LA relocation, and his present day status touring venues that include NYC’s Beacon Theater, the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, and Denver’s Red Rocks; Capobianco is cognizant of the importance of playing the big stages without letting it overshadow his desire to cultivate the music HE wants to make. Last summer’s LSD tour crisscrossed America with King Leg, Steve Earl, Lucinda Williams, and Dwight Yoakam playing to crowds averaging around 10,000. Stefano recalls, “I gained a deeper appreciation of the performance, artistry, and business-mindedness of Dwight, Lucinda, and Steve. There is so much involved in getting to the stage. As an Artist you are running a business and this is no joke. There is a lot of stuff going on that most people never know. I always had a certain appreciation of it but now I have more respect for what it takes. Now going in to my own shows I know the things that I can do to relieve myself of some of the stresses that come with the job and make room for a better performance by preparing more ahead of time. I've always felt that the level of effort should be the same whether you are playing to 100 people or 1,000 or 10,000.”
Great art comes from struggle and growth but doesn’t necessarily need to be oppressive to the artist who expresses it. While discussing what prompted him to write the songs for his new record, Stefano communicates that he felt something was moving towards him; elements that would result in a creative burst of new music. He was in the midst of his first year with King Leg and continuing to write his own music when an email hit his inbox. Someone who might be a close match to the DNA kit he’d recently completed wanted to get in touch with him. Never having known his birth father and being close with his mother, Stefano was incredibly surprised to discover that he had eight half brothers and sisters who had been looking for him for many years. Add to that, his father was living only a couple of hours away in San Diego. In minutes he’d gone from only child to part of a huge family. Describing the brunt of this, Stefano recalls, “As you can imagine, after searching for many years with no luck and having basically given up, to say I was shocked would be an understatement. It was like a miracle. After meeting my sister and then beginning the process of getting to know my father and the entire family, things just naturally started happening. Song and lyric ideas started to spark and I just went with it as much as possible because the gift, and just the sheer craziness of this even happening, seemed to change everything for me. After thinking that I’d never meet my father here I am with my greatest dream actually happening and the bonus of a huge extended family that has already captured my heart. It blew my mind and forever changed the course of my life.”
The goal for this new release was to record as a band and capture the live energy of the songs. Throughout various tracks, the Slightly Irregulars consists of Daniel Potruch (Drums), Paul Ill (Bass), Kelly King (Drums), Jason Chesney (Bass) and Joel Stites (Keys). Recorded and engineered by Randy Ray Mitchell at Akadak Studios in Los Angeles and mixed and mastered by veteran engineer Marc DeSisto, the tunes are an eclectic blend of influences and styles which demonstrate why Capobianco works so well on the big and the small stage, namely…strong songs. The recording process and the band name communicate Stefano’s ideal of his music being intentionally imperfect. As he puts it, “So much of today’s music is perfected to the point of being lifeless. I wanted this to have a lotta life, like older band’s records. It has its mistakes and that’s what makes it sound human. I wanted it to have a live band feel so I created a band name as the title of the project.” It’s this return to an organic direction without the intention of following prevalent fashionable music trends that makes Stefano and the Slightly Irregulars both unusual and inherently familiar; like finding an old record by your favorite band that you somehow missed discovering. The biggest difference may be the artist’s refusal to avoid contemporary topics lyrically. Rather than interpret them ourselves, we asked Stefano himself to give us some insight about what the songs are about.
Party of One – “Party of One was a phrase I heard and thought, that kind of describes me. I like to be the life of the party but even more importantly I love walking down the street and just smiling and saying good morning. I really enjoy connecting with people every day. I’m always singing a tune and I like that it can be quite infectious; people start humming that same tune later and have no memory of where they heard it. That’s me. Sometimes to a fault, especially if it’s one of those guilty pleasure tunes and you can’t stop humming all day. I figure being nice, holding doors, smiling, and just saying hello is a small way in which I can make the world a better place. Hopefully people pay it forward.
Wayfarer- “I love to travel. I like the idea that life is a journey. Some people have very important places they want to go all of the time but I like to let it unfold. Sometimes there is a direction or a destination but I’m definitely being open to all of the miraculous things that will happen along the way.”
No Love Lost- “This is the most direct song, dealing with having met my father and his family. Normally one would say there is ‘no love lost between us’ and it would be a negative thing. I felt that there could be a literal twist with it. Because I never grew up with a father, I would often think about what I was missing out on; how not having a father was a loss. A very close friend told me that he envied me because he had a father but their relationship was terrible and he hated him; essentially stating that I was better off. Over the years, my perspective changed from anger and blame to more of just curiosity. What happened? Who is he? Why did he choose not to get involved in my life? The question was burning so that all I really dreamed of was having the opportunity to meet him and get some answers. I gave up hope after a while but I resolved myself to it, realizing that I couldn’t lose something I never had. There’s literally NO Love Lost. It acknowledges that I grew up with anger and resentment but accepts it. Here is what happened and how I felt; Dad, I need you to know and acknowledge that child but I want to create a new relationship based on who we can be to each other from here on out.”
Skating – “This is mainly a love song between a parent and a child but it’s also about how relationships can grow and sometimes grow apart for the good of the relationship. Certainly a child is dependent on the parent but must learn to skate on their own eventually; that can be a hard separation. Sometimes a love relationship can be like that as well. We may need to let go of each other sometimes so that we may personally grow past a dependence.”
Stand – “Inspired by the Parkland shooting survivors and the unfortunate way in which kids are asked to grow up in a world of violence, I was particularly inspired by how maturely they spoke out afterwards. I believe the adults have failed the kids. It was a very hard song to write but I really felt that I needed to add my voice to the conversation in some small way. It’s a damn shame.”
Stefano and the Slightly Irregulars are performing songs from the self-titled release (as well as others) at the official release show Saturday July 13th at Molly Malone’s (http://mollymalonesla.com/calendar/?event_id=9390525). While he’s the consummate sideman on King Leg gigs, those who have seen him as a front man can attest to Capobianco’s improvisational and energetic style. If the mood strikes him, anything from extended guitar solos to “on the spot” compositions are a possibility. He confesses, “When I’m supporting another artist’s music, I take it very seriously. I want to be reserved and precise. In my band, I’m the lead singer and the rhythm/lead guitarist. I’m the show. My own personal style leaves a lot more room for improvisation and is a bit riskier. I play off the cuff a lot more but I have learned to appreciate and incorporate the work ethic that I apply to King Leg music to my own songs –while still allowing myself the freedom to be spontaneous and create something new in the moment.”