Most bands have an amusing anecdote to tell whenever someone asks them about their name. In the case of Philadelphia quartet Stolen Rhodes, they have two.
“We had a Rhodes keyboard that was stolen from our singer earlier in his music career,” explains Kevin Cunningham, the band’s lead guitarist. And the other story? “The band may have commandeered a Rhodes at some point from an undisclosed location,” he sheepishly admits.
Take another look at that last sentence: the band sought to reacquire a Rhodes piano, a keyboard that’s been out of fashion for nearly three decades. The band’s name isn’t just a funny story – it’s a battle cry.
“The music of the past is what spoke to us the loudest,” explains Cunningham. “It is music you can feel, timeless music, songs that people react to in any generation. It's less like a yearbook of a certain point in time and more like a National Geographic magazine. It's good no matter when you hear it.”
Of course, you would expect a response like that from a band whose principal songwriters, singer/multi-instrumentalist Matt Pillion and bassist/guitarist Dan Haase, grew up a stone’s throw away from Bruce Springsteen’s adopted hometown of Asbury Park. It’s not like they really had a choice in the matter; “The classic Asbury sound was in the water,” Cunningham jokes.
The Boss’ influence proves to be more spiritual than literal, however, on Falling off the Edge, Stolen Rhodes’ debut album. If anything, the ghost of the Allman Brothers looms the largest, particularly in the mile-wide chorus of “Blue Sky” and the easy-like-Sunday-morning “Freight Train.” (Speaking of “Easy,” the band’s track “Beautiful Way” sounds like the Allmans taking a crack at that very Commodores song.) Pillion takes no vocal cues from the Southern rock gods, though; his raspy tenor is bound to draw (lazy) comparisons to Kings of Leon’s Caleb Followill, but one listen to the horn-kissed “One Day Everyday” and it’s clear that Free-era Paul Rodgers is a better starting point.
At least for the moment, anyway. While they may currently take their inspiration from an earlier time, Stolen Rhodes has no interest in carving out a career as a classic rock tribute band. For them, the writing process is nonstop and constantly evolving. “It changes daily,” Cunningham says. “We are all students of music, so we are all bringing in our own personal tastes that we continue to discover to expand our sound.” One aspect of the band’s personality that seems unlikely to change, though, is their love of playing live. Indeed, for each day they spend writing new material, they spend five days practicing for that weekend’s gig, and that passion for performing can be felt throughout Falling off the Edge. With each track clocking in at a minimum of five minutes, this is a band that loves to let their songs breathe, and are not afraid to go wherever the moment takes them.
Their hard work has thus far paid off in the form of a dedicated – and diverse – live following, and also earned them the respect of veteran acts from opposite ends of the music spectrum (punk rockers Dropkick Murphys and country act Diamond Rio have both sung the band’s praises), and while Stolen Rhodes is grateful for the regional success they’ve attained, they have their eyes on a larger prize. Falling off the Edge, they hope, will serve as their calling card to the national stage.