Farewell, Roster McCabe; hello, Night Phoenix

The band formerly known as Roster McCabe at the Cabooze in 2013.
The band formerly known as Roster McCabe at the Cabooze in 2013.
Photo by Erik Hess

As 2013 passed into memory, so did local jam-funk fusionists Roster McCabe. In the new year, they'll continue the journey as Night Phoenix, a four-piece space rock outfit, ready for new heights and hairstyles. The guys made the announcement in December after unrolling a three-part "goodbye" video montage featuring, among other antics, a run-in with Shoeless Revolution singer Reed Grimm, a former American Idol contestant.

Gimme Noise caught up with Alex Steele, Night Phoenix's lead vocalist on keyboards, about the frizz, the future of the group and how to start recording music with your sister.

Gimme Noise: Before we go any further, did you really cut that signature hair off last week?

Alex Steele: Well, it's true. And up until now we've been unofficially known, at our expense, as a modern-day hair band, but I'm sure you can appreciate the desire to start something new and commemorate the change in a physical way. The truth is the hair has never really been a part of my identity. In fact, when I initially started growing it, I did it with the intention of donating it when it was long enough. That plan was put on hold for a couple years, but I decided now was as good a time as any to make good on that intention. Plus, I've had my fun with it. I get to dust off my hats and "Wigs for Kids" gets a monster bag-o-hair.

CP: Roster McCabe recently announced it would now be known as Night Phoenix. What's the idea here, and what were those conversations like amongst the band?

We had been discussing the pros and cons of changing the name of the project for a while. As many of our fans are aware, up until this year, Roster McCabe toured full-time as a five-piece band. Starting in 2013, we evolved into our four-piece and we no longer identified with the name of the past, particularly because the name Roster McCabe is maternal in its nature, being the maiden names of our former member's mother and grandmother. He was a large part of why Roster McCabe was what it was, and we don't mean to change or disillusion people as to what we are now.

We built that legacy and we mean to honor what it was to all of us, and move forward with a new intention, new energy, and new evolution. It was unanimous that we needed to put the "Rooster" to rest and focus on moving forward, not on what we were leaving behind.

Roster McCabe recently created a three-part "goodbye" montage on YouTube. How hard was it on your followers?

Hopefully not too hard. Although it was our intention to draw out some intrigue and attention, we tried to keep the message light and funny as to break the news softly. We had a lot of fun creating the videos. We are very excited to begin the new chapter of our career and we wanted everyone to symbolically feel what we have been feeling all year. It will probably take some time to regain the online presence we had - we have a very strong grassroots fan base and support network. Our core of friends and fans would come see us no matter if our name was Rooster McNab, Night Fetus, Musclemen Randy Savage -- maybe not Night Fetus.

You've been touring at packed bars, clubs and local festival circuits for quite some time. What's to follow in 2014 and beyond with the new identity?

This year is going to open up a lot more opportunities as far as working with more colleague musicians in a collaborative effort to break some new ground. We also want to take more time to live and experience more of the places we go see and the people who make those places amazing. Much more new music and interaction with our fans as well. I'm still crossing my fingers for an overseas journey, but we have a lot to look forward to.


The Kickstarter campaign for 2010's Through Space and Time was very successful for you. How will that experience affect the way you produce material in the future?

What it did for me was very strongly affirm that we have a place in the music industry and that people do, in fact, like what we do. It was the most humbling feeling to have people believe in us enough to fund a project that we dreamt up and honestly couldn't have finished any other way. Never underestimate the power of the fan and don't take them or their support for granted because in the end, it is your career.

You've kept the pay-what-you-want model alive with the distribution of your music. How has it worked out for you?

It's really the only way as far as we see it. Everyone has their own way of saying it; the industry has changed. You have two choices: make something of great quality and let the people who take it decide its monetary worth or you decide the worth and risk the chance of keeping your music from tons of potential fans. Your music can't be your only means of creating profit and should in fact be the greatest promotional tool you possess. It has been a huge decision for us and I think has helped us gain much momentum and fans in places where people might not have heard of us if it hadn't been for a friend of theirs grabbing a CD off the table. The exponential potential of gaining one fan outweighs having the full $10 for a CD that someone might not appreciate it. Also, I would rather have someone's last $3 for something they really want than someone's $10 who's really not that interested.

You and local songstress Alicia Steele [Kanser] are related. Any brother-sister collaborations to come?

I am so incredibly amazed, proud and in awe of [Alicia's] diligence, honor and demeanor in building her music career over the last couple years and she impresses me every single time. We have done a couple fun things in the past, but nothing substantial in our adult careers. For Christmas this year, I gave her a day of recording in the studio so HOPEFULLY SHE TAKES ME UP ON THE OFFER! Can you make sure you post this on her wall, someone?

Roster McCabe was known to spring covers on crowds from the likes of Ginuwine, Willy Wonka and Led Zeppelin. Will Night Phoenix continue to hold dear the element of surprise?

Now what kind of surprise would it be if I let everyone in on the element of surprise? I will say that between the four of us, we have a huge range of tastes and variety in our cover selection. You'll just have to come to a show and find out!

The farewell videos:

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