Hailing from Detroit, The Kreellers have hammered through 110 shows in a year, sometimes playing three gigs in a day. But now is their time to shine.
“This Changes Everything” is the appropriately named EP, the latest release from the band, which consists of two brothers, Derek Wade (vocals/harmonica) and Paul Bruno (guitars), as well as drummer Bob Gilbert, bassist Steve Vilnius and Wes Fritzemeier on fiddle/mandolin. The EP shows a shift in The Kreellers’ purpose, honing in on a Celtic rock/pop sound that still possesses a traditional Irish style.
“We are Celtic rock/punk but with the new EP, we’re leaning toward that poppy sound,” Wade says.
“This Changes Everything” features five original tunes, including the single “Six 7” and the powerful cover of the Cranberries’ hit “Salvation.”
Bruno, who along with his brother was influenced by his father’s love of Celtic music, is dubbed The Kreellers’ main songwriter with his bandmates pitching in. The quintet works on music together, jamming out the skeletons of tunes until they’re finished.
“Derek will then fine tune some of the melodies and the lyrics a little bit,” Vilnius says. “He’s the one singing them. There are a few things that he’ll truncate or maybe he’ll change a phrase up, add a half verse or a full verse. The songs definitely go through an element where we pound them into shape.”
The focus for The Kreellers has been on original music, while trying to branch a tad outside of Celtic. This is the time for The Kreellers, with the influx of traditional rock acts on the radio.
“People like Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers come out and they have these different instruments in bands that people don’t know about and they’re making it mainstream,” Wade says. “It’s nothing to turn on the radio and hear a banjo, or hear a fiddle in bands that aren’t country.”
The album was produced by Chuck Alkazian of Pearl Sound Studios in Canton Township. His discography is diverse, ranging from Soundgarden to Ben Taylor, from Mitch Ryder to Blessthefall. He calls himself more of a “Rick Rubin type of producer. A musical guy as opposed to a one-genre techie dude.” That was exactly what The Kreellers were looking for when seeking the live feel of a gig.
“Chuck got us. He said, ‘I know what you want. Just let me produce.’ We let him produce and we’re damn happy with the results,” Vilnius says.
Some of the songs came together quickly, like the two-hour journey that led to “Salvation,” and others were labors of love. But what it comes down to, the EP is a jam, thanks to Alkazian, who brought musical discipline to The Kreellers.
“Everybody worked really hard,” Vilnius says. “He didn’t seem like he had to work us that hard, but there’s a lot of psychology involved in production. He uses that even if it’s humorous; you loosen up and you get some great tracks that way.”
And those tracks are going down favorably at shows across the Midwest and at well-attended festivals. That’s where The Kreellers are at their finest.
“There’s an element of spontaneity at festivals,” Vilnius says. “We really gauge the crowd. It’s really fun that I don’t ever play the same stuff twice when we do the gigs. People love it and we love it.”
Derek Wade—lead vocals/harmonica