Those who follow American roots music in-depth already know that Europe is thriving with interest in authentic expressions of American roots, including classic country and bluegrass. Many American independent artists and labels laud the European market as a bastion of support for projects that sometimes are virtually ignored in their country of origin, but blow up in the Old World. And more and more Europeans have been dropping the techno routine and taking up traditional acoustic instruments to become willing participants in the roots revival.
Such is the case for the Finland-based roots band Steve ‘N’ Seagulls. “We all knew each other and had been playing together before,” explains Pukki Kaalinen of the band, who says they morphed into their current incarnation in 2011. “We just switched to acoustic instruments and found a barn to practice in.”
Finding inspiration from the “agricultural environment,” when the band posted a fun video of an old-school acoustic version of Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” on June 10th, the video went viral. It received nearly 2 million hits, and Steve ‘N’ Seagulls had found their niche not just in Finland, but in the roots world at large. Though it was clearly a gimmick, the instrumentation was so spot on, and the singing so clear, it was a great cross-continent collaboration of an English song, with American roots instrumentation, performed by Finnish natives.
After the success of “The Trooper,” they posted another cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver” that subsequently received nearly 1 million hits itself. Then they decided to cover “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC, and all hell broke loose. “We knew to expect some following on YouTube thanks to our previous videos, but this much attention came as a bit of a surprise,” says Pukki Kaalinen. At the time of posing, Steve ‘N’ Seagulls’ “Thunderstruck” cover has received over 5 million views and counting. People from all over the world have been reaching out to the band to book them for shows, and they have become an international roots music sensation.
“All of us had been listening to AC/DC since childhood, so ‘Thunderstruck’ was really an obvious choice,” Kaalinen says. “Besides, its fantastic lyrical nonsense is perfect for non-native English speakers.”
Beyond the gimmick of a bluegrass-like band covering AC/DC, what makes the video so compelling is how perfect the arrangement is, how flawless they pull it off, how their singing is perfect, and how well the entire thing sounds so good recorded with just one camera in a barn. Steve ‘N’ Seagulls tried the hardest of all acoustical acrobatic routines, and pulled it off.
With a band like this, the next question always becomes if can they rise above the gimmicks and offer something original, or something compelling from its depth. “We’re currently working on an album which is to be released probably during next winter,” Pukki Kaalinen says. But in the meantime, Steve ‘N’ Seagulls has people from all over the world banging heads and stomping feet to accordion and banjo.