February 14, 2006 > Lassoing the World: The Alien Cowboys
Lassoing the World: The Alien Cowboys
by Nitasha Sharma
What do you get when you combine the space race and an old western movie? To Greg Jones, Ralph Perucci, Bruce Stevenson, and Ian Thomson, the answer is simple: Alien Cowboys.
It all started in 1997, when guitarist Bruce Stevenson found a friend in a fellow musician who had daughters the same age as his. As their daughters grew closer, Stevenson and drummer Ian Thomson, spent more and more time "tinkering" with chord progressions they molded into songs. Soon, the duo decided to record five songs informally, adding much-needed bass guitarist, Greg Jones to the mix. However, the band was incomplete without some form of melody. Jones, Stevenson, and Thomson decided that they needed either a lead vocalist or a lead guitarist. After hearing about jingle writer Ralph Perucci's extraordinary musical talent, Stevenson sent Perucci the recently recorded songs so that he could work his magic. Perucci became the band's lead guitarist after completing melodies for the first five songs and five additional songs written shortly following the first set. After recording the 10 songs, Alien Cowboys had their first album.
Peanut butter and jelly are a likely duo, but Aliens and Cowboys? In an age where the space race was forefront in society and western movies inspired young men to be rugged cowboys, it only seemed natural to the four musicians to use the name Alien Cowboys, reflecting both the era and the band's identity.
The group prides itself on being unique because they don't conform to any one genre of music. While they are influenced by rock and blues, Stevenson refuses to identify the band with the blues, a form of music he says many consider "trucks, women, booze, and a guitar solo." When people ask the Alien Cowboys who they sound like, they say, "Nobody." Instead of following the practice of "jamming," common in modern instrumental music, the band writes song forms that follow a pattern made of verses punctuated with a break and a chorus. Their goal says Stevenson, is to do what great composers like Mozart and Bach did centuries ago- "withstand the test of time."
"I don't need to be told what to think," says Perucci. The strictly instrumental music played by Alien Cowboys and other instrumental groups allows listeners to create mental pictures based upon their imaginations, whereas lyrics of a song tell listeners what images they should be seeing. "We love to watch people's faces when we're performing," says Stevenson, "we change and alter [the audience's] opinions." The group struggles to break boundaries and dissolve stereotypes surrounding music without vocals. A major obstacle for the musicians is proving to people that their preconceptions are inaccurate. Nevertheless, Alien Cowboys have found success in three Grammy ballot nominations over the past three years.
Their music has found audiences all across the globe. In fact, they often tour European countries like Germany and the UK and Asian countries like China and India. Because there are no vocals, there are no language barriers to break through, says Stevenson.
The band has a fifth member, producer Bill Drescher. Drescher has produced artists such as The Bangles, Rick Springfield, Ringo Starr, and Rod Stewart. Without Drescher, says Stevenson, the band would not be as successful.
Celebrity status is not exactly new to all members of the band. Stevenson, apart from being a member of Alien Cowboys, is also distinguished in Fremont because of his father, Jack Stevenson who was the first Mayor of Fremont in 1954. "He was basically a founding father of Fremont," says Stevenson. In fact, Stevenson Boulevard was named after Stevenson, Sr.
For now, Alien Cowboys plan to be pioneers of a new style of music. A "one hit wonder" is another goal they are striving for. They say that they may try vocal pieces on their album, but only to expand their creativity and become better-adapted musicians, says Stevenson. Stevenson says they wouldn't mind winning a Grammy either.
"Lift," a recent Alien Cowboys album, is available for purchase on iTunes. Alien Cowboys have two upcoming performances: one at the Little Fox Theatre in Redwood City on Feb. 24 and another at the San Jose Spiders Pro Women's Basketball Team Halftime Show on Feb. 26.
For more information about Alien Cowboys, visit their website at www.aliencowboys.com where you can listen to songs, purchase CDs, view information about the band, and check upcoming performances.