Firehouse guitarist Bill Leverty’s latest project, Flood The Engine, is classic, melodic hard rock at its finest. Together with Keith Horne (bass), Andre LaBelle (drums) and Jimmy Kunes (vocals), Leverty has managed to channel elements from many of his favorite guitarists while also adding his own personal flair, giving the album a much broader appeal.
In addition to the killer vibe this combination of players brings to their own original compositions, the eight track opus also includes two tasty renditions of mid-70′s gold: “All The Girls Are Crazy” (Back Street Crawler) and “Love Is Alive” (Gary Wright).
I sat down with Leverty to talk Flood The Engine and more.
James Wood (JW): What started the Flood The Engine project?
Bill Leverty (BL): Keith Horne called me up one day and asked if I’d be interested in putting together a recording project. I knew that he had recently moved back to the area and doing anything that Keith’s involved with is a huge honor. I asked him who he had lined up for a drummer and he said Andre (LaBelle); who I’ve known since the early 80′s. Andre and I had always wanted to work together, but were both in different bands.
JW: How did you hook up with Jimmy Kunes?
BL: When we were looking for singers, I suggested him. Jimmy has elements of all of the great classic rock singers all rolled into one. When his vocal cords rub together, it sounds so good. Once we had all of the pieces in place, Jimmy came down on a train from New York City and we wrote and recorded the album.
JW: How was writing for this album different from writing with Firehouse?
BL: It’s kind of similar in some ways and different in others. Generally, I’d come up with a guitar riff and then send it off to Jimmy; or Andre, Keith and I would assemble a song instrumentally together and send it to Jimmy. Sometimes we’d give him an idea of what we had in mind, but we always gave Jimmy the freedom to do what he wanted to with his voice and lyrics. We wanted to make sure that everybody could put their own individual style into the project and then we’d showcase it all as a group.
JW: Let’s talk about some songs on the album: “Lay It All On Me”.
BL: That was the first song we wrote for this record. I had sent Jimmy a demo of some music with just a basic beat and a guitar riff. He immediately got some lyrics and a melody together. He also had an idea of what to use chord wise. In addition to being a phenomenal singer, he’s also a very accomplished guitarist.
JW: “All Your Trouble.”
BL: That one started with a guitar riff as well. I remember we had worked out the music and then Jimmy [with his creative mind] came in and just started scribbling down lyrics. To watch him work is amazing. He just has a pad of paper and a pen and scribbles like there’s a typewriter going off inside of his head and he’s just trying to keep up with it [laughs].
JW: “Open And Undone.”
BL: That song started out with Andre’s drum beat. He and I sat in a room together for a few hours and put together the music for it. The song has a simplistic rhythm, but a very unique beat. It creates such a perfect mood. I remember Jimmy listened to it for a while and then had another scribble session where he got very spontaneous. It was another one of those things where we gave him a skeleton of a song and he just went to town on it.
JW: In addition to six originals, you also have two covers on the album. [“All The Girls Are Crazy” & “Love Is Alive”]. Was there a reason why you chose those particular songs?
BL: Jimmy and I had recorded a version of “All The Girls Are Crazy” together a few years ago. He and I have a common ground appreciation of Paul Kossoff, and that song in particular was one of our favorites. What Andre and Keith added to it was awesome.
Keith was the one who mentioned that he had always wanted to do a version of “Love Is Alive” and it was the perfect suggestion. I remember hearing that song when it first came out and thinking what a great tune it was. People who hear it today can still identify with it lyrically and the melody works so well with Jimmy’s voice and soulful delivery. It’s such a unique song and it also gives Keith a chance to shine as well.
JW: What gear are you using for your live rig now a days?
BL: I’m using a Fractal Audio Axe Fx II. I go from that direct into a monitor console and straight into the front house PA. It’s a two rack space unit that you plug into. It has over a hundred different amp and speaker cabinet combinations along with every rack effect you can imagine. So it can be used to sound like any amp you want. I’ve actually sold nine of my amps since I’ve gotten it. It’s the greatest thing that’s happened to the electric guitar since the pickup.
JW: What satisfies you the most about Flood The Engine?
BL: The goal of this project was to put together an album that we all felt good about. For me, being able to get together with these guys was an honor, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of the process.
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