Core band consists of Steve Conte on guitar and vocals with bass by his brother John Conte (Southside Johnny & The Jukes, David Bowie, Ian Hunter) and Charley Drayton (Keith Richards, Iggy Pop, The Replacements) on drums.
LP also features guest appearances by Clem Burke (Blondie), Andy Rourke (The Smiths), and Jesse Malin
“Bronx Cheer simply oozes cool and is an album full of attitude, energy and above all else, a real heart and soul, deep from within the bowels of New York’s rich musical heritage. A magnificent collection of songs, full of great melodies and fuzzed-up guitars, ranging from hard edged rock ’n’ roll to a heartfelt and soulful beauty. “- Louder Than War
“…as rowdy and raucous a collection of rock and roll as any you’ll hear this year. Not only are the songs quintessential New York City, they are the epitome of the city’s black leather clad heart and soul. “– Blog Critics
“The best rock and roll has the power to lift the sedentary from their chairs and make even the most blasé sing along. That’s a good description of what happens when you crank up Steve Conte.”- Elmore Magazine
“A bright, fuzzy sounding slice of American pop rock suitable for all.”- Backseat Mafia
Photo: Anja van Ast
New York City guitarist, singer and songwriter Steve Conte has released his first solo album in five years, the attitude-infused Bronx Cheer, out now on Wicked Cool Records.
Long known for his memorable guitar work as a member of New York Dolls, as well as former Hanoi Rocks frontman Michael Monroe’s band (with whom he still performs), Steve found international fame in recent years via his collaborations with Japanese composer and artist Yoko Kanno on the soundtracks to several hit anime series, including Cowboy Bebop.
Of the album’s title, Conte says, “A ‘Bronx cheer’ is what we also call a ‘raspberry.’ Sticking out your tongue and blowing air to make a fart sound. The title for this album works on many levels. First is the fact that I moved to The Bronx five years ago – and I’m lovin’ it! But it all came together when I found the photo, which is on the album cover, of a group of high school kids marching down Fifth Avenue protesting the election of Donald Trump. So not only is the lead kid, Theo Fenton, raising his fist in protest, contrasting the word ‘cheer,’ the title also gives Trump a big fat raspberry!”
The album’s 11 tuneful new songs, all written by Conte (with one co-written by Brynn Arens) are brimming with the spirit of New York both past and present. “I remember the danger, dirty streets, the garbage strike, sleazy 42nd Street,” Conte recalls of his first visits to the city as a kid in the 1970s. “When I moved here in the mid-1980s it was not all that different – but it’s very different now. Yet somehow, I still love it – and hate it. To me, that’s what the Blues and Punk Rock have in common – complaining!”_
The core of Bronx Cheer consists of Steve on guitar and vocals with bass by his brother John Conte (Southside Johnny & The Jukes, David Bowie, Ian Hunter) and the renowned Charley Drayton (Keith Richards, Iggy Pop, The Replacements) on drums. Album closer “Gimme Gimme Rockaway” features Clem Burke of Blondie on drums and Andy Rourke of The Smiths on bass, with Wicked Cool labelmate Jesse Malin on backing vocals.
Conte produced the album with Andrew Hollander, who in addition to work with Indie bands like White Rabbits has also composed and/or produced with Pop stalwarts like The Chainsmokers and Carly Rae Jepsen.“A lot of times Andrew was the tiebreaker between two different parts of my mind, like when I was wondering if I should play a 12-string solo or use a wah-wah pedal”, recalls Steve.
Tracking for the album began in September 2019 at Atomic Sound in Brooklyn. Overdubs were completed by February 2020, and the album was mixed during the pandemic by Niko Bolas (Neil Young, Keith Richards, Don Henley).
Raised in a musical family – Steve’s mother Rosemary Conte is a noted NY/NJ jazz singer – Steve started spending time in New York City as a kid, his father bringing him to his first Madison Square Garden concert, by none other than Chuck Berry. Some years later, Conte found himself playing an entire show onstage in Berry’s band. His own music first gained notice when his band Company Of Wolves signed to Mercury Records, releasing a self-titled album on the label in 1990. Over the years he’s also worked with Peter Wolf, Eric Burdon of The Animals, Willy DeVille, Billy Squier, Willie Nile, Maceo Parker, and even been Paul Simon’s tour rehearsal vocal stand-in.
Conte first met Wicked Cool founder Stevie Van Zandt when the Dolls played Van Zandt’s Underground Garage Festival in 2004. “But my connection with him goes back to Jersey,” he says. “I grew up with his cousins in Matawan [near the Jersey shore], so I had been hearing about his legend for years.”
And now, the songs of ‘Bronx Cheer’ in Steve Conte’s own words…
1. The Human Animal
It basically questions monogamy and how we are all animals. However, I have done my time as an animal and I’m quite happy with a one-to-one these days!
2. Liar Like You
It’s about how there are people that will use you, until they use you up – to quote one of my heroes, Bill Withers. I came up with the hook in my teen years. It’s a good sign when you can remember a song from as far back as high school and think it’s worth recording. The melody and phrasing of “I never seen a liar like you” has always stuck in my head, and is now especially meaningful since I’ve met more people over the years who I can cite as an inspiration for it.
3. Recovery Doll
I presented this song to both New York Dolls and Michael Monroe, so it was written with a fun and punky feel in mind. But then, in keeping with my usual Libra contrast/balance, the subject matter gets serious about addiction and recovery. I was thinking of a lot of people when making the composite person that the song is about: Amy Winehouse, Syl Sylvain, Killer Kane and Johnny Thunders from the Dolls, Hendrix, Janis, Prince, Petty, etc. We are always rooting for them to recover, but sometimes they go the other way. When I came up with the girl-group background vocals – “mm-bop-shoo-bop” – I knew I had to put my then-11-year-old son Zia’s voice on top of the girls. He’s been singing his butt off since he was a toddler. I had him sing on the Michael Monroe track “Child Of The Revolution” when he was three!
4. Wildwood Moon
Recently written, I was thinking back to those beach romances, making out with a girl you just met – a “holiday fling” – and the awkwardness of that youthful time. Nighttime on the beach is magical…
This one goes back to 1994 when I was working on a band that was never to be with Brynn Arens of Flipp. We jammed on this in my rehearsal studio very organically and I came up with the lyrics later. I did a few demos of it over the years and it never left my consciousness. I always knew it was a winner, and when I played it to filmmaker Peter Perenyi, he fell in love with it and was dying to make an epic video for it…which he has done now! It’s about how in the face of adversity, disappointment and trauma, a person of strong will can keep going for their dreams. Of course, in my case, it could just be that I’m stubborn as hell and can’t do anything else!
6. Dog Days Of Summer
It started with the title, which is a phrase I always liked, but when I was finished with it, I noticed that I wasn’t only writing about those awful hot days in August where you don’t want to do much of anything. I was also writing about getting older and watching the young upstarts, full of hope and goals, pushing hard to get somewhere – and seeing my kids zoom by me with all their energy. At this point, I feel like I can relax and don’t have much to prove, because my work is out there on records, on video, in the consciousness of the public – in my bubble, anyway. And the work speaks for itself.
7. Overnight Smash
This one is about professional jealousy. Once somebody starts “getting somewhere” in their career, there is always that crowd that, for whatever reason, got left behind in the dust. And then they like to shit-talk about ya. I threw in a bit of autobiographical stuff, like how when I first moved to NYC, I lived in a super-cheap apartment on the Upper East Side, which was not the hip Rock ’n’ Roll/Punk/art scene that the East Village and Lower East Side was. But everyone in both neighborhoods assumed I lived down there. I was caught between two worlds: the rich old ladies in my neighborhood scoffed at me, while the LES rockers thought I was some rich trust fund kid because I didn’t live near them in Alphabet City. I also kinda “borrowed” the concept here from one of my favorite bands from childhood, Black Oak Arkansas who had an album called 10 Year Overnight Success.
8. Those Sexy Lies
Inspired by the battle between Hillary Clinton and Trump. Some lies may look sexier than others…but everyone is dirty in politics. Although it could be about someone you work with, or for…or any kind of human relationship.
Another one from the early 1990s, inspired by a particularly bad relationship. Ya know, the kind where the more you pour out your heart, the more the other person recoils because of their damage.
10. My Degeneration
The story of my youth. Growing up 50 minutes outside of the city and taking the train in – or worse, driving in – and then scoring whatever substances we were after, sometimes getting ripped off, sometimes getting too high and attempting to drive back home. Yeah, I’m lucky to be alive.
11. Gimme Gimme Rockaway
My 2017 Wicked Cool Records single! Featuring Clem Burke of Blondie on drums, Andy Rourke of The Smiths on bass and Jesse Malin on backing vocals. This was originally written for Michael Monroe, but since I had already given him my “Ballad Of The Lower East Side,” I thought I’d keep this Noo Yawk anthem for myself.