The Longtooth Arcade — the alter ego of Seattle-based bandleader Steve Horvath — follows in the tradition of darkly poetic Americana storytellers such as Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Charles Bukowski, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Captain Beefheart, Jon Spencer, and filmmaker Jim Jarmusch. Artists whose output was informed from their personal interpretation of American Rock and roll, blues, gospel, country, and their unique outlooks on heartbreak, daily living, and hardships. The Longtooth Arcade’s debut, Sidetracked, is a 10-song collection of voodoo-conjuring deconstructed rock n’ roll that comes off as the bastard child of Muddy Waters and Jon Spencer.
Prior to forming The Longtooth Arcade, Steve lived in Los Angeles, New York City, and Seattle. Previously, he played in a stripped-down garage punk trio in the style of The Gories and The Oblivians. That band played the seminal Gutterfest in Detroit, and its early unreleased tracks made their way to KEXP’s Roadhouse with Greg Vandy where they garnered active airplay.
Like its name suggests, Sidetracked is the result of an interrupted artistic continuum. Steve collected these songs over the years, methodically sculpting them through adding instrumentation and homing in on their essentials. Initially, these were skeletal jams for a band to flesh out, but when Steve couldn’t round up other musicians, he became his band. A gifted guitarist already, he branched out and learned the instruments he needed in order to finish each track. Through the process, Steve became a full-blown multi-instrumentalist, capable of getting what he needed out of the upright piano, the Hammond organ, the pedal steel guitar, congas, and the harmonica.
Sidetracked defies genre constraints, but stakes out its own blues and roots-based identity. What makes the project standout is the quality of the songs, the strength of the musicianship, the playfulness of the lyrics, and cleverness of the arrangements. The 10-tracks also keep the listener guessing as it fishtails through impactful 3-minute rock songs, funky instrumentals, pleading gospel-blues, country-tinged laments, and some corn whiskey Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf-styled blues tunes.
Today Glide is excited to premiere the album’s first single, “I’m Going Upstairs,” a swaggering blues rocker that feels like it was pulled from the depths of the Mississippi River. Bringing to mind the bluesier sounds of the Rolling Stones, the swampy tune is oozing with greasy slide guitar, big chunky riffs, and an in-the-pocket beat. Alongside a musical nod to the Stones, The Longtooth Arcade draws inspiration from legends like Muddy Waters and Hound Dog Taylor as well as roots-punk artists like the Gun Club and the Knoxville Girls. We even get hits of harmonica and big moments of gritty, charged up vocals that add to the wild intensity of the track and lead into a psych-rock freakout in the final moments.
Steve Horvath describes the inspiration behind the song:
“I’m Going Upstairs” is probably the most complete and fully realized song on the upcoming record. It is about a pivotal moment in a relationship where a partner has left to travel and be with someone else but realizes that that was a mistake and is now coming back. As the artist, I sing the song from the perspective of the person who the partner is coming back to. The singer runs through a range of emotions on how to take back the wayward partner. It starts out with weary frustration of why this had to happen in the first place, knowing that what the partner was leaving for is not all it was cracked up to be. And then some anger and hurt that won’t make it easy to just welcome them back with open arms.
The song takes its title from the John Lee Hooker song of the same name, takes the subject of a troubled relationship, but creates a whole other story based on the title. And like the John Lee original song there are some nitty gritty references to the carnal aspect of the relationship sprinkled in there. But the theme of “going upstairs” is explored. The chorus itself is a gradually ascending stair-like chord progression. The singer when he is feeling down goes to “that room upstairs” and has to go to a higher place in order to cope and be able to accept the partner back in. The singer has an almost menacing tone but explains yes I am angry and frustrated but that “there will be no crime”. However by the end of the last chorus finally reaching that last stair, the singer gives in to the more powerful emotional relief that the partner came to their senses and is coming home. The vocals, that started out as tired and weary, end in fiery, impassioned real soul.
Another note – the wayward partner was traveling to Memphis. For a long time I was considering moving to Memphis or some place closer to the sources of the music that I have drawn so much inspiration from: yearning for a musical home where the music I am creating would “make sense”. So for me, “going down to Memphis” represents that. I’m still dealing with that yearning.