By Amalia P. Spagnolo
For all their lucky breaks, Adam Herman of The Slamming Doors wants people to know how grateful they are for the support they’ve received. Their name inspired by the saying “When one door closes, another door opens,” the Iron Range musicians are on the cusp of realizing the dream of their first full-length album. They’re eagerly awaiting the chance to showcase their original songs for family, friends and fans of local live music.
The Slamming Doors will debut their new album “Road Beneath the Wheel” at their CD release show at 9 p.m., on Saturday, May 31, at the Sawmill Saloon in Virginia. They’ll share the stage with special guests Jillian Rae Duo and Big Wave Dave and The Ripples. Doors open at 8 p.m. The cover charge is $4. Jillian Rae Duo opens the show featuring The Slamming Doors, with Big Wave Dave and The Ripples wrapping the evening.
The Slamming Doors is composed of Herman (lead vocal/acoustic guitar), Craig LaSart (bass guitar), Matt Johnson (drums), Mike Randolph (pedal steel guitar), Pat Hawkinson (lead guitar/banjo) and Craig Skalko (keyboard/piano). The area musicians had played with other bands in the Upper Midwest before they formed The Slamming Doors in late 2011. They performed their first show as a new band in February 2012.
“This new album is our first full-length CD. We did an EP in 2012, a little thing we did when we first got together so we had something to push our (original) songs at shows,” Herman said. Characterizing the band’s sound, he noted the influence of groups like the Dave Matthews Band and the Allman Brothers.
The Slamming Doors found their stylistic roots in Southern rock, soul and the jam-band movement.
“We play a lot of bluesy kind of stuff, a lot of funky country music,” he said. “It’s really pretty eclectic, kind of ‘alt-country.’”
Herman described himself as a fan of Ryan Adams, Mark Knopfleer (of Dire Straits), Paul Simon and Neil Young. While citing them as “singer/songwriters of Americana”—the style The Slamming Doors emulate—he emphasized that The Slamming Doors “do all original stuff.”
“At the show, there’ll be covers of some Grateful Dead and Dire Straits songs and a couple of other tunes,” Herman said, “But we mostly stay with our original music because that’s what we’re best at. This album — all 13 songs — is all our work.” Except for one written by bassist LaSart, Herman wrote the CD’s songs.
Because it was all original music, The Slamming Doors wanted to record the full-length album themselves. The process took more than a year.
“We could really take our time with it, get quality gear and work out the songs and the parts well,” Herman said, “not feeling like we were rushed on studio time.”
In Fall 2013, halfway through the lengthy production process, keyboardist Skalko joined The Slamming Doors. Though “the songs were locked down and ready to go to print,” the band decided to redo them to include Skalko.
“We wanted to get him on the album as well,” Herman recalled. “We reworked the songs to add the keys.” Looking back with no regrets, they agreed Skalko “made the album a lot fuller.” Herman praised his contribution, saying, “It’s a lot better with Craig — I’m glad we did it.”
Acknowledging how often bands add and subtract members, Herman credited their real friendship with creating The Slamming Doors’ bond. “It’s helped that we’re all friends,” he said.
With the help of other friends and fans, The Slamming Doors were able to produce “Road Beneath the Wheel.” Herman explained their “Direct-to-Fan” partnership with Pledge Music. Similar to Kickstarter, it’s an online crowd-sourced funding platform for musical artists. It connects them with fans —“Pledgers” — for pre-sale, marketing and distribution of music projects.
Pledge Music also encourages musicians to include charitable contributions in their fundraising incentives and goals.
“They work with us. You preorder the album; you have packages that people get,” Herman said. “Once we reach our goal to pay for post-production — print, mastering, duplications and all of that — a percentage of all of the money it makes over that we’ll put into music programs for area public schools up here on the Range.”
Prior to the CD’s mid-June official release, friends, family and fans of local live music have the chance to enjoy the result of the band’s 15-month-long effort. “Road Beneath the Wheel” may be purchased through Pledge Music and will be available at the launch show. Joining The Slamming Doors for the album’s debut event are Jillian Rae Duo and Big Wave Dave and The Ripples.
Jillian Rae is a multi-talented violinist/vocalist/songwriter who grew up on the Iron Range. A dynamic solo performer, she is billed for the Sawmill show as ‘Jillian Rae Duo’ with husband Eric Martin on guitar. Herman praised them, noting, “They’re out of the Twin Cities, and they’re really great.”
Big Wave Dave and The Ripples will appear at the Sawmill as well. Driven by their horns, powered by their rhythm section and led by bluesy front man Dave Adams, they play their own original material and a mix of their favorite tunes from other artists. “They’re fantastic,” said Herman. “They should get people really excited.”
Anticipating a thrilling show, Herman couldn’t help but repeat the band’s gratitude for the opportunity to play the music they love.
“I’d like people to know that we’re very thankful for all of their help and support. We’ve have a great response from everybody. They’ve been wonderful in helping us promote and in listening. Any help is good help.”
For more information, log onto www.theslammingdoors.com, www.pledgemusic.com/projects/roadbeneaththewheel and www.facebook.com/Theslammingdoors.