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Reminisce With Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers in Song "Stack O Lee"

Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers is the heart and soul of music artist Ned Bollé. The rhythm of Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers music is smooth yet full of enriching properties. You can expect to receive a real and raw old-school sound with the group. With the combined surplus of instrumentals, the group flourishes with their collective melody alongside the deep and musky lead vocals. We're entranced, but honestly by the simplicity of Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers, and the joys that come from that. Listeners are in for a real Motown treat with Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers latest single, "Stack O Lee." You can physically hear the thick rasp in the delivered vocals, and once it's combined with the bluesy instruments, a reminiscent and reflective environment is manifested. We imagine "Stack O Lee" being played on those laidback, lax kind of days. Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers give off a natural sense of harmony; it's inherent to their style. That's why you can always expect authenticity with them, and also why you can expect every single release to be full of that rich, characteristic melody. The bright and thriving unity within Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers sound is incredible, and you'll catch us listening to "Stack O Lee" on a kick-back kind of day.

Discover "Stack O Lee" by Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers here


Welcome, Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers! "Stack O Lee" recently debuted, and the song featured an incredibly homey atmosphere, along with some of our favorite old-school sounds. What inspired the theme for the production of "Stack O Lee"?

When you take on a song that’s as old as “Stack”, you’re faced with a few options: you can take it update/modernize it. You can try to recreate an earlier, historical arrangement. You can stand it on its head: change the lyrics, the story, the pace or you can “move sideways, into another genre. Ultimately, I did several at once. The legend of “Stack” has been told in every conceivable genre, folk, big band, rock, R & B, even Hip Hop. It is, arguably the oldest Gangsta song, after all. The arrangement is fairly traditional New Orleans, but the banjo, mandolin and baritone slide give it a more rural flavor. The electric slide guitar takes the fill and solo lines that probably would have been sax or clarinet a hundred years ago. I wanted it to evoke an “Old” feel, but by relying on like “old vinyl” or “AM modulation” effects. They have their place. I really wanted the instruments and the playing to speak for itself. Alex (engineer and co-producer) has a great ear and an amazing collection of mics. We relied on old school ribbon and condenser mics, as well as a lot of vacuum tube outboard gear to capture the warmth of the instruments. I’ll assure your readers that no tubes were harmed in the making of this single.

Let's talk more about the traditional sounds you incorporate into your music, especially so in "Stack O Lee". Can you elaborate more on some of the prominent styles incorporated into the song? How did the vision for "Stack O Lee" come to fruition? 

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of swampy grooves. You throw a rhythm like this at Rick and Joey (Rick Plourde and Joey Pafumi, Bass and drums, respectively) and they’ll dig out a pocket so deep, you could lose your car keys in. We had played it live a few times and it evolved into a very solid feel. It always had the place rockin’. Once in the studio, I wanted to keep that feel and give it a more textured… a more nuanced sound. The story is based (loosely) on actual events in St. Louis, on Christmas, 1895. The song’s origins are from further down the Mississippi, so a New Orleans arrangement was a natural. When you hear slide played on a swampy resonator, you instantly think of the Delta and there is nothing swampier than a baritone reso.

Do you feel that parts of your music reflect the multitude of musical influences you have? Are there any visions stemmed from the musical creation of others?

Although I was born near Chicago, I’ve lived in the Northeast since I was 8. My first experiences playing publicly were with square dance bands. The music had a heavy Acadian tinge, French Canadian, with heavy Scottish, Irish, and English influences. A friend’s older brother introduced me to Zydeco and other music from New Orleans, including Clifton Chenier. It sounded familiar and different all at once. It wasn’t until years later that I realized why. Afterall “Acadian” is “a Cajun”. I like to think of my take on this style as “North Country Cajun”. In terms of my personal playing style, Sonny Landreth has been an enormous influence, especially in terms of technique. In terms of the arrangement and production approach, Ry Cooder comes to mind. Ry loves taking an old tune, reworking it, and making it sound “old” and brand new, all at once.

What do you believe will be the next move for Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers? Considering the resonant traditional sounds Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers are known for, what can listeners expect to hear next with future music to come? 

Like nearly every band and artist, the ‘Rona virus shutdown was a big setback for us. In fact, we had just finished tracking “Stack” when the Governor shut everything down. The mixing and mastering for “Stack O Lee” was all done remotely. I got the master file at about 11:30 one night. I listened to it on earbuds, got dressed, and ran down to the car and drove around the block so I could crank it up. As far as style-wise, we always like to mix things up. Our first album, Box 1 was a smorgasbord of styles: Blues, Americana, Country/Methgrass, Rock. Fusion, Zydeco, and that diversity of styles and influences aren’t going away. While I love instrumental music, I’m focusing more on vocal tunes moving forward.

What can we expect to see from you through 2020? Now that we’ll have access to the studio again, I’m looking to finish up several more singles in the next month or so. Like nearly every artist, we’re waiting to see when gigs will become available, but we’re still on track for a full-length album later this year.



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