“I like to think of my style as guitar gumbo” says Altered Five Blues Band’s Jeff Schroedl. “I’ve listened to everyone, and my influences range from BB, Albert and Freddie King to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton and the jazz guys like Kenny Burrell, Grant Green and Joe Pass. We all draw from different influences, and I think what we’ve ended up with is a unique blend.”
The Wisconsin band’s new album, Ten Thousand Watts, is a testament to their stylistic diversity. Not only do they have the enviable knack of delivering snappy songs that pack a punch without overstaying their welcome (much like Anson Funder-burgh and Little Charlie & the Nightcats), but they also have quite the knack for humorous and often alcohol-inspired song lyrics.
Prime examples include Great Minds Drink Alike and I Hate to Leave You (with a Six-Pack in the Fridge). “Hey, we’re from Milwaukee,” Schroedl explains when we touch on this. “It’s a brew town here; there’s a lot of beer…”
Schroedl’s economical and melodically hip soloing defines the band’s sound, and his approach to developing his own voice could serve as a useful tip for any guitarist. “Several years ago I simply stopped trying to sound like someone else and started to build my own style around the things that myself and zeroed in on the quirky things that set me apart and started to emphasize those things,” the bluesman says.
His guitar sound is primarily the classic combo of a Stratocaster electric guitar into a Fender amp. “I’ve been a Strat player for a long time, although on the new album I also used an ES-335 or a Les Paul for a lot of rhythm tracks. I love vintage Fender amps in the studio and on the road. I take the ones that are in less-than-pristine condition to gigs but keep the mint examples for the home and studio.”
Altered Five have found that today’s blues market is strikingly different from the era when Robert Cray, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and SRV galvanized a wider audience outside of the hardcore community.
“We have to travel quite some distance each weekend for festivals,” Schroedl says. “Our sales are steadily increasing, but I guess the chances of being able to turn playing blues into a full-time gig are fairly remote these days. Our audience is steadily building, though, so we really can’t complain. We’re really looking forward to spreading the Altered Five Blues Band word.”