Steel Beans set the internet alight last year with their Molotov Cocktail Lounge video, a righteous rock’n’roll riot in which a kimono-sporting Jeremy DeBardi sings and plays guitar and drums simultaneously. This extraordinary technique was worked out one day when both the bassist and drummer were late for rehearsal.
“I sat down at the drums texting them, with my guitar round my neck,” recalls Jeremy. “I hit the kick pedal, and just started playing drums and guitar and singing. It was like, ‘Oh, I guess that’s a thing I can do!’”
Jeremy has been jamming away with anyone who’ll play with him since 2006, working through around 50 bandmates across 13 albums. “I’ve never had anybody quit, I never kicked anyone out, all these people are on good terms - I just shift it up every couple of years,” Jeremy explains, his genial manner affirming why so many folks want to be in his band.
“Maybe it’s a subconscious Zappa influence. I love that he changed the genre and line-up every few years. In 2021 I had a four-piece psychedelic band, I was really leaning into the Syd Barrett aesthetic. The year after that I came back with an eight-piece band with vibraphone, horns and violin, this big, full sound.”
And yet, for the wider world to finally cotton onto Jeremy’s mad creative energy, he’s had to strip everything down as far as it can be stripped – an irony that’s not lost on the man himself. “I never wanted the band to be about me, I wanted it to be about the songs,” he insists.
“With my full band it’s a whole production – it’s song after song with theatrics, lighting changes, tapes and shit, but my solo show is a stream-of-consciousness stand-up comedy trainwreck that’s really punk rock and raw. I play in tiny bars in the middle of nowhere, because they’re the only places that give you a guarantee! It’s an intimate one-on-one and it gets weird.”
It got even weirder on June 16, when Steel Beans played London’s O2 arena as support to Tenacious D. Jeremy exhales in wonderment at the thought. “I’ve been a fan for a long time. I had the DVD of their HBO show – there was no other way to listen to those songs at the time, so I hooked RCA cables out of the DVD player into my recording unit and recorded them to CD so I could listen to them in my car!”
Fast forward to November 2022, when Jeremy received an email from someone calling themself Jack Black. “It said some really nice things, it seemed like stuff he might say, but I showed my friends and said, ‘This is fake, right? It can’t be real.’”
Jeremy asked the mysterious admirer to verify his identity, but he never heard back, so he reached out to Jack Black’s Instagram account. The real JB said, “Not me!”, so it seemed to be a mischievous hoax. So, it was a double surprise three weeks later when Tenacious D’s management contacted him about opening shows in the USA and Europe.
“I was not even done processing the American dates when they asked about European dates,” says Jeremy, still overwhelmed by this leap to the big leagues. Playing the UK is a particular dream come true – “More than half the music I listen to is from the UK,” he enthuses, singling out The Who’s legendary loon Keith Moon as his key motivator.
“He’s my all-time favourite, he changed my life, man. I got into playing drums when I was two, never had any lesson on any instrument, just listened to records and played along. Then I found Keith Moon, and that was the beginning of the end for me! I didn’t know you could drum like that!”
Jeremy’s need for musical expression runs deep; his maternal grandparents played in a band, and influenced him greatly. “They were called The Jive Bombers, they played a lot of rhythm and blues,” he smiles. “That was a fun band to grow up around!”
Immersed in rock’n’roll since birth, Jeremy plans to surf Steel Beans’ wave hard with relentless gigging, but he’s asking a colossal amount of himself. As well as the singing, drumming and guitaring, he also manages the band, handles the bookings - and even does all the driving too. He even played one show concussed after a road accident.
“We got T-boned by a lady near a venue,” Jeremy admits (he invited her to the show, naturally). “I went up onstage and my head hurt, I felt dizzy, and I had no setlist, so I ended up playing all of [legendary The Who live album] Live At Leeds side one that night.”
Jeremy confesses he’s lived a little dangerously – chain smoking, guzzling coffee and hallucinating after 16-hour driving shifts - but it’s only sharpened the gratitude he feels at this attention. “The fact that this has happened is a real bonus for living to see my 30s,” he laughs. “It feels like the bonus section of the videogame, set in some bizarre alternate timeline where things started going good for me!”