music morsels indie music April 2007


Derik Rinehart

ARTIST NAME:  Derik Rinehart - drummer for Speechless
MUSICAL GENRE: Instrumental rock with jazz influences
# OF CDs SOLD: 350
FAN BASE: at least 1000

MM: Tells us a bit about how the band formed.

DR: Speechless formed somewhat accidentally. It was fate, but it worked. Paul (Rusek) the bassist and I had worked in another band a few years before. Both Paul and I ended up leaving the band we were in, and we previously discussed how we wanted to work together. For the first three seconds we ever played together, we knew that we had something there. We had a real tight rhythm section. So we went into the studio and started laying rhythm tracks down for several song ideas we had. Later on, I was asked to audition for a Kansas tribute band called The Wheatheads. That is where I met Sean (Tonar) and Robbie (Hamil). I really liked Sean's guitar playing and Robbie is just a fantastic keyboardist. So Paul and I decided to ask them to join the band with us. We got together at Paul's studio and it worked, everything worked. The sound, the style, it was unique and it all came together. The chemistry worked with us as well. We found that we all got along really well and there were no egos and no rough edges between us.

MM: When you and Paul were laying down the rhythm tracks did you have any particular plan that you wanted to do this type of instrumental rock or did that happen once you got everyone together?

DR: That just happened. Coincidentally, we all have pretty much the same influences. Paul is just a bit more straight ahead rock, Sean is more on the progressive side. Robbie is just behind Paul in that aspect and I am kind of in between them. So there was always a bit of this in us to begin with. We wanted to do something with no rules, no holds barred. Just do whatever we want and let it happen. Not jam band by any means; structured, but we wanted to try to get away with whatever. In that first rehearsal with all four of us, that is where the Speechless sound really formed. We knew we were on the right track because Sean had put up a Myspace page with the first three songs on it right after we first recorded them, and I had thought that was way too premature. But the response on Myspace was just incredible, and in the first week, we were getting a page full of compliments where people were really digging it. We are not the type of people who let comments go to our heads. It is more of a motivation for us and a reassurance that what we are doing matters to some people. So we had to make sure that the rest of it is as good as those first three songs.

MM: Did you record the songs live in the studio, break them into pieces and record them that way or did it depend on the song?

DR: As far as how they were recorded, they were done independently. During the recording process...well to give you an example, "Vader's Boogie" which is the last song on the CD but the fourth song we recorded, the drum parts anyway. We didn't use a click track oddly enough, because we used clicks for everything else. Because that song had a lot of time changes, we didn't have a lot of time or patience to make a custom click track. So Sean and Rob were playing with me, but their cables were running into the mixing board so they were coming straight into my headphones. It was like we were playing live for that one. Everything else was pretty much done as individual tracks and over way too long a period of time. (Laughs)

MM: Do you feel it is more of a challenge playing instrumental music because you are trying to convey a story or emotion without words?

DR: You would think so and that was actually a fear. We were not sure how this was going to work out, because we were thinking at one point of getting a vocalist. But in this instance, it started becoming more natural and by the time we had recorded our fourth song things started really coming together. Someone would throw out a riff or a drum beat and the chemistry was so good that any one of us can bring something to the kitchen and throw it in the pot, and then we are all cooking. There is not a lot of premeditated thought process before we start. We do start with ideas and if they start sounding good, then we work to make the most of it, and we don't half ass it. We work to make sure every part sounds as good as it can and it created a nice little sound track for whatever your imagination wants it to be.

MM: Once you finished the CD, what did you do just to let people know that you are out there and to market the CD?

DR: Well, Myspace has been a Godsend because we have sold most of our CDs there and got so many of our fans there. We actually did a rehearsal show for about thirty people before we finished the CD. We had five people who we knew invited people they knew so we could have objective ears in there who had not heard what we were doing. That show did real well. It was a real kick in the pants for us and a motivator to keep going. Then we started doing some club shows and did at least six shows before the CD came out. So on a local level, we have been getting out there and getting good response and people are starting to dig it. Sean has also helped a lot. He was one of the founders of one of the biggest prog rock web sites out there called It's a big blog site and he was able to get our name out there and get us some good online reviews.

MM: What else do you need to do to keep the buzz growing? Do you think it is harder to promote an instrumental band versus a regular commercial sounding rock band?

DR: We have always marketed Speechless as a straight out instrumental rock band. We do fit somewhat in the progressive rock niche although it is an ongoing argument in the band whether we really consider ourselves prog or not. There are many different influences, but what we try to do is make the music accessible and not alienate any listeners. We have had people who listen to nothing but country, or nothing but traditional jazz, or nothing but death metal who say they love our music. Another big thing we have done is to hire a public relations company. We really needed a company that has experience in PR and getting our name out. They are also going to try to get us some festival gigs and that is a key for us. If you get in front of a large captive audience that is going to be the biggest potential fan gathering you can get. We are going to keep doing club shows and every interview that we can get. People are really digging the CD cover, too, Will Renfro was one of the first people to respond to our Myspace page and I went to his web site at and there were some incredible illustrations on there. So I emailed him and asked him if he would do the CD cover, and he said he always wanted to do a CD cover, but no one had ever asked. He did the artwork over a span of two months, and I think it has really helped to entice people to check it out because quite honestly it is spectacular art. 

MM: Do you do a lot of grass roots marketing and connecting with your fans as well and do you feel it is important to let the fans get to know you as well, not just know the music?

DR: That is a big part of it. Any time you are trying to light a big fire, you have to put the sparks somewhere. All of us know a lot of people and that helps. Being involved in the local music scene for as long as we have here in Atlanta you can make a lot of connections. You can cross over to people who listen to different types of music, although some of that also happens accidentally. The response to us so far has been very unusual because of the people who are into different music styles who dig us, but it has been very welcome at the same time.

MM: What feedback do you get from your fans as to what they like the best about Speechless?

DR: They seem to feel that yes, we are instrumental and are a little showy, but there is nobody trying to hog the spotlight and take the solo slot all the time. We're not constantly doing solos, and one reason is if you do that than you are only going to consistently turn the heads of other musicians. With us, a big part of gaining music lovers and fans in general is we focus more on the songs, trying to create melodies and getting the rhythms to flow together with good textures. We want to take the listener on a musical journey that doesn't just stay stagnant in one area. We do make a structure and form everything, and that is key to our sound.

MM: What would be your personal definition of success for Speechless and what do you think it will take to get there?

DR: The long term dream that probably every musician has is to make a ton of money, tour the world and have millions of fans and sell platinum albums. To be honest I don't think Speechless is the type of band that can reach that level. We're not real demanding, if we could all make a little bit of a better living than we are doing right now by just playing our music, than that is success enough for us. If we can keep writing songs and playing our instruments and playing shows and creating songs that people real like, then we can keep enjoying what we do.
Division of Serge Entertainment Group