Steven Gullett drops his second solo disc
By Don Thrasher / IMPACT WEEKLY FEB. 6 2003

The Mystery Addicts have broken up and co-founding member Steven Gullett doesn't really want to talk about it. True, the group disbanded once in the summer of 1999 only to reform by the spring of 2000, but this time it's for good. When the group called it quits after a show at Elbo's in November, the era of Dayton's hard rocking glam punks had finally come to an end. For Gullett what's past is past. Although it's only been a few months since the group's demise, he has clearly moved on. Today, Gullett is more concerned with his activities as a solo performer than dwelling on the accomplishments of his former band.

"I didn't quit The Mystery Addicts to play solo, " Gullett said. "It just wasn't what I wanted to do anymore. I might play with a band again but at the moment, this is what I'm doing. Everything is up in the air - there are no set plans."

While the singer/songwriter doesn't have concrete plans for the future, that doesn't mean he's been sulking at home making plans for a rock 'n' roll rebirth. On the contrary, he's doing the same thing he did before he joined The Mystery Addicts (and continued to do so sporadically during his tenure with the glam punk outfit), which is perform solo. "Doing it myself is the hard route to go," Gullett said. "Getting other people and playing out is the easy route. I enjoy both, and I'm always caught between which one I want to do more."

For now, it appears he is going it alone. In January, Gullett released Sad Like Marilyn, his second album in singer/songwriter mode. Like his debut, Cheap Reflections (released in May 2002), Sad Like Marilyn isn't so much sad bastard folk as introspective anti-folk (or acoustic music with a rock attitude). "Drunks, Junkies and Thieves," "Pressure" and other cuts betray Gullett's punk background, and that's a good thing.

On most tracks, Gullett's gruff rocker's voice is accompanied by a solitary acoustic guitar. On a few other songs, however, he sweetens the mix with subtle overdubs. On "One To Pray," the singer says goodbye to a deceased friend and punctuates the sentiment with a simple, melodic guitar line. A slide guitar overdub brightens the mood of "Low Expectations," a somber song about remaining centered and content by accepting the fact that people are human and will make mistakes, and on some occasions even disappoint you.

Like its predecessor, all of the songs on Sad Like Marilyn were recorded at home on four and eight track machines. While the results are a far cry from the crude and amateurish recordings of many lo-fi artists, these sessions still don't have the sheen of a proper, state-of-the-art studio. The recording quality is somewhere between those two extremes, which is the perfect setting for Gullett's anti-folk approach.

According to the singer, he likes the immediacy of working alone at home because he isn't held up by studio time and bandmates' busy schedules. "Normally you write songs and it's a long time before they're released," he said. "With this new CD there are three songs that were written in the two months since the band broke up. It's nice to put something out when it's fresh like that."

Some of the songs on Sad Like Marilyn are new offerings, but there are a few tracks with older born on dates. "Hopefully" was written in 1996, "The Futility Ball" was written in 1997 and "In Debt" was written in 1999. "I Bet You're A Legend Now" was a part of Gullett's acoustic sets in the mid-'90s.

"I played 'I Bet You're A Legend Now' on and off from 1994 until I put it away a couple of years ago," Gullett said. "I pulled it out recently and thought, 'It's a cool song,' so I started playing it again."
While the recent demise of the Mystery Addicts hasn't directly affected Gullett's songwriting, it has made it easier to focus. However, like before, he doesn't dwell on the process. Gullett prefers instead to write the material in a fit of creativity and let the song dictate how he performs it.

"A lot of times I just write and whatever comes out, comes out," he said. "Some times it works as a band song and other times it works better with just me and the guitar. Other songs work both ways, it just depends. Toward the end of the Mystery Addicts I was writing more with the band in mind than I wanted and that was problematic."
Although it's unfair to label it a movement, many of Gullett's contemporaries in the local rock scene have also taken to performing acoustically. "It seems like a pretty good climate locally for people playing solo," he said. "A lot of people in bands are doing solo shows and that's cool. The musicians co-op at Canal Street seems to have picked up. It has a built-in crowd and people go down there because they like it. Ya know, it's a lot of the same people, but it's a social thing and that's cool."

While Gullett doesn't see himself as part of some local movement, he is glad to have like-minded performers to share the stage with. For now at least there are no plans for full-on rock. Gullett is content to take the stage alone, a singer and his guitar.

"I'm enjoying playing solo," Gullett said. "ya know, it's a lot cheaper to buy equipment and you make all the decisions yourself. And, it's completely self-contained, so there is nobody to blame but myself. It's fun to do things like the CD design.
"Booking is a new thing for me," Gullett continued. "In the other bands somebody else always did it. Jamy (Holliday formerly of The Mystery Addicts) and George (Gee Gee Bradley formerly of Love Lies Bleeding) were the kings of booking, so it made more sense to let them handle it. I'm finding it's easier to book bands than solo acts."

No matter what difficulties lie ahead, it's safe to say Steven Gullett is one anti-folky who won't let all the obstacles and bullshit slow him down. And for that, we should all be glad.