Rockers show steely chops

By Gabrielle Rosas

Scott Pucci, lead guitarist for The Steel Chops, is uninhibited on stage. His Gibson SG is practically an extension of his body as he jumps on amps and channels Angus Young’s infamous devil horn salute.

“It’s a way for a us to get away from our day jobs and let go,” Pucci told The Chronicle after a show at the Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln Ave.

That is the essence of the Glenview, Ill., band, whose current album, “Paint Me a Picture,” has gained momentum in the Chicago metro area during the past few months. The band also won sixth place at the Elbo Room’s I AM FEST Battle of the Bands in May 2011, competing against 107 other hopefuls. Marked by a multifarious arrangement of raw classic rock riffs, simple songwriting and a no-nonsense attitude, The Steel Chops are currently writing new music for its second album. The Chronicle had the chance to sit down with lead vocalist Joel Hetrick and Pucci to talk about classic rock, the group’s eclectic sound and Hetrick’s epic mutton chops.

The Chronicle: How did you guys come up with the name, “The Steel Chops”? I have a feeling Joel’s chops had something to do with it.

Scott Pucci: My friend was the one [who] came up with the name [and] put it together. We were sitting around one night, and we were trying to figure it out. I said I wanted [the name to have] something with “steel” or “steel this.” And we were just laughing and kind of joking around, and then she was like, “How about the Steel Chops? [Be]-cause Joel’s chops are awesome.” And I was like, “Yeah, all right, that works!” That was pretty much it.

JH: We can’t take credit for the name, but it was agreed upon.

The Chronicle: You guys give a short definition on your website of “roots rock.” What kind of blues, country and classic rock bands influence your sound?

SP: It’s so eclectic!

JH: It shows on our album, too, [with the influence of artists] like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings and that early rock, country, kind of classic country [sound]. I mean, you could throw Boston in there and Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.

SP: With six guys in the band, everyone comes from a little bit different place or whatever. We really don’t turn anything away. Anybody in the group who wants to bring a little something [can do so]. It’s really cool to mix all these different backgrounds and get this fusion sound.

The Chronicle: Joel, who are some songwriters who influenced you?

JH: Cash is definitely one. [Frank] Sinatra, somewhat, as far as lyrics go. That’s what I grew up listening to, which is weird, being the age that I am [28]. As far as other songwriters go, someone [who’s] relatively new is Aidee McDonald. She’s out of Ireland. She’s somebody I’ve listened to and really enjoyed. Lyrically, you could go as far as to say [Led] Zeppelin [is an influence] and Robert Plant, with his new folksy album.

The Chronicle: What’s the story behind your song “Rebel Red”? Is it about a specific woman?

JH: When we wrote that song, Nicko [McCurley], the guitar player, came up with the riff and everything and he just started laying it out, and he’s like, “Oh, I got this great Southern rock tune, we need to put it together.” He started writing it, so I started listening to it, recorded it and sat there and started writing lyrics to it. It was one of those songs where we wanted to pay tribute to the Southern-rock genre and our influences, like [Lynyrd] Skynyrd and Blackberry Smoke out of Georgia. Those were some of the bands that influenced us and we were like, “We want to pay tribute and write a song in that vein.”

SP: I think it has evolved into a more classic rock feel, as well, which is very cool.

JH: It’s not about anybody in particular. It’s just a good, fun song.

To listen to The Steel Chops discuss its upcoming album, visit For more information about tour dates, visit