The City and The Sky is an acoustic duo that perhaps many of you have never heard of until right now, but who you probably know one of the two musicians involved. It’s a new project featuring singer/songwriter David John Zelko (Beijing Bike Club, This Man Tells Stories) and singer Cerah Steele (who wowed a lot of people earlier this year with her video for the soundtrack recordings for Gavin Michael Booth’s film, Still Here). While trying to flesh out his own solo project, This Man Tells Stories (which has a Cat Stevens-Paul Simon feel), Zelko met Steele and they decided to jam on a few songs and the result was enough to convince Zelko to enter into a full musical collaboration with the flamboyant Steele.
There’s no recordings as of yet (although you can listen to a couple of Zelko’s early efforts for This Man Tells Stories) but they’re making their debut performance this Saturday July 2nd at the legendary Coach & Horses (156 Chatham St. West, basement level) to unveil their new entry into Windsor’s diverse music scene.
TWZ recently caught up with David and Cerah to find out a little more dirt on this seemingly unlikely pairing.
The Windsor Zene: David, you’ve successfully lead a rock band (Beijing Bike Club) through Windsor’s diverse musical seas and then launched your solo project, This Man Tells Stories. How did The City and The Sky emerge?
David John Zelko: The City And The Sky originally started off as just myself a.k.a. This Man Tells Stories. While playing around with my music, I felt like expanding my horizons and I figured the best way was to add a female vocalist to add some harmony and just make the vocals and the lyrics more powerful.
TWZ: How did you end up hooking up with Cerah Steele for the project?
DJZ: I posted an ad up on the Windsor/Essex Musicians Board along with Kijiji – gotta love Kijiji! – and had a few people send me some messages saying that they would be interested. I wasn’t just looking for a fantastic voice but also looked for someone with dedication and also a feel for the music scene. I met up with Cerah Steele at a Tim Hortons and we talked for a while, then headed off to do some jamming. The moment I heard her sing some harmonies with some of mine I knew that she was the perfect choice for a collaboration.
TWZ: Cerah, how did you first become aware of David John Zelko and what lead to this being your original music outlet?
Cerah Steele: I first heard of Dave through a post he made on Windsor-Essex Band/Musicians network. He was asking for female vocalists to be part of a musical duo he was putting together. I sent over a message saying I was interested. We did the good ol’ Essex County thing, went to Timmy’s and then played some accoustic tunes at Sadler’s.
TWZ: You’ve been gaining some local attention for your work, on record and in video, for the soundtrack to Gavin Michael Booth’s film Still Here. Did that inspire to start working on material of your own?
CS: The work I’ve done with Gavin Michael Booth on the Still Here soundtrack has been a great outlet to stretch my range. I sing in a “character voice” for the movie. She is a sweet sounding 17 year old and I, however, am a 28 year old ex-smoker. Recording in that voice was quite the challenge. Needless to say, hearing the recordings with my voice sounding so different, and getting positive feedback has been hard getting used to! The opportunity to work on original material with Dave and show people MY style and my “real” voice is exciting
TWZ: David, how do you approach The City and The Sky differently from working in Beijing Bike Club?
DJZ: With TCATS it all started off with all of my solo work and we plan on building together to make a music monster, both booking shows, merch, different band related things. The same thing goes for Beijing Bike Club, we work as a team to get band related things complete, so I really approach them both in the same ways if you think about it.
TWZ: Do you intentionally write songs for The City and The Sky and other songs for Beijing Bike Club or do you just write songs and they gravitate towards the appropriate project?
DJZ: Usually with Beijing Bike Club, we write the music together and then I go off and write lyrics once it’s all finished. With TCATS, it’s a whole other animal, – a TWO headed animal…and they say two heads are better than one!
TWZ: Cerah, how has the songwriting process been with David so far?
CS: Dave has been doing his solo thing as well as his other group Beijing Bike Club, so needless to say, he has quite the stockpile of originals already written just waiting to be brought to life! We are still a very young project, so right now we’re just nurturing Dave’s baby, but he’s been really inspiring and I think the musical power of the two of us together will be something to look forward to.
TWZ: You’ve long been a strong supporter of the local arts scene and a familiar face at many shows. How does it feel to be jumping to the stage from the audience?
CS: I’m no stranger to the stage. I’ve been performing since a young age, and attended Walkerville for the W.C.C.A program, which gave me opportunity to be on stage a lot. More recently, I lent my vocals to two local albums. Aquila‘s debut album Imperium and BLOODSHOTEYE‘s album Expect the Unexpected. This opportunity, however, to showcase our own original material is going to be a soul baring experience I won’t soon forget…
TWZ: Where can people hear some of the music?
DJZ: As of right now, we don’t currently have recordings with me and Cerah – but if you wanna get a sneak peak of some of the tunes we’re gonna be working on, you can take a look at the Band Profile on the This Man Tells Stories.
TWZ: What do you envision for The City and The Sky a year from now?
CS: Lots of shows under our belts, maybe an album (or two), Billboard Top 100, a Grammy….ya know, the usual.
TWZ: What do you have planned for TCATS’s debut show?
DJZ: We plan on having the first show this Saturday, July 2nd and it’s going to be at the Coach & Horses and FREE. As for other acts, the only one we have on the bill so far are The Birds Of Paradise. We wanna make it a fun show, have drinks with friends, and celebrate the birth of a new band in the Windsor music scene……oh and if everyone sees this, we wanna fill the place!
The City and The Sky with special guests The Birds of Paradise, Anti-Freeze and Pierre Le Chef, Saturday July 2nd, The Coach & Horses (156 Chatham St. West, basement level)