The Stray Cats are ready to strut together again — just in time to celebrate their 40th anniversary.
Following their first American concerts in a decade last year, Massapequa natives singer/guitarist Brian Setzer, drummer Slim Jim Phantom and bassist Lee Rocker went into Blackbird Studios in Nashville to record with producer Peter Collins.
Rocker says that the band played four shows to see how they felt together again, since they have all been working on their own projects for years.
“The band just tore the roof of these gigs that we played,” he says in a behind-the-scenes video the band produced. “We really just looked at each other and said, ‘You know what? It’s time now. Let’s rock. Let’s make a new record. We’re way past due.’”
Setzer says he was inspired to write songs by playing on a Fender Reverb Unit, which creates that classic sound from spaghetti westerns and surf rock. “Once we played, I knew I wanted to make a Stray Cats record,” Setzer says.
The result is the “40” (Surfdog/BMG) album, which will arrive on May 24 and will be the band’s first album of new material in 25 years. Judging from the first single “Cat Fight (Over a Dog Like Me),” the Stray Cats are back in that good-time, “Rock This Town” groove.
“The modern is meeting the vintage, which has always been our inspiration,” Phantom says of the album’s sound.
Collins, who has produced everyone from Rush and Billy Squier to Musical Youth and Blancmange, says he wanted to capture the band’s live sound by recording them playing together and doing as few takes as possible.
“There is something very special about the Stray Cats — those three guys playing together,” Collins says. “Take one element out and you don’t have it.”
The Stray Cats will kick off their 40th anniversary tour in Spain on June 21 before starting the American tour in Atlantic City on Aug. 3. They play The Rooftop at Pier 17 in Manhattan on Aug. 6.
“You have to understand how unique the Stray Cats are,” Setzer says in a statement. “It’s me playing an old hollow body guitar, Slim Jim playing two or three drums, and Lee Rocker slapping a stand-up acoustic bass. I get to write new songs and then play them with my buddies. Somehow, we created a new and exciting sound with this simple idea. And you know what? A lot of people agree!”