The Fleshtones are coming

We spoke to the “super rock” band from New York City about how they made the Coolest Song in the World This Week.

The new single by the Fleshtones is “I Surrender” (a cover of a 1960s track by Bonnie St. Claire & the Gloria Unit), and it’s once again landed the New York City band the distinction of being named the Coolest Song in the World This Week on Little Steven’s Underground Garage, the syndicated/satellite rock’n’roll radio show hosted by the E Street Band’s Steven Van Zandt.

“That’s the newest sensation in our career, this new 45 and making Little Steven’s Coolest Song yet again,” says Fleshtones frontman Keith Streng.

Since 1976, the Fleshtones have been playing a style of music that they call “super rock,” an R&B-inflected brand of rock ‘n’ roll that’s often filed under “garage rock.” Misnomer or no, it’s a sound that has translated across time, space and language.

“Most of the shows we play over the course of a year are in Europe — there are just bigger crowds there,” says Streng, noting the massive popularity of all manner of vintage rock ‘n’ roll styles overseas.

“At one point we figured we’d better start singing in some of their languages, so we dabble in that,” he says, noting that the Spanish-language EP they released in 2012 — Quatro by Quatro — was recorded in Spain. They’ve also sung in French, and slipped those songs into the sets they’ve performed in Montreal over the years — since they began touring internationally in 1980, they’ve played Montreal at least once a year.

“All I remember about the first time we played Montreal,” Streng says, “was that the group on the bill with us was formed by a guy named Flipped Out Phil, he’s been on the Montreal scene forever and he had quite a few great groups along the way. I also remember we played Foufounes Electriques so many times (laughs).”


The Fleshtones are coming to Montreal again this week, and this time they’re booked at Divan Orange. Among their classics (see a selection of Fleshtones classics in the videos below) and material from their latest LP (Wheel of Talent), they’ll be playing their Coolest Song and its B-side, “Dominique Laboubée.”

“That song is about the lead singer from the group the Dogs, which was a French group — he’s not with us anymore unfortunately, he passed away about eight years ago, but he was a good friend and a great rock ‘n’ roll songwriter.”

There’s a chance that the Fleshtones will premiere some even newer songs, from their forthcoming album — the band is in a prolific phase these days, according to Streng.

“We’re going back into the studio in early October,” he says. “We already have five tracks done, and I’m hoping by the end of the year we have an album completed and something new for people to hold in their hands by next spring.

“At the moment we’re just working in a friend’s little studio called CCT, right here in Williamsburg,” adds Streng, referring to the hipster capital of the world. “Yeah, you’re talking to Williamsburg, Brookyln — I’m right on Bedford Avenue and N6th street. I’ve been here for 22 years, before it was the hipster capital, but ,you know, I like living here. It’s fun, it’s great — maybe there are too many condominiums, but that’s okay. I’m not going anywhere.” 

The Fleshtones play with the Castagne’s at Divan Orange (4234 St-Laurent) on Wednesday Sept. 2, 9 p.m., $15/$20