Jon Steinmeier demo – “Our Universe”

Greetings, aficionados, and welcome to the Detholz! Mp3 Blog, Episode VI!

Continuing our junket deeper into Detholz! terrain, today’s installment comes from Detholz! keyboardist, Jon Steinmeier.

Jonny joined the band in 2001, replacing original Detholz! keyboardist, Rick Franklin. He was brought to my attention originally by a mutual friend, and after attending his senior composition recital, where Jonny conducted his own music and played piano, drums, and many other instruments all flawlessly and with mind-blowing precision, I knew he was the only choice. He’s one of those sickos that can play any instrument he happens to pick up– and play it well.

Since that time, he’s been an asset in Detholz!, as one of the band’s three drummers (both Andrew and Ben are also drummers by trade). The rhythmic precision and virtuosity of his playing, as well as his vast understanding of writing/arranging, have had a huge impact on the band.  (Not to mention his “signature sound,” otherwise known as “Das Papiertone.”)

Detholz! is Communist in nature- each of us plays an equal role. Still, if any member of the band deserves the MVP Award, it’s Jonny.

Since joining Detholz!, Jonny’s now in high demand in Chicago, and has played with a wild assortment of characters, from Mavis Staples, the international soul star, to Mucca Pazza, a 30-piece maniacal marching band. He has his own songwriting blog,, and for many months has posted an original “Song of the Week” at Jonny also teaches drums, voice and piano (in no particular order), so for any of you aspiring Chicago rawk folk, here’s your chance to study with one of the greats!

Over to you, Jon…

our universe

welcome back kids! today’s Song of The Week is about OUTER SPACE and LIFE ON OTHER PLANETS! what fun! it’s called “our universe,” appropriately named after the National Geographic Picture Atlas by Roy A. Gallant published in 1980. i grew up with this book, and i got REALLY excited when i saw it at a church yard sale in Bedford, Massachusetts a few weeks ago and bought it for a dollar fifty or so.

on page 44, Mr. Gallant takes us on an “imaginary safari to real places faithfully described” to see what crazy creatures there “never were.” this section was always a favorite of mine as a kid, with artistic renderings of alien life on other planets. If you have this book handy, i recommend looking through this section to “understand” the lyrics of this weeks Jon Steinmeier Song of the Week, a Detholz Blog Exclusive, appropriate called ” our universe.”


ok, i feel like i should make sense of these lyrics for you, although part of me would rather hear what people get out of them first (as usual), these are convoluted enough that i’ll go ahead and dig in. each verse of this song describes a different planets lifeform(s) through the imagination of Roy Gallant. verse one is Jupiter, verse two is Pluto, the B section is Titan, verse three is Mars, and the second B section is Venus. THEN…i whistle. that’s really it. i generally find lyrics that don’t make “sense” to be quite entertaining and potentially funny, especially when presented in an otherwise serious sounding context (see my blog for more on that), and “our universe” is ultimately about some combination of imagery and this strange, country character. i imagine it to be a song written by Roy Gallant, that he sings to his star gazing kids on clear nights, hoping to one day be able to see if this theories on alien life were accurate.

here are the lyrics:







i HIGHLY recommend looking at the pictures from said book as you listen. they’re far more interesting than this song.


i had a conversation with mom recently, about the song of the week project, and how ideas can sometimes run thin, and she recommended a goal of writing a really “simple” melody and just keeping it simple. not over-arranging, but really just going for good melodic material. i loved this suggestion, and sat on my back porch with guitar, coffee, cigarettes, and paper and pen while the carpet guys cleaned our weekly basement flooding. i wrote the melody down in solfege syllables and rhythms to remember it as i went, and eventually played around with chordal ideas later. i tried to keep this song pretty straight ahead melodically and harmonically, and really just thought about,

A. satisfying movement in the melody, and

B. character.

i ended up with a melody i’m pretty happy with, and a character that just didn’t ask for much arrangement. simple works best in this case i think. after the verses, i went ahead through the form one more time with two part whistles, and tried to vibrate my whistles a bit to sound like theramins. that, with a spaghetti western level of reverb, helped to bridge the character combo for me.

old west star gazer meets star.

thanks for listening.

if you wanna here this one live, swing down to millennium park tomorrow afternoon at 2pm for a kids show jeff thomas and i are doing. i’m interested to see what the kids think. i have a feeling they’ll just sit and stare.

(ed. note – Keep those comments coming, and see you next week!)


13 Responses to “Jon Steinmeier demo – “Our Universe””

  1. kebabdylan Says:

    damn! two part whistle????? You really can do anything, can’t you. I think you discovered a new genre “sci-fi western”

  2. jon steinmeier Says:

    thanks bab!

    the last thing on my To Do Everything list is actually 25 pushups in a row. i’m work’n on it. oh…and being able to speak backwards on the fly.

    seriously, thanks man. 🙂

  3. tiny tron Says:

    Since tiny tron is also from space we (the tiny tron collective) feel at peace with this song. It reminds us of our mothers and the trip to algernon 5. The whistling reminds us of the intergalactic signals that keep our minds interlinked. This song pleases us more than the silicon mounds of drakius prime. In other words, you my m0th3r f*ck3r!

  4. kebabdylan Says:

    so, I am waiting for you to tell me that you actually whistled the two parts at the same time while playing guitar. the entire song in one take… while quilting and rescuing your beloved mother from a burning building.

    Although I still think chuck norris could take you in a hand to hand…

    i don’t think I actually said this, but that is a lovely song. really like it. especially that it starts out with the sci-fi voice that doesn’t fit at all. I was not expecting an acoustic ballad after that.

    and Tiny, I am not sure what that last word was. I think you must have done a typo or something. silly you!

  5. dj Says:

    Beautiful song indeed. I like the low-key, “simpler” approach to writing that you’re taking here. It definitely sounds like a back porch song, although a bit brief.

    I remember that book. I think other than the blimp dudes on Jupiter, and their swooping, pointed bird-like enemies, I enjoyed the ones who lived on Venus. I remember the picture had them eating wrecked spaceships and flying/jumping about with their aid of their rocket butts. There are some things that you just can’t forget.

  6. jon steinmeier Says:

    thank you tiny tron collective. please say hello to all the trons for me, especially little genghis tron, and tell him to keep his “chin” up. the worlds can be tough places for a baby-bots.

  7. jon steinmeier Says:

    well bab,

    i can’t tell you that, but i can say that making your voice sound like a guitar takes practice.

    thanks man.

  8. jon steinmeier Says:

    thanks dj, and hi!

    yeah, the “oucher pouchers” in the last verse are those roundy metal (and rock) eating guys. good memory! i actually read more about them this time around than i ever did as a kid. i think i just stared at the pictures back then.

  9. BP Says:

    Good work, Jon. Although the melody sounds simple, there’s some nice harmonic motion in there that keeps it very interesting. I’ve always been a fan of the Steiny with an acoustic guitar stuff.

    And to think that I recorded the recital that got Jon into the Detholz! Who knew?

    By the way, you guys might be interested to know that original Detholz! drummer (if my memory is correct) Jeremy Chignell’s little brother is in the music tech class that I teach. He just started as a freshman at Wheaton.

  10. jon steinmeier Says:

    Porick! long time, friend. when was the last time we chatted?

    oh yeah!

    SPRING BREAK 2004!!! (you were wasted)

    thanks man. glad you dig the acousto-jonny set.

    yeah, i really appreciate you recording said recital, cause i think your presence there added some credibility to my show. not to mention that the recording’s great.

    it’s like Star Trek Generations over there at wheaton huh? (although, they’re the same generation, those chignell’s…forget it).

  11. Mama Steiny Says:

    I had no idea you really spent time with Gallant’s book. Did you read any of the words or just look at the pictures? ha ha . . . .

    I love anything you do with acoustic guitar Jonathan. How you managed to make me believe that sci-fi and western could work together only you could do. Your dad is listening to this as I write and when the whistling started he couldn’t stop laughing. You continue to bring us joy.

    See if you can work on not breathing in the middle of a word Jonathan. This I find personally embarrassing. I see it as a failure of mine to school you in proper vocal technique. Then there are your students. Oh dear, I probably shouldn’t have pointed this out. Sorry!!!!!

  12. jon steinmeier Says:

    are you talking about the word “ultraviolet?”

    i know, bad form…sorry to embarrass the family. please don’t mention to this grandpa German…

    and yes…i spent a fare amount of time with the pictures in the book. i can’t say that i spent much time reading it. some things never change i guess.

    thanks! i’m really glad dad got a good chuckle out of it! 🙂

  13. amy Says:

    that’s hilarious what your mom said about you not actually reading Our Universe. My mom still doesn’t know about my plagerism of that book. please don’t tell either of our moms. oops. sorry mrs steiny. I used Our Universe to cheat on a science writing competition. I even took a picture of the illustration and said I shot it in real life. i never cheated again. I feel way too guilty about this.

    A Day

    great song though. he at least changed the wrods around himself.

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