UNH alumni John Steere, a.k.a. John That, just self-released his first EP this past April. The self-titled pop album contains four tracks that are all from John That's future full-length album, The Prettiest Girls.
Don't let the pop label turn you away, however. John That's sound is incredibly eclectic, combining acoustic guitar, a cappella backing vocals, folksy melody lines, and poetic lyrics. Each track sounds different from the last, and yet the EP still somehow manages to flow cohesively.
"I know everybody always likes to talk about how eclectic their sound is but I'm not lying when I say it," Steere said in an email. "If you're not feeling a track, listen to one more. I love all music and I think it shows through."
Steere describes his EP as "pop to the max" and mourns the fact that most people have become so jaded to pop music.
"Its hard ‘cause everybody thinks pop is the plague," he said. "No one ever wants their music labeled as pop. It's thought to be cheap, simple and inauthentic because of all these years of crap commercial radio. At the end of the day, the Beatles, probably the best recording artists of all time, were a pop group.
"Don't get me wrong," he added, "I still love Katy Perry. I love her."
John That was recorded with some of Steere's audio-engineering friends in California. He said the process was very unique for several reasons, largely the huge disparity between the quality of the "studio" they recorded in and the quality of the equipment they used.
"They lived in this house in the ghetto … We set up a space in the house. Hung a bunch of blankets to deaden the room and went at it," Steere said. "The room was so bootleg but the equipment was all top notch – they worked for an audio repair company at the time and had a bunch of fixed, yet to be returned, equipment lying around. It got ‘borrowed' for my record. 20k worth of stuff in a 10k house."
Steere said that, contrary to many musicians who attempt to start a recording career from scratch with no money and no resources, he is currently working a day job in the hopes of saving up for the next year to give himself more financial leeway. He said that his goal is to eventually make everything self-sustaining, including his new publishing company, Noblehooks Music.
John That is not Steere's first musical endeavor. He started working on the songs for this project while he was a senior at UNH, but before that he was part of a rap duo during his junior year, and well before that he was part of a group of kids who morphed through several genres. They started with punk and ended with reggae.
Steere went through a similar process as he was growing up, but he said pop music has always been his first love.
"Pop music has always been important to me," Steere said. "Who doesn't like a catchy chorus? Growing up playing, I grew through a few genres moving from wanting to be Jack Johnson, to Jimi Hendrix, to Mark Hoppus, to Chad Urmston, to Bob Marley, to John Lennon, and now I'm where I'm at today. Back to pop music."
He first got into music as a kid, when he had a cassette tape featuring major artists like Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson and Bruce Springsteen singing classic children's songs.
"I had always wanted to play guitar," Steere said. "My mom used to sing and play guitar to me as a kid and I'd always sneak her old acoustic guitar out of its case and try to make some sense out of the strings."
Steere did not start taking real guitar lessons until seventh grade from a church youth group leader, though he also learned how to play piano and trumpet.
He is currently on the lookout for members to fill out his band in the hopes of duplicating the sound he gets in the studio. Despite not having a full band, however, John That has been performing local shows all over the place.
As for being a musician, Steere said, "The best part about being a musician is that you never have to listen to bad music again. I make music that I love and hope other people will eventually enjoy it as much. If I'm digging one of my new tunes, I'll listen to it on repeat like any other song I'm obsessed with."
John That EP is available on for purchase on iTunes. For more information about Steere and his music, check out http://johnthat.com, or find him on Facebook and Twitter under the handles johnthatmusic and johnthat, respectively.