by Mary Ellen Gustafson
One of the newer punk bands to play the Vans Warped Tour has a debut album drop (on Geffen yet -- nothing like bypassing smaller labels and going right to a major!), causes ripples in the music community (they're listed as one of MTV's Top Ten Bands To Watch), abd has done a great job of making everything old seem new again -- and they don't even know they've done it! Now that Warped is over, they're currently touring with Marilyn Manson and join the Chevelles in November.
To continue the saga of S.T.U.N., which stands for "Scream Toward the Uprising of Non-Conformity," their debut album, Evolution Of Energy was created to deliver their message through both their lyrics and music. Some of the topics: "...Government's growing control of the globe through lies and deception, the healing power in finding your own answers, the warning of the trap of blind compliance, the cowardice and effect of judgment, and the celebration of love and chaos until equality is accomplished."
Neil Spies (founder, songwriter/lyricist and guitarist) is the most serious and politically oriented member of the group and his statements reflect that. "Our music is a call for unity and awareness," Spies said. "When I grew up, every effort was used to force me to comply with the thought process that whoever was in authority was right -- and that's rarely the truth. We're here to prove that if you are brave enough to fight adversity for what you believe in, that you will have your own message to send that will enlighten the world."
"We're not pushing opinions on anyone -- everyone should question everything and make decisions for themselves," Neil continued. "We feel that we have a responsibility, though. When I was a kid, music saved and taught me you can't feel more alive than when you are part of revolution. When we talk to the kids [fans], they really seem to be starving for a band to fight the 'play it safe,' fabricated passion state of the music industry right now. We are playing for them."
After listening to Spies, I expected Christiane to be spouting political proclamations or anti-everything platitudes. Instead, the guy sounded like an excited kid on his first trip to Disneyworld who asked ME if I wanted to know what he'd been doing all day before our meeting. I said sure and he proceeded to tell me about some fans they made on a previous trip through the area, when S.T.U.N. was one of the bands opening for Jane's Addiction. They tracked him down and took him via public transportation to show him around their favorite record store, to get a falafel and to introduce him to one of their favorite local bands. He was absolutely thrilled by it all. He said he loved to listen to the kids' stories and the mix CDs they made and gave him and just to have a chance to meet the people. Christiane was a genuinely nice guy and completely the opposite of what I expected. Since he had such a good time with the fans, it sounded like a promising direction to steer the conversation and I asked about their audiences.
Everybody is our audience, from somebody at the mall to gutter punks to an old lady. Our lyrics are not about personal things, they're about world type things. They relate to people in their jobs or school or just their life.
Then what's your average fan like?
There really isn't an average fan. There are people into the message, people that like the music and don't have a clue about the political part, a lot of young boys and girls and then a lot of the over 30 crowd who saw us when we played with Jane's Addiction and Bad Religion.
Since you're on the second time around in many cities, has word of mouth affected the size of your audience?
Absolutely! We're seeing way more people this time. We gave away a two song sampler before (with the songs "Movement" and "Annihilation Of The Generations" on it) and the people in the audience now know those songs and sing along.
Returning to the "official" story of S.T.U.N., they were influenced equally by Jane's Addiction, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, The Smiths and David Bowie. "We believe in melody, but these don't feel like traditional melodies to me," says Christiane J., understating one of the many distinctive elements of the band's incendiary music. The album, Evolution Of Intensity was produced by Sean Slade (Radiohead, Hole, The Cure) and "...is a record that runs on both adrenaline and free-moving intensity." The band itself was formed less than three years ago in L.A. "in the uncompromising music and liberating message of Spies, the group's members found themselves experiencing a process like creative osmosis."
"There was a chemistry between us from the moment we met," continued Christiane J. "The Challenge was to build on that and take it to the next level."
"We played where we could and every chance we got," said drummer Bobby Alt. "We played parties, local clubs, and eventually, record company showcases. It was a quick but natural progression, and what meant most to us was the music seemed to make an immediate connection with all different types of music fans."
"We chose Sean Slade [as producer] because he had a real understanding of the bands that influenced us and how those influences came out in our music," continued bassist Nick S. Evolution Of Energy took shape quickly and decisively. "We came in totally prepared, mentally and physically," said Spies. "The focus was on capturing as much of the sensory overload from our live shows as we could, while still using studio technology to bring out new aspects of music. Slade allowed just the right amount of improvisation and experimenting which I think is lacking in records these days."
"It's chaos with a reason," Spies continued. "It's chaos that creates love and unity. I don't write about myself right now. I did everything I could to write about what everyone in the world is going through and could relate to. There's so much that I've learned. There's so much I've come to understand, I got bruised going against the grain and not accepting things I knew were lies - but I also found a beauty and an urgency in life from it, and that's what S.T.U.N. is about. Living in the moment."
I decided to ask Christiane some general questions about music to get a handle on the band's mindset in this regard and once again he totally surprised me.
Since your band is set on going in a different direction, what bothers you about the state of music in general right now?
Nothing! Music is music -- from a nursery rhyme to rock to metal to whatever. There does seem to be more OF a music scene now than there has been lately though.
What do you think about music piracy?
I'm all for it. Come record the live show, I don't care. Any way you can get it for free, grab it.
Are you kidding?
No, I'm totally serious. Music should be available to anybody that wants it any way they can get it.
Did I forget anything, do you have anything to add?
Just get out and buy the record and CATCH OUR LIVE SHOW!!! You'll love it! I have a reputation for getting really crazy during a performance. On stage, I'm in free fall. I've never jumped out of a plane without a parachute, but that's how I would explain the feeling I get when I'm performing. I have 10 stitches in my head right now from our last performance. I didn't do it on purpose, but I had my head down and didn't see it coming and ran right into the tuner knob on the bass guitar.
As we wrapped things up, he emphasized once again, "You just HAVE to come to our live show! We really get crazy out there and it can't be described. You have to see it!" I explained I'd love to, but not in the middle of July at an outdoor venue for the Warped Tour in Phoenix when it's 110 degrees! But he sent me a 4 song live DVD so I could see them play and I'll definitely catch their show one of these days...