THE STEREO STATE is a five-piece melodic punk band from Massachusetts. Former members of the band have gone on to play with notable acts like DEFEATER, and bass player Pat was formerly in MAKE DO AND MEND. Their new album, Have All My Friends Gone Deaf, has been very favorably received by critics, many of which mention a throwback to 90’s FAT/EPITAPH records that the band more than likely grew up on. Matt from TSS was nice enough to answer some questions about The Stereo State, the future of the band, and what a music scene means to him.
BYS: Thanks for doing this interview! First of all, what is your band called, who all is in it, and how would you classify yourselves?
Matt (TSS): We are The Stereo State, and we’re from Massachusetts. The current line up consists of myself and Gabe Griffin on guitar, my brother Brandon playing drums, Andy Frongillo is the singer, and most recently we’ve added our super good friend Pat “The Cooler” Kelliher on the bass. If I had it my way, people would just consider us a rock and roll band at the end of the day.
BYS: How did y’all start? Where, when, how’d you get here, etc.
Matt: We started as a 5-piece in 2008 when our last bands came to an end. It was Andy, Brandon, Gabe, myself, and Mike Poulin on bass. Mike also plays bass for DEFEATER and they got super busy so he left to focus on that. I eventually decided to play bass and TSS had existed as a 4-piece. We wrote and recorded our first EP and recent full length with that line-up. Pat played bass for MAKE DO AND MEND on their first two EP’s. We met the MDAM guys at one of our first shows and became very good friends. Even after Pat left that band we stayed close friends and he came on the road with us often. He’s a killer player and the best dude, we’re so psyched to have him in this band.
BYS: Your most recent album, Have All My Friends Gone Deaf, has gotten some awesome reviews, including five/five stars on Dying Scene’s user and editor ratings, a 9/10 from Kill Your Scene, and a 77% overall rating fromabsolutepunk.net(which is still pretty good to me). People obviously seem to like it: what was the writing process for the album? And also, who came up with the idea for the artwork?
Matt: The reviews have been flattering, absolutely humbling. We worked extremely hard on this record and to get that kind of feedback is out of this world. Everyone in this band is a songwriter, so we are all VERY involved with the process. I live more than 300 miles away from those guys now so it’s extremely difficult to get together. However, in the 3 months before recording we played every single weekend and wrote songs and tracked demos. It was an extremely difficult and expensive process but it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever done in my life and I wouldn’t change anything about it.
The album title is actually something I came up with during our last band and we shelved the idea. Gabe brought it up as an album title for this record, and it is a perfect fit. I had the basic idea for the artwork in regards to an image and feel of the Motown and older blues records we were brought up on. The main image needed to be someone completely engulfed in their music. I brought these ideas to Matt Bennett at None More Ill (graphic design - http://www.facebook.com/nonemoreill) and he knocked it out the park, as always.
BYS: You guys are playing FEST 11 this year, a big punk rock festival in Florida. This is FANTASTIC exposure for your band, as well as a chance to see/meet lots of other rad bands. Have you played/been to the Fest before?
Matt: We are so thrilled to play this year! We’ve never had the opportunity to play before but a few years ago Brandon and I were on tour with HEARTSOUNDS and we got to go to Fest 9 when they played. That weekend was so incredible and the fact that we got invited to play is an honor and a blessing, we’re psyched!
BYS: On the topic of the Fest, who are you most stoked to see?
Matt: This is actually a tough question, hahaha. There are difficult conflicts in a schedule with so many awesome bands. A Wilhelm Scream, Lagwagon, Baroness, Red City Radio, Nothington, Fake Boys, After The Fall, Mockingbird Wish Me Luck, Flatliners, Make Do And Mend, Seahaven, Static Radio, Heartsounds, Banner Pilot, No Trigger…I’m sure there are so many that I’m forgetting right now. If I even see half those bands I’ll be stoked.
BYS: Okay, in your opinion, what role should a local music scene play in one’s local community?
Matt: Wow, good question! I started going to shows in the mid-90’s and punk and hardcore changed my life forever. I was completely attracted to the positivity and sense of community as well as the DIY ethic in the local scene. Not only that but I was going through a very weird phase of my life, but admittedly not much different that most young teens. The music and the scene spoke to me so loud and clear, that was a place for me…the music was a part of me I didn’t even know I was missing. It’s not to say that there was never any bulls*** to deal with, but the good always outweighs the bad. Everyone should do their part to keep it positive. Open minds and an open door to anyone who needs to come in.
BYS: Would you say your band’s local scene accomplishes this? How about where you grew up?
Matt: Well the place I live in Maryland now seems like they had something great at one point and it quickly burnt out. There’s still a lot going on in Baltimore but I don’t get down there half as much as I’d like to. I’m from western Massachusetts and there is certainly an active scene community going on at all times, for better or worse. But as mentioned, I’m a product of that and yes it does accomplish that.
BYS: What has been the source of most conflict - if any - in your local scene?
Matt: Conflict exists just about anywhere, albeit minimal in our scene. Currently there is nothing I care to acknowledge let alone condone. There are always more people doing their part to stay active and positive than not. I often see old friends on the internet whining about “how great things used to be…” and the like. They are sitting around bent out of shape while the rest of us continue to play and book shows, tour, put out records, and do our best to make a difference. It’s a shame they don’t get involved with everything still going on right now, but that’s life.
BYS: What are some cool bands you’re friends with that we should check out, that maybe don’t get the credit they deserve?
Matt: There is no doubt an oversaturation of bands out there today. More often than not the bands are less than mediocre versions of the artists they are trying to emulate and sometimes blatantly rip-off. This alone leaves so many extremely talented bands and songwriters under the radar. The active bands I can think of to recommend include: The Fake Boys, Great Lakes, The Snips, Let Me Run, Raindance, Campaign, Half Hearted Hero, and there are many more. I don’t know him but the most criminally underrated songwriter of our generation is John Moreland, listen to his music (http://johnmoreland.bandcamp.com/).
BYS: What’s next for you guys?
Matt: Right now we are writing more music. We’ve booked some time with Jay Maas at the end of June and we are tracking for a split, as well as a brand new EP this year. We are so psyched on the new material and we’ll be releasing the details soon. We’re touring out to the Midwest next month with Let Me Run as well as heading into Canada to play Pouzza Fest. We’re doing a bunch of regional weekends throughout the year as well as another week or so around Fest in October. We’ve got plans to head to the west coast in the winter. Check our facebook page for updates (http://www.facebook.com/TheStereoState#!/TheStereoState/app_123966167614127)
BYS: Alright, this should be fun…
Pie or Cake?
Matt: Cake, Gabe’s mom ALWAYS has cake!
BYS: PC or Mac?
Matt: PC Ripper.
BYS: Descendents or Black Flag?
We’d like to thank Matt again for answering these questions. You can listen to THE STEREO STATE’s new album, Have All My Friends Gone Deaf, at thestereostate.bandcamp.com. You can find out more about them on their facebook page www.facebook.com/TheStereoState.