Stonerror: Old School Desert Rock Done Right
On one of my late night sessions in the studio, when I was looking to avoid doing any more work, I headed over to Bandcamp to waste some time. I was hoping to edit another La Mort Youtube video the next day, and I needed an epic soundtrack. Harder to come by than you may think. Anyway... in went the usual search term, desert rock, and out came a thousand bands that have bought a fuzz pedal and don't know when to shut up. It was 3am and things were not looking good.
That is, until I stumbled upon the page of Stonerror. What in the fuck is this? Finally a band doing desert rock for real. Grinding overdriven guitars and oily basslines rolling over the most hypnotic drums since the QOTSA debut album. No pointless jamming, and everything unnecessary stripped out. By the time I contacted the band and asked to use their music, I had been listening to The Wolf, a track from their first album, on repeat. It has the most infectious groove. As well as absolutely killing it in the studio, they turned out to be a modest, down to earth and friendly group.
Read this interview and you'll understand why I am trying to spread the word about this wicked group.
With the stoner/desert rock sound starting out in America, it's great to see that it’s going strong in your home country of Poland. What is the rock music scene like in Kraków?
There are many stoner/desert and doom bands in Poland now. Some of them are really good and also doing well abroad. We also have a couple of growing stoner/doom festivals (like Soulstone Gathering or Red Smoke Festival) with international headliners. So yeah, things are happening. In Kraków, there are also some bands in the genre, but the local underground rock scene covers a much wider spectrum – from punk rock, to alternative rock, hard rock, and all kinds of metal. For us, as Stonerror, it is important not to remain within a particular, constricted circle or genre. We like to play with different bands, so our music can reach new audiences, who wouldn’t otherwise listen to stoner/desert rock. Music should have no boundaries, it’s all about connecting people.
You have an epic, hypnotic sound that reminds me of QOTSA and Kyuss. How do you get that vintage tone? Is that down to the way you write/play songs or the equipment you use?
Thanks for the accolade, we love Kyuss and QOTSA. You know, the sound of our recordings and live performances is vital to us. The tone we’re trying to achieve is a combination of both factors you’ve mentioned, and even more. The way we write music is quite organic: it’s the output of four guys rocking together, when ideas and emotions are blended into a powerful and meaningful whole. Equipment-wise, the band uses vintage guitars, drum kits, and valve amps. After some experimentation we settled upon our present gear: classic Gretsch, Gibson, and Fender guitars, paired with old-school Marshall, Vox, and Fender amps. But there’s yet another key factor: the way we record and mix the music. That’s where all the desert space and the epic flavour are created.
Do you go digital or analogue/tape when you record in the studio?
We like to keep it old-school. The album was recorded live in the studio, on a 16-track tape recorder, and then mixed on a vintage analogue console in real time. So what comes out of the drums, amps and mics, goes directly to tape, there’s no digital tricks or gimmicks. Only the mastering was performed digitally. We tried to achieve this ‘60s/’70s warm, airy multi-dimensional sound. Of course, with analogue recording techniques there’s no room for track edition, so the songs must be played tightly at once, but on the other hand you get all the live energy and dynamics of a real band playing together. You get the momentary creative moment caught on tape. And this is what rock music should be about – actual emotions and the interplay of band members are much more important than insensate perfection.
What pedals do you guys use to get those beautiful fuzz tones?
The funny thing is that most musicians nowadays like to experiment with huge, expanded pedalboards, searching for the Holy Grail of fuzz and distortion. We’ve actually chosen the opposite way, trying to keep it as simple as possible. Nothing beats the natural overdrive of a cranked up old valve amp. Our basic guitar sound is just a 50-year old Gretsch plugged into a valve Marshall amp through a Moog Minifooger Drive pedal. The bass guitar is just plugged into a 45-year old Fender Bassman, with no pedals at all. The rest comes from the way we play the instruments. No technology can replace the authentic dynamics you create with your own hands.
To date, you have released the EP Rattlesnake Moan and the album Stonerror. Are you planning any more releases, or are you concentrating on your live performances right now? What are we going to see from you guys in the next year?
The EP was recorded during one of Stonerror’s first gigs. We listened to it and realized: “hey, we can actually play as a band, how cool, let’s do it”. The album took more preparations and deliberations, but it was recorded in a week or so. Right now we are working on new material: we have two or three new songs ready, so there’s still a lot to do. The plan is to enter the studio sometime in the winter of 2017/2018. We’re working with the same producer, Maciek Cieślak, so we already know each other very well (he’s a brilliant musician and composer himself, and he even performs with us on selected occasions as an additional guitarist). Whether it’s gonna be another full album or an EP – well, it depends on the budget and our creative mood. But we’re certainly going to deliver some new killer stuff in 2018.
Your songs seem a lot more well-crafted and structured compared to a lot of stoner bands. Do you write songs individually, or do things all come together in the studio when you are jamming?
Songwriting is another thing we pay a lot of attention to. Many stoner bands are satisfied with casual jamming upon some generic riffs. We prefer actual songs – simple and not too long, but well-structured and internally balanced. And no, we don’t write them individually. We rather bring some riffs, melodies, and ideas into the studio, and then jam together, and experiment, discuss, and sometimes fight, until the song is ready and everyone in the band likes it. As I said before, it’s an organic and evolutionary process. Sometimes the best ideas arise from the momentary interplay of band members or even by accident. But we’re never leaving any loose ends, arrangement-wise. It’s almost like carving a sculpture from stone: you gradually throw away everything that sounds unnecessary or excessive until the song is there. The lyrics are important, too: you can sing some random shit about hitting the bong or tripping on acid, but that’s not our fancy. We like telling poetic stories which encapsulate strong, personal emotions.
Any plans to play dates in the UK or US? Maybe Desertfest in London?
Stonerror is just two years old. So far, we’ve only played gigs, small festivals, and mini-tours in Poland. It’s been mainly based upon DIY and networking. But since our music is spreading nicely over the Internet, there’s already been some international fan base built up (from Europe, to Australia, to South America, and the US), asking us to come over and play for them. US is a long-term goal, but we want to start touring Europe next year. There are some initial plans and arrangements about Germany and Latvia. Desertfest would be a blast! Hey, maybe you could invite us to the UK or recommend the band to the right people? Actually, we’re looking for a professional management and/or international booking agency. So if anyone reading this can help, please contact us.
What's the story behind your band name?
The name’s cool, right? Faza, our guitar player, made it up a few years before Stonerror actually came together. He wanted to use it as a label for one of his solo projects. After starting this band we loved the name right off the bat. It sounds great and it befits our music. We don’t exactly play generic stoner rock, it’s more of a crossover thing, connecting different genres and musical eras. Sometimes there’s a lot more "error" than "stoner" to what we do. And that’s the best and most amusing part.
I honestly can't say enough good things about this band. They are not your every day desert rock band, which is what makes them stand out. You'll be hearing a lot more of their music in our videos, I hope. Until then, head to the link below and check them out. Their EP, Rattlesnake Moan, and their full-length album, Stonerror, are both available to buy, along with some wicked merchandise.