It’s been a long damn time since Stick To Your Guns played a headline tour within the water-besieged borders of Australia, with the band touring here since in various support roles. But with a new EP released earlier this year, ‘Better Ash Than Dust’, and with a headline tour supported by hardcore hype lords Knocked Loose, as well as the local boys in Reactions and Relentless, it’s better late than never again for a headline tour from STYG. With the Cali outfit recently wrapping up a bunch of UK shows, and before taking a weeklong trip through Ireland, singer Jesse Barnett speaks with us about touring Australia, their new EP charting on Billboard, working with Pure Noise Records, and on the nature of compromises and maturing.
It has been a long damn time since there was an Australian headline tour for you guys, at least five or six years ago?
Yeah, it’s been a long while, and were anxious to get over there and play. A few people have asked that as the last time we were there was in 2013 with The Amity Affliction and its great playing to crowds like that who may not know who you are. But we played such short sets, that we’re really looking forward to doing a headlining set that has more variety for the fans.
Sounds good. And there are some solid supports for this tour too. When looking at that lineup, and to not beat around the push here but STYG are a pretty successful band, do you see the mistakes that younger bands such as Knocked Loose are making or may make, and try to offer any guidance or advice when possible to help maintain their longevity?
Oh, of course. They actually just asked for advice about some things during our US tour with them. Those kids have some really levelled heads on their shoulders and there are a lot of younger bands that ask us ‘What should we do?’. The only advice I gave is to not worry about what your friends think. When you’re in a band that’s getting successful, a lot of people tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. But the thing is most of these people don’t know shit. So you have to listen to your heart, mind and soul and you’ll end up that that’s the right thing to do. Even if you’re friends don’t think it’s the coolest thing.
Their gonna make mistakes, but you have to let them make in order to learn. I can stand in their way and say ‘No! Don’t go down this way!’ but they have to see that themselves. I am confident that they [Knocked Loose] will keep doing this road of success as they’re good people and they’re smart kids that are doing it for the right reasons.
Apart from ‘Better Ash Than Dust’ you guys only have two other EP’s; 2004’s ‘Compassion Without Compromise’ and an old split with TSSF. So with switching labels from Sumerian Records to Pure Noise Records, was it a matter of getting a release out quickly on the new label or something that was in the works for a while?
We were originally supposed to release it on our own as we had these five songs and thinking that we release them on the next LP. But we decided on an EP and Jake [Round, founder] from Pure Noise Records came to us and said ‘Let me put it out, I’ll give you some money, I wanna be a part of this’. So we figured fuck it, why not? He got it out and he’s done a great job, and for an EP from a band like us to make Billboard 200 [at #133] was a really shocking thing for us. I think we really made the right move there.
We’re not gonna wait for a full album cycle on this EP. We’re starting to record in Spring 2017 and put out a record in the fall.
Sweet! And it’s interesting you mention getting on the Billboard Charts, do you think you could have achieved that Billboard chart by yourselves or do you think that it’s because of Pure Noise?
That’s a good question. I think that it is because of Pure Noise, as Jake really cares. He made sure it got pushed, that it got put in front of the right people, he sets up interviews like this so that we can talk to people; he makes sure that the right things are happening. He treats every single release like it’s his baby. He’s been present over the past five years of our career, and even when we were on another label, he still treated us like we were part of his team. When we completed our contract with Sumerian, he was the first one to say ‘It doesn’t matter what anyone else offers, I will beat it’. We had five or six offers come in but Jake was on the phone with us every day and he wanted it really badly and he showed us he truly cares.
And you know, Pure Noise is viewed as a big label but people tend to forget that they’re just a team of three or four people, it’s not this huge thing. They were just some punks that decided to start a label one day and have continued to do the right thing. So we’ll definitely be working with them in the future!
That’s what you want in a label, that they genuinely give a shit about your music and not just look to capitalise on a trending band. You know, for all intents and purposes, I think that Pure Noise could be the next Epitaph with the way they’re going
Honestly, I think they’re at that stage already, and doing better. I think that Jake has a better ear to the ground than Epitaph and he can really develop bands. He can take bands that no one has heard of and turn them into something big. Normally Epitaph finds bands with a good following and presence already and while Epitaph is a great label, I definitely agree with you about Pure Noise.
On the new EP, the one song that stood out to me was the last song ‘The Suspend’. STYG has a few other melodic/emotional songs like that, tracks like ‘Left You Behind’, ‘Built Upon The Sand‘, ‘The Suspend’, and even ‘La Poderosa/The Sufferer’, and they all tend to be the final song of your albums. Is that a calculated thing or just pure coincidence?
We like to sum up each record with a more emotional sounding song to put the listener in a state of mind that’s thoughtful and deep. Or at least, we attempt to do that. So yes, I do think it’s calculated and I try to sing about things that are quite personal, whereas the other songs tend to be very topic heavy. These songs are more inwardly focused about me, or my family, and that’s what I like to wrap up a record with.
Cool, and hey, even if you can’t get a song like that out on a Stick To Your Guns record, you personally have Trade Wind. And man, that new album was emotional as fuck!
[laughs] thank you, man.
Finally, I think I may know the answer to this already but I was wondering with the first STYG release I mentioned earlier, the ‘Compassion Without Compromise’ EP, and so has the band ever had to compromise on certain aspects of your message, sound or maybe in a more business driven area?
This band started when I was 15 years old and immediately, like right off the bat, we had the right time, right place moment and money was getting involved. And I was just a kid who had dropped out of high school. I didn’t know how to handle it and I signed a lot of stupid things but it was all educational. Definitely, labels use their special lingo and say they need more accessible songs, which means writing some bullshit that mainstream people want to hear. So you get that pressure and you start thinking that if want a career, you have to do it, but as I got older I realised that was fucking horseshit. The most success that’s come to the band where the moments when we stayed true to what Stick To Your Guns is and who we are as individuals. My opinion has changed over the years, and we’ve definitely tried musical things that were purely for a label, but not so much the music’s message, as that’s who I am. And I don’t think I could change the message even if I tried.
No, well said man. And that’s the distinction to make; if the sole idea, the core message of the band changes, then that’s a “sellout” move.
No, you’re absolutely right, man!
With that Jesse, we’ll leave it there. Thanks so much for the chat and I’ll see you guys next January!
It was my absolute pleasure Alex, thanks so much.
‘Better Ash Than Dust’ is out now via Pure Noise Records. Pick it up here. Tickets for STYG’s 2017 Australian tour with Knocked Loose, Reactions, and Relentless, presented by Chugg Entertainment & Destroy All Lines, are on sale now. Our interview with Knocked Loose can also be found here.