Come January 25th, Stick To Your Guns will be returning to Australia with their pals in Terror for a hardcore co-headline double whammy across the nation. Before that tour kicks off in Brisbane, however, we got in-contact with STYG frontman, Jesse Barnett, to chat about the personal introspection behind their latest album, ‘True View’, his new project Wish You Were Here, labels and politics, as well as the current state of hardcore. Check out the full interview below and get married to the noise.
Jesse, there was A LOT of personal introspection on ‘True View’, and with that soul-searching and emotion, are you and the band different or more well-versed people since writing and constructing said record? Or are you more the same as people, but now you’ve found some form of inner peace after the fact?
I’d like to think that we are different/better people after all that went into ‘True View’, though I think that is something that others will have to decide. It’s easy for us to convince ourselves that our perspective is best. Being able to consider otherwise can bring opportunity for inner peace, and that was a goal amongst other things with the album.
Stemming from that, with all of the emotion and honesty put into your records, what do your friends or family say when they hear your records once they come out? Do they ask if you’re okay or commend you on what you guys have shared? Or do they even listen to your bands’ releases at all?
Some listen to the albums more than others, which is fine. There is no real expectation that they listen to the band. It’s more important to maintain a relationship with the family around the busy schedule that goes along with being in a full-time band. As most mothers would, my mom often wants to know how things are going, and I am grateful to have the kind of relationship with her that does allow me to speak honestly and not just give surface responses. I’m sure that I have family that doesn’t agree with all that is said on our albums, and that’s fine too. If anything, it can create room to talk. Sometimes it’s good to just talk instead of constantly trying to prove any one position.
I find that ‘True View’ walks this line between the usual, anthemic melodic hardcore STYG tunes and the darker, almost lower-key songs that have started cropping up in your music since ‘Disobedient’. Was that dichotomy of the band’s two different sounds challenging to create cohesively for your last album or was it something that just came naturally?
I would say it came naturally. At this point, we have all been playing music predominantly hardcore for a hundred years. Over time, I think it’s natural to show other sides or show people what else we can do.
Of course! With the voice samples used throughout said album and that recording of your mother on ‘3 Feet From Peace’, where and how did you get them? Where they recorded out of a coincidence or – and not to be antagonistic – where they planned and captured for the purpose of being used on-record, in order to justify the thematic intent?
The conversation with my mom was genuine. That conversation came up when I was having a good amount of internal debate over my values, and how I reflected those values in my relationships. Am I a good person? Do I actually live the message that I tell from the stage? Those are difficult questions to sit with, and difficult answers to navigate. Sure, I’m an adult now, but sometimes mom can still help. That internal debate produced some of the content on ‘True View’.
Thanks for clearing that up. While I’d hesitate to call STYG a strictly political band, there have been strong political elements to the band’s music since day one. What’s your response to the people out there who say things like “keep politics out of music” and (in my own opinion) other such cognitive dissonant comments?
We have had some content that people could say may lean one way or the other if you had to put STYG in a political basket, though I would not say STYG is a political band tied to any one party or affiliation. People change their positions as their perspectives and experiences change. Labelling a person or a band as any one kind of politics can often be a means to write them off, or count everything they have to say as worthless. In America right now, we prefer to draw these harsh lines in the sand. If your political opinion is X, then you are Y, and if you are Y, everything that you say is wrong and I don’t have to consider any of it at all. We then surround ourselves only with people that echo our very same positions and assumptions. I think that approach limits growth. I think it’s important to not be so rigid in my beliefs and positions that I become unable to learn and grow.
Great point there; echo chambers can indeed be harmful. So, with your new project, Wish You Were Here, I thought that the first single ‘Come Find Me’ was lovely! But I also think it could’ve easily been a new Trade Wind cut in many ways, given the sounds and styles of the last album, ‘You Make Everything Disappear’. So, why the new band? For your own sake to ensure it becomes its own thing and is separate of expectations, or for other reasons? I’d love to know!
That’s interesting to me to hear that it sounds similar to Trade Wind, as I hadn’t envisioned it that way. I think that future material from WYWH will be much more clearly differentiated from my other projects, and thus the need for it to be its own thing will also become more evident.
Cool, can’t wait for more, man! And with Wish You Were Here, are you planning more material to drop and even tour it? Or will it remain as a different creative outlet for you moving forward, one that you’ll return to when necessary?
A little bit of both in that regard! However, I’ll need to leave that one mostly unanswered as I’m still planning various things for the future of WYWH, and those announcements will be made in due time.
Jesse, do you think that hardcore bands like yourselves are stuck in a damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don’t situation? Because if you write hardcore music forever, people don’t see any kind of progression. Yet if you do change then people will say you “sold out” and so forth. Obviously, fans and critics aren’t always only looking for a new album to be the next ‘Shape Of Punk To Come’, but do you feel some bands in hardcore music are directly or indirectly written into a corner?
Good question! I think it comes down to each individual band. You can look at a band like Terror or Every Time I Die and see that they have consistently been true to their sound. It’s never strayed into something forced or unrecognizable. Both of those bands are still going strong, so I wouldn’t say either of them have suffered from sticking with their sound. If anything, I think both of those bands are better for it. With STYG, we’ve certainly tried various things on albums. Some of which would be considered “hardcore” and some may be judged by others to not be hardcore enough and so on. That’s part of being in a band, and being a person really. You put yourself out there. Sometimes it’s loved, and sometimes it’s not. At this point with STYG, we feel when we have a good song. Whether that song has a punk beat, a breakdown, or a clean singing part isn’t really a component in that feeling. It’s more of a thumbs up or thumbs down, and it’s taken song by song.
Lastly, with the Australian tour you and STYG have coming up with Terror in 2019, I want to know where your favourite place to eat in every major Australian city is? Surely there are a couple of places you always return to when you’re Down Under?
The winner would be Smith & Daughters in Melbourne. They serve really great vegan food there. I’m sure you are already aware of that spot and the owners’ connection to hardcore. That’s the one place that stands out most to me at the moment. Thank you so much for the interview!
Stick To Your Guns are touring Australia with Terror this January – check out all dates below & grab tickets here.
Friday 25 January – The Brightside, Brisbane 18+
Saturday 26 January – Miami Tavern Shark Bar, Gold Coast 18+
Sunday 27 January – Crowbar, Sydney 18+
Monday 28 January – Small Ballroom, Newcastle 18+
Tuesday 29 January – The Basement, Canberra 18+
Thursday 31 January – Pelly Bar, Frankston 18+
Friday 1 February – Stay Gold, Melbourne 18+ – SOLD OUT
Saturday 2 February – Enigma Bar, Adelaide 18+
Sunday 3 February – Amplifier Bar, Perth 18+