STATS is a metal band based in Brooklyn, NY.
Tell me a little bit about the history of the band.
Hank: Joe and I have been playing together roughly since ’99 or 2000. We were in a indie rock band in college called Super Lucky Cat. And that went on for three or four years. I left that band and they kept playing and after Super Lucky Cat dissolved Joe and I got back together and kinda switched gears because we had always been into metal and heavier stuff that wasn’t being expressed in that band at all. We regrouped and started from scratch, experimenting and playing strange music that had something to do with what we’re doing now but in this very skeletal form. Our friend Tom, who was also in Super Lucky Cat, came into that and it was a trio for a while. That was in 2002. Over the next five or six years we had two other bass players in the meantime, recorded a couple EPs and stuff and Tony came on board in 2006 or 2007. He was in another band we went on tour with called Archeopteryx so he joined, we recorded one thing and changed the name to STATS, rebooted it. It was Stay Fucked in the interim and it’s been stable since Tony joined.
What kind of band was Archeopteryx?
Tony: It was similar. A little less polyphonic, but the same source material. We were all drinking from the same water.
What would that be?
Hank: It wasn’t really bands, in general, it was sounds.
Joe: The funny thing is that we connected very quickly when both Stay Fucked and Archeopteryx were playing a show together which consisted of 10 or 12 bands playing five-minute-long sets on this snowy night in the December of 2003. Hank and I did that as a duo by chance because Tom the bassist was snowed out or had to work late. We had been used to accommodating someone not being able to make a show and picking up as a duo. We, Stay Fucked, heard Archeopteryx that night, and vice versa, and over the course of those five minutes we recognized the common ground pretty quickly. Tony pinpointed it.
Hank: He said to me, you guys sound like the Descendents, the instrumental stuff of the Descendents and I had listed to the Descendents in high school and just remembered them as this sort of garden variety pop-punk band, early but still kind of normal, and Tony clued me into going back to it and a lot of really weird progressive, sped-up prog rock. So when I revisited it opened up this whole realm of that that Tony was already aware of. So we were sharing music, Tony got us back into that.
Joe: Now that I think about that show, we played like a five-minute long medley of our material. And then we played part of another song too. In retrospect, I think that led Tony to believe that it was way more high-minded than it really was.
Hank: We never played like that again.
Tony: That was our first show ever and we hadn’t even figured out what our band was. So I didn’t really know what I was listening to anyway. But I thought it was cool. I thought it’s what I was.
Joe: You were just humoring us.
Hank: For the two of us, it was these people coming at metal from a very alternative, oblique angle. We were playing heavy music but we were all kinda nerds, putting on these metal poses, adopting the heaviness without the attitude I think. That had a lot to do what with both bands were doing, so there was an instant affinity with Archeopteryx and we did a split-release with them. Right around that time we absorbed Tony into that band.
What did Tony add?
Hank: He made everything better. Tony’s been in it the longest, we’ve worked the longest and hardest with him, and Tony has an incredible amount of training. He brought the whole thing up, elevated it to a level where it made Joe and I play better.
Is there a song you’d pick that best represents what Tony added to the band?
Joe: Once we rebooted and renamed the band, reconceived it three years ago, we made that recording called Marooned, writing and recording the material for that, especially “Yo King” and “Sadcap” that things really evolved. We made a conscious effort to play more slowly, not because we wanted to play slower music, but because we didn’t want to rush through what we were playing. The pace changed and the heaviness changed over the course of that song “Sadcap,” because it took over a year and there’s a lot of material that we never recorded that was part of what we call the “Sadcap Sessions.” Because we had this tape archive of all of our rehearsals. That tells the tale though.
Hank: The pacing thing was important because the music previously was very frenetic. It was like this high-speed obstacle course feeling. It was fun to play but I think there were some revelations going on tour and listening to a lot of Led Zepplin and wanting to hear the groove, and letting the groove be the thing. We weren’t going to skimp on the complexity, but I wanted it to feel the groove as much as it could, from the Zepplin and Sabbath. The slowness is a big thing.
Joe: I probably harp on it too, a little bit.
Hank: The slowness?
Hank: We were rushing through the material and we’d listen to the tapes of the live show and it would sound like it was on fast forward. We had these really great riffs and I don’t think we gave them their due because we were playing too fast. We had these rehearsals where for half an hour we’d grind through the riff at an uncomfortably slow tempo and…
Hank: Yeah. Just get the groove and not rush. And it was very difficult for us. It is a primary goal, at this point.
Do you work the kinks out live or do you rehearse a lot?
Hank: Yeah, we rehearse a lot. Its definitely 2:1 if not 3:1.
Joe: During that period of time when Stay Fucked became STATS we probably had a four-month layoff between shows and we played very seldom that year. Just wrote and rehearsed.
Hank: We spend a lot of time writing and rehearsing songs. We all enjoy that process and if it takes forever to do then we’re all OK with that. The tours that we have done have certainly been helpful; we run this shit over and over again, and over and over.
Joe: We write the songs very slowly. For instance, the newest songs in our repertoire which we’ll play tonight is called “It Stinks,” and it took a year to write it. It’s pretty long, it’s over ten minutes long. So there’s a substantial amount of material there. But again, “Sadcap Sessions” there’s a lot of stuff. We feel like it always takes a while to write an individual piece but there’s always a lot of material that’s churned out and often utilized or repurposed later.
Hank: We name them all, we diagram it out, we play it and listen to it and rearrange it. It’s like refrigerator poetry or something, moving the shit around. There’s a lot of that. We have fun making these insane contraptions and arrangements of all these riffs. That’s the meet of the process.
Funny tour experiences? Roll around on the ground.
Tony: That type of thing is the thing that happens the most. Some weird-ass people are attracted to this music.
Joe: We had the same thing happen in Lansing, Michigan. A drunk man got up on stage.
Tony: I’m a magnet for that type of person.
Hank tells me that you hone in on the inside jokes too.
Tony: Inside jokes, like really brutal, noisy dark metal, is stuff that we are drawn too but know that it has to happen in moderation when you present the whole product to the audience. If you go too far in you get lost in this nebulous world where you lose track of what the fuck you’re doing. Comedy in the song titles, which is a big part of how we were raised and also how we came to be ourselves, is something that you have to do with extreme caution and restraint lest you do…I don’t want to name names of bands that do it…but it clearly makes them look stupid.
Hank: The practices when the three of us get together, its always us just fucking around and joking around. And that’s always there. In the beginning, that was the presentation. And over time we realized we don’t want to pretend like you should take us seriously but we’ve still got our toe dipped in that. Like that one song “Wareheim.” That comedy, we talk about it with one another just as much as music…
Joe: Maybe more.
Hank: Maybe more. But you don’t want the product to be written off as silly or something. What you’re saying could be really clichéd.
Tony: And a funny song title just makes someone who listens to it assume that it’s absolute crap.
Hank: It’s the same with the whole band name. I had a buddy who was like, I though your band was going to be stupid because of the name Stay Fucked. But you were really well-rehearsed! I don’t want people to think that it’s going to suck before. I’d rather them just be able to hear it, and we take it seriously so hopefully they take it seriously.
Joe: A lot of the jokes that get drilled so much that they’re only really funny to us, but not in a way that excludes people from appreciating the humor. I think every song title is a joke, pretty much. It’s just sublimated humor. We have a song called “From Before” because of this gesture of throwing your thumb over your shoulder in awkwardness which has this different application. It’s open to interpretation.
Hank: That one was successful. Because it took something so absurdly specific and esoteric but you don’t read it and think of a joke. But yeah it’s that thing from “Wet Hot American Summer.”
Joe: That song has a vibe and an atmosphere hat’s very spooky or uncanny. It sounds like, literally, from before. Evoking something. Maybe?
Tony: I wanted to hide that it was instincts, and I wanted to make it something slightly Dutch origin of the phrase. But now I realize that instinct itself also evokes some sort of harsh situations. And that derives from the Critic’s appearance on “The Simpsons.” “It stinks!”
Joe: I can’t think of what Marooned was from.
Hank: Ren & Stimpy. There’s a Ren & Stimpy episode was called “Marooned” and I just really liked the word. It’s one of the episodes where they’re in space and their ship crashed, a really creepy vibe to it. I just decided that, hopefully you guys were cool with it, but with the artwork I wanted to push it into a more creepy or cryptic, give the thing a gravity.
Hank: Yeah. It was a conscious effort. One of our early fliers had this caricature of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the photocopy messed up so it was all green and it looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger was the Incredible Hulk. We had our early flier; green Arnie. A lot of shit like that. I used to go on this pet food supply website and it had this chinchilla food, and it had this graphic of like chinchilla bites. We like fucking around. After a while, we’re still gonna fuck around in practice. But it was doing the music a disservice.
What are your plans for future releases?
Hank: We want to bring vocals back into the band, after dropping them out.
Tony: We all came to the conclusion that we don’t listen to instrumental music anymore. It’s starting to feel very hollow. Or just that the stuff that we do listen to happens to have vocals in it.
Hank: Our favorite music ever, in this vein, has vocals in it. I think it’ll provide a way in for people who aren’t as versed in instrumental stuff.
Photo By Laal Shams