The Stanfields ExperiencePosted: October 12, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: Interviews, Music | Tags: 29, dirtiest drunk, flogging molly, interview, september, ship to shore, sound academy, stanfields, toronto | Leave a comment »
By Vanessa Markov
Photos by Vanessa Markov
Do you ever wonder who Canada’s next rock icons will be? Whether our generation will ever have a legend to call our own? One that we’ll remember in our old age and that our children will also respect and admire?
What would it take for a Canadian musician to reach out and truly connect with us on a national level the way Neil Young and The Tragically Hip have? Better yet, how would they get through to a truth-obsessed society in a world where fame and talent are no longer synonymous, and where no matter what you do, someone can do it better and post it online?
When I think about the future of Canadian music, I think of The Stanfields. Based out of Halifax, I met this friendly, three-year-old band of five back in January and have got to know a little bit about them while watching them grow and evolve over the months. During that time, they’ve opened for and toured with not one, but several big names like Big Sugar, Wide Mouth Mason, The Trews, and Flogging Molly.
“We’ve been touring with bands that have been doing it for ten, fifteen years so that’s definitely a great angle for learning. That’s what we consciously try to do. We try to learn something every night to make ourselves better.”- singer/guitarist Jon Landry
Bouzouki player Jason Wright adds, “There’s so much more that goes into it than just playing your tunes on stage, so touring with groups like these you start seeing what you don’t do. When it comes to putting on a good show and getting the crowd into it, we were kind of lacking at that when we first started. You’re so worried about playing your parts right and putting that into it and then you realize people are there to see you perform. They can listen to a CD if they want to hear your music so you’ve got to show them something else. Watching groups like this you learn and we’re like a sponge, just taking it in.”
Most recently, I spent an entire evening with the band and their entourage at Sound Academy after they performed a killer opening set for Flogging Molly. After our interview, we hung out and talked music, laughed our asses off, and drank beer until the venue was empty. For a night that originally started as an HnG assignment, it ended up more like a night hanging out with friends.
But it’s no coincidence or lucky draw to get up close and personal with The Stanfields, it’s just who they are – and that’s what I’m getting at. The Stanfields are an experience beyond music and a show; a rock ‘n roll experience that bridges the canyon sized barrier between the rock star and the fan and represents the big smokeless, mirrorless picture of life that attracts people for its truth and not its mystery. In the words of their tour manager and sound tech, Robbie Aggas, The Stanfields are truly a band of the people.
“Most of the boys have been playing together for five, eight, ten years, and that’s what it feels like when we tour, just a bunch of boys having a good time. Sometimes it feels like we’re having a little too much fun. Nobody ever fights. Sure, we have our grumpy days and such, but for the most part it’s like a group of buddies going out on the road and doing what we love to do.” – Robbie
What the pros are saying about The Stanfields:
“We were with Gordy Johnson and he’s like a legend for us, having grown up with his music. He heard our CD and saw us play so we asked him, ‘What can we do differently or to improve?’ and he just said, ‘Don’t change a thing!’ So that was it. That felt really good.” – Jason
After seeing The Stanfields explosive live set, reading through the lyrics on their debut LP, Vanguard of the Young and Reckless, is like stepping into a whole different dimension of the band. You’ll find powerful political messages (Ship to Shore, Federal Hall, Moneychangers), poetic folklore (Dagger Woods), and moving reflections (Antics, Ghost of the Eastern Seaboard) among the lighter hearted tunes like their first single, The Dirtiest Drunk, and the hilarious break-up anthem, Crocodile Tears. Instead of pushing those messages and emotions, The Stanfields opt to stress on their stomping rhythms and anthemic choruses in pure party spirit. I asked the guys why they play down the serious aspect of their music when performing live:
“When people come to see us, put your troubles at the door and have some fun. That’s what we want. Even if our music is serious lyrically, it’s energetic. That’s the kind of music I respond to, music with energy in it. We just try to give that back.” – Jason
“People get bombarded with bullshit every day,” Jon elaborates. “You turn on your TV and, oh look, there’s another partisan bombing in Iraq, the economy is going to the shitter, and so on. We want to be the antithesis of that. There’s a story I heard about WW2 fighter pilots who would fly missions out of England. After their mission they’d go down to the officers club and party their asses off because they’d have to fly the next day and didn’t know if they were going to come back. You go out there, you grin and bear it, and then you come back and celebrate living at the end of the day. That’s always been my personal kind of attitude towards music.”
On the reality of starting a career in music:
“The party part that people see is like 3% of the job. When we get on stage, personally that’s the pay off for all the other bullshit we have to go through, like being cramped in the van, feeling sick, tired, or rolling into a venue and you’re really tired or not feeling it, but you just do it and you feel great by the end of it,” Jon explains. “I’d say it’s like working out but I don’t know anything about that.”
Jason adds, “[Some people think] that we’re a bunch of lazy drunks. We do a lot, we have our party schtick that we do, but there’s a lot of hard work that goes behind what we do and you can’t do that if you’re loaded all the time.”
Though, there is still plenty of fun to be had offstage:
“At one of the shows we played with The Trews, we were on stage and JMac (Jason MacIsaac, The Stanfields’ guitarist) could hear Colin MacDonald warming up in the next dressing room. So JMac slid a piece of paper under his door that said, “Shut the fuck up!” with a big smiley face. So after the show I was tearing down my gear when Robbie runs over saying they cleaned out the dressing room. So we go to the dressing room and holy shit…every piece of gear, every chair, the cooler, everything was gone! The couch, gone. The room was empty.”
Robbie chimes in, “Except for one piece of paper that said, ‘Fuck off.’”
Laughing, Jon adds, “It was like a page out of our own book. The hijinks ensued for the rest of that tour.”
When I asked what kind of advice they’d give to bands that are just starting out:
“Get a trade!” Jon exclaims and everyone laughs. “I’m serious. Because you’re going to need it, you don’t just walk out the door and start getting fees. You need to have a job you can come back to when you’re off the road. And it’s fulfilling. I tried to do the whole ‘starving artist’ thing once and it sucked. It’s like that food for kids program in schools. If kids go to school starving they can’t retain anything. You can’t learn when you’re hungry. You need to have a well rounded life to be able to interpret yourself.”
“Plus you need money to go on tour. You’ll be playing shows where you won’t make any money at first so you need some kind of capital to draw from,” says Jason. “Also, play your own music, not because you think it’s cool or someone else did it. Play it because that’s what you want to play and because that’s what makes you happy.”
“Don’t get discouraged when there’s nobody in the room. If there are three people there and you knock them over, they’ll bring ten people next time. That’s how it works.” – Jon
Robbie talks about The Stanfields being categorized as Celtic music:
“Just because there’s one traditional instrument in there, everyone wants to categorize us with Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. I never saw it as that kind of music. It’s obviously got an east coast appeal to it, but I see it as just hard rock. Especially now that we’re touring with Flogging Molly, you can really see the difference. I don’t see us in that genre. We’re closely related but at the same time I think we’re very different. I keep saying ‘we’ but it’s actually ‘them’.”
From day one, I’ve always viewed Robbie as The Stanfields’ sixth member, the one who takes care of the technical side of things. He describes his role:
“I have to do all the really fun paperwork. You think that getting into the rock ‘n roll field, you’re getting away from math and shuffling papers and binders, but as a tour manager, there’s actually a lot of that. Doing the sound is like my ‘fun time’. After all the paperwork and bullshit is done, everyone’s organized and we’re on the road again, I finally get to do the sound which is kind of where I get to be my own rock star persona.”
And it’s always great to have someone on board who believes in The Stanfields like Robbie does:
“When people think of Canada, they think of The Hip when it comes to music. That’s what I want to see the band become.”
So is it naïve to believe a band can maintain an ‘Average Joe’ image and still climb to stardom? Perhaps, but isn’t it about time people start to realize there is something seriously insincere about the relationship between current icons and their fans? You know what I mean, that perverted adoration that causes fans to rip an artist to shreds for a keepsake lock of hair. It’s been happening since the dawn of rock ‘n roll and it’s the result of a convoluted misunderstanding on the part of the fan.
With The Stanfields, there is no room for misunderstanding. You hear it their no-bullshit lyrics, you see it in their balls-out performance, and you feel it in their neighborly presence. It’s an experience unrivaled by any other band in the country.
“I think these guys are going up. And I always say this to the boys, I see them as becoming a household name. That’s where I want them to go and I see the potential for them to get there.”– Robbie
Amen to that.
The Stanfields are returning to the studio this winter to begin recording their second full length album.
For a more in depth look into The Stanfields music and live show, click here.
And of course, you can always catch several of The Stanfields tunes on rotation on HnG Radio.