Home Field Advantage - Back in SF

July 20, 2014 - by Nick Schneider

This post will not, in fact, be about our Lost In Cyberspace Generation, nor my fondness for that great social lubricant we so commonly refer to as alcohol, nor the inherent evil of capitalism (occupy Tumblr!).  This post is, actually, pretty superficial.  I just wanna promote the next Stu Tails show.

But Nick, you may find yourself absolutely not wondering, why is this particular show so interesting?  What makes this show, the one taking place at the Neck of the Woods in San Francisco at 8pm (located at 406 Clement Street, $10 at the door or free if you follow me on Twitter!) with Among Criminals and Trash Honey and The Acetates, so special?  Why waste time writing this post, time that could be more productively spent scouring the internet for porn or binge watching House of Cards, or, if I’m in a really over-achieving mood, doing both at the same time.  Well, I’ll answer that question you probably didn’t ask.  It’s quite simple actually: THIS WILL BE THE BEST SHOW WE’VE EVER PLAYED.  That’s a fact from the future.  Lemme explain.

We’ve played seemingly thousands of shows over the past few years, and most of them took place in dive bars, occasionally a food festival, and even a Laundromat.  Many of those shows have a special place in my heart and an even fuzzier place in my brain.  And a lot of these places paid us money.  That’s always nice (thanks capitalism).

But amongst all those gigs, very few of them were music venues, that is, places built to showcase live music for fans who are specifically coming out to see and hear live music.  Neck of the Woods is not a bar that happens to play live bands- it’s a legitimate venue designed to feature live bands.  The last ‘real’ venue I remember playing was the Gilman way back when we first started, when I barely even knew the song structures and couldn’t figure out Chris Devlin at all (actually, I still can’t figure out Chris Devlin…).  Now we’re actually a good band, headlining a cool venue.  There’s no way we can screw this one up.  Well, I suppose Chris Devlin could…

So yes, it will admittedly be strange playing a professional show, not the typical drunken clusterfuck of reggae-rock that usually passes for a Stu Tails gig, especially our three-hour sets at the Grant & Green.  You know how it is.  You start the night off with a coherent setlist full of acutely defined break points and fluid transitions, but after a few Fireball shots (okay, so I did happen to mention my drinking problem; you try and play music with these guys sober) and a steady stream of people heading for the exit around 1 in the morning, that flawless game plan quickly becomes musical anarchy.  By the last few songs the show becomes something that resembles a David Lynch film: people will keep telling you that it made sense but you know deep down in your heart it didn’t.

That is why the Neck of the Woods will be THE BEST SHOW WE’VE EVER PLAYED.  Because it has to be.  If we do happen to screw up, we won’t have anything to blame it on but ourselves.  Not an overlong setlist.  Not a lack of crowd enthusiasm.  Not a crappy sound system or clueless engineer.  Everything is in our favor this time.  Hometown audience, real stage on which to play, excellent opening acts- I reiterate, this has to be our best show.

If there is one thing I like just as much as music (and drinking, and women, and obscure references to cult film directors) it’s baseball, so it’s about that time in the blog post to resort to a sports analogy.  The Stu Tails is like the rookie shortstop just called up to the majors and it’s his first big league game.  His whole family just flew in from Minnesota to come cheer him on (why Minnesota? I don’t know, I imagine it’s one of those places people desperately want to fly away from).  Sure, he struck out his first two times at bat, but a chance at redemption comes in the bottom of the 7th, two out and two on, a hit here could put the team in the lead.  The visiting team’s starting pitcher is running out of gas and he’s just tossin’ hangers over the middle of the plate at this point.  This is the rookie’s best shot to prove himself, to show everyone all those years sweating through the minors were worth it.

If we don’t hit this one outta the park, we better head back to the batting cages.

STUS IN THE STUDIO

April 2, 2014 by Nick Schneider -

I had to keep telling myself ‘two days.’  Two days?  My memory keeps stretching it out to a week at least, more likely two, because there’s no way we finished the raw tracks of Unconscious Communication in a mere 48 hours. Maybe some bizarre form of Stockholm Syndrome set in after being locked in a studio for hours on end playing music, repeatedly listening to the tracks for any glaring flaws, brainstorming ideas to add at the last minute, and squeezing as much creativity as we could out of our comically limited time frame.  We were eating, sleeping, thinking, breathing and talking music and nothing but music for two straight days, all communication taking place between bandmates, producer and studio engineer.  You’d go a little crazy too if you were stuck in a room with these guys for an entire weekend.

Maybe it’s the post-traumatic stress talking, but I wouldn’t trade in a single minute I spent over that weekend for anywhere else in the world.  Not at the Taj Mahal, not at the Great Wall of China, not even in Angelina Jolie’s bedroom.  Okay, maybe (probably, definitely) Angelina Jolie’s bedroom.  I mean, I would realistically only need about 30 seconds there.

But in all seriousness, the recording of Unconscious Communication was one of the most satisfying experiences of my musically involved life.  Not only did I get to play music for two full days, which is a spiritually fulfilling action in and of itself, but I also had a part in creating music.  It’s a fine distinction but an important one to point out.  Just playing music is an action that limits itself solely to the present, the here and now, for the enjoyment of a few friends in a garage, a stadium packed with fans, a couple drunks at a bar, or simply yourself, the individual player.  Creating music is a deliberately forward-thinking process: it is the purposeful crafting of songs, of building sturdy sonic structures to weather the ravages of time and changing tastes.  The recording you create will far outlive you, that’s why it is so imperative you display the best of your ability for that particular studio session.  You are essentially putting yourself out there for (hopefully) the world to hear.  It’s a kind of pressure that doesn’t exist in the live setting, one where mistakes are instantaneously made and just as quickly forgotten.  Mistakes in the studio can live on if unchecked or hastily passed over. 

Here, in the studio, perfection is that elusive, beautiful woman always out of reach but never out of mind.  She exists, you know she does.  You can see her, hear here, smell her expensive perfume.  But you can’t have her.  And youronly comfort is the hope that by trying harder you may be able to draw a few steps closer to that capricious impossibility.

Despite the heavy tone of those last few sentences, the actual recording process was relatively painless and it was fueled with the energy akin to schoolchildren playing hooky: yes, there was ample room for fuck-ups and mayhem and embarrassing consequences, but we were gonna have some serious fun in the meantime.  This whole thing could’ve been a disaster but, then again, anything in life has the potential to be a disaster.  

Good thing we kick ass.  Yeah, I’ll say it.  To hell with being humble.  There are only two things I’m good at in this shrinking world: playing drums and writing inane blog posts, and I’ll take as much pride as I want in those two things thank you very much.  The fact that I can share these talents with such an exemplary group of musicians, well, there’s not much more I could ask for, is there?  Besides a few minutes in Angelina Jolie’s bedroom, of course.

The Making of "I'm Gone"

March 14, 2014 - by Nick Schneider

Some songs are like fetuses, taking months to develop into a fully formed being.  Others are like chemical reactions, sparking into existence instantaneously.  “I’m Gone” falls into the latter category, morphing into its taut, 2 1/2 minute structure after one short jam session and a few stunned faces wondering how the hell we just did that.  Why can’t every song be that easy to write?

A straight-ahead rocker with a driving beat, Motown-inflected bass groove, hint of ska guitar, and raw vocals, it will get even the most timid of you out there on the dance floor.  Come on, go and embarrass yourself.  Failing with passion is always more noble than succeeding with apathy.  If, for a brief moment, those uncoordinated legs of yours expose your uncool and unkempt side, so what?  You restrain yourself too much on a daily basis everywhere you go- school, work, the supermarket, whatever.  Let it out here and let The Stu Tails be the soundtrack to this small rebellion of the self.

Don't take my word, see for yourself - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LxPC7N_MjU

The Grant & Green: It was 1 year ago today...

February 15, 2014 - by Nick Schneider

Most gigs suck.  That’s the unfiltered, musician truth.  It’s a lot of hard work for little reward.  All the time/money/patience spent preparing for a show- you’re certainly never getting that back.  If you’re lucky to get paid anything at a venue in this modern day no-pay, no-risk atmosphere, you’ll probably spend it all on drinks anyway.  You might get to go home with a girl, but you probably won’t.  And if you do, you’ll probably regret it in the morning, a morning that will probably be spent nursing a mean hangover and wondering what life decisions led to this deplorable state, one in which your parents spent so much time and effort trying to prevent. 

Then there’s the physical agony- the lugging of equipment, the painful banality of setting up and breaking down gear, that unglamorous reality of a low-budget musician’s life (and San Francisco, with your obnoxious hills and mythical parking spaces, you don’t make the process any less stressful). 

Then there’s the very possible chance that no one will show up, that the audience will consist of two work friends (who you begged to come out and support) and a few drunks seated securely at the bar.  And, what if, horror of unspeakable horrors, the opening and/or closing band is better than you. Fuuuuck.  There’s a blow to the ego my fragile wannabe-starving-artist psyche just can’t handle.

But we do it anyway- put up with all the angst and self-doubt and backstabbing musicians and Sisyphistic repetitiveness- because every show has the potential to be THE ONE.  The one you will be talking about for years, a story that will be passed onto untold future generations, a tale fit to go down in the annals of Rock N’ Roll History.  It’ll be the one where everybody gets laid in some massive Caligula-like orgy full of strippers and Playboy bunnies and Kerry Washington; David Geffen signs us to a multi-million dollar contract on the spot; John Mayer happens to be in the crowd and, so overcome by the performance, realizes just how mediocre he is and vows to never again deface the aesthetic beauty of a guitar with his grubby, untalented, uninteresting, milquetoast, boring white-boy fingers.  I guess what I’m trying to say is I wish Jimi Hendrix was still alive.

The Stu Tails’ upcoming gig at the Grant & Green marks our one year anniversary playing the venue.  That’s a big deal (I would like to think) for any band, but I’m gonna make this post about me because, hell, I’m the one writing it (plus I’m atrociously narcissistic, vain and self-obsessed to the point of paralysis, or, in other words, a typical writer).  This one year anniversary, which happens to fall the day after Valentine’s in a cheeky side note, marks a personal milestone for me.  I don’t remember any of my bands lasting over a year, and if they did, the time spent after that mark must’ve not been that memorable.  In fact, I’ve had more bands than girlfriends, which is both a sad statement on my personal life and a virulent indication of my slightly psychotic obsession with music.  I could write for days about all the gigs I’ve played, all the shows I’ve seen, all the bands I’ve heard, adamantly followed or desperately tried to forget.  And I could probably sum up my love life within the length of a tweet.

So what am I doing with this band, settling down?  Capitulating to commitment at long last?  I don’t know if I’m willing to go that far.  Let’s take it slow, see where this thing takes us.  Hey, if the Stu Tails could land me a slot at the Coachella main stage then I’d propose this instant and drive to Vegas tonight. 

So one year ago at the Grant & Green really was the start of something pretty special.  It wasn’t our First Gig Ever (that ‘honor’ belongs to the renowned punk shrine the Gilman in Berkeley), but it was our first show in San Francisco and, more importantly, the first show we didn’t sound like total shit.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Gilman for many reasons, but not exactly for our sense of musical cohesion.  Think about it- we had only practiced maybe three times total together as a band before the show; we were little more than acquaintances at that point; and I, personally, hadn’t played a real show since the move back from LA.  It was an experience almost surreal in nature- playing at the historic home to Bay Area heroes (Operation Ivy, Dead Kennedys, Green Day, etc.) with a reggae-rock group from the East Coast.  There’s a cosmic joke to be found in there.

The Grant & Green gig, to say the least, went much smoother.  It may not have been THE ONE, but it was a good one.  Though the combination of aggressive alcohol consumption, recreational drug usage, and many late nights followed by too-early mornings may have whittled my memory down to a dull edge- just a nebulous blob of snatched conversations, vague details and amorphous facts- I do believe we played well that night.  I vividly recall circling North Beach for about an hour looking for a decent parking spot, but, as for the show, yeah, I’m sure it was okay.  It certainly wasn’t our best, and definitely not our worst, but a pretty damn good sophomore effort.  And it did make me realize that maybe, just maybe, this band might be one worth sticking with.

The Stu Tails - BACK IN THE STUDIO!

After a three year recording hiatus, we've hit the studio to record a new 5 song EP. The band has matured a whole lot since our last batch of songs, so we expect everyone to really love the new stuff. Expect a new single in November, followed by a full drop in 2014!