Stockholm Syndrome: Not exactly a band of brothers
ASPEN – The side project is the musician’s dream gig. You get a break from the disagreeable jerks in your regular band who distort your musical vision with ideas of their own, and who snore on the long, daily bus rides from venue to venue. Instead, you spend your time with actual friends whom you have been dreaming of playing and hanging with, and do so in a relatively pressure-free environment. The crowds and crews are smaller; the tours are shorter; you’re allowed – even expected – to play a bunch of cover songs, rather than expose yourself with your own tunes. And if the thing doesn’t work out perfectly – hey, no biggie: It’s a side project.Here is how Jerry Joseph knows that Stockholm Syndrome has crossed the threshold from side project to a full-fledged band: It’s stressful, a fact Joseph punctuates by squeezing as many forms of the f-word as possible into our conversation.”At some point, people are saying, ‘Are you having fun? And I say, ‘F—k’ you, man. This is anything but having fun. This is my job,” the 49-year-old Joseph said as he enjoyed a chilly moment on the Windansea beach, in La Jolla, Calif., where he spent many warmer moments as a child. “I think all the elements [for being a band] are there. Certainly all the drama is there. There’s a lot of egos flying around. Everyone contributes to that.”Rounding out the case is the amount of time Joseph and his mates – guitarist Eric McFadden, drummer Wally Ingram, keyboardist Danny Louis, and bassist Dave Schools, who shares bandleader duties with Joseph, and is also a member of Widespread Panic – have put into Stockholm Syndrome. Since Joseph and Schools launched the project, with a 2004 acoustic tour as a duo across Europe, Stockholm Syndrome has done more tours than Joseph can keep track of; he says it’s at least 10. The current lineup has been intact for six years. And while recording music has been a challenge, due to the member’s other commitments – Louis has been a member of the busy Gov’t Mule; Ingram has been a key collaborator with David Lindley, Sheryl Crow and Eric Burdon; McFadden juggles a handful of groups – the band finally has a second album, “Apollo,” released last week. (Their debut, “Holy Happy Hour,” came out in 2004.)Stockholm Syndrome’s latest tour, an eight-show run through the West, comes to Aspen’s Belly Up Wednesday night. Super 400, a hard-rock trio from upstate New York, opens.For Joseph, the stress in the band centers around artistic issues, not personal ones. Joseph, who led the Boulder-based band Little Women in the ’80s, is known as a singer-songwriter, and perhaps best known for contributing a bunch of songs to Widespread Panic. His bandmates in Stockholm Syndrome, though, are known as flame-throwing instrumentalists. Schools, for one, is capable of head-turning bass playing, but a Stockholm Syndrome show in Aspen in 2008 showed him reigning in his chops – playing a four-string bass, rather than the six-string he uses in Panic; and more or less sticking to the essential notes.”I try really hard to get him to stick to just four strings,” Joseph said. “I’m the guy saying, ‘F–k you and your six strings. Sometimes I think bassists should be limited to five frets. We’re from different schools of thought. You pull out that freaky bass playing, that f–king weirdness, Keith Richards would shoot you. So would Bob Marley.””These guys,” Joseph continued, speaking of his bandmates, “are all players, and all in bands where they’re encouraged to play a lot. But this isn’t Gov’t Mule, man. It’s not about master of the instrument and solos.””Apollo” manages to strike a balance. It’s oriented toward Joseph’s lyrics and voice, and the songs – many of them written a few summers ago, when Joseph and Schools got together at Schools’ retreat in northern California.”We wanted the album to sort of sound like California,” Joseph said. “It was late summer, ocean, redwoods. We were listening to the Mother Hips a lot, and thinking how to capture that California sound.”The title track, which opens the album, stretches over seven minutes, giving McFadden room for a generous guitar solo. The rest of the album is tighter, and runs through aggressive Southern-leaning rock (“In Your Cups”), folkish sounds (“That Which Is Coming”) and soul (“Town & Country”).”The first record, it was a batch of songs and go, go, go,” Joseph, who recently moved from Harlem to Portland, Ore. “We were worried about not coming off as a jam band. We had an agenda of what we didn’t want to be. This one is about, What serves the songs best? It sounds more settled. It’s a pretty great record; I wish we were headed out for six months.”Joseph believes the differences of opinion among the band members is an important ingredient on “Apollo.” “I think that tension’s good,” he said. “For me, it’s pretty exciting. Knowing what these guys are capable of, it’s a privilege to share the stage with them. Everyone knows any one of these guys could take it for the next two hours and take over. But me, I listen to the Bad Seeds. I think Nick Cave is the most happening thing in music.” Cave, the Australian singer who fronts the Bad Seeds, is known for his dark themes and hard-edged sounds.As much as Joseph enjoys the give-and-take that comes with a genuine band, he is adamant that Stockholm Syndrome’s music fulfills the kind of expression he has in mind. He doesn’t want the extremely personal nature of songs like “Apollo” and “Emma’s Pissed” to get drowned out.”I’m not wearing a funny hat and playing bluegrass,” he said. “And I hope we’re not playing music that is the backdrop for someone’s ecstasy buzz. If you’re not paying attention and listening to the lyrics, I’m not doing my job.”firstname.lastname@example.org
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