StaG are a creative bunch of musicians from L.A. offering a nice collection of enjoyable rhythmic indie-pop anthems. Their engaging and uplifting sound blends perfectly with the vocals, together creating a great vibe all around. You can listen to the band’s fantastic new record Difference on their Bandcamp Page and in our following music chat with Matt McGuire, you’ll find all sorts of interesting stuff about StaG’s music, their appearance at SXSW, upcoming plans and loads more.
Eva: Could you introduce the band to our MGMB readers?
Matt: StaG is Will Walden (vocals, guitar), Matt McGuire (keyboards, vocals, production), Matt Hampar (guitar), Casey Baird (drums) and Anton Krueger (bass). Will and I started the band in 2008 and have had plenty of odd lineups throughout the years, but this group has been playing together since the Summer of 2013.
How about the sound? What would you say are the main characteristics of the noise you create?
I would say the sound is, hopefully, intensely joyous music about going through tough times. In the past, and on Difference, we have a very ambient sound and we’ve characterized ourselves as Ambient Rock, but recently have been attempting to move away from that washed out sound. We are much more rhythmic now.
You played this year’s famous SXSW festival in Austin. What was the experience like for you?
SXSW was absolutely everything under the sun. It was exhausting, it was horrible, it made me question whether I enjoyed playing music and then suddenly it was incredible and perfect and fulfilling. It’s funny I complain at all, because we only played four shows and a lot of bands play like a hundred, but for me it was just a lot. The first three shows we played were pretty rough and poorly attended. I started questioning what I was doing, whether 24 was too old an age to be driving two days to play for a few stragglers, and whether SXSW was just a huge waste of time unless you’ve got a big following.
Then our fourth show was absolutely incredible out of nowhere. We showed up and there was this amazing soul band playing before us to a packed crowd and Cee Lo Green was watching from the balcony where we were loading in. I turned to Will and just started laughing, because I just figured we’d clear this room of all these people here to watch soul music and it’d be kind of a hilarious cap to a rough week. But it was an amazing show! Everyone stayed and seemed to really enjoy it. Our guitarist Matt asked Cee Lo to stay and he totally did, and he was super nice afterwards. Then randomly one of my buddies from LA, this rapper CAMBO, was playing after us. It was a wild night, and one that I feel could only happen at SXSW.
Tell us about your latest record Difference.
Difference is an album that Will and I made with Mac Welch (guitar) and Stephen Becker (drums). We took about 2 months writing it and then recorded and mixed for a year so it’s taken a really long time to get it out. It’s an album that I think traces my steps to shedding a lot of my shyness and inwardness. I know that a lot of people are genuinely shy and genuinely introverted, but I am definitely not one of those. I was a fake shy guy, and emotionally in the closet. The idea behind Difference is super simple: stop attempting to please everyone and go with the flow, accept that you’re a person who has opinions and wants and needs, and just let it out. The title track, and last song, I believe embodies that spirit and is a complete cathartic release of a lot of pent up anger and frustration that was hidden behind faux kindness and gentleness.
Who writes the songs and how do you normally work as a band?
The songs are a collaborative effort, but the lyrics are mostly written by me. I usually have a shell of a song that I can’t get past a certain point. I take that to Will and we flesh it out and turn it into something more complete. Then we take it to the band and break it down even more until it’s absolutely complete. Recently we’ve broken out of that routine a bit and have allowed the band into the initial process of the shell of a song. It’s been great for the quality of stuff that we’re writing, even though it is a gunshot to my ego anytime any part or lyric gets thrown out.
Let’s talk live shows. What can people expect from a StaG’s live performance?
A StaG live performance is hopefully a lot of things for people. I hope they have fun, I hope they dance, and I hope they feel some release. That’s probably the biggest thing for us when we play. It feels like therapy, and I hope it looks like that too. We let everything out onstage and it’s usually loud, intense, and really energetic live show that culminates in Difference where I’m screaming anything that comes to my head, will’s blasting as much noise as he possibly can through his amp, and the band is following suit with a passionate performance. When Will and I started playing live as a two-piece we would be seated at chairs. Again, this was not us. We were fake relaxed guys, so it’s really important to us to just go completely nuts every time we play now.
Do you have any interesting stories from the road you’d like to share?
I’m down to share anything, and I wish some crazy Rock and Roll thing had happened, but I think we’re just not those kinda guys. We are kinda dumb though! The first night we got to SXSW was an interesting one. We arrived at a co-op that we were going to be staying at and let’s just say that the living scenario was gonna be not-ideal. Like, probably having to sleep on top of each other in a way too hot room that had no windows (nothing against that place by the way. I’m not and have never been a dude who can handle heat or smells. I wish I could, hippies are awesome). Anyway, we had nowhere else to stay and not enough money to be doing hotels, so we just slept in our very overpacked van. It was so uncomfortable for me that I had to drink a little too much just to be able to get tired and delirious enough that I’d fall asleep anywhere. I think Will slept with a keyboard stand jammed into his back. I realize this strategy is probably the stupidest reaction to a shitty sleeping scenario, but it made sense at the time, and hey it kinda worked. Thankfully after that we got a wonderful porch to stay on. Thanks Brett!
Are there any UK artists/bands you’d like to tour with in the future?
I’m embarrassed I don’t know more UK artists off the top of my head. I even considered googling “UK music” to see what came up. Well, besides somehow opening for Kate Bush on her shows in England, I’d say playing with Frightened Rabbit or Twilight Sad or We Were Promised Jetpacks would be awesome. Is Scotland in the UK? I kid. This is an awful answer to this question. I should know the cool unknown bands, but I either just don’t or I can’t remember.
Name three songs that always cheer you up when you feel a bit blue…
“Lay Your Love On The Line” – Pussyfoot. “Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind” – Bob Dylan. “That’s Us/Wild Combination” – Arthur Russell
What are your plans in the near future music wise?
We’re currently writing and recording our next album/series of singles. I really want it to be called “I Have a Lot of Feelings” or “I Hate My Dick” or “Everything is Terrible.” I’m sure none of those will work out, because they’re kinda stupid, but that’s the vibe of the songs getting written. They’re purposeful overreactions and oversensitive retellings of stuff that happens in my life. We play a few times in LA in the next months, then once in Colorado at the UMS in July.