Stick To Your Guns are of one of those rare bands that can make most of us agree and come together. In Belgium especially, they’re one of those bands who manage to play last minute off-shows, with a demand that is so popular, that they need to upgrade it, even though they still have one show, already scheduled for months (supporting Architects’ headliner) going a few kilometers away the next day. It says a lot about the special relationship that bonds the band to this small european country, something that vocalist Jesse Barnett doesn’t really know how to explain: “For some reason, we came here, and they just seem to love us, maybe a bit more than other places, which I’m thankful for. I try to not question things, and I just try to let things be what they are. I don’t kow why Belgium loves us so much, but I’m just gonna allow it to happen and I can only say thank you.”
We are well aware that Stick To Your Guns have been a touring band for quite a long time now, and while you would think all of this has become tedious for them, Chris Rawson (guitar) confesses that he still get nervous most of the time; “I just don’t want to blow it”, he says, before Jesse points out that the perception on stage is different for each one of the band members. For example, some of them would judge a show solely based on how well they played their instrument, whereas to him, the most important part is the interaction to the crowd. As for the last time they toured Europe with Architects, in October/November last year, Barnett noticed that it didn’t require them a much different mindset. In fact, the two bands are good friends and Stick To Your Guns only tried to support (pun intended) the best way they could. Having attended some of these shows, it was clear that Stick To Your Guns once again put their heart and souls in these performances, which the audience gave back to them.
Stick To Your Guns finished 2016 with the release of an EP, called ‘Better Ash Than Dust’, which also marked the beginning of a new chapter for them, as part of the Pure Noise Records family. A label that is home to the likes of Counterparts, Masked Intruder, Senses Fail, The Story So Far or more recently First Blood and Terror. The band had a couple of songs ready for quite some time, but they hung back to decide between releasing an EP, or waiting until they had full length material.
A lot of people don’t take interest in EPs, which was the band’s main concern when putting this one out. “EPs sometimes get swept under the rug.” As an example, Jesse admits he only recently found out about 3 EPs from Propaghandi‘s discography he didn’t know existed, whereas that they are one of his favorite bands.
‘Better Ash Than Dust’ was released on September, 23rd, 2016. An EP that was long awaited by the fans, who gave it such a positive welcome, it made it pretty quickly to the Billboard charts. It has to be said that it came out at a time where things were (and still are) politically heating up, in America, but also worldwide. Giving that context, ‘Better Ash Than Dust’ was only so timely.
The essence of this EP is to address issues our generation is currently facing everywhere in the world. Thus, Stick To Your Guns once again intend to make people who listen to them open their eyes. According to Barnett, the western culture is very fear based, and this fear drives people to have reactions and judgments and to pass laws and legislations. “Life can be scary. But it almost became a fetish for people; how everything needs to be nice, safe, round, perfect, and comfortable. If it’s not like that, then they go ‘Oh those people are threatening our way of life’.
That’s more a tongue-in-cheek reaction. People look at terrorist attacks around the world, and the way it’s portrayed around the media (is) that these people come from the middle east. But no one wants to comment on what pushed those individuals to get to that point.”
“When you see something like that, that is a reaction, they are responding to a conversation we started. They’re met with so much violence, so much hatred, and so much devastation done to them, no one says a fucking thing, and they’re saying ‘please stop! please stop it!’ and we keep on bombing, and bombing, and killing their children, and killing their children, and bombing. So they’re begging, and begging. So they say ”they’re not understanding our language, so we have to speak in their language, violence, it’s the only way we’ll be heard”. In a way, I get it and in no way, do I condone acts like that, but I completely understand it.
If you don’t sit down for a second and listen to what people are saying, and try to view the world from their perspective, then it’s only a matter of time before something like that happens. My country is guilty of so much horrendous shit in this world […] but Donald Trump is an incredibly easy target and I don’t think we want to waste our time with constantly criticizing him. Enough people are doing that.”
Instead of that, what he says is that we should be wanting for the young kids – who will be growing up, and eventually be in the position of power – to hopefully influence their thinking towards finding a way to have a world free from violence.
“It seems like a hopeless situation. But where I find the hope in it, as I said, is from a grass roots level.”
With such an animated response from the front man, we couldn’t help wondering if Stick To Your Guns always agree on the subjects they tackle, as individuals.
It appears that they would often argue; debating and citing references they’ve read or seen, to make their point. And if they come to agree on a matter, Chris would still play the devil’s advocate just to bring up a different side, and stir a discussion. A feature that would be irritating at first, but appreciated afterwards, as it makes everyone reflect on things from a different perspective. “I think our band, more than a lot of other bands, are really really good at that. We don’t have a problem going like ‘you’re a fucking idiot’ and debating certain topics and issues”, Jesse says. The way they approach these debates, varies according to their personalities. Jesse qualifies Chris as a passionate person, and himself as someone overly emotional who can easily overreact.
“I’m emotional too”, adds Chris, laughing. “I don’t know if this is like an age thing. When I was younger, I would watch documentaries in the back of the van and at the end, just close my laptop and scream ‘We’re all fucked!’ But after doing that for so long, I would just start thinking that I won’t bring people to my way of thinking by going in so hot.” In Jesse’s eyes, the age difference between all of them is also a blessing, which creates an enriching environment, allowing them to learn from each other. George Schmitz (Drums), the youngest, can be so in tune with “the now”, all the current events, that he brings a greatly different and fresh perspective.
In any event, Stick To Your Guns are and have always been 100% involved in what they believe in, as well as the many causes stand for. In the past, they used to organize shows called ‘Keeping Warm in a Cold World’, and donated all the money they made from it to organizations and non-profits they supported. What they do now is just to use their voice on a bigger level, which seems to speak to a wide range of their listeners. For instance, many young people around the globe wouldn’t have taken interest in the recent Standing Rock battle, in North Dakota if it wasn’t for Stick To Your Guns (see Better Ash Than Dust music video above.) The younger generation, especially, makes it sometimes look like they are starting a movement.
On a lighter note, the subject of setting a routine on tour and boredom settling in eventually came up. It’s obviously something any band with the same pace of touring as Stick To Your Guns inevitably has to deal with. The year is 2017 and cellphones are (almost?) a requirement to relieve the tedium, when you’re away 80% of the time. Aren’t we all hooked to these, nowadays? Reading books and having movie nights in the back lounge of the bus come next. Regarding this, Jesse brings up the infamous Louis C.K quote : “I’m bored is a useless thing to say”; as in there is always a book we haven’t read, something we haven’t done yet, which we should go for. Furthermore, in this specific band’s case, let’s not forget that they have Josh James (guitar) in the band (a legend!). “What doesn’t he do?” The singer describes him as the overwhelming ‘’all-energy-all-the-time guy,” , who can make everything funny at the same time.
Some trivia facts about Stick To Your Guns :
- Lukas Graham is Chris’ recent guilty pleasure;
- See You Again, by Wiz Khalifa makes Jesse Barnett tear up;
- You can always count on Josh James to come back with the craziest stories, even after a regular walk to the grocery store;
- Jesse can spend an amount of time on Instagram that “makes [him] feel dirty sometimes.”
In the near future, you can expect more music coming up for Stick To Your Guns, as well as a tour with Parkway Drive, kicking off in April.
(…And another headline off show, this time in Lille, France, because why not?)
Editor’s note : This interview has been edited for more clarity.