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March 1, 2004 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Steriogram On The Rise

They’ve done it all – Los Angeles, New York, Texas, Salt Lake City, Festus, Missouri…. Festus, Missouri? Where the fuck’s that?

‘I couldn’t tell you really,’ says Jake Adams, bass player and bit-vocalist for NZ rock/hip-hop quintet Steriogram. ‘It’s spelt F-E-S-T-U-S, sort of like festering. We played there a while ago, to about 60-70 people. We’ve been playing shows to crowds that vary from 50 to about 500 or 600 people a night.’ The story of Steriogram began like many – but quickly developed into one that precious few artists ever experience. Adams and Brad Carter (vocals/guitar) were friends in their hometown of Whangarei before resettling in Auckland. It was here in June ’99 where they met Tim Youngson (guitar) and Tyson Kennedy (vocals), also longtime friends who shared a mutual partiality for rocking out. The then four-piece started playing shows throughout the Auckland area. ‘I actually couldn’t play bass at the time,’ admits Jake. ‘I began when Steriogram did…. I’ve only recently got some really good gear.’ The band quickly built a local following and continued to gain notoriety through their self-produced singles, first ‘Soccerstar’, followed shortly by ‘White Trash’. The latter earned a spot on a commercial for the NZ All Whites team, and the former, which featured drummer Kennedy (still drumming at this point) in front of the mic rapping, was picked up heavily by radio and television.

The release of ‘White Trash’ suggested a new direction for Steriogram according to guitarist Tim Youngston. ‘We made a video for it with Tyson rapping and it got so much exposure that we decided to take him off the drums and bring him up front,’ he explains. ‘We asked Jared to join as the new drummer and became a five-piece. It was also then we started writing more songs with a hip-hop influence.’

‘White Trash’ was picked up by a freelance A&R rep from the States, who discovered the video on the internet, and after sending more recordings the band soon found themselves signed to Capitol Records in November 2002.

‘The whole Capitol Records thing hasn’t set it yet,’ he explains from his motel room in Salt Lake City. ‘I think if this never happened I might have travelled a bit or whatever, but this was totally unexpected. Most American bands never get a chance to do this so we’re pretty grateful…. I don’t wanna ever go back to a day job.’

Of course, for any artist giving up their day job and chasing the dream in America, there appears to be two explicit methods when it comes ‘breaking’ the unforgiving market:

* Tour relentlessly and build a fan-base.

* Release a video to MTV, which features Snoop Dog.

Steriogram are opting for the first method. The band is currently touring smallish venues in every corner of America in a bid to win over new fans. ‘We’ve played a lot of places,’ says Jake. ‘After hundreds of dates, when we play somewhere again, people always seem to come back.’ However, as the band slog it out through the American winter, their video for ‘Walkie Talkie Man’ is doing the rounds in Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Not yet released in the States, the debut single from their forthcoming album Schmack! features the tidy work of highly regarded director Michel Gondry.

Known most recently for his work on the White Stripes’ ‘The Hardest Button To Button’, Gondry filmed the video sequences with wool miniatures. ‘Yeah he rang us conference-call style and someone had passed our song on to him,’ explains Jake. ‘He said to us in his crazy French accent [adopts German accent] “I zwant to make zit out of zwool.”’

An impressive feat for any Kiwi band, Jake says he heard that Gondry had just turned down a host of other high profile artists that have been in the industry for years in order to make the video. Who? Tell me!
‘I can’t really say, it’s all hush, hush,’ he explains.

Last time Steriogram played Orientation was 2001. New Zealand will not hear Schmack! until March this year but Jake assures me some old tunes will be thrown in the set. ‘It’s pretty much all our high energy numbers, mostly the new album.’ Their sound, perhaps best described literally as a fusion of ‘melodic rock and hip-hop’, completely eludes any connotations to nu-metal. Keeping it in the country, their funk-laced rhythms are reminiscent of early Supergroove and Dark Tower. Be sure to check out this band’s live show at Orientation before they become massive and never tour universities again….

Recommended Listening
White Trash E.P. (2001)
Schmack! (2004)

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