Interview: Stonethrower on Legacies and Lockdown

Scottish post-hardcore band Stonethrower have just put out an enthralling new album. We discuss their creative inspiration and the punk scene at large.

Interview by Sarah Williams.

I was chuffed to see a fresh album from Scottish ecossemo peddlers Stonethrower released earlier in July. They’re doing a digital-only release for the time being, with all proceeds going to Conroy’s Basement / Rad Apples in Dundee and Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights. Legacies as an instant winner for fans of post-hardcore or old-school emo, packed with

We spoke to the band to get an insight into the latest release, and on how coronavirus has impacted them.

How would you sum up [the band] for someone who’s just discovering you?

  • Ross: Yikes, I’m normally pretty bad at this part, but let’s give it a bash: ‘punk music made by people who don’t listen to all that much punk anymore’.
  • Ken: Haha! Punchy, pulsating post-hardcore? It’s probably post-something. I actually don’t really know. Maybe Cal’s got a better answer…
  • Cal: The music is pretty aggressive but don’t let that put you off, we’re really OK guys. 

You’ve just released your Legacies LP. What legacy do you want to leave behind in life, and how does that tie in with the theme of the album?

  • Ken: Something tied to education, I think. Maybe some sort of program to nurture curious minds and encourage them to push the envelope. Maybe a school back home.
  • Cal: Hmm, good question. I suppose you hope that you are remembered for being kind and understanding, anything else is just a bonus really. I hope that our generation leaves behind something other than divisiveness and we add to the good stuff. That’s what the album is more or less about I’d say.    

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All the proceeds from the digital release are going to Conroy’s Basement / Rad Apples – a venue/restaurant in Dundee. Why does that venue mean so much to you, personally?

  • Ross: I think we’ve all been involved in the evolution of the venue in one way or another.  I remember when Deeker first got access to the basement when Conroy’s bar was still upstairs, and it was a total pit at the start.  It was, as far as I remember anyway, a completely unused space on the verge of dereliction.  So people like Hazel and Jason rolled their sleeves up and transformed it substantially in a physical sense; it’s a functional space that continues to evolve and it’s maintained by this lovely, caring community.  So many involved in the Make-That-A-Take community are voluntary (myself included, I do sound at some of the MTAT shows and Book Yer Ane Fest, etc.), and it’s nice that this community’s feeding into a space that is undoubtedly essential in Dundee just now. 
  • Ken: Over the past decade, the local scene has ebbed away as gig attendance and interest in nurturing local music has diminished. Against that current, Conroy’s has kept doing its thing, serving as a mothership of sorts to the local DIY/punk/hardcore scene. The sense of community fostered around it has been pivotal to this subset of the scene surviving… thriving, even. Also, there is a third recipient; the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER). Given what has happened and what is still happening, I think the motivation for that donation is self-explanatory.
  • Ross: Dundee’s venue scene really hit the rocks a few years ago, with a lot of smaller venues closing and/or not putting on original music anymore.  It really sucks, but it’s nice to have somewhere that cultivates grassroots music that external bookers can also use.  I spent a significant chunk of my late teens and early twenties playing in and watching a lot of bands in the tiny Balcony Bar, which was a staple on the screamo circuit despite it being a logistical nightmare at the best of times.  I guess it added to its charm!  I prefer playing small venues too; I still find stages terrifying.  The basement technically has a stage, but it’s about 6 inches high so…

Do you think that direct action and donations are the best way to support small venues right now, given the lack of live music? Supporting small venues has always been something central to the DIY scene.

  • Ross: Pretty much?  I think the basement has an additional source of income through the label, so if people really want to help then they can buy some records.  I appreciate that doesn’t apply to most places.  It also has a direct effect on people in related industries, like, I know sound engineers and audio hire companies that are really struggling at the moment.  They’re desperate to get back to work, but they’re also worried about their health.  What do you do?  I can’t think of another way to support venues at the moment, but I’m happy to be enlightened.

I can’t think of a better cause to support, or really a better way to support it. . How has the coronavirus pandemic affected you creatively, musically or personally recently?

  • Ross: Well, we’ve not been in a practice space together for a while, but that was also the case before lockdown as we tried to finish up the record.  We’ve all been talking recently about writing new stuff, so that’ll probably be the first thing we do once we see each other again in the flesh.  Personally, I’m an introvert, so at the beginning of lockdown I didn’t feel the effects too much, but as time has gone on I’ve started to find it pretty difficult.  I got into a really solid exercise regime a few months before lockdown and it’s all fallen by the wayside, and I know that’s imperative to my mental health.  On the other other hand, I haven’t drunk nearly as much booze as I thought I would, so that’s nice.  Also, I’ve been mostly able to work from home without the ever-present fear of death.

Musically, do you all have similar tastes or is there a wide variety of influences?

  • Ken: It’s all over the place! There’s still a lot of overlap though, so I think that informs the core of our sound. One of the things I love the most about being in this band is that how we express the songs isn’t this static entity. It keeps evolving as interests and emotion shifts, and there is the freedom to do that.

What’s your creative process as a band?

  • Ken: Cal or Ross typically bring a riff or more to practice. We vibe it out, toy with arrangements and decide on something we all like… at least when things go swimmingly.
  • Cal: Sometimes we have the guts of a song that we kick about for a good while, not really knowing what to do with it. We know it’s good but can’t seem to give it structure. I find that sometimes you need to sit on those ones for a while and not force it; one day it will make sense to you. I wanted to talk about those ones because bands don’t really talk about the frustrating side of songwriting, but it certainly happens. All I would say to those that struggle with their creative process is to be patient. You don’t have to finish that one song immediately. 

Do you have a part of the album you’re most proud of?

  • Ross: Not necessarily a part of the album, but the overall sonics of it is something I’m really proud of.  I think we nailed how we sound as a live band, and that was something we wanted to get right all the way through recording and mixing it.  There was a bit of push and pull between Ken and I at times about certain things.  I was rebelling against what I perceived would be artefacts of ‘over-polishing’, like sometimes he’d make a suggestion and I’d be like ‘ehhh, hmm….’, but we’d try it and it was almost always the right thing to do.  I think our partnership was helpful for me in terms of challenging my own preconceptions of how records should sound.  A big shout out to Harris and Trun at DM Studios who gave us a lend of loads of stuff!
  • Ken: Ross has pretty much covered it! I think I’m also proud of Deadpanning. As a child, my late great aunt used to hype us with this chant that syncopated with a lot of popular music we’d listen to back home. A bit like training wheels on a groove. It heavily influences the rhythm on that song, and I lock in to that energy every time I play it. It was cool to document that.
  • Cal: We always seem to put interludes on our recordings; we did so for our previous release as well as this one. I really like them because it’s something that isn’t really discussed, it just seems to happen and they often have quite a radically different feel than our other songs. It’s something we do in post production and is completely improvised. I mention it because when we did it for Legacies it had a really good feel to it and was a break from the way we usually write music together. I’d like to approach future projects in the same way we did our interludes and see what happens. 

What inspired you most when writing for the record?

  • Ross: For me, lyrically, UK politics.  Grenfell and the refugee crisis were big things I was thinking about, and what the songs False Shepherd and Straw Men… are about respectively.  I just feel perennially fucked off with how the Westminster government is responding to various crises, and I have a general naive optimism that if, given half a chance (and reliable journalism), we could collectively do better.  In terms of my personal politics these days, I’m somewhere closer to anarchism than anything else, but for reasons too dumb to explain I still follow political news religiously.  I’ve had to take a step back from it recently as COVID’s just made everything ten times scarier, and my anxiety was going through the roof.
  • Cal: I watched a lot of Fela Kuti live performances when we were writing some of the songs. The music is often so joyous but it comes from a place of such anger and makes for some absolutely amazing performances. We don’t sound anything like a Fela Kuti album or anything but that was the stuff that made me pick up my guitar so there you have it. 
  • Ken: Interesting you mention Fela. My dad is from near his town, and his rebellious influence is woven, to an extent, into the Nigerian pop cultural psyche. His music sound-tracked a lot of road trips when I was a child. There’s something in the vibe of those performances that has probably informed how I convey the concept of ‘punk’ when I play.

What are your ambitions for the band in the future?

  • Ken: We’re feeling supercharged from the energy we’ve received about this record, so we’re eager to get writing and recording again. I think figuring out a way to tour safely is also high on the list.

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