Well that’s my predication anyway.
How can innumerable, tranced-out listeners, a record industry thirsty for bright new acts and literally thousands of miles of open road shape the destiny of a genre-destroying, enjoyably knowing jam band composed of formally trained but freedom-loving mega-musicians?
That’s a dang good question and one that came into my mind as I began my research on a band called Stig. Along with local jam-masters Pherkad (who we’ll interview next week) Stig will be playing a gig on Thursday April 25 at Burque’s newest rock club, Inside Out (622 Central Ave. SW), the former home of a joint called Mezcal and much earlier in our town’s rocanrol history, a legendary rock club known as The Golden West.
Stig, it turns out, has been to Burque before. The band (Riley Hoover, guitar; Artie Sadtler, bass; Ryan Stigmon, saxophone; Jack McChesney, drums; and Thomson Knoles, keyboards) told me they were grateful that our city showed them love at their last show. But more importantly, who are these fab and freewheeling freaks, and why is their sound so amazingly alluring?
First let’s consider the term “jam band.” For examples, I provide the following fellow travelers: Grateful Dead, Blues Traveler, Phish, Ween and maybe even The Flaming Lips. Though the shape and sound of these genre-busting progenitors vary, they all have three very important things in common with Stig.
Jam bands like to jam. That is, they may spend mad hours on one song, improvising wondrously around some otherwise obscure arrangement that they see fit to brew, bend and break for their audience’s wanton pleasure—with a muscular musicality that puts them in the same league as some of this culture’s great players. Jam band practitioners know they can play as well as any jazzer or art music person, but they choose to jam out instead.
Jam bands also have enclaves of loyal followers. They make their name and their feria from indulging the road and mixing it up with fans who absolutely love what they hear and dig it so much that they are willing to follow said jam band from town to city to festival and back again, just to hear their favorite tuneage take wing in mulitudinous, myriad forms on a daily basis.
Jam bands are an American thing. You don’t really see folks out on the road following Radiohead, ABBA or Stereolab, for example. As a phenomenon rooted in American soil and possessed of American values and musical antecedents galore, the way of the jam band is the way of the beatnik, the traveling vagabond, the hippie and the freak who are counting on the kindness bestowed on the cities that made the tour.
With all that in mind, I reached out to Stig. Emails flew back and forth. Then came the phone call. It was the outfit’s bassist, Artie Sadtler, calling from Flagstaff, Ariz., with deets about the latest, greatest jam band to gloriously hit the road in the USA.
[Sound of phone ringing]
Weekly Alibi: Hello.
Artie Sadtler: Is this August March?
Well, hi! This is Artie from Stig. I’m calling for the interview.
Hey man, how you doing?
I’m good, how are you?
Good. Say, do you have a few minutes to talk about Stig? Are you gonna be the one that talks? What about the other band members?
Everybody else is out doing stuff right now. So it’s gonna be me. I am the mouthpiece of Stig!
Effing awesome, man. Tell me a little bit about your band. You’re out there in the Western mountains, eh, out in Flagstaff?
Yeah. Yeah man, we’re just in Flagstaff right now. This is a break for us. We took the last few days basically to drive from my home town, which is Washington, DC—after an awesome show—and we took a few days to drive out to Flag. We still have a day off, so we’re all just chillin’. We’re relaxing to the max. Some of the guys are playing disc golf.
So you drove your van all that way ...
Oh yeah, actually we started in Asheville the week before that.
We basically went, well you turn north at Nashville and well, we drove all the way up to Vermont, played some shows there, a little round of New England gigs. That part of the tour ended in DC. Now we’re at the beginning of the West Coast leg.
That must be one helluva van, huh?
[Laughs] It’s a Chevy Explorer.
So you’re like, the real deal touring jam band, que no?
Hell yeah! I can’t even tell you dude! We have this trailer that is just full of stuff right now. But even before we had the trailer, we took out the last few rows of seats [from the van] and stuffed as much gear as we possibly could in that van. Forget about seeing out the back of it. We would just squeeze everyone in the front seats. But with the trailer, the whole band can kick back and relax and we can forget about all that gear. That’s pretty nice.
How long have you been living like this?
We’ve been a band for three years, and we’ve been touring for the past two years.
Has touring been a successful approach to your music? Have you grown an audience by touring extensively? Do you have broader picture of America; is that part of the deal?
Oh definitely. It’s all those things, to the max. Touring has been hugely successful. We took a huge risk and we’ve been to a lot of places. Over the past two years, and especially after we moved to Asheville last October, we’ve almost been nomadic. Every member of the band is from a different part of the country. So it’s been very easy for us to pick a home base and then just kinda venture outward to America from there. The result is, we’re here in Flagstaff this week and we have a little following here. We have a little bit of a following in Southern California, too. And like Colorado. There are definitely pockets of people that can get down to Stig.
What do you mean by the term “getting down to Stig?” Did you steal the ball of funk from George Clinton and Parliament?
Oh dude [laughs heartily] you can try to steal Clinton’s funk. But they have a real solid hold on that thing. We do have end-user rights to that funky ball, I do believe.
[Exhaling, coughing] Yeah man, I can dig it.
Stig is definitely funky. We’re a hard band to describe, which honestly is pretty cool. We write all of the music together; it’s very collaborative. There’s not a single Stig song that you could point to and say, “Oh,
Ryan wrote that one” or “Riley wrote that one.” Every decision we make on a song happens through the group. We work really well together, and a big reason for that is because our influences are so all over the place.
What are you listening too, what’s influencing Stig?
You know, man, I think honestly it might even be deeper than our musical influences. I mean I like metal and Riley and Tommy like jazz, but Tommy also likes bluegrass and so forth and so on. The musical influences we bring into the band are really spread out. But we’re all united by the fact that we really love playing our instruments. That’s the biggest arbiter for all of us as a unit. We’re always pushing our musicality, our abilities.
So, like a lot of other jam bands—The Dead, Phish, dare I say especially Ween—there’s a real devotion to craft, isn’t there?
You’re just kind of always chasing it. It’s cool being devoted to craft because the music never stops. I mean, even if you get to the next level, where it feels tighter—you know what I mean, feeling like you’ve tapped into something you’ve never tapped into before, whether it’s a technique or a cool idea—there’s always room to grow and things to explore. It’s a world of music that you can pick out through your instrument. It’s vast. We’re trying to explore that space as a unit. The sum is greater than the parts. We’re just searching for something. [laughs].
Live or in the studio? Do you want to get in the studio or is life on the road better for you creatively?
Definitely out on the road, doing live shows. We all love being in the studio, but our songs are like, well, we write our songs to be played live. When we play them live, we can just dive in.
Cool. Here’s my famous last question for rockers. If a time traveler from the future ended up at one of your shows and then afterward approached you and asked you straight up, bro, “What is Stig?” what would you tell them?
I would say ... oh, man, they’re from the future? I would just tell them that Stig is like sex. It’s something you don’t really want to talk about, but something you should just get out there and experience for yourself.
That’s a totally awesome answer, see you cats in Burque next week!
Hell yeah, August!