I’ve always wondered why more bands don’t meddle the sounds of male and female lead vocals. It seems like, finally, that trend is coming to fruition as more and more of them keep dusting themselves off by showing themselves and their inane ability to blend dueling harmonies out of beautiful ying-and-yang gender balancing, and sonic soul. I can only think it doesn’t happen more because of the “fire” one is playing with when pairing genders and hours and hours of labor. Fleetwood Mac anyone?
Since my pyromania days as a boy scout, I’ve always been a fan of playing with fire. It’s certainly a very early professor of respect. In that same spirit, welcome Stereo Cult to your summer playlists. Hailing from Virginia Beach, Stereo Cult, fronts its rock n’ roll dexterity with singers Matt “Archer” Stephenson (formerly of The Influence) and the pristine faced and amply piped Kristen “Alex” Alexandria.
In a conversation with BRM, Archer described their sound as “synth driven rock with 60’s songwriting sensibility.” When you listen to their debut EP One Last Drag you feel what he’s talking about. Inspired by the tenacious music attitude of Trent Reznor, Archer was influenced by Reznor’s ability to write, compose, produce, etc, etc with such a simplistic nature. Stereo Cult uses many different modern “toys” like a jail-broken iPad, Kaossilator, and MOOG & Korg Synths coupled with what Archer referred to as, “many late nights together on the porch, just writing songs and harmonies.”
According to Archer, the couple is ALWAYS working as they continue to polish new song after new song. One Last Drag seems like the beginning of things to come for Stereo Cult, who by Archer’s estimation has already amassed a couple new albums worth of material. He spoke about music and songwriting with a seriousness that would make Andy Dufrane from Shawshank Redemption seem boisterous.
Even looking at the song titles on One Last Drag: “Heartbreak Insomnia,” “Sleeping Pills,” “Reckless Abandon” and the title cut, “One Last Drag,” with soul-pouring vocal lines like “we’re coming apart at the seams…” one can’t help but feel a little bit of sorrow or at the very least feel bad for what the songwriter has gone through. When talking to Archer about this he did admit there was a tragedy in the family that lead to the depressing nature of the songs. In that way One Last Drag should entrench itself as a timepiece for the band and at the very least a great example for using music therapeutically for the adversities in life.
Recently the band came to NYC to hold a residency at Arlene’s Grocery, a very intimate venue in the Lower East Side. I was able to catch the final night of their stand and was impressed by the showmanship on display. Alex trudges around the stage in sexy, gargantuan, black, high-heeled boots, while Archer has classic look of any rail-thin tattooed long blonde haired rocker from the 90’s, armed with smoke, strobe lights and a makeshift Styrofoam bridge, that at one point fell down, reminding me of Spinal Tap. I couldn’t help but think, “Archer and Alex…just…get it.”
They opened with “Photoelectronic” a song off One Last Drag that features at least a baker’s dozen layered vocal tracks and seamlessly worked in a rousing mid set stomping version of “Barton Hollow” by the Civil Wars. They seem to really enjoy themselves on stage and maintain their tracked vocal layering with a great raw energy. Everything to me, looked like a band that’s truly working hard and playing hard.
And there is certainly more room for that timeless sensibility on my play-list.