An interview with Stencil

What have been your musical influences growing up?

As strange as it sounds I was heavily influenced by new school punk growing up. It’s definitely not apparent in our sound and isn’t what I listen to anymore but I think I’ve kept a lot of the ideals that punk introduces you to. The idea that independent music not only exists, but is actually better that what you hear on the radio or see on MTV. That music is being made that leans more towards art and less towards commerce. That it was possible to write and track your own records. All of these ideas were heavily influential to me at a fairly young age.

How did Stencil meet?

Sean and I have known each other since we were about 12 years old. At that time we both lived in a suburb of Seattle called Federal Way. We’ve been playing in bands ever since, although our roles are kind of reversed now as I have taken on the role of primary songwriter. (Sean’s job in our prior bands.) Joe and I met in Bozeman, MT where we both played in another band. After that Joe and I eventually moved to Seattle and with the help of Sean (still a Seattleite) we started playing as Stencil.

Do you think sites like Myspace and help the music community?

Yeah, I believe these sites (and those like them) are beneficial to the music community. They’ve made independent promotion more of a reality for a lot of people, ourselves included. They’re also a really great way of getting to know other bands and people that otherwise you would never have met. It allows people to hear bands that exist all across the country (many times in relative obscurity) and help spread the word.

Is there any kind of story behind the name of your band?

Unfortunately not, but?I’ll make one up right now: One day Sean, Jared and Joe were walking through the dark woods of Washington state somewhere along the Cascades when suddenly the earth gave out beneath their feet. Screaming, they fell 35 feet onto a rocky ledge below and in the fall Sean broke his leg. Sean, gravely injured, cried out in pain and misery ?What foul fate has befallen me!? Unsure of what to do in the midst of all of this suffering the three young men suddenly heard a voice whisper in the wind ?the three of you are to start a band.? Startled, the screaming ceased and the three of them looked around in shock. Then Sean said ?but we’re already in a band.? The wind stopped. ?Well then I command you to name your band Stencil? said the voice. ?But we’re already in a band named Stencil? said Joe. ?Oh? said the wind, ?how’d you come up with that?? Jared then replied ?we just thought it sounded really neat.?

What made you decide to start your own record label?

I’ve always been in bands that self-released records but I’d never formally started a label to release them on. Then the time came where I wanted to make a new Stencil record and I knew other people in bands that I really loved that wanted to put out records as well so it just seemed to make sense. The label right now is formed out of our band and two other bands, Bomberman Awesome, and Skeletons with flesh on them. It is called Recordland Records. Recordland is run like a non-profit organization. All the members of each band pull together and volunteer. It functions as a collective of like minded musicians who are trying to help each other make a life out of music, which believe it or not is very difficult.

Who do you think was the most influential artist of the 90s?

Wow, that question is strange and difficult. If I had to pick one band that put out records in the 90s that has been the most influential to me I would have to say The Flaming Lips. Now I know this is kind of a cop out since I said the phrase ?to me? and not ?society at large? but?it’s the best I can do.

What advice would you give to a struggling musician?

Now this advice may seem kind of square but here goes, find a way to make some money in addition to music. The reasoning behind this is the fact that you are going to have to work while you are a ?struggling musician.? Without a doubt you will have to go to work, so go to college and get a job that actually pays. The eight hours you spent making minimum wage being a barista are the same eight hours that you could spend making three times that (and without being condescended to by asshole customers.) This money will make your life easier until you can make a living from your art.

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