Seattle's STAG have some serious rock pedigree, with decades of band experience between its members, which include Steve Mack of That Petrol Emotion, Ben London


STAG's Self-titled Debut Is a Power-pop Throwback

Seattle's STAG have some serious rock pedigree, with decades of band experience between its members, which include Steve Mack of That Petrol Emotion, Ben London of Alcohol Funnycar and Lincoln Barr of Red Jacket Mine. The group's self-titled debut is out now via local label Fin, and it's a rocking power-pop throwback to a time when choruses were big, guitar solos were bigger and indie rock hadn't even been invented yet. For the latest edition of Tell Me About That Album, we grilled the band's guitarist and songwriter, Ben London, about the record, their inspirations and their old-school ways. The band plays Barboza for its record release party tonight.

Did you guys know when you formed that you wanted to make a power-pop record? None of the members' previous bands would really hint at what your debut would end up sounding like. I was looking for certain simplicity when we put the band together. I wanted to reconnect with a bunch of the music that inspired me when I growing up, like Cheap Trick, The Who and Badfinger. Add in some Guided By Voices and a couple of 12-packs of Rainer and the picture comes into focus.

Were there particular records that you wanted to reference while writing and recording the album? I'd say anything by The Who, Cheap Trick, Raspberries, Artful Dodger ('70s power-pop band, not current electronic band), Todd Rundgren, Teenage Fanclub, Soundtrack of Our Lives, Beatles, Hollies, Paul Collins Beat and Guided By Voices to name a few.

What did Jack Endino bring to the table that you thought made sense for you guys? Had you had a relationship with him previously? Alcohol Funnycar recorded our first 7" with Jack back in 1990. I got to know him better over the years. He gets great sounds and he totally understands the aesthetic of what we're trying to accomplish. He knows all the bands, he knows the right sounds and he's an excellent referee. It's important to not be too precious when recording. Jack's just the man for the job. Who else would accuse Lincoln of whipping up a "Farn-storm" when a lead sounded too much like Mark Farner from Grand Funk Railroad?

A lot of bands are afraid of guitar solos, or perhaps not skilled enough to do them, but not you guys. What happened to the guitar solo and why are you not afraid of them? Guitar solos are like hair. Sometimes they're short, Sometimes they're long. All depends what's in fashion. It was never a conscious decision to say "we need tons of solos." The solos are just another melodic element that hopefully serves the song. It's not like we're gunning for the Allman Brothers or anything.

There are lots of bands and lots of years of experience between the band's various members - and presumably some well-paying day jobs. What are your goals as a band? How do you guys define success? We're lucky to be able to balance work, family and music. The fact that Fin put out our record, KEXP put it into heavy rotation and people come see us live, is success. Beyond that? We'd like to make another record and maybe get over to Europe.

Can you talk about the cover art? There's a song called "Chameleon," but is that the only connection? Is there something about a chameleon that seemed appropriate for STAG? We had the song, and thought about naming the record that for a little while. Decided against it but loved the art that Shawn Wolfe put together.

Did you have other ideas for an album title or did you always know the first full-length would be self-titled? Like a lot of things associated with the band, that's kind of old school. I'd love to say there was a great reason. Ultimately, it was a title we could all agree on.

Your band name is all-caps. Have people made up any cool stories for what it stands for, like how AC/DC is After Christ Devil Coming or KISS is Knights in Satan's Service? No, not really. I guess we should make something up. STAG - "Still Talking About Goats"?

As if to hammer home that the band is filled with Seattle rock vets, you've got John Roderick of The Long Winters and Kurt Bloch of The Fastbacks appearing in the video for "Don't Lead With Your Heart." Where did the idea come from and why those guys? They're both friends. Let me ask you...who would you call if you needed someone to play a drunken Santa Claus and a giant unemployed heart? I'm not saying they were typecast... but I'm not saying they weren't

Do you have a favorite song on the record? I'm pretty fond of "These Times". One of the first songs I wrote for the band. Love playing it every time.

Favorite lyric? "These times are for all of us" - pretty much sums it up.

Where did you guys play your first show? How about your worst show? I think our first show was at the Crocodile in 2010. We try to live by the mantra "It either needs to be fun or funny". If you have that attitude, there's never a bad show.

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