STS9: A Rockin’ Good TIme

It’s February 21st, and I’m shaking in my boots. For the past five years, I have heard these guys, and every time I have listened to them they have seemed to get better. Now, they are selling out venues up and down the East Coast, West Coast, and internationally touring.

My taste in music seems to have grown almost in conjunction with theirs: Boards of Canada, Telefon Tel Aviv, John Brown’s Body. The last thing I could have ever imagined myself doing was interviewing Jeff Lerner, the most recent addition to the compellingly creative band known as Sound Tribe Sector 9. Stepping into the new Higher Ground, I breathe in the air. Already I can feel the energy of tonight’s show, and they haven’t even begun sound check yet. A pretty girl leads me backstage and upstairs to what must have been a projector room back when the place was a movie theatre. Now, it is a dressing room / interview space.

I set up my roommate’s Sony Micro Cassette Corder on a table in between two chairs as Jeff steps into the room.

Mic check and we’re into the interview:

Demo: So this is the first album you guys have put out in three years?

Jeff: Yeah, well almost four years. Its our first studio album. We did an album that was a live album which was called Seasons, and then another album that was sort of a collective thing, Live at Home.

Demo: What was the inspiration for Artifacts [new album; 1320 Records]?

Jeff: Well, we’re a live, performing band, you know? We perform on stage in front of people. Something we all wanted to express was also the other side of us; that home studio producer, producing that kind of vibe, which is a different sort of music that you would perform. When you’re performing in front of people you’re really in the moment and you can react and improv, but to have all that time at home and in the studio really allows you to be specific and hone in on those emotions and the thing you really want to say and formulate that idea into something concise.

Demo: How long did it take you to make?

Jeff: With a heavy touring schedule, it took us about a year and a half, two years.

Demo: Can you tell me a little bit about your decision to make a radio edit out of “Tokyo?” Was it your decision?

Jeff: Nobody forces any decisions on us. The objective [of the radio edit] is not to become rich or famous with this thing. The simple foundation of making this album is to try and share the music with as many people as we can. There’s not too many radio stations that will play a seven minute song. If we felt it would have degraded the quality of the music in any way, then it wouldn’t have been done. They came to us and asked “Is there any song you’d like to work on for the radio, so it could be played on college radio?” We decided to work on it for a minute because, hell yeah we want our song on the radio. We want people to hear it beyond the jamband community, beyond the people who already know about the stuff. It’s an opportunity to be able to share the music with more people. We’re not trying to blow up or be this hyped thing, it’s just that we want to share our music. This is one way we can do it.

Demo: I feel like you guys are beyond the jamband community, would you say that?

Jeff: To me the word “jamband” is really more about the fans than it is about the music. You have everybody from Medeski Martin and Wood and John Brown’s Body, to hard rock. The jamband community is not about a style of music, its about the fans who love to come see live music.

Demo: What would you guys think about touring Europe? It seems like they would have an accommodating scene for what you are doing.

Jeff: Yeah, well, we’re waiting for the opportunity. Not trying to force it or push it or anything like that, but just waiting for when the time is right, hoping the same thing might happen like what happened with Japan for us.

Demo: How was your crowd over in Japan?

Jeff: It was awesome. Very similar to here.

Demo: You guys covered a Boards song in Santa Cruz…

Jeff: ROY G. BIV. Yeah we love the Boards of Canada for sure.

Demo: Would you ever consider working with them?

Jeff: We’d love to. I don’t know how that’ll happen but it’s definitely something we’d like to do. We have a lot of respect for their production and their music for sure. We’d have to get to Iceland though.

Demo: What do you think about the Burlington music scene?

Jeff: It’s always been great to come up here. There’s very energetic crowds, they’re really supportive and nice, and I’m interested to see what happens tonight, you know, moving out of Winooski. Winooski was always an interesting place. The venue was incredible but you’d get out and look around and be like, “What the hell is going on here?” But I love Burlington, it’s got a good vibe about it… lots of young kids, lots of music lovers.

Demo: What do you think about the new Higher Ground?

Jeff: I haven’t heard it crank up yet, but I’m excited. It’s spacious.

And so we went on. The show was a spectacular mix of both old and new Sound Tribe that can only be described as original. Blending styles such as Hip-hop, drum and bass, Electronica, STS9’s highly danceable soundscapes produced a unique and delectable atmosphere for the audience. They played many songs from their new album. If you haven’t yet heard these guys, I strongly urge you to go to Pure Pop Records and pick up a copy of one of their discs. You will not regret it.