Published Oct 03, 2012When Kevin Stebner is not exploring chiptunes as Greyscreen or making throat-busting country as Cold Water, the Calgary musician focuses on his main project, Stalwart Sons. The rock-tinged post-hardcore group have just issued their sophomore long-player Stay Cold via Stebner's own vinyl label Revolution Winter, and as the songwriter explains to Exclaim!, staying busy just comes with the territory.
"I wouldn't say I'm addicted to busyness, but more along the lines of a hatred of standing still, of not doing anything," Stebner says of his remarkable work ethic (which also includes the fabled cassette imprint Bart Records). "I never want to look back and think, boy, I sure wish I did that when I was young. No, the moment I stop getting inspired is the day I'll stop. I'm never overwhelmed, but blessed with inspiration."
The inspiration for Stalwart Sons struck Stebner while he was living in Korea for a year. "I played in a band when I was there, a sort of youth crew band, where I was drumming, just playing fast beats," he recalls. "It was a lot of fun, great people, but in a lot of ways it was really unsatisfying. I wasn't playing the music that rang in my head. Living abroad truly does show just how much one does take for granted one's scene; just that commonality of outlook and influence really goes a long way in terms of pursuing a vision."
That vision stewed in Stebner's head for months. "I want to take this style of hardcore, and apply it to this aspect of Canadiana, I want this guitar tone," he recalls himself thinking. "I'd played with LeeJay [Dunphy, drummer] and Matt [Learoyd, bassist] previously in some one-off bands before, so being able to start with project with those guys on board was huge. But much of that initial drive came from being apart from it all, the things I wanted to create weren't in reach at all, so upon returning really just went for it."
Now on their second full-length, Stalwart Sons have refined the intricacies of their sound without stepping out from the initial idea for the band.
"We've definitely opened up a whole bunch," Stebner explains. "The new record has things I would classify as more 'rock' fare, unafraid to just ride the 4/4 for a while, not over-complicating it, definitely a few more guitar leads that had likely been out of my reach until recently, but in that sense, rhythmically much more assured, the hard parts hit harder, instrumentally we've all stepped up. I'm much more happy with my vocal deliveries on this one; much less barky/shouty, but curiously a little more gruff and deep, stronger cadences."
Lyrically, the band's love of Canada still shines through on Stay Cold, though Stebner is quick to point out that it's not just mindless nationalism.
"I know this idea has sort of become a trademark for Stalwart Sons, as if we're some sort of flag-waving bastions of Canadian pride," he admits. "Because, believe me, I am very critical, my criticism all the greater because I actually do care about this place. Much of the record deals with this very thing; 'Wolfspeak' and 'Lonely War' discuss the consequences of the oil industry; themes of agrarianism, self-definition, flag waving — it's all over this record.... But really, I'm just writing about the things I think about and feel and am affected by, the things around me that touch me. The fact that punk bands in this province don't sing about those kind of things seems astounding to me, more so than the fact that I do."
Stay Cold is available now from Revolution Winter. Before you pick it up, however, you can stream the whole thing right here on Exclaim.ca.
The band will also play a set at Halifax Pop Explosion, which runs from October 16 to 20.
1. Good King
2. A Lonely War
3. Wave More Flags
5. Hope Chest
6. True North
7. Windburn Children
8. Horse Blanket Rash
9. Good Man