Out of all the bands I've seen since I started going to shows, there's not too many that hold the passion and drive that Stick To Your Guns has. I've been fortunate enough to see them play small venues, as well as opening for bands like Pennywise in front of almost 1200 people. I caught up with lead vocalist Jesse Barnett a few days ago as the band is preparing to head out on this summers Vans Warped Tour on the #Domo Stage, in which they'll be the lone heavy band on that particular stage.
You guys have been on tour with a variety of bands over the last twelve months, with bands like For Today, Pennywise, and The Ghost Inside, as well having success overseas at events such as the Impericon Festival. What are your thoughts on the last twelve months, and what have you learned?
Jesse Barnett: You know, I've learned that it's not over till it's over; and to be completely honest, I've always been the type of person that can't help but prepare for the worst. And the fact that Stick To Your Guns has been a band for about 10 years now and from what I've seen in the music scene, bands that are around for 10 years become irrelevant or they just fall off, and that's the kind of thing that I've been preparing myself for, when quite honest the exact opposite is happening. Now I'm very grateful for it, and it's the fact that people will give a shit with the bands that we tour with - for instance, when I was growing up and I was going to school, I was the kid who was friends with the jocks, the punk kids, and I was friends with the cheerleaders, I didn't really exclude anybody based on whatever clique they belonged to and I feel like I've brought that into Stick To Your Guns as well because we'll tour with For Today and that'll piss people off, we'll tour with I See Stars and that'll piss other people off, and we'll tour with Terror and that'll piss people off, and we'll tour with Pennywise, etc.
We'll tour with anyone and anywhere, because that's all I've wanted to do is play shows. So obviously if I can play shows with whoever, wherever, we definitely will, especially with a band like For Today - we look at that as an opportunity to bring a different way of thinking to the table in a room full of kids who are incredibly impressionable. You know what I mean? There's a lot of kids that grow up the same way, I grew up in a house that was religious, I grew up going to church and stuff like that. And until I started going to hardcore shows, I listened to Christian hardcore bands, but then I started to listen to other hardcore bands that say "You know what? we believe in the mentality of it, but you can be a great person and not have to be a Christian", and the more I looked into it and the more I was able to make up my own mind on what I thought about religion.
What I think about now about religion is very different than how I did 12 years ago, and who knows, 12 years from now it could be very different than what it is now...I'm kind of taking it as my life goes.
I remember when the blow-up with For Today and Mike Reynolds happened, I remember George saying (on twitter) that you guys wouldn't tour with them ever again. Has that changed?
Jesse Barnett: I think a lot of that stemmed from a lot of anger, just because it's...how many more things can people in this music scene get away with saying without succumbing to the consequences of their words, you know? You know what, here's the new topic that I've recently come to a conclusion, and probably something that will show up in the next Stick To Your Guns record is this: our words are really the weakest way in which we can express ourselves, and people will say "Well, that's weird because you express yourself in your songs...", and I'm not saying that words can't inspire people or anything like that, they can also be incredibly hurtful and ruin someones life as well.
I'm talking about your personal way of living. I could tell my girlfriend I love her all I want, and then cheat on her all the time. When I want to express my hatred, I don't want to just do it through my words, when I want to express my anger, I don't just want to do it just by words. And when I want to express my love, I want to do it because of my words. It's usually the people who do those kind of things are the people who say "Oh, I'm GONNA do this, and I'm GONNA do that one day, once I have more time or some more money, I'm going to be this kind of person..." and it's all a bunch of talk and before they know it, they blink their eyes and their at the end of their lives and they haven't accomplished any single thing that they want.
Coming back to your original question, Mike can say all that stuff and really as mad as I was back then, I feel foolish now that I thought about what he said. I don't know if he was trying to be provocative, I think he was, because right now in America and all over the world there's an enormous revolution in the GLBT community and towards a particular step that I believe to be the right direction. So I think that Mike sees that happening, and that angers him because he it says pretty blatantly in the Bible that being a homosexual is a sin. Now there's Christian historians and scientists who go on to say that when that was written in the Bible, that's when they were trying to re-produce and that was a completely different time period, so they don't mean the same thing as they do now, and that's the problem with the Bible, people are going to interpret it the way that they do.
So when I wear a t-shirt that says "Youth Against Christ" on the back, it's not an attack on all Christians, because I certainly have Christian friends, it's an attack on the fact that I don't understand how great a person that I believe can back it 100% and can worship the same thing as the Westboro Baptist Church does...I find it very confusing, to say the least. I feel like religion should be black and white, but maybe that's my own ignorance right there. I feel like it's something that shouldn't take as much focus as it has in people's lives.
I think the thing with Stick To Your Guns is you may not agree with Christianity, but there's still a lot of Christian kids that listen to your band irregardless of that fact. They'll come out to show and they might ask before-hand "WHY would you say something like that", and then they'll see what you're saying and then say "OK, now I know why...", and then you move on.
Jesse Barnett: Yeah, exactly, and obviously I wear that shirt in hopes to provoke. I'm not an idiot, I know that's going to happen, that's the whole point in wearing a t-shirt like that and even making a t-shirt like that is to provoke. And you know, I'm not a little fucking buddha, I'm just some fucking punk kid and I think people forget that sometimes. They hear the things that I write and things that I say on stage and they assume that I'm going to be this one person like I was just telling you, and then they find out that I'm not that person, and that bothers them. I'm just to figure out this fucked up game of life just like everybody else is, and the things that I write, I'm not saying that I have the truth, and this is the way you should live - these are simply observations, and these are the ways of thinking that I believe to be alright for me in this time, and things that I'm trying to be, I'm not all those things that I write, I'm not even fucking close. I quote this all the time, but the rapper Sage Francis says "My music is a much better person than I am", and whenever I first heard him say that, I thought that was a fucking brilliant line, because I was only trying to find a way to describe myself, and that's such a good one-liner without saying too much, and that's really true - my music, Stick To Your Guns is a better person than I am, and that's the point. I've been saying this on stage lately, but everything I say, don't take it away like you just went to church and this is how you're supposed to live and this is the Bible, rules simply laid out for you. These are simply observations, if you find something in my observations that I've made, great; if you align or identify with something with something that I think, then great, but don't think I have everything figured out, because the truth of it is, it's the quite the opposite.
Is it a little bit frustrating being seen as a role model?
Jesse Barnett: Not really, I mean...yes and no. I want to be the kind of person that recognizes that, and it's weird for me, but I want to recognize my role as a role model and the fact that there are people that maybe look up to me. I think there's a lot of people that say "Oh, it's not my fucking fault, I didn't tell that person to look up to me", and you know, in the things that I do and the fact that I'm on stage saying something, I have to take a responsibility for the words that I'm saying, because there's maybe people out there that take those words to heart. A lot of the time, people will go on this big long thing where they'll say "I love Stick To Your Guns, I love Stick To Your Guns, I love Stick To Your Guns..." until I say one thing and it really bothers them and upsets them and then they come up to me and tell me I'm a fucking hypocrite, and it's like you know..."Fuck you, how would you want to live your life? Why should it be any different for me because I'm a figure people are going to see when they go to Warped Tour and they see me on stage, I'm not different from you, and I don't need you to come up to me and tell me that I'm a hypocrite, because every word I say I try to think it through before I get on stage and open my mouth. There's some things that are questionable and I look back on it and say "oh, maybe I shouldn't have said it THAT way because I can see how what I was saying could be misconstrued", or I could see how I was trying to get a point across, but didn't exactly get it across in the correct way and so I do appreciate when people come up to me and ask me what I meant when I said something and can have a conversation with them, and that's fantastic. I feel like there's a lot of people that try to throw a lot of words in my face, even when they come to talk to me and they just need to realize that they shouldn't have done that, hahaha.
Yeah, it's such a huge responsibility, because you might say something on stage one night and people won't talk to you about it, and sooner or later it's all over Tumblr, re-blogged a thousand times over...
Jesse Barnett: Yeah, and you get all these fucking bands in this type of music who just say real broad shit like "This is our life!" or "The time is now!", shit that doesn't even mean anything, they're not provoking any type of thought. They're kind of just writing words that can be put on the back of a t-shirt and that's cool if that's their journey and that's what they want to do and I respect it, but the whole point of Stick To Your Guns is to do what we believe to be right, even if that always won't coalesce with the majority of society and their way of thinking. Sometimes I'm going to say shit, and I'll turn around and look at my guys, and they'll look at me as to say "ooooohhhh...oh boy, that's gonna cause some shit", but at the same time it's still "Fuck you, our point is to get up there and provoke a different way of thinking into you", and I love when that happens to me, I'll constantly search the internet and watch documentaries and constantly try to be thought-provoked. It's healthy to contradict yourself, because when you allow yourself to be wrong, then you are allowing yourself to have the opportunity to learn and to grow. People are so afraid to contradict themselves because they said one thing, and it's been taught in our fucking society that it's weak to contradict ourselves, and that's such bullshit, you know what I mean? Especially with how the world works and how technology that was found last month is going to be outdated. If scientists were afraid of contradicting themselves, we'd still be in the fucking stone ages. Being able to contradict yourself? That's a character strength, not a character flaw.
I forgot where I read this, but something to the effect of "Learning and moving forward is all about looking for things that conflicts with your views, not stuff that aligns with your views".
Jesse Barnett: Absolutely, and that's why when a band like For Today goes on tour, they bring bands like Impending Doom, Sleeping Giant, and other Christian bands, because they want to bring people out that already believe in what they believe, and they...I don't want to say brainwash, because that sounds way too conspiracy theorist, but I guess further instill that mindset in the minds of impressionable people who don't know where they stand on these issues and at the same time, the bands make a whole lot of money.
Well, at the same time, would you like to be on a tour that August Burns Red did a few years back with all Christian bands...but then they had The Acacia Strain do direct support.
Jesse Barnett: Well, we'll tour with anyone and everyone, especially Christian bands, we're not afraid of that, especially when we're the only band up there like us - we'll say what we're going to say. Even if that's going to put a dent in our merch sales, We. Don't. Give. A. Fuck.
So this new record is going to be all about action and moving forward and re-defining how you think, going out and doing something.
Jesse Barnett: Yeah, and I'm going to dig deeper than I did with Diamond, and I think I really owe it to people to do that. I like to read poetry and I identify with a lot of poets, but one of my favorites is Charles Bukowski, and he said this one quote where he said "I have your money, but you own my soul"; I know he was trying to be funny in that situation, but I still feel like that's sort-of what I owe people, to dig deep and find parts of myself that are scary and find things within myself and be critical of them, because I don't want to be a finger pointer, because it's weak and boring, and I feel like a lot of people in our age do that, that's a learned behavior. I feel like in America, we like to stand on the sidelines and point out things, but nobody wants to lead out by example for a solution, and that's where I feel like we're going to focus more of our time and I feel like we've been trying to do that and we've been doing an OK job, but on the next album I'd like to do a better job - provoke thought, and open outlets for people to make changes where before they couldn't. When I was growing up and listening to bands, and I'd say "yeah! I completely agree with what they're saying, but what can I do to help or change?", because it wasn't right there in front of me, I had to go and find the way to change it. Maybe we'll include things that make it easier to find a way that they can help for the betterment for everyone; like Spock said in the latest Star Trek film, "Needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few". We say these things that beat around the bush like "Oh, I'll vote about it", or "Oh, I'll pray about it". We all have the essential tools to go out and help, and if every single person who is fortunate like you and me went out and fed the homeless, world hunger would evaporate in a day guaranteed. Sure, you'll vote for it, and you'll try and get legislation passed about it, or pray to your God about it, but your not willing to actively do - these are the things we're looking to do it...why don't YOU do it? Why are you looking to your neighbor to do it? That's not fair, look at yourself.
Yeah, moreso practical ideas, as opposed to a hype campaign. I recall the Kony 2012 video went viral, and everyone was so excited to act, and then a week later everyone forgot.
But Warped Tour is happening for you guys this summer, that's awesome. I know you guys in talks of it last summer, but ended up being on the All-Stars tour instead. What are your thought on finally being a part of the tour?
Jesse Barnett: Well we did it in 2008 for two weeks, it was one of the most hellish tours we've ever done, it was fucking hot and miserable all day, but probably some of the most fun we've had on tour, there was so many different kinds of bands and you become very close with so many people that you never would've thought. For instance, there was this Japanese ska band we became close with, and they were very cool.
This time around, we're already coming out with a bunch of friends - Architects (UK), Blessthefall, letlive., The Story So Far, and some others. I feel like from Day 1 it's going to be a party, and it's going to be a lot of fun. I'll treat it like any other tour though, I think that's how I'll keep my wits about me though, I'm freaking out a bit.
Yeah, it's funny, because on your stage (#Domo Stage), you're the only band that's heavy. You have bands like Tonight Alive, Hands Like Houses, Big D and The Kids Table, etc. I would've thought Stick To Your Guns would be on the Monster Energy stage, which typically is home to heavier bands.
Jesse Barnett: Yeah, when I first saw that I saw that as a weakness that's going to hurt us, but then I realized that people who want to see our band are going to be where we are, you know? Hopefully it won't be that bad, and we'll play to some people we wouldn't play in front of normally. There's going to be a lot of 14 year old girls that are going to be very upset, but we'll see what we can do to win them over.
Yeah, but it'll be just fine I think. Last year I remember After The Burial dominating the Tilly's Stage, pulling an absolutely packed crowd both days I was there. Who are you really excited to see on the tour?
Jesse Barnett: I'm just excited to see my friends. letlive. is always a fucking spectacle, The Story So Far has a great live show as well. If our stage time doesn't conflict with those guys, we'll be checking those sets every day.
Is there a band you haven't really heard of that you want to check out?
Jesse Barnett: You know, I haven't really checked out the whole line-up, but Mac Lethal is playing and I used to be into him awhile ago, so it'll be interesting to see. My whole thing about being on tour is to not make a big deal about it, I usually pack the night before tour and I hop on a plane and go.
What can we expect from your set this summer? I know you guys have half an hour.
Jesse Barnett: Honestly, I probably shouldn't say this right now, but it's probably going to be the same old shit. We've been working on doing new material, but nothing that we'll play on the tour; we'll definitely try to switch it up and put songs in different places that you haven't heard them before. I think for people that are VERY familiar with our band, they might be a little upset because they've heard the same songs over and over again. I think the point on this tour is to gain a bigger fanbase, I think that'll work out.
I don't know, you could see a band like you would a favorite sports team - you still want to see every single game from that team, and support them.
Jesse Barnett: Yeah, that's a good way of saying it.
So you could re-structure how your set goes. I remember on the Pennywise tour you opened with Diamond, and I think that's what you've been doing the last few tours as well, right?
Jesse Barnett: Yeah, I feel like we've opened with Diamond on the last 6 tours and I was very against it for these last few tours, but I got voted down on that one. I really didn't want to open with it because that's what we've been doing over and over. We'll see what happens with Warped Tour.
How do you feel about opening with a song that everyone associates with you? Maybe a song such as "Amber"?
Jesse Barnett: Yeah, exactly, that was my idea, especially at Warped Tour. If we come out strong, the people who are new will see that and think that's awesome. We'll see what happens.
That's what I've never quite understood with even club tours - you'd think you'd want to bust right out of the gate and keep it high energy, and then work super hard to keep it up throughout the entire set. I loved Every Time I Die's recent headliner, they ended with "Indian Giver", a song I never would've thought they'd end with, and it was awesome
Jesse Barnett: For sure.
I remember you working on an acoustic project called Said Gun, how's that going?
Jesse Barnett: Yeah, it was called Said Gun, and then another band called me up and said it was already their band name, so I wasn't about to try and argue with them or anything, so it's called Sleep Year now. A "Sleep Year" is typically the year after college graduation in which college students don't do anything before looking for a job, and that's my entire life, haha.
That's terrifying, an entire year of doing absolutely nothing. I mean, you can only watch so much Netflix before you go crazy.
Jesse Barnett: Exactly. I changed it to Sleep Year. While I'm not on tour, I visit my girlfriend's apartment in which I pay for, so I spend a large amount of time in Canada, but I'm recording all this stuff in California. I should be getting that stuff done in a few months.
So you didn't record in September then?
Jesse Barnett: I did, I just need to finish a few things here and there.
What about stripped down versions of Stick To Your Guns stuff? I remember "We Still Believe" being received well.
Jesse Barnett: That was ultimately the whole reason I'm doing Sleep Year. I don't think I'll be doing any more STYG songs acoustically, but we'll see.
Let's talk about the split with The Story So Far. What can you tell me about Inside Out? You covered their song "Burning Fight" for the release.
Jesse Barnett: Inside Out is a band that I love, they're from Orange County, so we thought that was fitting. They're a hardcore band and it was Zack de la Rocha's first band before he was in Rage Against The Machine. The next album they were supposed to put out before they broke up was actually supposed to be called Rage Against The Machine, so they took that name and called their new band that. It was something people weren't expecting from us. The Story So Far covered "Loro" by Pinback, and they're honestly one of my favorite bands and that song's fucking awesome, so I was stoked when they covered it. We've been close friends for awhile now and we decided to do this split since we're both on Warped Tour, and it would be a good marketing tool, but also be a cool thing to do between friends.
The "Some Kind of Hope" clothing collaborations are completely SOLD OUT, are you working with any more bands with new releases?
Jesse Barnett: Yeah, I'll be doing a 5-panel hat with Alpha & Omega, but this is a bit of a different thing because they got their van broken into and they lost a bunch of personal stuff and money. It just breaks my heart when that stuff happens, so Merch Limited will be putting that up real soon. I'm also working on some stuff with The Story So Far, and I'll leave it at that. I'm going to try and open the store up in bursts. I'd like to do it more often, but my Girlfriend can't really afford to take off work to send that stuff out.
Lastly, what other bands have you really been into?
Jesse Barnett: Left For Dead, The Promise, Inside Out, old Killswitch Engage, Palm (JPN), Outsiders Code (AUS). I also went to a thrift store with my girlfriend recently, and I found Radiohead's The Bend, Verve Pipe, a bunch of Fat Music compilations like Fat Music For Fat People and I found the first Epitaph Punk-O-Rama album. The new Rotting Out album, The Wrong Way, is fucking awesome. I'm actually starting an independent label, where I'm putting out non-hardcore releases, and there's a band called Seacycles that's putting their album out soon, and a band called Tommy Boys from San Francisco, I'll be putting their album out as well.
Will you have a Bandcamp page for this label?
Jesse Barnett: Yeah, I'll have a Bandcamp, Twitter, and a Website. Hopefully that'll be launching in the 2-3 months off after we get home from Warped Tour.
So there's no Fall tour then?
Jesse Barnett: Yeah.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Jesse Barnett: I appreciate you asking me questions that don't make me want to fucking kill myself, that's very nice and very thoughtful of you. I hate all the bullshit questions that I get over and over again, I felt like this was more of a conversation, which was good. For anyone who reads this, go find a better role model, because I'm just a fucking asshole, but thank you for supporting me and my band, haha.