Fillmore Auditorium December 31, January 2 and 3
By Brian F. Johnson
“It’s unfortunate that everyone makes it out to be such a big deal that she’s a girl, because to us, she’s just a bad-ass musician,” said STS9 percussionist Jeffree Lerner during a recent interview with The Marquee. “She brings a whole etiquette of discipline and study that we honestly really needed, and she’s toured with men her whole life, so this is old hat for her.”
Lerner was, of course, talking about bassist Alana Rocklin, who was tapped to fill the void left by founding bassist David Murphy, who citing personal and creative differences abruptly announced his departure from the band in early 2014 after 15 years with the exploratory live-tronica group. “We’re moving forward,” Lerner said. “We had an amazing ride and we wish David all the best. We have so much love for him in these confusing times. What happened was intense, there’s no doubt about it, but I think we’re just focused on moving forward.”
For STS9, a giant part of moving forward means allowing the shake-up to rattle the very foundation of the group, and utilizing that to make music differently than they have been for the last decade and a half. And, according to Lerner, Rocklin has been an invaluable tool in repairing and improving their current building blocks. “We’ve known Alana for 14 or 15 years now and we’ve been collaborating with her since ’04 or ’05. She walked in on the first day of rehearsals with 35 or so songs to play and since that day in April we’ve now built it to where we’re touring with 117 songs. Last year we were touring with 70 or 80,” he said.
And, Lerner pointed out, Rocklin’s unique perspective of being a fan of the band has also helped give them an inside look into the minds of the STS9 audience, which has prompted even further development of the group this past year. “Her being a huge fan and having that fan mentality gives us a perspective that we haven’t seen in our bubble in the last 16 years,” he said. “She knows us so well that she’s been able to say ‘I think you guys need to do this,’ and there’s this whole ’nother level of her professionalism and confidence that has made us a better band. She’s just over the top.”
But while Lerner said that he and his bandmates are incredibly proud of the sets they’re playing and the growth they’ve seen this year, he also honestly said that it’s really just the tip of a much, much larger iceberg, and that through rehearsals and festival sets and now a headlining tour that they’ve yet to have an “ah-ha” moment — a time when they could say, “Yeah, we’ve got this.”
“We’ve had that in some ways, but here’s the deal: This whole time has only been us learning the songs that already exist. There’s a whole ’nother level where we’re going to go write songs together and we’re going to actually formulate this chemistry and build songs,” he said. “It’s nowhere near an ah ha moment yet. We’re just touching it and we’re getting our chemistry down. There’s a lot of getting to know each other and years and years of habits and conditioning, not to mention all of the things we’re trying to break to move forward. I’ve never worked as hard in my life.”
The band has indeed been breaking old habits and stretching their minds musically with a variety of set twists and turns this year, including resurrecting songs that have sat dormant for years, and pulling out songs they’ve never played live before. In October, in fact, at a Philadelphia show the band threw even long-time hardcore fans for a loop when they busted out, for the first time, a cover of Phish’s “First Tube,” that was interwoven with their own track “Moonsockets.”
Lerner said that all of those new additions come from being in a more open space than they’ve been in for years. “It’s just that we’re in a different creative space and we’re more open to those ideas. We have a different perspective of where we are. So these ideas that may have met some resistance in the past are seriously looked at and we’re able to put in the time to take something and make it our own instead of just copping someone’s song.”
As part of their New Year’s run, which will straddle both sides of the 2014-15 calendar, the band, which doesn’t have an “official” show on Jan. 1, will host a special VIP benefit dinner at the Fillmore Auditorium that will include catered food and a special “out of the ordinary, creative and different, relaxed and intimate” set for fans. The VIP set will also serve as a benefit for Conscious Alliance.
STS9 Fillmore Auditorium December 31, January 2 and 3 VIP Dinner Set January 1
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