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semantikon interview:
The Staggering Statistics
2.3.06

Semantikon:
At this point, we find Staggering Statistics ready to release a full length album worth of material on Shake-It Records, and, an EP on Rhode Island label 75orLess records. What does 2006 look like for Staggering Statistics in, and, outside the studio? Another full length release? Touring? Etc..

John Curley: We’re working on a new batch of songs that we’ll be recording in Detroit (on Super Bowl Weekend) with our old friend, Chris Kolaty. He used to live in Cincinnati and moved up to Detroit to open a studio. Chris also recorded our first, self-titled EP. So, hopefully, 2006 will see another Staggering Statistics LP and some more touring.

Semantikon: What might a visitor to the studio, your night stand, see that you’ve been reading lately? Each of you coming from bands noted for both their songwriting and musical performances, what can you share about where you draw inspiration for your music from literature/ cinema/visual art/other music? How do those influences come together as you rehearse, write songs together?

John: I listen to my i-pod while falling asleep, so you’d find a pair of headphones on my night stand. I have a modest collection of books at the studio: covering subjects like music, graphic design, history, physics and maps. I like reading non-fiction which doesn’t really inspire me musically. I find my best musical inspiration by not looking for it. Once I start thinking about it, it changes to an analytical process instead of a subconscious one.


Semantikon:
On your myspace profile your answer to influences “…Too broad to list. Listen to the songs and you tell us...” What is your experience with the genre thumping that goes on in music industry? Certainly, lyric poets have been lifting off their predecessors for 500 years in English Canon, when a fan approaches, and says you remind me of “Sonic Youth” or the marketing/journalistic community gets together and says something like “The Who”, what’s your experience on how being related to other works can get mixed up with what is actually going on in the songs you write, the music you make?

staggering statistics album art
The Staggering Statistics:
Austin Brown - Vocals, Guitar
John Curley - Bass
Joe Klug - Drums, Vocals
Sam Wommelsdorf - Guitar, Keyboards
play staggering statistics
Winner Take All
(4MB Mp3)
from the
Forthcoming LP
"All this and More..."
(Shake It Records,2006)
vplay staggering statistics
L.C.D.
(2.5MB Mp3)
from the "Pixelated Ones and Zeros"
EP (75 OR Less Records)

Joe: You know we had this song we were playing for a while that really did sound like the Who (you know, long sustaining guitar chords, big drum fills, Austin wearing a jump suit). I think someone pointed it out, and it was just like, "who fucking cares." I love "The Who." As far as "genre thumping" goes, I realize that the interviewer wants their audience to "get it " before the article has ended. And since most bands that are on major labels are constantly being put through the company's marketing machine, it's easy to say that one band sounds like the next, because they do. Kind of like how ballistics can tell which bullets came from which gun. One time we did this interview and they asked: "if you could describe your sound in five words, what would they be"? John replied: "I'm not going to answer that. Describe yourself in five words. Hopefully it takes more than that". I don't think we sound (consistently) like anyone. That's a good thing.

John: I don’t really care what bands we’re compared to. Sometimes someone will compare you to something you like, sometimes not. People hear all kinds of things when they listen to a song and people need common points of reference when describing a band. Some of our influences are more obvious than others. Before Sam joined the band, the bass was more out front, especially live. That’s probably where the Who comparison comes from. I like the Who, anyway. Obviously, all bands borrow from others and there’s nothing new under the sun. That’s why lyrics are so important for me. Lyrics are one place where you really can create something original.

Semantikon: In separate bands, and in Staggering Statistics, you’ve enjoyed no small amount of attention (John-with Afghan Whigs) (recent addition Sam in Throneberry and Culture Queer) (Austin Brown---well known songwriter) with Staggering Statistics garnering a 2005 New Artist of at Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. You’ve accomplished this with limited touring, (though, with when you do, you do with such fail safe indie-acts like the Violent Femmes). What has been your experience about how a band like Staggering Statistics can essentially live in the studio, compared to a majority of bands that usually follow the “record-tour-record” route until some critical mass, or at least, some midlist fan favorite status?


Joe: Well, we are all busy with other things. John has two kids, Sam has a kid, Austin and I are in school (the band thing doesn't pay well), and, we're old. And wise enough to know that touring the states in a shitty van, showing up in New Jersey and playing to no one, (that really happened) staying in shitty hotel rooms, and having no money, is what you do when you're in your twenty’s, and have nothing to lose. I would much rather write songs, record, and drive down the street to play a show. Those are the best parts.

John: Our touring has been pretty limited due to other commitments (school, work, kids). I met The Violent Femmes when I was in The Whigs and stayed in touch w/ Brian off and on over the years. They’re good people who help out their friends. Rick McCollum’s new band, Moonmaan, has done a few shows with the Femmes, too. In a way, our experience with Staggering Statistics is opposite most bands who find it easier and cheaper to play live than to record. I have Ultrasuede (Studios) and everybody in the band has a home studio, too, so recording is easy. Part of the idea when we formed the band was to keep it to a one or two night-a-week commitment. Some weeks, it’s been more than that, but overall we’ve done a good job not letting the band consume our lives, which is harder than it may seem. We could manage a little more touring if we had an agent that could get us better shows out of town. We’re past the point where we want to drive 500 miles to play for 3 people. 5 people, maybe…

Semantikon: Cincinnati independent radio station, 97X-WOXY, was extremely important airwave radio station during the rise of independent music publishing in the 80’s-90’s, a home to music which may have not been heard otherwise. Now, many radio stations are available online. In December 2004, you had the opportunity to play live on the new all internet based WOXY, can you describe that experience compared with hearing your songs on the radio in the 80-90’s. Does independent radio mean the same online as independent radio on the air meant then? What affect do you see the shift to internet radio having future wise?

John: I hope I never get tired of hearing my band on the radio airwaves, even if the radio is a computer and the airwaves are network cables. Playing on WOXY/97X was a great experience for us and led to the Rhode Island-based label 75orLess putting out our EP. WOXY has always supported local, DIY and indie bands, not only more than other stations in town but more than stations of their caliber in other cities.


Semantikon:
Your full length album, “All of this and more…” comes out on Shake-It records later this spring. Having each navigated the big music business at different stages of your music and songwriting careers, what’s the difference for you to work with a label that is homegrown, compared to what you’ve seen in another time, taking other paths to reach your audience?

John: I think the biggest difference for us will be the fact that Shake-It will promote the record and get it reviewed. It’s a chance to raise the profile of the band beyond what we can do ourselves. Like I said, earlier, we all have busy lives and while we love playing music and recording, etc., there are only so many hours in a day. Doing mailings, promotion, follow-up, etc. would take up a lot of those hours so those are things that we can’t really do.


Semantikon: You released your first EP, The Staggering Statistics, on iTunes and made the full length EP available on online music distributor, CDBaby. Where have you seen more sales? In a choice between the two, would you rather enjoy the advantage to meet with your audience one song at a time where they may miss larger themes, or the see they have the whole album which many argue, will be overpriced for the songs someone is likely to enjoy? How do you see this is changing the music publishing industry now and future wise?

John: Personally, I like albums. That’s what I grew up on and I think it’s becoming a lost art form. That said, if someone wants to buy one or two songs, great. If they want the whole LP, even better. If they want bonus tracks and DVD content, we should have that available, too. Part of the reason record companies are losing so much to illegal copying is their arrogant attitude that someone who buys a CD for the single wants to pay almost $20 for the other 11 shitty songs. Hell, even the single’s gonna be played out in 3 weeks! Bands need to create content for all levels of consumers from $0.99 ownloads to $40 DVDs. Over the long term (another thing labels gnore), it’s likely that a fan who bought a $0.99 will come back and buy the CD or DVD. Initially, we sold more hard CD’s via CD Baby because it takes time to get the music out to all the digital download sites. Now it’s about 50/50.


Semantikon: Staggering Statistics is a band born in the first true era of internet music publishing. With your combined experience, you’ve have gone from the days of flyers, ‘zines, mix tapes and coat tail tours with rising acts---to the internet, what has been your experience launching the band in this time compared to what it was before? What have you enjoyed and what would you like to see fully realized with the freedom this medium may afford new music acts?

John: I consider myself extremly lucky to have “come up” in the days of flyers and ‘zines and to have that perspective, today. I don’t think The Staggering Statistics could have accomplished as much as we have with our limited resources without an internet. It also makes me very appreciative of all we accomplished in The Afghan Whigs without any of that stuff. It’s fantastic that bands can record and promote themselves so easily. Technology like MySpace, MP3’s and Apple’s Garage Band Band have leveled the field. You still have dig through a lot of coal to find a diamond. The rights-management and copyright issues still need to be worked out. That’s the main hurdle, right now.

Semantikon: Recent years have seen an increasing number of musicians release singles, entire albums online for their audiences to download, listen to, share. (Wilco, Prince, REM, Death in Vegas) What are the advantages and drawbacks Staggering Statistics would face doing the same?

John: I see only one possible drawback: The more records you can sell to begin with, the less money you’ll make by giving away music. That’s a pretty short-sighted point of view. If you’re one of the other 99.9% of artists out there, you have nothing to lose. You’ll raise awareness of your band, create new fans and probably wind up selling more records. Not only that, those new fans will come see your concerts, buy your merchandise and tell their friends how great you are. BTW, ticket sales and t-shirt income goes to the band. Most bands on labels will never see any money from record sales.

ALBUM CREDITS:

Staggering Statistics
All of this and more...
[Shake-It Records sh-553]

Track Listing
01 New Vocation
02 Winner Take All
03 Circus Train
04 Embrace Your Decay
05 We Celebrate Your Mistakes
06 Underneath The Carpet
07 L.C.D.
08 Objects In The Mirror
09 White Mouse
10 Alternate Ending
11 Matter of Time
12 Nothing's Forever


Written, Performed and Produced by Staggering Statistics
Mixed by Austin Brown
Engineers: Paul Brumm, John Curley, Austin Brown
Recorded on Election Day 2004
Mastered by Dave Davis at QCA
Original Artwork by Alan Sauer ©2005
Graphic design by Wm. Alletzhauser
All songs ©&? 2004-2005 by Staggering Music.