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Stereo Frontier Fine Tune Their Jams on ‘From Here On Out’

Oct. 11, 2016
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One of the first and most fundamental challenges when starting a new band is finding bandmates with shared musical interests. That wasn’t a problem for the five members of Stereo Frontier, who came together in 2011 as students at UW-Milwaukee. All five were fans of the jam scene, which gave them a shared language to work with. But their specific interests were different enough to create some interesting tension, says guitarist/keyboardist Brian Koceja.

Koceja’s playing is particularly indebted to the blues, especially shredding guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and Jack White. His fellow guitarist, Pat Schreiner, on the other hand, is more of a Phish head who leans toward the smoother, driftier guitar tones of Trey Anastasio. Drummer Brock Schupp, meanwhile, is a fan of electronic jam bands like Sound Tribe Sector 9, and he brings a little bit of that influence to a few of Stereo Frontier’s more synth-heavy tracks. So for their sophomore album From Here On Out, the band tasked themselves with clearing room for all of those different styles, while keeping their songs relatively compact. “The band has matured to take on a little bit more of a songwriting focus,” Koceja says. “We’re getting away from the 10-minute songs.”

It took some time to get it right. Recording in part at the band’s practice space at the Hide House in Bay View, the band pieced the record together gradually over the course of two years, repeatedly reworking songs as they came up with new arrangements. “We kind of thought about it like the Sgt. Pepper’s album from The Beatles,” says Koceja. “Since we were multi-tracking so much of the album instead of playing it live, the idea was, ‘How weird can we get? What else can we do to make it sound awesome?’ Many times we had arrangements for these songs when we played them live that just wouldn’t translate for the studio recordings, so we came up with completely new ones.”

That approach helped them rein their songs in as they’d hoped. The trippy, psychedelic-funk epic “The Coin” aside, most of the tracks on From Here On Out clock under the five or six minute mark. Koceja says he’s proud of how disciplined the record turned out, and hopes that it helps introduce the group to a wider audience—always a struggle for any band that openly affiliates with the jam scene—but he admits the group probably won’t attempt to record another one like it. Rather than spending years toiling over individual tracks, he expects they’ll try to go for more of an immediate, live-to-tape approach that’s more true to their live shows.

“Relating it back to what The Beatles did with Let It Be, I think our next recording will probably bring it back to the basics,” Koceja says. “We’ve taken our time recording, and I learned a lot from that process, but from now on I want to be quick about it. I think that’s the biggest thing I learned from doing this album: Once you have an idea, you better just go with it, because if you start tweaking that original idea too much, it’s no longer the same idea that you were excited about in the first place. So as fast as an idea comes to your head, you should get it recorded and get it done. That’s the most important thing we learned.”

Stereo Frontier play an album release show with Coyote and Undercover Organism at Mad Planet on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 9 p.m.

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