Joining this year’s line-up at Groezrock was Orange-county based hardcore band Stick To Your Guns. We caught up with drummer George Schmitz and guitarist Josh James to discuss Donald Trump, life on tour and some unexpected parenting tips.
[Josh picks up a Jägermeister glass off of the table which is in the shape of a chemical tube]
What the fuck is this?!
Do you not have the test tube shots in America?
We don’t do shots because we’re fucking straight edge!
No we don’t drink. I’m sure there are test tube shots in America because there’s a lot of ridiculous things in America. I’m gonna be honest, if I drank, this wouldn’t make me feel cool. I would want a shot glass, you’d feel cool with that, this thing looks like it holds a tampon and that’s not a slate against tampons it’s a slate against Jägermeister.
You’re not wrong, there really is some weird stuff in America. Have you ever tried the cheese which comes in a spray can?
Of course, I grew up in the south. It shouldn’t make any sense, it’s an abomination of science but as a child, oh my god it was delicious! But now that I’m older I look at things like that and I go I’m not doing that to myself, that’s wrong.
My parents were bad parents for not stopping me from doing that to myself. If I had a kid I would be like “You’re not fucking eating cheese out of a can, you’re not even eating fucking cheese, do you know what that is? you’re eating vegetables and fruit, nuts and seed and you’re gonna drink a lot of water” cause I didn’t have a drink of water until I was 17 years old. Gave me motherfucking diabetes!
We love that you guys follow the straight edge ethos. What other values do you think are important to the modern hardcore scene?
Empathy is a big one for me because I feel that it allows you to put yourself into someone else’s shoes and perspective is an important thing, so I would say empathy is one that is overlooked because rather than be like “I’m straight edge” or “I’m vegan” which I think are amazing ethos that I think everyone should partake in, I think empathy is an important thing to consider.
Unfortunately I think a lot of the time in the hardcore scene even if the idea is to be so open minded people get stuck on cliques like straight edge, veganism, non straight edge or eating meat, whatever it is and then they just wanna butt heads with other people instead of wanting trying to adapt and understand and function properly together.
Unity can be difficult as it’s such an aggressive genre of music. Do you think it’s important that there is some form of resistance within the genre in order to create the sound?
Resistance against the establishment absolutely, but I think as far as resistance against each other, you should be able to call out your friends on their bullshit, whatever that may be. I know that is a crass way of saying it but I don’t think anything should be blindly followed. I also don’t think that resistance is a negative thing or a positive thing, but when you break down resistance you really end up having two people that are agreeing on something, you know what I mean?
And through that if you’re able to try to listen to the other person then you’re gonna get something out of that I think if you are open minded and interested in learning and understanding a different perspective. So, yeah maybe resistance should be there, I don’t know. Complacency is a dangerous thing for sure. I think through resistance you can cause evolution which is always a good thing in my eyes. Progression and evolution, so yeah I think that is a form of resistance in it itself.
What other themes influence your music?
I think it’s a bit of everything, honestly. Our music in the band is very self-reflective so of course we’re gonna have political statements, social statements but we’re also gonna have statements just about self-realisation. So all things like music, literature, film have a big part to play and then personal relationships whether it’s romantic relationships, friendships or issues with family stuff it’s kind of a reflection of life and I think it’s what a lot of bands do.
I think if we got stuck on just picking politics or just certain social movements then it would end up becoming kind of bland and the meaning would kind of get lost. It’s like if you’re a straight edge band and you make every single song about being straight edge, it kind of defeats the purpose because it just makes it boring and it also makes you think I cannot say anything about anything else, but I feel like for me at least if that’s all I talked about it would lose its value.
Stick To Your Guns are not afraid to light a few fires. What taboo subjects have you ever brought up recently to get people talking?
In Belgium we said something on stage about refugees being welcomed and why are you gonna turn someone away? Like we said earlier to have empathy and perspective and put yourself in their shoes and understand what they’re being refuged from and a lot of the crowd was like “fuck you they’re rapists, fuck you they’re criminals”.
We did a video off our last full-length record ‘Disobedient’ for our song called ‘What Choice Did You Give Us’ and a guy named Steve Cutts did the animation and its an animated video and it really was like visually showing all a bunch of issues going on as far as police brutality, Israel Palestine conflict, pollution and everything and so we had this idea and we wanted to make this big statement and he was really into it.
We just threw it up on Facebook and it was like a trending thing on Facebook, not for the band, just Facebook as a whole, there were thousands and thousands of comments. Everything from “this is so cool that a band is making people aware of this” to “fuck them they hate cops” or “fuck them they hate Israel” or “those kids are thugs” or “the police have every right to kill a black man”.
So there’s been in the last five years a lot of little fires that I think we have started. Oh yeah, for the last video we did people were like “I work in oil rigs how fucking dare you do this?”. Admittedly, we like to be a group of guys walking around with a little lighter just seeing what is going to catch on fire because also a lot of times people just don’t pay attention until something is set ablaze. Because we’re not using it to get attention to the band, we’re trying to get a discussion going and to hopefully to get people to understand and look at things from a different perspective.
What about politics?
Even when this last election was going on in America when it was down to Trump and Clinton I talked to a couple of people and obviously I’m not pro-Trump at all and I wasn’t pro-Clinton either but I was definitely way more NOT pro-Trump. I talked to someone and they were like “yeah man I’ve been completely fucked by the democratic side with my job and my union. Trump is promising to bring jobs back, that’s what I care about”.
I can shake my head and roll my eyes at that but it’s also like I don’t understand what you’ve been through and so although I’m trying to tell you “no man you’re making a bad choice” the reason why you’re making your choice is “I’m not racist I don’t give a shit about the wall, I need my job again” and that’s what their reality is, “I cant support my family and feed my kids this guy says I’m gonna get a job, alright I’ll vote for him” and yeah there’s a lot of stupidity in that.
But even for me I was like okay I cant blindly go everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, they’re a fucking piece of shit you know what I mean? Cause that’s just not true, cause that is my first reaction oh you’re voting for trump? Fucking racist, bigot, Fascist! and that’s just not the truth, some people are of course, but there’s also people yelling white power in the streets of fucking Huntingdon beach and there’s a 65 year old man who got fucked from his job and he’s like “he’s gonna bring back the automobile industry, that’s what i need, he called ford” so, I understand.
And it’s the entire system because even if he’s in power its the whole team behind him who make the decisions.
The fact that there is a system that will allow him to become a president is problematic. He became president by losing by 3 million votes with a fourth of the electorate voting. It’s a fucking nightmare.
Moving onto less intense subject, if your band had a motto what would it be?
Oh we have two mottos! ‘Always leave a man behind’ and the other is ‘never skip a beat’. It’s just funny to always leave someone behind, but that’s really it, you just always make sure you don’t invite one guy in the band but also it goes to a point that if one person cant do the show or the tour you just leave them. We never skip a beat. It’s the first rule. Broken teeth, broken foot, broken backs, we’ve done it all.
It sounds like you don’t get a lot of down time. What do you do to rejuvenate your creativity?
Having sex with my girlfriend, going to the gym, drinking a fresh green juice everyday and getting some exercise will do wonders for your psyche. The older I get the more I’m home I try to have a normal person life like try to make a schedule I’m gonna try to wake up at 09:00am everyday and eat healthy, go to the gym and go to the movies and hangout with my friends.
Reading, I really like comics, playing board games with my friends. I’m so domesticated, I wake up when my wife is going to work so I can act like I’m also going to work.
He puts on a suit and tie!
Yeah and I go to the basement and play drums. But it makes me not feel like a piece of shit cause I know plenty of my friends who do tour and it’s like 14:00pm and they roll out of bed like what’s up?!
it’s got to be a tough lifestyle. What would you say are the perks and downfalls of touring?
Miss your family, eat bad food, don’t get good sleep sometimes finding a toilet is the hardest thing in the world, I’ve done irreparable damage to my job. I’ve done unspeakable things!
What are these unspeakable things?