Stone Driver - 10 Questions Music Interview
Updated: Aug 15, 2020
"Stone Driver is a rock band from Washington, DC that harnesses grunge, blues, progressive, and psychedelic rock influences to create powerful and electrifying music in both the studio and on stage. The band has performed with the Gin Blossoms, Sugar Ray, Good Charlotte, Living Colour, Everclear, and Bush at the Celebrate Fairfax 2017-2019 music festivals. Notable past shows also include playing at the US National Archives (with the US Constitution as their backline!) and the SXSW Showcase with the Young Pandas. Stone Driver was founded by Chad Lesch in 2007. In addition to writing, recording, and performing original music, Stone Driver continues to be actively involved in supporting charitable organizations in the DMV community. In 2018, Rolling Thunder Inc endorsed Stone Driver’s veteran’s charity fundraising concert at Union Stage. Stone Driver also hosted and raised money for Per Scholas (DC/MD/VA charity providing transformative technology careers for individuals from often overlooked communities) and organized / headlined the Joe Strummer Foundation charity benefit concert at the Black Cat. Currently, Stone Driver is finishing their highly anticipated fourth full-length album “Mannequins” partnering with former LA Guns frontman Scott Foster Harris on vocals and Grammy award winner John Seymour’s production wizardry (prior artists include Santana, U2, Alice In Chains, Jimi Hendrix, Biohazard, and Dave Matthews Band."
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
I was a late starter, although I was an enormous music fan since I had ears. I used to write a lot in high school and college but didn't pick up the guitar until I was 21 after hearing Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Live Alive" album for the first time. I'm self-taught which has a lot of pros and cons associated with it, but wouldn't change a thing. I briefly played in a cover band I started called "McMurphy's Ward" in honor of the lead character in Ken Kesey's "One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest" book, but soon learned that if I'm going to expend the musical energy I'd personally much rather write original music. And with that, “Stone Driver" was born!
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
Eeesh, I don't even know where to start, but I'll share a PG one. We once played a show in front of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights at the National Archives in DC. The documents were literally in sealed protective cases not more than 10 feet behind us, and the security staff was concerned that we'd rock too loudly and somehow damage the national treasures.
The show had horrendous sound because we played in the rotunda with a 75ft tall dome ceiling and marble floors and walls (I still think our set is reverberating around in there years later), but despite the challenges it was an absolute trip to rock out in a non-standard historic venue like that and made for some cool photos.
What has been the high point of your music path?
I think where we're at right now to be honest; hopefully we don't have the Grand Canyon in front of us like Thelma & Louise, but a consistent culture of the band is to keep pushing ourselves forward and not accept artistic complacency, whether that be creative, attitude, work ethic, etc.
By continuing to hold ourselves accountable to write better music, record better produced tracks, sell out more exciting and larger shows, and break into new music markets, we've found that we're able to keep doing a little better than we've done before. I say this not to discount prior efforts, in fact quite the opposite: the band has been a marathon and not a sprint, and every mile ran prior has been critical to getting us closer to where we want to be.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
Not speaking for others in the band, but for me personally the creative process has always been trying to translate emotions into music first, then use that musical canvas as a backdrop to try to find the right words and melody to express what I was channeling. Our next release "Missing You" is a pretty good example of this.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
I think COVID-19 has eviscerated a lot of the income opportunities for musicians who play live, and the venues and support staff that host them. This is small beans obviously when compared to broader life, health, and macro-economic decimation the virus has caused, but in the indie music scene it has been very challenging too.
Streaming music pays artists roughly $0.006 per song play, and that's even before distribution cost percentages are factored in. The book "Rockonomics" by Alan Krueger talks a lot about this and the importance of live shows for even international superstar acts (still something like 90% of their income for artists like Billy Joel, Elton John, etc).
If I could change one thing in the music industry today, it would be to encourage music fans to actually purchase music instead of streaming it. It's better for the artist (particularly in times like these), and will help enable them to put some additional capital into recording new music for you to listen to and enjoy. I think you'd have better luck fighting the ocean than realizing those changes though, so streaming it is!
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
Pink Floyd with the original line up! We're totally out of their league, so my only motivation would be to catch their set from the audience as a music fan.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
Rehearsals are a lot of fun, vary based on what we're doing, and take place at my studio. When we were prepping for shows, we'd run through the set a couple times and talk through any performance or promotional ideas for the gig. When writing an album, it’s a lot more free-form where we just jam and try new things, and take some time to talk intermittently to see if any of the noodles stick to the wall.
Sometimes rehearsal is a mix of both show prep and writing. In both scenarios I record the entire session, and do a basic mix and master before sharing the music with the other members to listen to before our next rehearsal. I must have tens of thousands of rehearsal cuts over the years, and I think they serve as a good motivator for the band to hear our collective progress, as well as iron out any rough spots on newer tracks while they're in their formative stage.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
Our new track "Missing You" was really challenging for me as a writer due to its personal subject matter about loss and acceptance; definitely "reaching down from the bottom" as the amazing B.B. King used to say. It can be hard to put yourself out there as an artist on things that are deeply personal for public critique, but on the flip side once you breach that personal barrier of putting it on paper or tape the experience can help serve as a catharsis. I still get choked up hearing and performing it.
What's coming up in the future?
So we plan to release our next single "Missing You" in September, and then release our fourth LP "Mannequins" shortly after. It's 10 tracks with former LA Guns frontman Scott Foster Harris on vocals, and mixed by Grammy winner John Seymour (Santana's Supernatural), so we're pretty stoked to share it with everyone. The response to our first single off the album titled "Long Way Down" has been phenomenal, so we're both humbled and excited to share the rest of what we cooked up.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
Stream on Spotify
Find on Apple Music
Watch on Youtube.
For more information on Stone Driver, please visit their website.