Stick To Your Guns have just finished their extensive European Tour with Wolf Down, Counterparts and Stray From The Path. This tour consisted of over 20 shows across Europe with the US band headlining. We were able to catch up with Stick To Your Guns singer and front man Jesse Barnett for an interview, during their last stop in Wuerzburg, Germany. In the interview Jesse talks about the difficulties a hardcore band has with commercial success, current favorite bands and the what’s happenings during the past tour.
„I’ve been involved in this music since I’m fucking twelve years old. I am now 28. I’m not playing a fucking game. I’m not there to be a cool guy to a bunch of 19-20 year olds.“
Interview with Jesse of STICK TO YOUR GUNS
AFL: Hey Jesse, how are you? Here in Germany we are currently dealing with an influx of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. These peoples are in great need of support, which they receive from the German HC and Punk scene, for example nonprofit organization HC Heft. STICK TO YOUR GUNS being a politically motivated band with a large measure of success, are you involved in similar projects in the U.S.
Jesse: Yes I had my own project that I called “Some kind of hope”. I would get together and collaborate with other bands and make hats and t-shirts. We would then sell them and donate the profits to the organization or charity of their choice. For example I worked with ROTTING OUT and the proceeds went to a battered woman’s shelter in long beach CA. I also worked with TERROR on Pitbull Rescue and TRAPPED UNDER ICE where the proceeds went to a children’s home in Baltimore MD. As far as refugees, I haven’t been involved yet because of STICK TO YOUR GUNS TOUR tour.
But refugees is definitely an issue more so in Europe then in the US. We are outspoken on that topic and I like to take the opportunity when I get on stage to address the issues. Some people ask me are you proud to be an American, that’s got nothing to do with me. I didn’t decide to become an American. So no I’m not proud about a choice that wasn’t mine. I am proud about the choices that I do make. About the things I do to help and encourage other people. I try to get on the stage and tell the young people the same thing because they are very receptive to this kind of positive thinking and mind set. I think that truthfully people in their cores want to be good. I don’t think that people just wake up and say, I’m going to do some bad shit because I feel like it. If I can somehow encourage them to think a little differently, to be a little more open-minded and compassionate then that’s great. And to do the same thing in America and Canada, all over the place.
AFL: Since the album The Hope Division, the artwork for the albums has intensified. A piece that stands out repeatedly is the arrows in side of a circle. Do this symbol and the take on the infinity symbol on the last album have special meanings?
Jesse: I just think that as corny or cheesy as it sounds. It’s a circle, the circle of life it’s just the way things go, the things that you portray in the world and the things that exist inside of you are portrayed out on the world and projected out on the world and will come back. Either reward you or bite you in the fucking ass. Ultimately what that symbol means is karma. We use the heart the circle with arrows, we have the diamonds with arrows, the infinity sign, and it’s all meant to be the same kind of concept. What you’re going to put is going to come back. Either bite you or reward you.
AFL: You’ve had some commercial success with STYG the last years. Is it important for you to keep your shows affordable and not dwell on commercialism?
Jesse: Yes of course I think so. Now I don’t know if I would say commercial success because if we had commercial success it would be more here in Europe. Even when we went out to some random restaurant today. Our waitress, while talking to her, she looked like a completely normal person but totally into Hard core and Punk. Never in a million fucking years in the USA, unless you were in Portland, OR. In the US our music is much more underground that here. Here you get the feeling that this type of aggressive music is more accepted. I think that Europeans look at our music as a real type of music. We’ll tour with whoever we want to tour with. We will tour with bands that we don’t necessarily like musically; just as an opportunity to put us on the stage in front of more people to spread our message and music to new people who may have never have heard of us. We have come out of the underground a bit, but still have our feet planted there.
„Like I said money will never be the deciding factor. We have turned down huge shows for huge money (…)“
AFL: You still have to make a living, not going commercial what compromises do you have to make?
Jesse: I think the compromise is definitely, sometimes, maybe (takes a moment in thought). Here’s the thing, and this is the issue that I have a lot of the time with this is. We work our fucking asses off. I started out at 15 years old and didn’t give a fuck about money. I’m 28 now and I care a little more about money because I have to. I’m a grown man with responsibilities that I have to take care of. Like I said money will never be the deciding factor. We have turned down huge shows for huge money either because it was not ethically correct or the timing wasn’t right or we wanted time off or just didn’t want to do it. There are definitely compromises that we make. We toured with this band ATTILA. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them but they are this outrageously ridiculous tough band. Let’s just say their message is the total opposite of ours. But we get to get on the stage and talk to their fans, and are like chill the fuck out and be normal.
AFL: You have been on a long and strenuous tour, how do you spend your time? Specifically, being in such close contact with one another do conflicts arises and how do you deal with them?
Jesse: Let me say these are great questions, because I’ve never been asked these kinds of questions before, they are very well thought out. They are fantastic very good.
Conflicts do arise. I would say that they are more internal. I never let myself get to the point where I explode. If I have an issue like, I’m on the bus and there are too many people around me what do I do? I fuck off, I put my running shoes on and I fucking go, I get the fuck out. We were in Berlin. I was up at 10 a.m. before anyone was awake. I was on the fucking Tram and was away which direction I don’t care, I didn’t give a fuck. I just needed to be away from people. I think that was the only thing.
This tour has been, actually in the top 3 most fun tours I’ve ever done. It’s been really good. Since were friends with all the bands. There hasn’t been that awkward week of trying to get to know everyone. Day one and everyone is just going fucking wild. So that was great. I’ve been going through a break up with my girlfriend of the past 6 years which started just before the tour, and that’s been super ruff on me so to come into this tour with 30 of my friends and just have theirs shows be like fucking wild is sick. What’s cool is and I was just telling our drummer this is, since he’s filmed most of the shows is like. I’m so greatful to the fans because there are so many people coming to these shows, more than we’ve had ever! I look back at film footage and think there were that many people “WOW”! You know what I mean it’s like, I would go like on stage: Let’s do this, but I don’t care how many people are here. I just take the stage and do our thing. But to be able to just get on the stage and be like we, I don’t care how many people are here, I’m just going to kick myself and say let’s fucking do this. It’s been amazing. George our drummer put those videos together and loaded them up on the internet. I watched them and was like oh my God this has been insane. It’s been crazy we are super grateful, to our fans.
AFL: When you’re good you’re good. What more do you want?
Jesse: Well that’s very New York kind of thing to say of course. I love that. But sometimes people want to split hairs about what’s a hardcore band and what’s not. Here is the thing, sometimes when a bands good they’re just fucking good and there is no denying it and you can’t fuck with it. Whether you want to call it a Hardcore Band or a metal core band or whatever the fuck you want to call it. Put me on stage with one of your favorite Hardcore Bands I guarantee you I will out play them. I will play with more energy and I will give straight up alto the fuck more. I’m not trying to be an egomaniac that just what it is. I’ve been involved in this music since I’m fucking twelve years old. I am now 28. I’m not playing a fucking game. I’m not there to be a cool guy to a bunch of 19-20 year olds.
AFL: Do you get to do any sightseeing, or take part in local cultural events? Are you even interested of what goes on in the day to day lives of the people whose countries you perform in?
Jesse: Yes of course. We have a little crew who do more than others. I try to make it a point whenever we get to a show, whenever I wake up on this tour it’s been very late, to get up and just fuck off and go. I wake up I just become crazy how much we’ve become familiar with the cities we go to. We don’t have to ask for directions. Whether we’re in Leipzig, Berlin or wherever we‘ve know where were going already. Because we’ve been here so many times. It makes almost like a local. I already know the coffee shop I want to get to or the restaurant I want to get to. Ok cool what we have not done. That’s super important to us. About 2 weeks after this we’re going to Japan with TERROR it’s going to be the same thing there you know. You go and try to see as much as you possibly can.
AFL: In a previous interview with Dave from Wolf Down, he stated that you asked them to join you on this tour. What led you to invite them?
Jesse: The older I get the more I find it more difficult to find new bands that fuck me up the way the way bands used to fuck me up when I was younger. When I was younger I was a lot more receptive and I was so excited especially when I first got into music. All I need to hear was someone screaming on vocals, and I would be like yes that’s it. The older I get the more I started caring about riffs, and the more I started caring about what’s being said. To be 28 and to have Wolf Down and the things that they say, because there getting on stage and they are saying a lot of very unpopular things. I think that that takes courage, it takes balls. It fucking inspired me because there not, here to sell records or to be politicians’, like a lot of other bands who change their opinion based upon whatever the popular vote is at the time. The ultimate Fuck you. They are the ultimate political band. They are fucking awesome and I love them.
AFL: Would you bring them with you on a US tour?
Jesse: YES! Absolutely. But it has to make sense; it has to be in a way where I know that there not going to lose money. I would feel bad because right now we would have to offer them the opening spot on the tour and there would not be a lot of money and it’s an expensive trip for them. You know what I mean. We are working on it.
AFL: What were some of the highlights on this tour? Were there any negative experiences?
Jesse: If there was something negative, it was something I got upset about impulsively and then got over it pretty quick. I can’t even remember. Just small things how not the best food or something. Highlight was we had a day off in Karlsruhe and we went to a water park. It was fucking awesome.
AFL: Tonight (Würzburg) is the last stop on this tour, are you happy to go home or would you rather continue touring?
Jesse: If I could add another 3 weeks I would. I don’t want to go home but it is what it is but we’ll be back here a bunch of times so I know it’s not the last time; it’s a nice way leave.
AFL: What does the future hold for you? Perhaps a tour in the US or work on a new album?
Jesse: Definitely a US tour is being worked on right now, for September. In July and August we have festivals in Europe.
AFL: Thanks for the interview Jesse! See you!