Q&A: Stick To Your Guns’ Josh James on the Band’s New Album with John Feldmann

Is your seat belt buckled? Because Stick To Your Guns just kicked off a lengthy US trek dubbed Fuck the Message Tour, and they’re bringing along Terror, Hundredth, and Counterparts to a city near you. Be sure to welcome them with open arms because it’s been an interesting past few months for OC’s premier hardcore band. The group recently finished recording a follow up to their 2012 album Diamond with renowned producer John Feldmann, and according to guitarist Josh James, it was one emotional roller coaster ride. We got intimate with James about STYG’s new record, their current headlining tour, and why the first 48 hours with Feldmann nearly gave the band a heart attack.

Why did the Fuck the Message tour almost not happen?

[The tour] almost didn’t happen because we were doing so many support tours over the last couple of years that we kept trying to figure out when we were going to headline. We kept getting great tour offers that we couldn’t turn down. With this tour we said we were going to do it, and then at the last minute we said we couldn’t because we had to get into the studio, and there were a lot of complications with scheduling studio time. Somehow it all ended up working out perfectly where the bands we wanted for support happened to be available. The studio was able to move dates around and it was one of those things that…somehow managed to happen. Our manager had a lot to do with making it work.

Why was it so important for the band to play small venues on this tour?

On this entire record cycle the majority of the tours that we’ve done have been bigger venues, with the exception of one of two tours. We just wanted to do this. I think going out with bands like Motionless in White, The Story So Far, and different types of bands have exposed us to a different audience. All of our die-hard fans have gone out to those types of tours; whether they’ve been fans of the other bands or not, they’ve still come to support us. Sometimes fans might get a little bummed out that there’s a barrier between us and them and still come to support us. It was like “Hey thanks for coming to support us. Now let’s have the craziest wildest shows that we can.” It was something that was like back where we came from and to say thank you to all of our fans.

How did you decide what bands you wanted to take on this tour?

Jesse [Barnett] and Scott [Vogel] from Terror had been talking about doing a Stick To Your Guns/Terror tour for a while. It was just one of those things that was like, if we could get Terror for direct support that would be so awesome because they’re one of our favorite bands, and also because it would be cool to go out with them since it’s been forever. With Hundredth, Counterparts, and Expire — all those bands are great and are doing really well right now. We wanted to make a package for our fans that they would be really into.

What made you finally decide to release Diamond on vinyl?

This is sort of a reissue. All the songs that we recorded in the studio for Diamond are on this vinyl, and there are songs on the vinyl that aren’t on the CD. Plus it has all new artwork. The artwork is super cool; it’s pictures from our personal lives and tours that we’ve done over the years. There are quite embarrassing pictures in there, but since this marks the tenth year of the band, we wanted to do something for our post successful album. I think at this point there are a lot of fans that aren’t aware we have other albums, which is completely fine; because even though the band has been around so long it’s like we’re just starting. We just wanted to do something special for the tour. We are not offering it online and we are not offering it to order through any merch sites. You can only pick it up at the shows. Hopefully that’s more of an incentive for those kids that do come to a show and pick that up to remember that they’re one of the people that went to the show and that’s why they have it.

Could you go into more detail about what Diamond did for the career of the band?

None of us had expectations of what Diamond would do. We just thought this was a pretty cool record and these songs are pretty good. Let’s put this record out and tour on it. Nothing special, nothing different. I think what’s really happened is that the music and lyrics spoke for themselves and our fans really attached themselves to it; and we were able to do a lot of great support tours and play in front of a lot of people that have never heard us. I think it really comes down to the songs just being really good music. We try to put on a good live show, we try to have a good time, and Jesse is passionate about his lyrics and about the things this band stands for. I always think that when you go to a Stick To Your Guns show you get a great performance and you also get a dash of motivational speaking from Jesse. I think that it does a lot for us, and overall it was just the right record for the band and the right people listened to it.

Do you have any summer plans apart from a few overseas dates?

This tour is a little over three weeks long and we’re home for three days before we go to Europe. Then we’re going back in the summer. In August we’re going to be doing some tours around the East Coast and a few other music festivals in New York and Montreal. The next big tour we’ll do in the States, as far as hitting up every city, will be whenever the record will be released. And the record will be released whenever we know what tour we’re going to be doing.

The release of the record depends on the tour?

You don’t ever want to release a record without being on tour. Being on tour is the best way to let everyone know you have new music. The band doesn’t have too much control over when the album gets released; the record label does and the label isn’t going to release it if we aren’t on tour. For now we’re just looking at all of the offers and opportunities that we have. We’ll pick a tour and then the record label will set a release date. It’s kind of frustrating because you record a record three of four months before it comes out — and I have a feeling that this new record isn’t going to be out until after summer. We recorded now because this was just the only time that we had. Now we’re starting to get the mixes but we can’t release them yet. We just have to patiently wait.

What was it like to work with producer John Feldmann?

It was pure insanity. We’ve never worked with a producer like him before. Usually what we do is write all the songs and go into the studio and record them, and the producer that’s there just makes sure we get the good takes. For the most part it’s all finished before going into the studio. We went to the studio with 18 songs, we got there and Feldman was like “You need to write some songs.” For the first couple of days it was like a writing session. It was really weird and took us out of our box. He wanted us to write some songs to the lyrics and melodies — and we write the songs first and put the lyrics and melodies in later. So he made us go out of our box. It was a wild emotional ride for the first 48 hours because we didn’t know if we liked it and we didn’t know if it was the right thing. It definitely wasn’t a safe thing for Stick To Your Guns, but I think that’s the point of the band. We try not to get too comfortable or safe. If you listen to the band’s discography, with each record we take a step further and further outside of the box. It’s the same thing with this new record. It’s a different Stick To Your Guns but it’s the same Stick To Your Guns. The fans that really liked Diamond and understand the point…[they’re] going to love this record.

With the release of the new record are there any goals you wish to accomplish?

We’re not setting expectations because there is really no point. We think that we’ve written a phenomenal record and ultimately the fans will decide if they agree with us or not, so all we’re going to do is the same thing we did on Diamond. We’re going to put out a great record and we’re going to do a ton of touring and have a lot of fun. Hopefully our fans will love the record, go to the shows, and have a lot of fun with us.

We definitely want to tour some places in the world we haven’t toured yet. The band hasn’t been to Southeast Asia. There are some places in Eastern Europe that we haven’t been to yet. We want to write music that people can enjoy, whether it’s something that helps them get out of a hard time or just entertains them and lets them escape from the real world for a minute, or maybe inspires them to change and help make an impact in their community.

Is there anything you’d like to add or want the fans to know?

Thanks to everyone that supported us through the Diamond record cycle. We will see you all on the Fuck the Message tour and I hope you’re all looking forward to listening to the next record. Extra special thanks to all of our fans because we got nominated for best metal album at the Orange County music awards. That was something so unexpected and so out of our realm that we thought it was a joke at first. It was so cool just to see our names on the nominee list. That wouldn’t have been anywhere near possible without all the people that support this band.

Stick To Your Guns tour dates w/ Terror, Hundredth, Counterparts:

Mar 24 Salt Lake City, UT @ The Century Club
Mar 25 Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater
Mar 26 Lawrence, KS @ Bottleneck
Mar 27 Joliet, IL @ Mojoes
Mar 28 Detroit, MI @ Magic Stick
Mar 29 Cleveland, OH @ Agora Ballroom
Mar 30 Patchogue, NY @ Mixtape Festival
Mar 31 Pittsburgh, PA @ Altar Bar
Apr 01 Syracuse, NY @ The Lost Horizon
Apr 02 Montreal, QC @ La Sala Rosa
Apr 03 Worcester, MA @ The Palladium
Apr 04 Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter
Apr 05 Greensboro, NC @ Greene Street
Apr 06 Jacksonville, FL @ Southeast Beast Festival
Apr 07 New Orleans, LA @ The Cypress
Apr 08 Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s
Apr 09 San Antonio, TX @ White Rabbit
Apr 10 Albuquerque, NM @ Blackwater Music
Apr 11 Phoenix, AZ @ Nile
Apr 12 Anaheim, CA @ Chain Reaction