The Stereo



At the end of 1998, my band at that time, Animal Chin, had been together for nearly 4 years. Most of those years were spent touring the US in a smelly white van that we called home. It was near the end of our last tour in October of 1998, which a silly argument between drummer BJ Wuollet & myself finally brought to the surface our desires to move on to something new. We had been on the road for so long that we all had become flat broke, had no real home life to speak of & had lost touch with many of our friends back home. While we all found it hard to accept the idea of life without the band that we had worked so hard to create, we all expressed a desire to shake up our lives a little & find new inspiration through new music, new friends &/or school. After we got back home to Minneapolis, MN & had a week or so away from each other to calm down, we held a meeting at my apartment to discuss the future. First BJ & I reconciled our petty differences realizing that we were great friends & we couldn't really stay mad at each other for long. Then we all talked about the fate of Animal Chin. At first, our future wasn't clear. We originally had decided to do a farewell tour for our fans & to promote our final record "20 Minutes From Right Now" which was slated to be released in February. Shortly after a final weekend of Midwest shows in November, priorities changed for us & we decided to cancel that final tour & just call it quits. Eventually on June 12, 1999, we rallied together for one last show in Minneapolis which was wonderful & tearful way to say thanks to all our fans who made us feel so special over the years. Huge thanks go out to the fans who made it, the fans who couldn't, the fans who tried but got turned away when it sold out & of course the people at the Foxfire who put up with a hectic night!

In the time after our last October 1998 tour & early January of 1999, I had been working on demos for new material that I had written at that time & throughout 1998. It was my intention to put out a solo record of this material if the opportunity would present itself. After speaking to my good friend John Janick at Fueled By Ramen, it seemed that my solo record idea would actually see the light of day. Little did I know, but at the same time my friend Rory Phillips from the Austin, TX band The Impossibles, had been making song demos of his own & was planning on releasing a solo record on Fueled By Ramen as well. It was John Janick from Fueled By Ramen who first suggested the idea of me & Rory making a record together. At first I'm sure we were both a little apprehensive. I remember a conversation Rory & I had back in 1997 that if we were ever in a band together that we'd probably want to kill each other. We laughed at the time but we didn't realize how unfunny that joke really was.

But all of our fears were laid to rest once we heard each other demos. We were stunned over how similar our new musical directions were & we were both very eager to meld the two into something that we thought would be fresh & new. So after a few phone calls I hopped in the van & drove 18 hours south from Minneapolis, MN to Rory's house in Austin, TX. Once there, we spent 2 weeks weeding through our collection of potential songs which when added together totaled something near 50, all the while recording new demos of the songs we felt were worthy of being included on our debut record. We ended up recording 16 songs during that time, 13 of which were re-recorded yet again & appear on "Three Hundred." The other 3 ended up in a variety of places. "Waiting For This Moment" & "Took Away" ended up as bonus tracks on the Japanese import version of "Three Hundred." The song "Perfect" was included on the Fueled By Ramen Audio Catalog Sampler under the band name Slow Reader.

At the end of those two weeks we had finished demos & began to head back to Minneapolis, MN to begin recording the "real" album. We literally dropped off the rental gear that we used to record & mix the demos on the way out of town. That's how close we were to not finishing! Anyway, another 18 or so hours of driving got us to MN & we probably spent the next day just sleeping. We then spent nearly a month & a half in a cold, dingy basement-recording studio called Wigged Out Studio before finally emerging with what was to become "Three Hundred". Rory then flew home to Austin, TX while I flew out to Arlington, VA where J. Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines) mixed the 13 songs at Inner Ear Studio, the studio that gave birth to epic records by Fugazi, Jawbox, Minor Threat, Nation Of Ulysses & others.

In June of 1999, The Stereo released its debut album "Three Hundred". It was then that the pressure to tour finally set in. When The Stereo first started, its only goal was to make a record of music that we liked. Both Rory & myself had recently come out serious touring bands & at the time, I wasn't too eager to jump right back into another. But there was a lot of excitement around this new music. The label, friends, family & even some major labels seemed really excited about The Stereo. I have to admit I got a little caught up in the buzz. So we decided to book a tour. This meant we needed some musicians to back us up. A few people were asked, &/or auditioned but we ultimately decided upon drummer Jeremy Tappero (ex-Gloria Record) & bassist Jeremy Bergo (ex-Do Over). Once the line-up was complete we hit the road for a few lengthy tours during summer & fall of 1999.

Soon after we started touring, Rory & I began experience more than a normal amount of personality friction. Our worst fears & the thing we had once joked about had come true. Only a few months after we began touring, Rory left The Stereo. But what was initially a bad situation soon gave birth to an awesome one. The Impossibles, Rory's previous band, reunited with all its original members & is still kicking it to this very day. Meanwhile, The Stereo found a new guitarist & friend in Erik Hanson, the guitarist & singer for AMP 176. After a few rehearsals with Erik, we hit the road for months & eventually began preparations to record a new 4 song EP.

During early 2000, The Stereo recorded demos for its upcoming 4 song EP. We recorded the demos at drummer Jeremy Tappero's studio, SoundTokyo. After the demos were complete, we toured out to Arlington, VA to record the "real" EP & work with J. Robbins at the famous Inner Ear Studio again. Once the sessions were complete, we hit the road for even more touring. Eventually, "New Tokyo Is Calling," The Stereo’s 4 song EP, was released in July of 2000.

Near the end of our summer tour in 2000, I had kind of a break down of sorts. It had been nearly 9 years since I first starting touring around the US in rock bands & was feeling my life become very, very stagnant. My original reasons for starting up The Stereo were now just a blurry memory at best. Originally, my only real goals were to write new music, record it & play a few shows for fun. I didn't want to return to the whole smelly-touring-band-guy thing. Touring has always been a blast & I don't regret any of it, but I had felt that I had done that already. Over & over & over. Again & again... & again! By this point I just wanted to be creative & write as much as I could because touring was starting to feel like being a human jukebox playing the same damn songs every... single... night. These feelings obviously didn't go over well with the rest of the guys. Tension had been building for a long time, which eventually caused Erik Hanson to leave earlier in the summer. Fortunately, Ross Felrath filled in for him on that last US summer tour which was great. But nothing at this point could stop my mounting depression. Ending a tour early was something I had never done & had always been very much against. But I just could not deal with the depression in that environment for a minute longer. So I made the decision to finish that tour pre-maturely & go home to get some much-needed rest & some time to dwell on my life & situation with The Stereo.

Irony decided to kick my teeth in on the way home from that tour. We were on route from Philadelphia to Minneapolis when the van broke down in a big way. We ended up staying at some dodgy motel for 3 days in Sharon, PA while the "extremely competent" folks at Sharon Ford tried to pretend they knew how to fix the van. These few days were less than stellar for me. Walking around the general vicinity of the motel proved to be a much worse idea than you'd think. I got called "faggot" probably more times than when I was a skate-punk in junior high school. The crazy thing is that grown men who were with their kids would be the ones saying it to me. Monkey see, monkey do right? I also saw a few swastikas on cars which boy... that made me feel right at home! There nothing like be reminded of how fucking stupid we humans can be to pick your spirits right up! Anyway, we got the van back only to realize they didn't fix the gas tank so with Ross as our auto-guru we fixed the damn thing ourselves. How's that for D.I.Y., punks??? Anyway, after nearly getting the van impounded & myself arrested by the Indiana State Patrol, we finally got back to Minneapolis.

It was during this time that began recording "No Traffic" & also began work on our still yet to be completed video for "New Tokyo." By the way, in case you haven't noticed, I have changed the name of the song "New Tokyo Is Calling" to just "New Tokyo." No big deal & I am sure you don't care but I thought I'd let you know just the same. Anyway, recording "No Traffic" proved to be slow & tedious. Very much unlike its demos recorded a couple of months earlier, which were extremely fast & tedious. The problem was that none of us had really reconciled any our differences & I was still feeling very depressed. I think the record turned out great, but it was definitely the hardest one that I've ever made. It probably didn't help that I was simultaneously trying to get our video made which on its own is a very long & arduous task. Even though the record took a long time to make we still managed to finish the day before we left for, yes, another tour!

This time it would be different I told myself. Touring Europe had always been a huge dream of mine & I'm sure the other guys too. For all intensive purposes it was a total success, however the division between me & the guys grew to an all-time high. I started to think that this would be my last tour ever & until recently I was right. Anyway, we came home feeling good about what we had accomplished & I was eager to get as far away from The Stereo as I could. I spent the next few months relaxing & avoiding everything even remotely related to "bands." I spent a lot of my time skateboarding at 3rd Lair, which has always been a great therapy for me. That's when I broke my arm. It was actually my elbow. I broke it in two places. It sucked ass. Now I'm too afraid to attempt the trick that I broke my arm doing. That sucks too. Anyway, during this time more drama was occurring between the guys & me. I was certain that they were going to quit. At that point, I had no plans to do anything let alone book a tour & they were getting way into their new band Attention so I thought it was only a matter of time before somebody would call me with the news. But that never happened & eventually I started to feel more & more like I wanted to do some new music for The Stereo. But this time I wanted to go back to how I started, on my own. I knew I couldn't work with those guys anymore & I'm sure they weren't too thrilled about working with me either. So after a few heated emails & a phone call or two I decided to continue The Stereo on my own. I know that the Attention website says I asked them to leave. Fine, I guess then that's what I did. I tried to be as cool about it as I could. They knew & I knew it was over. It just seemed like I was the only one who was going to do anything about it. Now I should probably take this moment to stress that I have no ill will towards Attention at all. I realize that a band breaking apart is obviously a traumatic thing. I cringed over that day for a long, long time. I think that they are good guys & great musicians. So please don't let people turn this into some crazy gossip thing cause everybody knows that is bullshit. I have spoken to Jeremy Tappero since the parting & although awkward, we seem to be on good terms. So those guys moved on to bigger & better things while I attempted to figure out what the hell I was going to do now.

About a month after we parted ways I was starting to feel pretty revitalized about The Stereo & music in general. It was then that an offer to tour Japan came in & thought what a great way to get started. Up until that moment I still was opposed to going on any tour. But like Europe, I had dreamed of touring Japan for quite some time so I decided to take the offer & put together a new group of musicians. Originally my plan was to round up Andrew & BJ from Animal Chin plus another guitarist to back me up for just the one tour. BJ was definitely down for it but after discovering some schedule conflicts, Andrew couldn't commit to the tour. So as luck would have it, BJ rounded up his friends from Seattle, Frank Bevan (ex-Capital!Capital) & Jared Eglington, to join us in our adventure.

After my arm had healed, & a few trips out to Seattle for rehearsals, we were off to Japan. All I can say is "wow!" That was easily the most fun tour I've ever done. The Japanese audiences were so awesome & it was great to be on a tour where everybody was getting along for once. I felt I had forgotten what touring was like. I knew then that I would probably want to do some more touring in the US if given the opportunity. So a while after returning home as conquerors of Japan, I began to make preparations for this upcoming US tour & two new people were recruited. Kevin Scanlon & Chris Serafini, both formerly of Pollen, are now aboard The Stereo rock train & we can't wait to see the US fans again.

Well, folks that's everything up to now. I will try to add more as it happens so stay tuned & remember... none of this matters... in the end, it's all about the music!