Quick Q+A: Chris Besinger + STNNNG
It’s, well, stunning that local artful noise rock outfit STNNNG, favorites of many MPLS + STPL music makers, have been making music as original and powerful as they have, for as long as they have, and as they continue to do—STNNNG’s loud poetic journey continues this Spring with a brand new album, Veterans of Pleasure, which arrives on March 31st.
Before the record’s debut and their sure-to-be wild release show at the Entry on April 14th with Gay Witch Abortion, we checked in with frontman Chris Besinger on the current state of STNNNG, recording with audio legend Steve Albini, their songwriting, and the look of the new record.
Secrets of the City: It’s often impossible to schedule a coffee meeting with just one person, much less five dudes that have been together long enough to do five full length albums. How does STNNNG manage to get together? Project management software? The draw of alcohol?
Chris Besinger: And when you add in other band demands, families, kids, dogs, etc., it can be a struggle. Unless we give ourselves a firm deadline we’d never get anything done. In this case we made a decision write a bunch of songs for a record, booked the studio time and made sure we were basically ready when the dates rolled around. Booze helps.
Why go back to working with quasi-underground recording celebrity Steve Albini? Did you owe him money because he’s a card shark?
I can’t remember if he was playing online poker between all the takes this time or last time, I think that was last time. Steve is very easy to work with, he’s smart, he’s fast, when you say “I want this vocal to sound like this one Ken Nordine record” he not only knows what you are talking about he has the microphone. It seems like people have a lot invested needing him to be an asshole or a larger than life figure or something, he’s basically just about the most mellow person I know. Of course, if you ask for his opinion his going to give it to you, whether you like it or not.
The new album has that mix of classic-intense-energetic-STNNNG on tracks like “King Vulture” and classic-lost-in-the-swelling-ocean-of-sound STNNNG on tracks like “That Other Place”, which is awesome. Do you think STNNNG has a characteristic sound? Is it something the band goes for or avoids or neither?
The best songs just feel right when we are writing them. Sometimes when we are writing the songs an idea will bubble up and someone will say “Naw, that’s too obvious, too much like something we’d do” and other times we will be working on something and it’ll be, “this doesn’t sound like us”. We are just trying to please ourselves and I’m sure we have a signature sound, but I don’t know if I can really identify it, I’m too much in the center of the hurricane to notice. Everyone in the band has their own thing, their own ideas, what they want to add to a tune, so hopefully our sound as it were is all of our voices speaking in unison. Or a less bullshit answer might be, now we just try to write stuff that isn’t super hard to play live.
I remember seeing STNNNG play at MCAD several years ago and thinking “these guys should only play places like student lounges, beaches, prisons, etc., because they’re too good and original for just the same old bars”. Do you think your music is more suited for any types of venues or are you still happy to play shows at the Entry because the sound is really good and they have those big beers and you get a crossover wristband?
The Entry is awesome to play because it is the place to see a band as an audience member, best sound, best lines of sight, best vibe. I enjoy playing the weirder, not exactly-venues-venues as well, they can be a ton of fun and I like to be able to really connect with the audience, physically, psychically. No matter the location I do my best to get our point across. I don’t know if we could deal with a prison, I’d probably get killed. My wife is constantly annoyed, worried, rolling-her-eyes at my onstage behavior. “I hope I have our medical insurance card on me” is her oft repeated line when I try to balance on something high up or aggravate some teenage girls or some other similarly life-threatening act.
And the crossover wristband is not to underrated, I saw Erykah Badu in the Mainroom once!
Is this cover art, the painting “Bacchanalia” by Reynier Llanes, the best album art of the year of any band? It’s just magnificent.
It isn’t just the best album cover of the year, it is the best album cover ever. People should stop making album covers because we just perfected it.