An intimate evening with Psychostick
Interviewer: Matt Albers
Location: Psychostick’s van outside Fubar (St. Louis, MO)
Metal fans are no strangers to bands that stick to a theme, persona, or shtick that goes beyond the music. The stage presence of shock-rock bands is often unforgettable, and many European bands are known for styles ranging from the epic and serious, like the Vikings of Amon Amarth, to the fun and nonsensical, like the pirates of Alestorm and Swashbuckle. But when a band takes on a theme that incorporates lightheartedness or humor, AND become successful at it, it can take on a life of its own.
Metal and rock are traditionally often seen as taking a serious subject in life and turning it into accessible music. When a band goes against that grain, they tend to stand out. Groups like GWAR, Primus, or even System Of A Down have made names for themselves on grand scales with their use of either blatant or tongue-in-cheek comedy. But that same vein can extend down from the grandiose to the humble, hard-working stiff, such as the chaps in Psychostick.
Originally formed in Tempe, AZ in 2000, it was safe to say that Psychostick stood out from their metal peers. The average internet user would probably recognize their popular song “Beer!” which has also received radio airplay, but the band has always had much more to offer. Their unique brand of dumb, silly musical styling from the mind of the nerdy, goofy, and introverted is quick to draw a like-minded audience, and has been doing so since their 2003 debut, We Couldn’t Think Of A Title.
After several more releases, extensive touring, guest spots on festivals include The Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, and a strong internet and social media presence providing a direct outlet to their fans, Psychostick show no signs of slowing down their wacky progress in music and entertainment. I recently caught up with a few members of the band at the venue Fubar while on tour with Dog Fashion Disco and The Bunny The Bear to discuss topics included – but not limited to – food, alcohol, touring, crowdfunding, serious nonsense, and dangerous birds.
Welcome back to St. Louis, MO once again! It’s always great to have you hear, and I have to say that it’s weird to see you at a venue other than Pop’s in Sauget, IL.
Josh “The J” Key (guitars, vocals): It’s weird for us, too. Because Pop’s has kind of been like our home base [in St. Louis], but this Fubar place seems all right; we’ll play here and see how it goes.
Psychostick seems to stop here pretty frequently (several times a year), how do you feel about our fair city? How does it compare to other areas you play, or even you’ve lived (since I know you’re based in Chicago now)?
The shows themselves are awesome, but I do have to say that The City Museum, is one of the coolest places on the planet Earth. I went to [it] there, like, a year or two ago and I’ve been telling everybody about it. Especially if they have kids, you know, it’s like, “YOU NEED TO GO!! It’s like the ULTIMATE playground! They’ve got PLANES, they’ve got this big wire thing that you can climb around, and they have this cave, and they have a ten-foot slide…” I never even made it to the roof; I don’t even know what’s on the roof, I saw the bus hanging off the side, it was like, sweet!
Anyone who’s heard your 2009 album Sandwich or really anything else can figure out that you’re “foodies.” What are some of your favorite foods to try when you travel and how does St. Louis stack up to any competition?
When I think of St. Louis, I think of the fried [toasted] ravioli, that’s what comes to mind… Food-wise, Cajun food in Louisiana is like, GOOOOAAAWWWWDDUH! [translation: Cajun food = God]
Rob “Rawrb” Kersey (lead vocals): I love Cajun food too, but I would have to… Southwest, Mexican food. Midwest, you’ve got deep-dish pizza. You go east, bagels… Wherever you go, it’s all regional and every time we hit a region, we make our stops. We won’t play a show, unless we make our stops, it’s that bad.
Any favorite? If you had to pick just one type of food?
No, that’s not fair. Too many dude, it’s so good. I don’t want to pick a favorite, because I want ALL of it (laughs).
You’re on a tour now with a reunited Dog Fashion Disco and The Bunny The Bear; making three bands that seem fairly similar but actually have drastic differences in your sound. I know we’re toward the end of this tour right now, but how has it been so far? How did you feel going into this compared to previous tours you’ve done with other bands (Nashville Pussy/Green Jello, Mushroomhead, American Head Charge, and even ironically Polkadot Cadaver – a Dog Fashion Disco side project)?
This tour is probably my favorite one that we’ve done, ever. It’s been a hectic tour… it feels like two months of craziness crammed into a month. That’s an exaggeration, yes; it’s been high strong, but very fun. It’s probably the most successful one we’ve done. Every night it’s just lots of people, everybody’s receptive, the fan bases of both bands are conducive. The Bunny The Bear has more of a current sound, they tune really low and everything, and it mixes well surprisingly. I wasn’t sure at first, but then it made sense when you see all three bands play together.
I feel like Dog Fashion, they bring in like, a bit of an older crowd, and The Bunny The Bear have a younger following, and we’re somewhere in the middle, and it all brings in a bit of everybody, but everybody’s there to have fun. So it’s just a good audience, overall.
Speaking of your sound, Psychostick has now been around for over a decade. What are the challenges (if any) in being a comedic metal band? How do you balance the songwriting, structure, musicianship, and lyrical content, as well as anything else you bring to your band (stage presence, costumes, internet videos, etc.)?
The biggest challenge as a comedy band is to actually be taken seriously in any capacity.
It’s very easy to get pigeonholed doing what we do. It’s like, “Oh, they’re just f*cking around.” No, we really do want to do this, we put a lot of effort and love and time and, put our heart and soul, blood, sweat and tears into being… this. You know, we MEAN to. We could have taken a very easier path, we CHOSE this path, you know? (Laughs)
This path built more of a foundation for us, I think. It’ll hold rather than be flakey and be like, “Oh, I don’t like them anymore because they’re not current.” …Like a comedian takes his career very seriously; like if you went up to Jerry Seinfeld or Louis C.K., I mean they take it seriously, that’s they’re livelihood. We’re the same way, but just in metal. And the whole metal world is usually like, “Rrrraaaarrggghhhh,” very serious, pain and darkness and all that stuff.
And that seriousness in metal could also be interpreted as very silly.
It could; I mean, we heard a comedic aspect in the really high-energy, distorted guitars when we were young. We giggle at that stuff sometimes, even though “they” don’t want you to giggle at them.
I heard Dethklok in death metal long before Dethklok was a thing. This was a long time ago, I remember hearing death metal and going, “…Am I the only one that finds this awesome but funny at the same time?” Obviously he doesn’t sound like that, he doesn’t go through the drive-thru and say (in a guttural growl), “YES! I’D LIKE A COMBO NUMBER TWO! WITH NO ONIONS!” You know, they’re not going to do that.
There was something funny about that whole world. Josh saw it first… He put on something like Crimson Thorn.
It was a Christian death metal band! I’ll never forget the lyric that KILLED me, it was like, “BEING SAVED! IN THE BLOOD OF CHRIST JESUS!” Hearing those words done in death metal is still today one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard; I remember driving and nearly wrecked (laughs).
You’ve had a successful crowdfunding campaign recently. How do you feel about crowdfunding (now that it’s commonplace, not just in music but just about everything) and what are your plans with its success?
Crowdfunding, to me, there’s a lot of advantages to it. First of all, there’s getting some money to fund whatever. Second is a little P.R., get some publicity especially if you hit your goal or exceed your goal, that makes you look, you know, less crappy, I guess. But the biggest thing is… my takeaway from crowdfunding is that I think you shouldn’t overuse it. I don’t want to do it again, to be honest. I mean, we’re still fulfilling parts of it, because we just got crazy with the studio and everything. I think crowdfunding is a great, useful tool, but you should use it as a last resort. I wouldn’t jump into it right off the bat.
I’m definitely seeing this thing where, like, more and more people are, “Oh! I’ve got this idea for an album or something, I’m going to go and crowdfund it!” Then they [only] get $15 in donations because there’s so many people doing that. So hopefully society doesn’t get burnt out on it because there’s so many people running campaigns. That’s one of my fears for it; it’s a great thing, but if there’s too many people doing campaigns, there’s not going to be enough people to donate and people start feel like they’re being spammed.
We did do crowdfunding BEFORE IndieGoGo…
Yeah! “373 Thank Yous” (on the Sandwich album).
We did that because it was just one of those things like, “Well, our fans want us to put out a new album, maybe they could ‘pay it forward’ a little bit and help us out.” It worked really well, we were able to get that album out obviously and do everything we could.
That was years before crowdfunding was even a term. So yeah, we were doing it BEFORE it was cool!!
So then what you’re saying is, you’re not only a comedic metal band, but you’re also hipsters?
Goddamn right (laughs). Metal hipsters!
*At this point, Alex “Shmalex” Dontre (drums) arrives after a short meal to help conclude the interview*
What can people expect from the future of Psychostick, or should we just expect the unexpected at this point? What has Psychostick NOT done yet that you would like to do at some point in your career?
We have a recording studio now, and we live in the same city as our video guy. So, you know, look out (laughs). “Reading Rainbow” (recent cover)? That’s nothing; you’re all in trouble with what we’re going to be unleashing. Getting overseas is a major goal for us right now, especially the U.K., Europe, and Australia; we’ve had fans over there asking us to play there for YEARS.
I had a friend study abroad in Ireland, and people there were jealous of her that she had seen Psychostick several times.
I’d love to play Ireland… I want some Guinness from the source man! Guinness from the SOURCE!!
I could die happy. If we go to Ireland and I just died, like my head exploded… I’d be cool with that, totally fine with that.
Hopefully we’ll see you guys on some big festival like Wacken, Sonisphere, or Download.
We did recently just get a new booking agent that has international connections, so that’s realistic.
…Alex, any words from you?
Alex “Shmalex” Dontre (drums): Yeah, I hate ducks.
(Laughter) Why do you hate ducks??
They’re scary, they’re terrifying. We’ve documented this in song form, you’re going to hear that tonight.
…See, I always thought geese were- no, swans! Swans are scarier to me! Are the ducks, like, kind of the kingpins of the waterfowl world?
You don’t think they’re that bad but they are, man.
See, I’m anti-penguin; I worked at the zoo, they’re evil, they’re psychotic. (Laughter) I am NOT making this up! I can go into GRAPHIC detail of the sh*t I’ve seen from penguins, man.
Penguins are a**holes?
No, penguins are MANIACS! …OK, before I derail this interview any further, anything else you want St. Louis and any areas beyond to know about Psychostick? …Besides “look out.”
Go to our YouTube page and subscribe, because we have a lot more of that coming along… And uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhh yep.
We’ve just got a lot coming, even we don’t know what it is yet. There’s a lot about to happen. So… gots to get paid, man. (Laughter)
Make sure to stay up to date with Damnation Magazine for more updates from Psychostick and catch them on tour with One-Eyed Doll and Wild Throne this August thru September!
And don’t forget to check out Damnation Magazine’s photo album of Psychostick during their show at Fubar, taken by our very own Nick Licata!