I caught up with Stick To Your Guns drummer George Schmitz on the phone a few days ago. We talk about the band's current headliner, their new album, and more. "Diamond" is available in-stores and online now.
-- So you’re about halfway done with this tour, right?
We’re kind of coming up on the midway point of this tour. The tour is not long, it’s only about three weeks, and there’s no days off. We’re going mach speed, we were in California like four days ago.
That’s insane. You guys named the tour the “Fuck The Message” tour – can you give an explanation behind the title?
I think the first time we heard about it was from Jesse in an email exchange; it was all his idea. But then when we all got together, he further elaborated on it. We all fucking back it 110%.
For us, there’s this trend in hardcore where a lot of people look at it like “Oh, our band has an agenda, a message, or we’re trying to do something, then we’re going to get an edge up on some other people”, almost like a sales tactic. I know that may come across as sounding cynical but I mean…if people are doing good things then who we are to say it’s not genuine. But we see a lot of how these people carry themselves off stage, and we feel that a lot of people are just using a message as some sort of emotional porn on stage so they can slap something up on the back of a t-shirt and sell it and be done with it, where in the real world they’re not practicing what they’re preaching.
Yeah, it’s kind of what we’ve been saying over the last year or so with stuff like “Hope”, and “You’re Not Alone”, etc.
Yeah, and all that stuff’s great. Of course I would love if every band was doing something like that, but I want someone to get on stage and not be fucking pieces of shit where they’re like maybe making some questionable decisions…if that’s goes far enough into describing it.
Do you see shit hitting the fan in some way, where fans find out what’s going on behind the scenes?
Dude, I fucking hope so. I really don’t want people who are using this as a sham to be able to continue to do it. I really do believe in what my band has to say, and I really do believe in the power of hardcore music and I don’t want people exploiting that.
Are you tempted to blow the whistle and tell people, no matter what the consequences may be?
I don’t think it’s our place to call people out I guess, unless situations are pretty dire. But I guess “Fuck The Message” in a way is doing that without calling names, you know? It’s more of a stance of accountability, like if you’re going to be on stage and you’re going to try to do something like this and influence kids, then you should be held accountable for your actions or you should be trying to back them up.
And I think that leads right into who you have on this tour. You got Terror, Counterparts, Hundredth and Expire out with you. All those bands are really up front with what they say and believe.
Yeah exactly, and it’s fucking sick. I feel like we’re surrounded with like-minded dudes, the tour is going off without a hitch.
Yeah, and they’re diverse enough bands to where you’re not hearing the same thing five times in a row, you know?
How have fans been responding to this headlining set? I’ve heard you’d been doing a lot more Diamond stuff as opposed to older material.
Yeah, it’s mostly Diamond, a little bit from Hope Division, and there’s a For What It’s Worth song in there. Nothing from Comes From The Heart, but it’s been going over great. Over the last couple years, it’s been the Diamond songs that always stand out.
Can you explain why you’re not playing anything from Comes From The Heart?
It’s really just a matter of trial and error and over the last couple of years those songs are the ones that are lacking. And we figured for a headliner, we should try to put out a banger of a set, 14-15 songs of just smashing it, rather than have dull moments.
I mean, Diamond was such a big album for you guys and it makes sense for you guys to play a lot of those songs, but I think your past material has just as much of an impact. You’d agree with that, right?
Yeah, I know a lot of people who like Comes From The Heart and nothing against the record, it’s not like we’re trying to trash it, but it’s just to that point where we can see if we can play more off Diamond. That’s the point of this headliner as well, it’s also kind of unofficial “farewell” to Diamond – it’s been two years, and we haven’t been able to play a lot of these songs, and we’re taking an opportunity to play them now, especially with the support that Diamond got and how many kids come up to us with Diamond tattoos, it’s almost like we owe it to them to make the set really Diamond heavy.
We did the same thing with The Hope Division when we did the headliner, it was a really heavy Hope Division set back then too.
Yeah, it really feels like time has flown by. It seems like just yesterday that you were even beginning to perform stuff from The Hope Division.
It’s been 10 years since For What It’s Worth came out and it’s also been around 6 since Comes From The Heart came out. I understand if people get frustrated if some of those songs aren’t in the set, and I do the same thing, but I also need to take a step back and realize that they probably didn’t include them in the set for a legitimate reason, and not just because we wanted to.
What’s your favorite song to play off Diamond right now?
I really like playing “Life In A Box”, I like playing any songs that are just rippers – super fast, super pissed. “Such Pain” is still really fun for me, I also like playing “I Am” - I think it’s a cool song, a little different and unique feel.
This fit right on time when you left the studio with John Feldmann, correct?
What was it like working with him? He’s done so much lately.
John is his own type of person - he is definitely one of the crazier people that I have ever met, but he is a creative genius and I love every aspect of everything that he does. I guess the only words I can use to describe it is “insane”, but it’s the best kind of insane.
How did he specifically influence the record though?
A lot of it was “This beat needs to be a little faster!” or “We should re-arrange this part”, or “After this chorus, we’ve got to put something”. And then were a couple songs he directly collaborated on, and then others where we showed him and he said “Well, I need to do nothing on this, this is yours – GO!” It was a super cool relationship where he was able to pitch ideas and we were able to say “Absolutely not”, and he’d say “Alright alright, cool, just checking”.
I’m pretty sure Nikki Sixx was in the studio with you guys for a day…
Yeah, he stopped by John’s house for a day and wanted to check out the studio, wanted to check out the “hardcore band”, is what he said.
Oh man…what was that like?
Pretty wild….Nikki Sixx walks into a room and what do you do? He’s cool, chill dude, really nice. Chris lived out like a 12 year old fantasy, his favorite band was Motley Crue when he was 12.
Did he give any input of any kind or pointers?
He shared some anecdotes with us…I think we’ll leave it at that, they were extremely entertaining.
I also heard that Josh met Weird Al.
Yeah, Josh met Weird Al. He went to The Meltdown comedy show thats held in the back of Meltdown Comics; it’s a TV show that Comedy Central is filming and fucking Weird Al showed up.
This has to be the most surreal recording session ever for you guys.
This whole being in Los Angeles experience…sometimes I feel like someone’s playing a practical joke on me, all these random people walking into the studio, we’re at this really nice studio with all these platinum records on the wall.
There were a couple people who did guest vocals on the record – Scott Vogel from Terror, and the vocalist for Rotting Out and Counterparts if I remember correctly?
No we had Scott, we had Walter from Rotting Out, and we had Toby from H20 and that’s it for now I think.
How’d they become involved with the record?
Well, they all live in the Los Angeles area and Josh lives underneath Toby, so Josh and Toby are best friends. Toby came down one day, and we asked him if he wanted to be on the record and he said “Sure!”. And then we asked Scott and Walter and they were home, so they said sure and they did their thing.
Is there a track off the record you’re really stoked about personally?
Yeah, there’s definitely a couple. I’m really proud of the entire record in general, but there’s definitely a couple I’m super stoked on – I’m not sure what their actual titles are right now, cause I think we have working titles. But I couldn’t be more proud of this record.
Can you describe what makes this record different than past records?
I know it’s a cliché thing to say for every band “This is the heaviest/melodic record ever!”, but it’s really is like that for us on this one. There’s some of these songs on the record that are some of the most PISSED OFF songs we’ve ever written and I feel my blood boil when I listen to them. But there’s some of the more poignant and thought provoking songs that Stick To Your Guns has ever written as well and we’re really excited for people to hear them and see how they feel about it.
Do you see some of the more pissed off songs on the record being more polarizing than songs like “Life In A Box”?
No. There’s maybe three or four categories of songs, and every Stick To Your Guns record is going to have those categories. “Life In a Box” is in the same category as “What Goes Around”, and then you have songs like “Amber”, “Against Them All” or “Beyond The Sun” that are a little more structured but they’re the Stick To Your Guns “sound”. The third category is what we like to call “out of the box”, where we try to slip in something different and usually people are pretty receptive to that, songs like “Scarecrow”, “Where The Sun Never Sleeps” or “I Am”, stuff like that.
I guess my main point was back when you released Diamond, a lot of faith-based community got up in arms over “Life In A Box” because they didn’t necessarily see eye to eye.
Oh, because of how aggressive the song is?
I mean, Jesse is definitely angry in a lot of these songs on this record, but I don’t think that’s any different than he’s been since For What It’s Worth. I think he’s always been angry, I think an aspect of our band is driven by anger, it’s a positive aggression – when you give that a direction, that’s when it can be put into a practical use, as opposed to aimless anger which is just hatred.
We’re looking at a Summer release date for this album?
Actually it’ll probably be around September/October.
Apparently you guys are doing a new logo for this new album?
Yeah, it’ll be new. It’s printed on some merch right now, or at least a crude mock up. If you have a sharp eye, you’ll probably find it but I think that’s all I can really do right now.
You recently put out a Florence & The Machine cover out (“Dog Days Are Over”). You’re pushing for 100,000 plays on YouTube – is there a reason behind that?
No, it’s more of an arbitrary number, but it’s a cool goal to shoot for. Within 24 hours it had already hit around 35,000 plays and it got uploaded late Tuesday night.
So it has nothing to do with Sumerian Records not giving you the support that you need or anything like that?
No, Sumerian’s always supported the band. We’ve definitely kind of butt heads and we may not see eye to eye sometimes, but they have supported the band and they’ve always been upstanding gentlemen when we’ve dealt with anything with them. But this compilation was a random thing they approached us with, and they said “Hey, we’re doing a Florence & The Machine compilation, do you want to be a part of it?” and we kind of thought “Well, that’s kind of crazy, don’t they only have two records?” and they said “Yeah, but you can pick whatever song you want” and then we said “Well, we only want to do it if we can do ‘Dog Days’”, and they said “Well that’s great, because nobody chose that song!”. We were freaking out, because that is THE Florence song….”Oh God, we are going to fuck this up so bad, why did we do this?” but it turned out great.
Looking at this next album cycle, what goals do you guys have as a band?
I think for me, I just would want things to keep going the way they’re going. We kind of had an unexpected response with Diamond.
Over the past 2 years people really did like Diamond and they really want to support this band. I hope that things keep going in that direction.
Warped Tour seemed to be such a huge pivotal point for the band, I remember huge crowds in both Seattle and Portland.
Yeah, it’s pretty crazy.
Is a main stage on Warped something that you guys are craving right now? I remember you guys got that bump a couple times last summer.
It’d be sick if it happened, but we just want to continue doing what we do, being a band. Of course yeah it’d be sick to do main stage Warped or anything else that bigger bands do, but I’d also be stoked on continuing being Stick To Your Guns.
So you’re finishing this tour, then what comes after?
We’re finishing tour, then we go to Europe 5 days after, and then we go back in June, we have some stuff in August where we’re doing a rock fest in Montreal, and then some stuff in the North-East corner of the United States. Then we confirmed the tour for the fall.
Can give any hints to as to who’s on that tour?
No, it’s not really my place to say. It’s a fucking sick tour though.
Have you toured with any of these bands before?
Yeah, I think we have.
Do you have anything else add or mention before we wrap up?
If you are in the area of the Fuck The Message tour, I highly suggest you come out because all the bands on this tour fucking rip, and I’m super proud that this tour is a thing. I’m you’re on the fence about coming, I’d say come!