Death By Stereo, California hardcore band plays the hand it's dealt...
They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Death By Stereo would probably agree.
"The last two years have been crazy," said lead singer Efrem Schulz, from a tour stop in Vancouver.
"If you were trying to make a band happen, just about everything you could possibly imagine that could try and stop your band from happening --- whether it be your personal lives, or things happening to the whole band --- any obstacle you could dream up has hit us head-on."
He doesn't elaborate over the fuzzy cellphone connection, but some parts of the California hardcore band's recent history are well known. Like a 2003 concert in Virginia where six people in an over-packed club fell out of a window, resulting in one death.
"Things have gotten incredibly hard on some of us, and we just stuck together," Schulz said.
All that adversity helped fuel Death For Life, the newest album released earlier this year.
The band used music to channel their pain and frustration, creating harder, heavier songs.
"We really wanted the record to reflect us, and where our lives were at, how we were feeling," he said.
Death By Stereo also explores their metal side on the new album. The band's established hardcore sound is peppered with big guitar solos and power riffs more often heard in hair metal tracks.
"It's completely due to us all being fans of the different genres of music," Schulz said. "We never wanted to be labelled as any type of band, so we set out to make music we al enjoy.
"We're all into old punk, old hardcore and we're really into metal, so we don't want to set any boundaries."
Also among the 11 tracks on Death For Life is the first power ballad in the band's history, a song called Forget Regret that addresses the Virginia tragedy. It's the soft songs on the album that make it sound as hard as it does, Schulz said.
"We just wanted to make the most brutal thing we could," he said. "To make something brutal, though, you have to pull back in a lot of ways. We wanted to make some really pretty parts to the record, so that way when the heaviness came in, it really had an impact."
Most of the songs on the album touch on the deeper themes that have affected the band in the last two years: life, death, friendship, staying strong in the face of adversity.
"That's something we think is missing from a lot of art and music," Schulz said. "Art needs to reflect life, and . . . a lot of bands are just into singing about girls. I just want to sing about issues and things that really affect my life."
He pauses to consider that, and concludes with a laugh:
"Not that girls don't affect my life, either. . . ."
Death By Stereo plays Saturday night at the Apollo to close the fourth annual War on the Shore festival. The festival features local and out-of-town punk and hard rock bands, Friday and Saturday night. Maximum RNR headlines Friday. Shows start at 7 p.m. both nights.
By Stephanie MacLellan - The Chronicle-Journal