Bands On The Important Stuff // Love and Music Within a Politically-Charged U.S.A.

Words & Illustration: Dana Kats // @danakats13

Dismantle everything, start over and throw the system out the window.

It is with great pleasure that I present the second instalment of ‘Bands on the Important Stuff’. I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with Stevie Dinner from Atlanta, Georgia via Zoom. Josh and Steph (originally of Plant Prophet), have a big platform of listeners with almost two million streams on top song ‘Card Declined for Pizza and Wine’. Straight after the new release of their song ‘Cutting it Close’, and a month before the release of their new album “True Story”, I was able to discuss with them and create an understanding of what it’s like to be an independent band releasing music in the USA of 2020. We explored their inspirations, their beautiful relationship, as well as the importance of using your platform to fight the system.

In their own words, Stevie Dinner had been a musical endeavour originally started by Josh as a side project almost seven years ago.  By a stroke of good luck, Steph joined in November 2019 and now we are at the dawn of their latest LP, which is released on 23rd October 2020. The tracks were older recordings Josh had started a couple of years ago that remained unfinished. Steph came in to save the day and they immediately began working together, all the whilst falling in love with each other. They managed to make something completely new with the old tracks while also creating brand new songs as well.

📸 – Salim Garcia

I asked them if they managed to write this album throughout quarantine:

Steph: Actually the album was written before that. We spent almost every day together in December making this album. When writing ‘True Story’ together we actually fell in love with each other and the album is the result of that.

Your lovechild, I stated gleefully as they giggled and hugged whilst I was absolutely basking in the love story behind the creation of their art. There’s something very sweet and familiar about having a big love to back your new works, and in absolute fairness I could in fact feel that love radiate through their newest song ‘Cutting it Close’.

Very atmospheric and extremely sync-able, this new experimental track is a lot more riffy than Stevie Dinner’s previous works. Listening to it made me almost nostalgic of a time I wasn’t born in, and of a love I never actually lived through. I felt as though I had a whole life in the late 70’s and ‘Cutting it Close’ was the soundtrack. Wonderfully satisfying to listen to, the guitars, the echoing vocals, and the random sounds of children playing will manage to satisfy a musical hunger you didn’t even know you had. And let me tell you this, you don’t even know it but you are famished.

📸 – Salim Garcia

Josh: The making of it was pretty magical.

Steph: When people hear the whole album they will be able to feel all the love that went into making it.

Overall a very refreshing stance on making music; having it come out of pure and raw human emotion. I cannot wait to listen to the whole collection of songs.

With the experimental nature of these songs I wondered how they were planning on playing them on a live stage:

Steph: The songs are so experimental that we are still figuring out how we would play them live.

Josh: We’ve only done one show thus far in this configuration and we had a full band backing us so I imagine this is how we’d approach it in future shows also.

In the UK we have seen the rise of sit-down live shows in an effort to keep live music alive. I wondered if this would be the case in the U.S. also.

Steph and Josh quickly informed me that this was not the case there, and for the time being they as a duo have been partaking in live stream shows and they will continue to try and promote their music through playing live on various online music platforms. Keep your eyes peeled on their Instagram to watch the next one!

Steph: I’m pretty sure there aren’t any sit down live shows in the U.S. at the moment, only live-streams. Oh, I have however heard of drive-in shows but I wouldn’t know too much about that.

That was very interesting for me to hear as I had heard of drive-in movie theatres but couldn’t imagine watching a band from my car seat. Of course don’t get me wrong, I completely appreciate the need for the industry to adapt, however even UK sit in live shows make me feel somewhat sad. I love the crowd, and feeling the people next to you moving together as one against the music of your favourite artists. What’s the point of me sitting confined in my car, looking at a stage when I can’t be drinking my pint and jumping around with my mates making an absolute fool of myself? I may as well be listening to the radio rocking out in my car- and that my friends is a very personal experience that should not be shared!

I asked if the Stevie Dinner duo missed playing live as I much as I missed watching live shows:

Steph: Soooo much!

They stated with a far too familiar pain in their voice that I have heard echo through far too many artists’ voices in the last few months. With full capacity live music barely predicted to make a comeback until late 2021, we all have to adapt and help support artists as much as possible by streaming their tracks, watching their live streams and generally showing them all the love. See what I did there? Now go follow Stevie Dinner on all platforms and listen to ‘Cutting it Close’!

Above: ‘Cutting It Close’ Artwork

I was also curious to find out more about the boundaries of the independent music scene in the U.S., so I asked for Josh and Steph’s insight. Similarly to the UK, the independent scene is relatively small also, especially between artists knowing one another. In order to help promote one’s music between states you would be mostly depending on revolutionary streaming services much like Spotify or Youtube, whom have managed to change the game. Josh interestingly states that in previous years the way would have been to get your band and your gear, jump into a van and move across state trying to gain a larger audience. Fortunately the internet has managed to connect the world so much more, and amidst the biggest pandemic of our generation still presents artists with the opportunities to create and promote their works.

✍️ – Dana Kats // @danakats13

Josh also explained how previous releases of theirs were released via the help of indie labels their friends run, like Skeleton Realm and Muckman Records, as well as a few DIY labels that have released things in the past. However this one was completely done on their own. I asked if they felt like self-releasing and being in charge of their own work was better:

Steph: It is definitely interesting to have creative control over the music and the new record, as it is a lot more experimental.

Josh: However we are definitely open to collaborating with anyone that would like to reach out to us.

📸 – Salim Garcia

I have a big personal love for artists whom express political opinions through their work and thus I queried if current U.S. politics have had any influence on Stevie Dinner’s newest releases.

Josh: The stuff on ‘True Story’ wasn’t influenced by politics as it was made before any of the recent major events in the U.S. had happened.

Steph:  Not to say that things weren’t happening before. We believe that people who have a platform should use it. If artists have a platform they must use it even if it doesn’t necessarily mean that someone’s music stems from politics.

We further discussed that there should also be more queer representation in music and also that the current hate that is being exuded through U.S. politics can make marginalised groups more fearful of expressing their opinions and ideals through their music. We also tread lightly upon the notion of gender favouritism within music and I wasn’t surprised to verify that racism and sexism are all alive and well within the U.S. music industry also.

A conversation in the UK has started recently that expresses that there is not enough representation for womxn artists in music, a prime example being the lack of womxn headlining major festivals.  Stevie Dinner verified that yet again this is also the case in America, and I wondered what could be done to help ensure some change:

Josh: Dismantling everything.

Steph: Starting over and throwing the system out of the window.

📸 – Salim Garcia

I personally also believe that that is it in fact the industry’s obligation to promote diverse acts and ensure we don’t fall into the gender trap of assuming that the validity of an artist stems from their gender. It starts from the inner bits of the industry, more womxn, more Black people, more Asian people – more diverse individuals should be given opportunities for employment behind the scenes in the record industry in order to finally break out of a predominantly male and whitewashed system, and finally put more diverse acts in the headlines.

What would be Stevie Dinner’s ideal festival line up, including one main act and two supporting?

Steph: That’s a difficult one but the most influential for us must be: Stereolab, Broadcast and Men I Trust.

The duo also have a playlist on Spotify with all their current favourites that you should definitely look into.

They further mentioned that the major influences for their upcoming album included the general musical atmosphere of the late 70’s – a big chunk of music between ’77 & ’83.

I couldn’t help but bring up the upcoming U.S. Elections and wondered if they believed that the outcome of said elections would impact music.

Josh: I think the elections are important for everything. Music is very low on that list in all honesty.

Steph: There are bigger fish to fry in terms of issues.

To which I wholeheartedly agree with. I’m not an American myself, and yet I find myself glued to the news, hoping that the peeps (especially those in our generation) take matters into their own hands and accept what a big personal responsibly it is to outvote those who promote such national and international hatred. If you are reading this and have yet to register to vote, literally leave this article right now and go do so. Change comes from each and every one of us (UK lot you’re alright for now with no elections imminent, but we’ve got some serious work to do ourselves so don’t get too comfortable).

I further extended the question then to: What can young artists do to help promote diversity within the industry?

Josh: Protest. Donate. Show Up.

Steph: Don’t be passive. Use your platform. If you are lucky enough to have a platform absolutely use it. I don’t think having a platform like this is something either of us really expected and so we are definitely using that as much as we can to fight the fight.

Josh: And also using our platform to keep learning and educating ourselves.

Steph: I think the biggest thing is to keep an open mind and listen to people and marginalised communities around you, and not assume you know anything; to not being fixed within your own mind-set.

I have such a deep appreciation for artists that continuously strive to educate themselves and raise awareness. Stevie Dinner have a significant following with 82k monthly Spotify listeners and more than 4k followers on Instagram and continuously try to use their platforms to raise awareness for the causes they feel passionate about. And what a truly honourable stance that is.

Before I finished my interview I wondered what the future holds for the duo.

Steph: We were actually planning on going on a full U.S. tour in May but that got cancelled. We were supposed to do a few E.U. shows that were also cancelled; so we will probably and hopefully be rescheduling those shows whenever other countries feel it is safe to let us come in. I definitely want to tour as much as we can. Josh not so much.

Josh: I hate being in cars. They make me feel very anxious. I really like bicycles however, I’ve heard of bands doing tours on bikes.

Steph: Maybe this will be us – Stevie Dinner Bicycle Tour 2021!

Make sure to listen to Stevie Dinner’s new track ‘Cutting It Close’ released just yesterday on 25th September, and have your ears ready for their album being released on 23rd October.

Links to their socials & streaming profiles below:

Instagram

Twitter

Spotify

Apple Music

Bandcamp

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