Pick Three is a new feature here at Ladies & Gentlemen. We ask an artist to pick three songs from their new or upcoming record, and give us their thoughts, stories or insight for each. Think of it as a director’s commentary track that you have to read.
photo by Greg Schaal
Minneapolis’ STNNNG has been honing their brand of chaos for 8 years now. Aggressive dueling guitars, spastic drumming and thundering bass lay the groundwork for vocalist/wordsmith Chris Besinger’s fitful rantings. It’s combative and contentious, but it’s also cathartic. There is an immense amount going on within every song, but it never sounds overwrought. If you break it down and listen closely, every member of this band is doing something insane and mind-blowing throughout. It’s a dizzying array of talent. It’s been four years since they released Fake Fake, and lucky for everyone, the drought is about to end. Smoke of My Will will be released in October on Modern Radio in a vinyl only edition. The aforementioned Mr. Besinger was kind enough to kick off our Pick Three series and discuss three songs from the new record.
Since there has been such a long gap between The Smoke of My Will and the last record, some of this new material is actually pretty old to us, but this one is a lot more recent as it was the last tune completed for the record. The idea for the title and lyrics came from when we were banging out an early version of the song in the practice space and I started doing a high-pitched “oooh” in harmony with Adam’s guitar part. For a long time before the lyrics were finished, or really even before the song was finalized, I knew I wanted to call it “Howling Man”.
The main lyric came, like just about all of them do, from a fragment in a notebook. I eventually expanded it to a sort of narrative about Black Flag/Southern California/Charles Manson—at least those are the things its meant to conjure. It’s an idea I’ve been obsessed with for the past couple of years. Black Flag had “Family Man” and “Swinging Man,” I was thinking I couldn’t believe they didn’t have a song about a “Howling Man,” so I decided to fix that. Even though the music doesn’t sound anything like Black Flag, there was something really charging and raging about the guitar riff that made me think of them. This is a great one to play live.
NEW BLACK HOLE:
Here’s an example of a song that feels like we’ve been playing forever. I love the guitar noises that Adam and Nate do at the beginning of the song. Originally, we had planned to record this album ourselves in the practice space, but for various reasons that didn’t really pan out, but this one was recorded, almost entirely, in the practice space. The vocals I think are a mix of takes I did at the space and later on with Neil (Weir). Its a little weird listening to this because I can’t even tell what part is from where anymore. Neil went above and beyond mixing this one.
SOME RAW GIRLS:
Warning this song contains a drum solo, though Ben definitely nails it. I didn’t specifically write it about him, but I always think about Mike Lust (of Lustre King/Tight Phantomz fame who recorded out first two records) when I’m singing this, especially on the chorus. I probably should have gotten him to sing on it. The backing vocals at the end were Nate’s idea and I think work really well. I don’t really have a good head for thinking up backing vocal ideas, I have a hard enough time coming up with something for just me to sing.
To me even though this a newer song it feels like a bit of throwback to the songs from the first album, especially the main guitar lick. We’ve relearned some of those songs lately and its a little weird playing them, just because a few of are six or seven years old at this point and a lot times we play them and I think “how the hell did we come up with this stuff?”. So, in its way, this song reminds me of that feeling a little bit.
I’m really proud of this new album, I’m listening to the test press as I write this and I think for the work and effort that went into making the thing, its all paying off now. Of course, I could just be saying that because I’m glad its done. Hopefully, the next won’t take so long.
Smoke of My Will is available for preorder now through Modern Radio, it will be released in October 26, 2010. Record release show will be October 23, 2010 at the Turf Club in St. Paul, MN.