By Maria Lubanovic, Copy Editor
Photo by Joe Medlen, Director of Photography
Stems is a prog-hop group from Columbus, Ohio. Their music is a fusion of genres and styles, specifically rock and hip-hop. We talked to vocalist Kendall Martin, guitarist Mickey Shuman, bassist Dante Montoto and drummer Zach Pennington at Lobsterfest 2018 about their new album and how they put it all together. Their first full-length album, Out Of Fear, was released just about a month ago.
You guys just finished your first full-length album. How are you guys feeling about that?
What was that process like, to put that all out there?
Mickey: Hard, a lot of work. Worth it. It’s really rewarding.
Zach: We wrote all the music over the course of a year, so it wasn’t like we were pushing that. It just kind of happened, and we were like, “Okay, we have these songs!”
I saw that you guys crowdfunded a lot of your stuff. How did you end up doing that, and how well did that work for you?
Mickey: It worked super well. We got like, 900 dollars from it, which paid for the majority of the album. The rest of it was money we made from doing gigs, so we didn’t really pay anything out of pocket.
That’s fantastic. I know a lot of musicians aren’t able to do that. I know a lot of your music is kind of a blend of styles and genres. Who are some of your biggest influences that led to that?
Zach: I like the band called Man Man, who I actually saw at The Union, and that’s pretty cool–they’re one of my favorite bands. I’m just gonna leave it at that, ’cause I usually make myself sound like a fool if I say anymore.
Mickey: I listen to a lot of jazz.
Dante: I listen to a lot of rock stuff like Rush, Geddy Lee is a really awesome bass player. And Red Hot Chili Peppers, yeah. I also listen to Snarky Puppy–they’re pretty cool–and a little bit of Jaco Pastorius.
Zach: Word, get some cred there.
Kendall: For me, I feel like I’m the rap component of the group. I think…
Zach: You like rap music?
Kendall: I mess with it a little bit…
Zach: You dabble?
Kendall: I dabble a little bit. I think as far as people I draw influences from, I know people have always told me Doom and Earl when they heard me. I don’t think I sound like them, but that’s what people always said to me, so I’ll say that.
How did you guys all get together and start your band?
Kendall: So basically, we all went to school together. Me, Mickey and Zach graduated last year. Dante’s graduating this year. We had this class; it was called Band Lab, and the whole point of the class was to form a band. So, the year before my senior year, Dante’s junior year, Zach and Mickey came up to me and said like, “Hey, join this class so we can make a band together.” So I said, for sure, bet. And then, we heard Dante play, and we thought he was really good, so we asked him to join. And that’s how it happened.
Zach: And you get graded. You have to write a certain amount of songs by the end of the term.
Mickey: It was a real-life class. We got a fine arts credit for it.
One final question, what is “where my zootsuit”? (this phrase is listed as their website/social media handle)
Zach: We have a song called “where my zootsuit” that isn’t on the album. It started out as a joke, but then Dante pulled through with it to where it’s now like, a thing of ours where Dante wears a suit every show. Every show we’ve played, which is a good amount at this point…
Kendall: Never had a show where he wasn’t wearing suit attire.
Zach: And Stems was taken and maybe Stems Band was taken, so we just went all out for “where my zootsuit.”
Listen to Out of Fear, the latest album from Stems, here: