There is absolutely nothing dead about Death by Stereo. In fact, with the release of the band’s fourth full-length disc entitled Death for Life, they are seemingly more alive than ever before. Sure they might have a running theme of death which is present in their band name as well as in the title of every record they have ever released, but this latest album is so damn good that it almost seems to come alive. The group’s music now appears more complex, diverse, and even melodic than ever before and the response to this new album has been phenomenal. Now, as the band does what it does best (tour for months on end without stopping for even a second) they are only adding to their ever-growing popularity and fan base. Recently DBS stopped by Toronto and I was blessed with the opportunity to see the guys perform live. I met up with frontman Efrem before the show and we jammed about this recent record, the group’s crazy amounts of touring, and furthermore, what’s up with all the “death” that surrounds Death by Stereo?
You’re currently touring in support of your most recent release Death for Life. How has this tour gone so far and how have the crowds been responding to your new material?
Efrem Schulz: “The tour has been going awesome! We’re really lucky to be on tour with so many cool bands. Every band on the tour is so vastly different form each other. Opiate for the Masses is sort of like… almost an industrial kinda thing. We are just kinda like our own thing… I don’t know what we are. You got Saosin who is totally different from us; they got kinda almost like a Thursday type vibe. Then you got Avenged; whose just fuckin’ rock n’ roll. It’s just awesome and everyone’s really nice and really cool and the kids have been amazing. ‘Cause we’re playing to a lot of kids who normally would never hear us or see us… it’s more of a mainstream audience, but they’ve been really good to us.”
Other than Death by Stereo, this particular tour includes Avenged Sevenfold and Opiate for the Masses. How exactly did you guys come to be added to the bill and do you enjoy playing with these other bands?
“I love playing with these bands. We’re on tour because we’ve known Avenged for many many years and we were recording around the same time and we were actually in studios next door to each other. M. sang a little bit on our new record and you know… we were just like, “fuck, we should play together.” Then this tour came up and they asked us and we were like, “fuck, that’s cool man.” It’s cool that they’ve gotten to where they’ve gotten, but stayed where they’re from and still hook up with dudes like us.”
Death By Stereo is a group that appears to tour relentlessly. What is it about the being on the road that is so appealing or important to you?
“It’s just fun meeting new people and travelling new places. But I mean in this case we’re traveling to the same places ‘cause we’ve been gone so long… we’ve kinda been out since February pretty much. It’s just fun and it’s cool meeting new bands and we just had this goal of trying to play with as many different kinds of bands as possible. Since February we’ve toured with anyone from Soulfly to Alkaline Trio to Mastodon to Avenged to Pennywise. And then here in Canada with The Resistance and Protest the Hero, any kind of band you can think of. And that’s kinda our goal, just to get it out there to as many people as we can and it’s pretty cool.”
Your latest record Death for Life was released in June of 2005. In the five months since its release, in terms of sales and press, how has the album faired?
“Pretty Good. It’s moving faster than the last one. The press has been really good. Internationally and like in Canada it’s been great. We’ve all been on so many US and Canadian tours that we haven’t been able to go to Europe yet; we really want to ‘cause the press there was really really good for it. So I mean overall it’s been doing really well and in February we’re going to South America for the first time. We’re actually going to do our town tour. Like we’ve never been there, I can’t believe we’re gonna do our own tour you know… so it’s cool.”
When compared to your previous releases, how do you personally feel about this particular album?
“I think it’s the best one! I think it’s the most cohesive one. I think it sounds like a… you now the other records I love them, they’re like parts of our lives… but it’s kind of like it’s that time frame in our life. But, the new one, it feels more like a band then people going into the studio and like “alright play your guitar, sing your part”, it feels like us. It just feels more cohesive and maybe sounds a little more full and you can hear what’s going on a little better. I like it!” [laughs]
In listening to Death for Life your music appears more complex, diverse, and even melodic than ever before. To what do you owe all of these dramatic and positive changes?
“I’m glad you think they’re positive! I think we’ve just been searching for years, trying to find sounds that we like. Every record it’s gotten more and more in this direction. The first record was so spastic and all over the place, ‘cause we were just experimenting with different things and we wanted to try to find out how to make them cohesive and into our own one style. So I think it’s just been an ongoing search. And also it always comes down to… we like all kinds of different music and we just want to play what we like and not have any boundaries and I hope that come through you know?”
It seems that with each album you’ve released, your music has become increasingly heavy. Is there any reason as to why your sound is getting more aggressive?
“I don’t know. Dan just writes pissed off guitar riffs dude, you know what I mean? He’s always had this weird heavy side to him and I don’t know… it’s just kinda natural. He’d come to practice with this heavy-ass riff and we’re like; “fuck man that’s brutal, let’s make a song.” I think over all the whole record is like super heavy so we drastically counterbalanced it with a really slow melodic song, it’s just one but it just like [whipping sound]… It just kinda happened, it wasn’t really planned.”
With the constant forward progression of your music, in terms of pleasing old fans and drawing new ones, how has Death for Life faired so far?
“We’ve had a lot of kids that are like “dude, we only like the old shit.” But we’ve had a lot of people that really embraced it. So we’re starting to learn you just can’t please everyone all the time. So make the best record we can and maybe next time there’ll be a few songs on there that people who like the older stuff will like more and it’ll just keep flip-flopping and changing, ‘cause we don’t know where we’re gonna end up. The next record could be an all-out punk record. We have no idea, its just kinda whatever comes out.”
There is undoubtedly a running theme of death that has followed your music over the years. Can you elaborate on its relevance and why it frequents your music so much?
“Well the first record we called If Looks Could Kill I’d Watch You Die. That was something that actually had been in my mind… I thought of before the band started. And then we started Death by Stereo and then when we made out first record I’m like, “hey, you guys think this would be a cool title?” ‘Cause I thought it was like a crazy record, it was just like an assault on your ears and I’m like, “man, if looks could kill I’d watch you die”… you know just cocky, crazy. So then when the second one came around we wanted to do another play on words, so we did Day of the Death sort of like “Day of the Dead” because we kinda felt like, “wow, we’re on Epitaph; this is our first chance for the world to hear our music… to really hear us…” so it’s our day, so we went with that. Then with the next one we wanted to just keep the theme. So Into the Valley of Death we thought maybe was just kinda like everybody was getting to delve a little deeper with us into our world and try to expand more on the music. And now, Death for Life is kinda life, well it’s been a long time, we’ve been through so much bullshit and so much crazy shit and we’re still here. And we still don’t care what anyone thinks, and we still want to just do our own thing and so we were just like “death for life”; it seemed fitting.”
What are some of the main themes or lessons that you are trying to express in Death for Life?
“I still think we’re trying to get across the whole “just be yourself, stand your ground, don’t give up, don’t give in.” But some of them we’re really trying to get across the point of like… that if you really believe in something nothing can stop you. We touch on different subjects with the record and this one is a little more personal. Like “Forget Regret” the song on the record… it’s just learning how to not live with regret and shake it. Live your life and move on and just focus towards the future and making things better. You can overcome adversity and just move forward and it can seem bleak at times, but if you just pile drive it… don’t wait for someone to open the door, just kick it down. That’s kinda what we’re going for.”
From the roaring sounds to the honest and expressive lyrics, your music seems to be a purging of emotions. Do you find your own music to be a release for you and if so what part of it is the most alleviating?
“Well, the most alleviating part would have to be sort of a tie between… oh and yes, it is a release for me. It’d have to be… Dan will write songs and I’ll think of melodies and lyrics and when I bring them to them, it’s a little but like… I’m a little nervous about it… like; “I hope these guys like ‘em.” So if I think of something that the band likes that is one of the most satisfying things for me ever, ‘cause I think the band are the worst critics of the band and if I past that test I’m like wow, that just feels so good you know? But the other part of that is… playing live is the greatest feeling and the best release for all of that. Like the way you feel up and there and if you can connect to the people that are listening to your band in the crowd and people just start going nuts, it’s so fucking awesome! I wish everybody could feel like that. It’s good, it’s a great release!” [laughs]
What does the near future hold for Death by Stereo?
“More touring, dude! [laughs] And then, at some point, we have to figure out when we can start writing songs again and just try to make another record, man!”