Stick To Your Guns is a band that practices what they preach. Ahead of their co-headline tour with Emmure, the Orange County, California-based hardcore act launched the #HopeBringers initiative. The goal? To show the world the goodwill and activism that their fans take part in, whatever the cause and wherever they may be. Before their explosive performance at Toronto’s Opera House, we talked with drummer George Schmitz about the impact the #HopeBringers initiative has had so far, including special charity events the group organized during the tour.
It’s Tuesday, October 30th. I’m here with George from Stick to Your Guns at Toronto’s Opera House. How are you doing today?
George Schmitz: Good man, how are you?
Good! Before this tour, Stick To Your Guns launched the #HopeBringers initiative, and it’s about sharing your fans’ stories and experiences of making a positive difference in the communities they’re involved in. How’s the response to that been?
Schmitz: You know what? It’s actually been great. Especially for something that’s a little more abstract. We knew going in that it was going to be a different “challenge” to get across, but we had a lot of submissions come in, and it’s been inspiring for us to see, not only the work our fans are doing but how they associate it with our band’s message or agenda. Overall, I’d say it’s a success.
Stick To Your Guns are “Married To The Noise” with the first music video off their latest album True View.
What aspects of fan involvement have you been seeing? Is it social, political, anything from charities… What are the ones you’ve been seeing the most?
Schmitz: We’ve actually seen a pretty broad spectrum. There have been people like our friend Jamie in Las Vegas was doing work with giving haircuts to the homeless, and has this care package project that she works with. They’re planning on feeding like 400 people at Thanksgiving and doing these big, massive, food drives for the homeless community in Las Vegas. So we’ve seen things like that.
Our friend Danielle in California is big in the animal rights activists circles, so she’s been doing a lot of work with animal sanctuaries, and things of that nature, which is obviously an important topic for our band seeing as how a lot of us are committed vegans and vegetarians. Those are some of the things, we’ve seen people work at political demonstrations, maybe participating in local protests, and things of that nature. So yeah, I’d say it’s actually spanned quite a broad spectrum.
We even saw someone who was an organ donor, and I was like “woah!,” even if it was a family member, still, that’s such a gesture of charity and humanity, for you to commit to removing a part of your body for somebody else. Those things are inspiring to see, and I think we need a lot of that in the current political hellscape we live through every day.
The True View album was released last year, via Pure Noise Records.
Anything for people to give back and know that they have the power to give back, not just their family, but their community. In the vein of that question, if someone doesn’t know where to start, how would you suggest for them to get involved? If they’re lost, but they want to feel like they can do something in the world.
Schmitz: I’d say it starts with narrowing down things that you’re passionate about. That was something that we wanted to make sure came across with #HopeBringers, is that this is not exclusive to a certain type of political ideology or a certain religious affiliation, it’s about finding ways to… I guess in a sense reconnect with your humanity because I feel like that is something that is lost on us.
I always suggest starting with finding out what you are passionate about, whether that’s animal rights activism, and we have obviously had maybe more hardline stances on animal rights activism, but some people we know, they aren’t vegetarians or vegans, they haven’t given up any of those things but they work passionately with animal rescues in their area and making sure that dogs and cats get put in forever homes. And to me that stuff is still important you know, granted as an aside, I’d love to see them ditch the meat, but sometimes it is about gestures like that as acting as a catalyst for starting people’s activism.
So maybe it’s animal rights, maybe through your church, you work with the homeless or the dispossessed, and there’s a lot of ways you can find local shelters in your community that you can get involved with. If you’re involved with local politics, I would suggest seeking out local political organizations that fit your ideology and volunteering with them, something I’m doing at home right now. It’s not as sexy as maybe some of the more direct action activism… it’s more bureaucratic stuff like “Vote for this measure!” but it’s important nonetheless. I like to think we can have a diverse course of action in our activism.
Peep Omar Ludin’s shots of Stick To Your Guns (and Emmure, Wage War, Sanction) at The Opera House on October 30.
Yeah for sure. I recently just voted here in our citywide election and it was good to get to know what’s happening in my city, and I would agree with you with just even starting with something as small as voting and looking up your local politics is a good way.
Schmitz: I think there’s a case to be made for people being disenchanted with electoral politics because the system fucking sucks. I’m not here to defend the electoral system in the United States, it’s fucking garbage, but I’m also here to say that where I live in Colorado, there were still some valid initiatives to help local communities. The Black Panthers had that saying “Survival Pending Revolution,” so that’s where we’re at now. Sometimes you really do have to work within those structures and those systems.
During this tour you’ve done these #HopeBringers events, from doing a puppy chow drive to a water drive in Michigan. What were you able to achieve with those events? I know there was also one more…
Schmitz: In Denver we did homeless care kits with sleeping bags and tarps and stuff like that. The events have been the most humbling and gratifying experiences out of all of this. The social media initiative was kind of like a stepping stone or a launching pad, but really my focus with the #HopeBringers as a concept were these mutual aid, direct action events that we had at these shows in our respective hometowns, like me in Colorado, (our guitarist) Chris, he lives in Windsor, but Detroit (being so close) you know, the rest of the gang in Los Angeles, Orange County.
It’s so fucking cool that hardcore kids get it, hardcore has always been about, “This is a community, we are in this together, and we should take what we learn within these four walls and apply that to life outside of hardcore.” Hardcore taught us what it meant to reconnect with our humanity, and it’s been really overwhelming. We got three cars worth of shit in Anaheim for rescue shelters. That stuff is invaluable to them, that’s sometimes lost on people, like how much these donations can help these sorts of organizations.
In Colorado, this is absolutely heartbreaking, we were collecting sleeping bags, and we were two blocks away from the state’s biggest homeless shelters. We had homeless people who were gearing up to try to get a room for the night stopping by, and we were able to give them sleeping bags and hygiene kits, and they were giving us change in exchange, and were saying “I can’t be taking without giving.” To say that it profoundly impacted us is an understatement. It’s amazing.
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That’s great to hear. Is there any chance, I know next year you’re hitting up Japan and Australia, do you think you’re going to take this on the road worldwide?
Schmitz: You know, I would like to, but to be quite honest, this has been a crazy undertaking. It’s funny, you know, in the scheme of social or political organizing, we’re not doing anything that’s necessarily groundbreaking. Even with the small project that we’re handling, I’m so overwhelmed by all of it. It was a full two months worth of work, setting up all these emails, coordinating with all these people and local organizations and such. I have a whole newfound perspective on social work and charity organizing and everything. It really makes me appreciate even more the work that people are doing within their local communities.
I would love to take this other places, I just don’t know where to even start. We started with just focusing on our hometowns and that made the difference because we could navigate the area better, but holy shit, the idea of going to Tokyo and (saying) “Hey, what’s important here?” Because I have not even the faintest grasp of what is going on politically within Japan.
If any of the fans in those countries are listening, maybe they can reach out to you.
Schmitz: I would appreciate that.
To the surprise of many, STYG ended their set with “This Is More” off their For What It’s Worth debut.