Six Dumb Questions with Stoned Jesus

stoned jesus

Over the next couple months, Ukrainian heavy rockers Stoned Jesus will tour as they have been since earlier this year celebrating the fifth anniversary of their second album, 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here). In August, they’ll head back to South America for shows presented by Abraxas, and upon their return to Europe for the Fall, they’ve already been confirmed to take part in Up in Smoke 2017, Desertfest Athens 2017 and Desertfest Belgium 2017 as part of a tour with support from Beastmaker — all as Stoned Jesus make ready to move past their 2015 third full-length, The Harvest (review here), and work on a follow-up fourth outing. There’s nothing quite like keeping busy.

It’s pretty clearly been a process for Stoned Jesus guitarist/vocalist Igor Sidorenko coming to terms with the lasting impact of Seven Thunders Roar in the months since he discovered the album’s massive playcounts on YouTube and began to hear from those affected by the record, but the response to playing it live and the swell of bookings for them to do so seem only to have bolstered his appreciation for the way it has steadily resonated, spreading through internet word-of-mouth where so many other releases have lived and died by all too quick album and touring cycles. It is a rare thing, after all, to create something that appreciates with time, even if it’s only been five years so far.

As to what it is about Seven Thunders Roar that’s let it do that, Sidorenko is poses an interesting theory that it’s nearly as much about the time and place as about the album itself. Maybe the record hit with just the right trippy, heavy vibe at just the right generational moment, with just the right kind of striking cover art to look perfect in a YouTube recommendation window. A confluence of factors, rather than any single, individual thing, song, or riff.

Either way, Stoned Jesus — which is Sidorenko, drummer Viktor Kondratov and bassist Sergii Sliusar — must and will press forward as a group, and even as they honor one release from the past, they’re keeping an eye on another for the future, which Sidorenko refers to in the Q&A below as “#StJFourthLP.” The guitarist talks about that coming album, giving Seven Thunders Roar the touring attention it didn’t get the first time around, and more.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

stoned jesus tour dates

Six Dumb Questions with Stoned Jesus

Tell me about the continued impact of Seven Thunders Roar. What do you think it is that allowed that album to resonate so much with a YouTube audience, and how does it make you feel when you see those numbers?

Well, I discovered our YouTube fame about nine months ago, and as we speak “I’m the Mountain” hits 6,000,000 views mark! But way before that I’d seen those comments online, be it YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or numerous blogs and forums, that Seven Thunders Roar was someone’s first entry to psychedelic/stoner music… Every week I’m reading yet another revelation on how influential and important this record was for someone, either on StJ’s email account or friends share these posts with me or I even see those in my personal inbox. Of course I was flabbergasted the first time(s), but now I kinda see the bigger picture.

That is, Seven Thunders Roar might be the genre’s last great album – pardon my immodesty – along with Elder’s Lore, Samsara [Blues Experiment]’s Long Distance Trip and Mars Red Sky’s debut. These are the 100 percent DIY bands, with no major label backing, no heavy promotion, earning everything they have through hard work, charisma, talent and relentless touring.

Another fun fact is these bands are YOUNG, and they speak to a younger audience. I personally discovered stoner rock/metal through recommendations on a music forum — I haven’t seen Kyuss opening for Metallica, I haven’t seen Queens of the Stone Age or Clutch videos, I haven’t seen Electric Wizard shows back when they were a three-piece… You know what I mean? And when this younger, internet-friendly audience stumbles upon a more fresh-sounding, better version of the music their dads used to groove to, they might prefer it to the leather-and-flares revivalists’ muzak – which mainstream media calls “psychedelic rock” these days. We are the youngsters’ band, and I’m proud to admit that!

Five years out from making the record, how has its long-term reception changed how you feel about the album? How has the reception been to playing it live in its entirety this year?

It’s funny but we’d never felt the pressure of coming up with a follow-up to Seven Thunders Roar – until we made The Harvest, which was a significant departure from that sound, that style. It’s a natural process for me as a writer and the whole band as a creative unit to go somewhere else – that’s why it takes two-three years for us to come up with the next album. Of course we just could release a bunch of forgettable records in between the really good ones, but hey, there are million bands that do exactly this, so why should we, haha.

So when we decided to sort of look back and announced that we’re dedicating a few months of 2017 to playing Seven Thunders Roar in its entirety live, we never thought how many show requests we would get in the end! Basically our whole 2017 touring-wise is this “Five Thunders Roar Tour” now. And yes, I know how silly that sounds – what, a fifth anniversary? Couldn’t you guys wait for at least five years more? – but we played 14 shows in Europe in 2012, so virtually nobody heard the album LIVE back then. Now we’re headlining three-times-bigger venues packed with enthusiastic crowds, and we’ll have like 50 more shows this year after 25 already played. I think Seven Thunders Roar deserves this, 100 percent.

You moved forward with The Harvest and changed your sound again. What was it like making that record and how purposeful were the shifts in style coming off of Seven Thunders Roar? As you look to follow-up The Harvest, what direction to you see the new material heading in?

I’d say we’re trying to keep the balance between a purposeful shift and a natural one. The main influence for #StJFourthLP is our constant touring and the feelings you get (or more specifically, you lose) out of it. I mean we had almost a hundred shows in 2016 alone, and I’m the guy who does all the overseas logistics (with all due respect to local promoters efforts, of course) and some booking, manages merch and touring routine, SMMs the shit out of our social media profiles and sometimes plays guitar and writes these sweet-sweet songs. So yours truly is not a stranger to words like “exhaustion” or “burning out.”

But there’s also the struggle all of us face like trying to balance our personal lives with the life on the road. It’s basically this “John Rambo returning from Vietnam” kind of situation – you just don’t know anymore where’s real life. It messes with your head, hard. So this all is reflected in the lyrics, sometimes literally, sometimes more metaphorically. This is gonna be a pretty dark and intense record, I must say.

Musically…oh where should I even begin? First of all we’re really tired of guitar-oriented music, sharing the stage with genre bands all these years. I’m not saying we’re going electro but I seriously doubt a meat-and-potatoes stoner fan would adore #StJFourthLP. But on a brighter side, Elder’s experimental Lore was the biggest thing in the genre two years ago, so what do I know, right? Second, I was more focusing on rhythms than melodies this time around, so it’s gonna be pretty different to what we’ve done previously – think more Killing Joke, Swans or Can than Sabbath, Tool or Clutch. It’s like we’re skipping two or three albums of a gradual progression in between our actual albums, haha!

I was mostly listening to ‘70s prog and kraut, ‘80s noise rock/industrial/no wave stuff and ‘90s hip-hop and post-hardcore last year, but I’m not sure one would hear those things in #StJFourthLP. They could’ve influenced the way I’m thinking as a musician, but not the actual songs. Okay, maybe there’s an At the Drive-In riff or two, but everything else is pure Stoned Jesus version 4.0!

Will acknowledging the five-year anniversary of Seven Thunders Roar factor into the sound of the next record at all? Will that album be an influence, and is there a way to balance that with continuing to try new things?

Absolutely. When we were rehearsing the whole thing last Autumn, I couldn’t help but notice the way it flows, the tracks’ structures, the songs themselves… This is something that was missing with The Harvest — the Song. I mean there are complex pieces on Seven Thunders Roar too — “Electric Mistress,” obviously “I’m the Mountain” — but they don’t sound forced or overthought. So the new album is seven songs, 50-52 minutes long, but there’s not a single piece longer than 10 minutes. Actually Sergei made me throw away one section of a song to make it flow naturally!

Another thing is the way I’m working on the lyrics this time around. I’m accustomed to mumbling some gibberish while practicing the would-be song with a band and only THEN writing a set of lyrics. But for a non-English speaker it’s usually the ONLY way. So I decided I’ll be using what I’m singing during rehearsals, because this is how you figure what syllables and sounds you feel like singing at the moment. I mean it’s really hard to sing “oooh” for six months only to change it to “yeaaah” on the record – you’ll be struggling to drop this bloody “oooh” later anyway. So I’m kinda building my lyrics around the noise that I create with my throat when practicing these new songs with the band.

And finally, we’re less angry than we were three years ago, making The Harvest. Ukraine is still fucked due to 2014’s Russian invasion, but this is not the focus for our new record – unfortunately it has become something of a career-starting reference for many local pop and rock stars, and we don’t want any of that. So #StJFourthLP is not the occult haze of First Communion, the psychedelic bliss of Seven Thunders Roar or the metallic stomp of The Harvest — more like post-touring depression mixed with misanthropic apathy.

When will you hit the studio to record? What will the process be this time around?

See, the main problem with The Harvest was inconsistency, incoherence even. The album was a bold step for our band in many terms, but the material itself was too eclectic to sit together on the same piece of vinyl. I for one admire experimentation, but there were three alternative rock songs, two doom metal dirges and a prog metal epic (!). Three songs were written in 2012, one in 2014, and the other two songs date back to 2010, I mean c’mon! I’m not trying to write The Harvest off or something, I just want to say that there was this one thing that kept the album together – the anger, reflected in this heavier, cleaner sound… which was also an issue of sorts for some people. And finally, The Harvest took us 15 months (!) to record, because back then we were touring while also having day jobs and whatnot.

So now everything’s gonna be different because, first: we got all the songs well-rehearsed and we’re ready to get the record done in a matter of weeks, not YEARS. Second, all the songs were written around early 2015/late 2016, and musically they’re more or less on the same page BUT without being identical. I don’t really like those bands with indistinguishable tracks… and albums, too. Embrace the change!

You’re doing South America again and Desertfest Belgium and Athens and Up in Smoke this Fall already. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

I just feel extremely humbled to be able to do what I do, to have these crazy guys as my bandmates, to see those wonderful people under the stage and to exchange energy with them every night when we’re on tour, to share our experiences with the whole world. Long it may last! A huge thanks to you all.

Stoned Jesus, Seven Thunders Roar (2012)

Stoned Jesus, The Harvest (2015)

Stoned Jesus on Thee Facebooks

Stoned Jesus on Instagram

Stoned Jesus on Twitter

Stoned Jesus on Bandcamp

Stoned Jesus on YouTube

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One Response to “Six Dumb Questions with Stoned Jesus”

  1. […] O foco, dessa vez, será total no primeiro álbum do grupo: Seven Thunders Roar completa cinco anos em 2017 e ganhou essa nova edição de apresentações conforme as músicas passaram a ser descobertas na internet. ‘Eu sei que parece bobo. Aniversário de cinco anos? Esses caras não poderiam esperar um pouco mais, tipo outros cinco anos?’, disse o vocalista e guitarrista Igor Sidorenko em entrevista ao site The Obelisk (em inglês). […]

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