With the growth of the Northwest Arkansas music scene and the number of chart-topping artists taking the stage in NWA, no one would have believed a few months ago that the most anticipated concert of early 2010 would be STS9 at George’s Majestic Lounge.
But after epic performances in NWA over the past few years and a cult fan base gathering nationwide, STS9 is gearing up to play to a sold-out crowd at George’s on Wednesday. The show sold out in just a couple of days.
The underground success of a band like STS9 is remarkable simply because of the band’s focus on an experimental sound found almost nowhere else in the music industry.
With influences ranging from instrumental jam rock to electronica, as well as everything in between, STS9 — guitarist/keyboardist Hunter Brown, percussionist/laptop operator Jeffree Lerner, bassist/laptop operator David Murphy, keyboardist David Phipps and drummer Zach Velmer — find it extremely difficult to come close to classifying their genre. But why attempt to classify what you change at every instance?
On their new album, “Ad Explorata,” the five-piece Georgia group buckled down and focused their writing to bring out musical elements not yet discovered.
“We created this album with a little different approach in a sense that we made other albums over the course of a couple years and this one was fast,” Lerner said in a phone interview last week. “We didn’t rush or cut corners, really just buckled down in the studio. We were a little more focused on the writing and recording process and not taking so much time. Each album is its own thing, not better or worse, but a different expression … comparatively to the last album, this one is a wider spectrum with different vibes, energy and emotion.”
The vibes, energy and emotion might vary from album to album, but the quintessential attribute that holds STS9 fans together and has helped created a mass underground following is the band’s live performance — one that has garnered critical acclaim and fan approval along with chances to perform on national stages like Lollapalooza, Red Rocks in Colorado and even Northwest Arkansas’s own Wakarusa.
Though not to ruin the firsthand experience of being in the audience at a STS9 performance, the show features a slew of eccentric lights, sounds and never a real break from the music as it flows from one beat and jam to the next.
“Our goal is to try to put on our best show every night, put out high energy and quality, try to get people to move, and inspire and be inspired every night,” Lerner said.
STS9 has played George’s before and is scheduled to return to Wakarusa this summer. The band is excited to return to the Ozarks, where Lerner says “the fans are great and give us a lot of energy and love.”
While the band has played on some of the nation’s biggest stages and received mass praise for their off-the-wall concerts, Lerner said the band’s biggest achievement is the way they have stayed together after more than a decade.
“We haven’t really stuttered; we’re all moving forward and are all incredibly dedicated to what we do. Some of the bigger shows are big accomplishments, like playing at Red Rocks, but a big one is just continuing the band.”
The relationship within the band has them poised to move forward. But the more fascinating aspect of STS9 is their strong connection with their fanbase and the nonprofit organizations they have committed themselves to such as helping rebuild New Orleans’ Ninth Ward and supporting afterschool programs.
STS9 strives to make every experience a little more than just about the show as they team with their fans on several projects and share a really productive relationship, Lerner said.
With a 14-year career, 12 live and studio albums, thousands of performances and millions of records sold, the upcoming decade could bolster several paths for the electronic, instrumental band.
“We are going to continue what we’ve been doing, and it’s up to the fans to determine where it goes,” Lerner said. “We’re going to keep watching, growing and making sure we’re taking care of what we need to take care of by refinishing our skills, new music and putting on the best show we can.”
Brian Washburn is the founder of DBW and is currently working on a way to revolutionize the music industry.