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Interviews: American Hi-Fi

American Hi-Fi: Interview with Stacy Jones
March 2001
By: Lauren Jonik (lauren@soundaffects.net)


Someone once said a band is only as good as its drummer. Add the expertise of two long-time drummers with the skills of a guitarist and bass player who have equally as impressive histories and the result is something that is even greater than the sum of its parts. Combining driving guitars, powerful drums, and vocals that hover slightly above the radar of the music with a sense of fun and catharsis, the Boston-based band, American Hi-Fi is exploding onto the scene and having a good time while doing it.

American Hi-Fi's first single, Flavor of the Weak, a song with a cleverly spelled title, is currently receiving airplay on radio stations across the country. Written by lead singer Stacy Jones, the witty lyrics tell the tale of a girl who is treated badly by the slacker boyfriend she's in love with. "Her boyfriend, he don't know anything about her. . . he's too stoned, Nintendo, I wish that I could make her see. She's just the flavor of the weak." The song was originally written from the viewpoint of a girl for a female-fronted band Stacy and lead guitarist Jamie Arentzen had considered putting together at one time. The perspective was changed when Bob Rock, who produced the band's self-titled Island Def Jam debut, heard Stacy playing it in the studio and encouraged them to record it. "I am really glad that we did because it is one of my favorite songs on the record," says Stacy. "A lot of people may have a single that they don't particularly care for, but it gets on the radio. But Flavor of the Weak is one of my top three favorite songs on the record. I don't mind having to play it every day." Flavor of the Weak soon became the obvious choice for the first single, when the tracking for the album was being done, but the moment was still a bit surreal when Stacy heard it played on the radio for the first time. They were in Los Angeles and heard it on a top 40 station, sandwiched between Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez songs. "We were blown away. . . I was driving down the road and the radio was turned down a little bit, when I heard something come on the radio. My initial reaction was "oh, I know that song." When it clicked that it was actually their song, they had no choice but to turn it up.

The concept for the video for Flavor of the Weak was initially suggested by it's director, Chris Applebaum, but it was one that was immediately embraced by the band. It is based on Heavy Metal Parking Lot, a short documentary film shot in 1986 by Jeff Krulik and John Heyn that has gained a cult following over the years. Krulik and Heyn took a handheld camera to the parking lot of the Capital Center in Landover, Maryland and interviewed headbangers partying outside of a Judas Priest concert. The video for Flavor of the Weak skillfully recreates the setting--- complete with Camaros and 80's hairstyles. The video was shot in Los Angeles, outside of the Great Western Forum and was a great experience according to Stacy, "It was rad. I have made a few videos in my day and usually they are boring, but it was totally fun." An extra perk for the band came while filming when they noticed people filing into the arena. After inquiring what they were there for, they discovered that being taped was an episode of Battle Dome, a show that Stacy and the band's manager really like. "It's like a mix of American Gladiators and wrestling that's on very late at night." During one of their breaks from filming their own video, the band caught an episode of the show live. "It was just an added bonus." The video is currently being played on MTV and MTV2. American Hi-Fi had their debut performing on television in February 2001 when they appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn. "Doing those shows is so surreal. . . I love doing them." They also have been interviewed on Farmclub, where Flavor of the Weak was chosen as a video of the week, where it was played on Farmclub.com, the corresponding website for the tv show.

American Hi-Fi formed when four long-time friends came together and decided to start the band. At first it was just jam sessions, but about a year and a half ago, they actively began working on their music together. Each member had been in other successful bands or had played with well-known artists prior to American Hi-Fi. Bassist and background vocalist Drew Parsons played bass for Tracy Bonham, lead guitarist Jamie Arentzen was in Boston's Sky Heroes, and drummer Brian Nolan was in Figdish. Lead singer and guitarist, Stacy Jones, has played drums for Letters to Cleo, Veruca Salt, and Aimee Mann, as well on Nina Gordon's recent solo album. When asked how it feels being a singer versus being a drummer, Stacy joked that "I'm standing up front. . . I am more susceptible to being hit by objects that might be thrown at us. So far, I haven't been pelted with anything." But, on a performance level, he said that it is the same. "Even when I was playing drums, I was still totally invested in the song and the music. It's really the same sort of feeling. The only thing that is different is that I have to talk to the crowd occasionally."

The thirteen songs on the record were written by Stacy Jones and create a masterfully balanced mix of pop, alternative and rock. In both music and lyrics, some songs reflect a release of emotional tension brought on in part by the break-up of Veruca Salt, as in Scar or the purging and full My Only Enemy. "It's all inside of me, my only enemy, you sucked it out of me." But the softer tracks, like Don't Wait for the Sun, Another Perfect Day and Safer On the Outside are equally as adept in their catharsis. The sweet, upbeat I'm A Fool and the melodic sing-along anthem Hi-Fi Killer are a pure powerpop treats, songs reminiscent of summer days.

Recorded over the course of several months in Maui, the band felt fortunate to have the opportunity to have their album produced by Bob Rock, who's worked with Veruca Salt, Motley Crue, Metallica and Aerosmith. "Working with Bob Rock was amazing. . . he's the best producer I have ever seen. He knows everything about every band, he's just a musicologist." The process of making their first album was made easier by Rock's approach. "He's really great at letting you do your thing, but also pushing you and pulling things out of you. I felt like we were in really good hands," explains Stacy.

Touring in recent months with Nine Days, SR-71, Eve 6 and VAST, the band has been getting to do one of the things they love best--- playing their music live. "I like the whole writing process and making records, but I feel like you write the songs and record the records, so you can go on tour and perform." Audiences have been singing along, especially to songs like Flavor of the Weak, which makes performing all the more fun for the band. "If we're feeling the love from the audience, it makes it so much better . . . it's very infectious. . . it gives you a lot more energy," says Stacy. When the crowd has really been rocking out to the songs, Stacy has even gotten to do some crowd-surfing. "I like to jump in there." Sometimes, the band has been enjoying themselves so much, that their time playing passes very quickly. "The set just flies by and the next thing I know, it's the last song and I can't believe we've played all the songs already. I just get in the zone."

The experience of creating an album together and of playing their music live has given this group of friends an eagerness to continue doing what they love best. "The main goal with this band is that we want to do well enough on this record that we get to make another one. We learned a lot making this first record." But for now, American Hi-Fi is enjoying the opportunities of the moment. "It the best job you could ever have. We're lucky, we're very lucky."


http://www.americanhi-fi.com
http://www.ninagordon.com
http://www.aimeemann.com
http://www.verucasalt.com
http://www.tracybonham.com


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