The Definitive Stegosaurus? Interview

The Stegosaurus? love continues relentlessly. This time, the boys drop by and spill their guts about who is the biggest slob, their blood feud with Dan Shapiro, and how their new album is just like Mariah Carey and The Backstreet Boys. Riveting.

First, please introduce the band members to the world. Let us know where you’re from, what brings you to China, turn-ons, turn-offs, etc.

Bren – The bald bassist

Josh – The lefty guitarist

Joseph – The token minority

Levi – The sophisticated right handed guitarist

Tyler – The drumming old man

B: I’m from Denver, CO. Came to China to do something different.  Wanted to experience a different kind of life than the typical American lifestyle. I like short walks on the beach and staring at walls. Turn-ons: the lights. Turn-offs: the water.

T: From Detroit, came to China because there’s not enough MSG in fried chicken (that’s not as racist as it sounds.) Turn-ons: a nice smile, be good to your mother. Turn-offs: high heels and spitting.

Josh: I’m from the wine country of Cali. I came to China to pursue higher learning and become a high ranking government official.

Levi: Also from the wine snobby part of Cali. I fled the country to escape my colossal credit card debt after becoming addicted to fine caviar and original Rembrandt portraits. For now I’m happy living where I am. I like the international feel of Shanghai and the sense of adventure here.

And how did you all meet?

B: I met these guys through Facebook….that’s a lie. I’m not on Facebook. I met them through mutual friends that we had back in the States.

T: I was the last to join. I think they still regret letting me join, but i usually bring beer to practice so, you know, what can you do?

Josh: Levi and I are cousins. I met Joseph at a curry farm near the Nepalese border and rescued him from his hard labor.

I heard some of you guys live together. Any good stories come out of that? Who is the slobbiest and who brings home the most nighttime companions?

Bren: Joseph is the slobbiest by far. He leaves his feces everywhere. Evenings usually consist of maybe watching a movie or going to a show or something like that and ending with a trip to the local waidi street food corner not far from our house. Nothing terribly exciting. Although one time there was only one quesadilla left on a plate and Levi and Bren wrestled to the death for it. Bren lost, but he got better.

Josh: Agreed.

Levi: Joseph may be the most slovenly but I like him. He lets me borrow money when I need a fix. He’s OK by me.

Joseph: As for the ‘nighttime companions,’ stop stereotyping us. Believe us or not, we don’t watch porn and we don’t start sex riots.

Tyler: I have a permanent nighttime companion – I sleep with my dog. (…not like that you sicko…)

Alright, let’s get to the music: How long did this project take you from writing and conception all the way through recording, mixing, and mastering?

Bren: We all write our own songs and bring them to the band.  Some songs, such as Levi’s “Dance with Me”, are pretty old and have just never been properly recorded. Since the formation of the band, from conception down to the printing of the album, maybe 4 or 5 months.

Josh: Yes, it took awhile and some cold hard cash. I would compare our first album to be somewhere between Mariah’s Glitter and Backstreet Boys’ Black and Blue. Great stuff.

A lot of people might consider Stegosaurus? comedic rock practitioners. How do you feel about that? Is it something you consciously pursue?

Bren: It’s OK by me.  We do consciously pursue it to an extent.  We like to have fun and want others to have fun while they’re watching us.

Tyler: I wouldn’t call it comedic. I think we’re all pretty serious about music, but that doesn’t mean you have to be The Decemberists. I saw someone use the term “Jurassic Rock.” I like that one.

Josh: Yeah, we’ve been compared to the Barenaked Ladies by someone. I won’t mention any names. Let’s just say his name rhymes with Mandy Zest. I like the comedic rock we’ve been labeled as, but I also want people to listen to the heartfelt music we create. We’re pouring out our heart and revealing highly personal details about our life, such as Levi’s weird obsession with sheep.

Levi: Honestly, as far as technical playing ability goes and performing our songs tightly as a band I don’t think that we have a lot to offer to our audience; but if were are able to make an entertaining show or make people laugh at us (or with us) I think so much the better. If it’s an entertaining show, that’s the important thing.

Joseph:  Define ‘a lot of people.’ Do you people listen to us? What’s a practitioner? Is that an anus doctor? On a side note: What do you think of the ‘?’ in our name. Do you think we should get rid of it or keep it?

We have heard about you guys playing by the subway station in People’s Square. How did that come about and what were some stories that came out of it? Do you still do it?

Bren: Yeah. Like we said before, we like to have fun and want others to have fun too. We’ll play music almost anywhere, and with a bunch of acoustic guitars floating around in the house, it’s easy to pick one up and head out and play.

The last time we played, there got to be about a crowd of 50 or so people watching us by Exit One of People’s Square. We got through a few songs and then security told us to move away from the exit. So we did. Then we started playing again plenty far away from the exit and the security came by again and told us to leave.  I think we got through one song the second time around.

We haven’t done it in a while, but we’ll be down to do it again for sure once this weather decides to make up its mind.

Joseph: Why did you ignore my previous question?

How would you compare your experiences in the Shanghai music scene to those of where you come from?

Bren: I was just a show-goer in the states, but I’d say the music scene here, despite being in a bigger city, is a lot tighter than in the States. It seems like almost everyone in the music scene knows each other and supports each other pretty well for the most part. I think that’s really cool.

Tyler: I can only compare Shanghai with Beijing and Prague, where I’ve had real exposure to the music scene. Although Shanghai doesn’t attract the “big names” those other cities do, I’ve been blown away by some of the local talent, and actually enjoy it much more.

Josh: I agree. The DIY spirit here is great. Many scenes in Cali are just full of kids trying to catch the eyes of record promoters and doing anything to get that. While I don’t consider it bad, I think it’s fantastic that Shanghai has Chinese and Westerners playing music regularly, devoting their time, money and creativity to no one (big name record companies). They’re doing it for fun.

Joseph: I’ve been to three concerts in California: The Velvet Teen, Radiohead and The Who. I’ve performed in more concerts than I’ve seen concerts in America. I’m awesome.

What are Stegosaurus?’s influences (musically and in general)?

Bren: I think every member’s influences are a little different.  Levi’s are Radiohead, Mr. Bungle, R.E.M., They Might Be Giants. Josh’s are WOW. Joseph’s are Dolly Parton and HIM. Tyler’s music influences are Smashing Pumpkins, the Dispatch, Cat Empire, and The Spice Girls. General influences are Kurt Vonnegut and Reece’s Pieces. Mine are more on the punkish side of things (Thrice, NOFX, Vandals, Refused).

A lot of Chinese bands are very influential here, too. So much talent on this piece of land. Hang on the Box, PK14, Brain Failure, BBT, Boys Climbing Ropes (whom we’re excited to be playing with) and loads of others that would take too much time to list.  The category of great and influential music is too big to just narrow down to a few.

Joseph:  I really like the theme from Star Wars. It’s so epic. I think Michael Bolton is unfairly criticized. His voice is amazing. I wish people could separate his image from his voice. Finally, I love anything Harrison Ford does. I consciously try to imitate Han Solo and Indiana Jones in my daily life and when I’m talking to myself in the mirror or to girls. I’m not sure if he’s ever made any music, but I’m sure if he did it would be awesome.

Tyler: Remember when that guy in Japan said i was like Harrison Ford / Indiana Jones, and later we figured out he meant I looked like an archaeologist? That was the best and worst 5 minutes of my life.

Are you trying to start a feud (a la Death Row v. Bad Boy Records in the 90s) with Dan Shapiro via the track Stegosaurus? National Anthem”? If so, stop the violence!

Bren: Yes.

Tyler: If by “the violence” you meant “eating delicious, delicious cake,” then I’m sorry but, no, I will not stop.

Josh: Dan’s awesome, he’s a great sport. We took down Rogue Tranny, next mission: Slinky Machine.

Levi: Yeah, well you know that was just a spontaneous song me and Joseph came up with. It wasn’t really a calculated move. I wouldn’t take anything we say in our lyrics or otherwise very seriously.

Joseph:  When you’re writing a rap song, you have to diss somebody. Who better to diss than the Notorious B.I.G. of Shanghai? Rogue Transmission and Banana Monkey are both out of commission nowadays. Prophecy fulfilled! Seriously though, Dan Shapiro is great, and I’m only partially saying that to suck up to him in case he ever reviews one of our shows. I appreciate his honesty and his role in pushing Shanghai music forward. As for the violence aspect — bring it on! We’re not going to really sell albums until one of us is martyred.

Finally, what’s next for the band? Just soaking up the checks and groupie love for awhile?

Bren: We’ll continue playing shows when we can and are planning our 2nd CD, which isn’t coming anytime soon. We’re also talking about doing a short tour in China encompassing the northern and eastern areas of China.  Hopefully all of our schedules will work out so that we can do that for a week or so.

T: There’s been checks and groupie love? How come the drummer is always the last to know?

Thanks to the boys from Stegosaurus? for taking the time to answer a few questions in preparation for their huge, massive get-down on Saturday night. 50 RMB gets you a free CD and some pizza! Be there. Check them out on Douban if you’re still not convinced.

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