The Orange County, Calif., melodic hardcore act Stick to Your Guns
have technically been around for a decade, but many listeners' introduction to the act has been their latest full-length, Diamond
. The disc—which was released last March—debuted at no. one on the Billboard Heatseekers chart and grabbed the top slot on iTunes Rock Albums chart ... in addition to inspriring hundreds of tattoos of the precious gem that inspired the album's namesake.
We caught up with Stick to Your Guns guitarist Josh James
as he was mentally prepping for this summer's Warped Tour
to discuss the over-the-top reaction to the disc, some of the milestones he's experienced since its release and what he hopes listeners will take away from his breakout band.
The reaction to your latest album Diamond has been extremely positive. Has that been overwhelming for you at all?
For me personally, it's definitely overwhelming. I think typically whenever a band comes out with a new record, all they want to do is play those songs because they've been playing the old songs for so long. Unfortunately, I feel like crowds are always one record behind, so it takes a while for new songs to catch on live. Right when it came out we planted two or three songs from Diamond into the set and they were getting better reactions than the old songs, so then we put in a few more and a few more until a lot of our sets over the past year have been predominantly songs from Diamond and they're getting the best crowd reactions.
Stick to Your Guns combine some of the most extreme elements of punk and hardcore into one sound. Do you like the fact that you don't fit neatly into either of those genres?
I love that we're not pigeonholed. The fact that we've been able to go out with a band like Motionless in White and then go out with Pennywise and Lagwagon—it's just mind-blowing to me. We did a tour in Europe that was us, Hatebreed and Agnostic Front and then this summer we are doing Warped Tour. It makes it a lot more interesting for us because it gets boring playing to the same types of crowds all the time and you burn out those people. One of the best parts about being in a band is playing in front of new people and having that almost nightly challenge of of "Look, this crowd has never heard of us, let's give them a show that they're going to remember and give them a reason why they want to like our band."
What other personal milestones have you experienced since the release of Diamond?
We just played Groezrock and it's just the coolest—the line-up is so insane. FLAG played and Black Flag were a huge influence on me. I know there are two different line-ups touring right now and I didn't know which one I wanted to see, and then when I saw the FLAG line-up play I was blown away. The Lagwagon/Pennywise tour was also a huge milestone for me because those were two huge influences on me. But probably the biggest milestone for me is just joining a band where I feel like I'm traveling with four best friends. As corny as it sounds, sometimes when you're in a band for a long amount of time, the friendships start to disappear and it starts to become more business-oriented. From my very first tour with Stick to Your Guns, it's never felt that way.
I read that you were involved in the Occupy movement. Would you consider Stick to Your Guns to be a politically minded band?
Later this summer you have a split 7-inch with The Story So Far coming out. What can fans expect from that?
Us and the Story So Far each did one original song and one kind of obscure cover of bands that influenced us, so our side features "We Still Believe" from Diamond and our cover of "Burning Fight" by [Zack De La Rocha's pre-Rage Against the Machine band] Inside Out. Inside Out is definitely a band who has influenced us and so is RAtM, so we feel a strong connection to both of those bands—especially when it comes to the stuff they would talk about at shows. We actually sampled an Inside Out show from YouTube in one of our songs on Diamond.
Being in a band is a struggle even when things are going well. What keeps you driven and pushing forward?
I like being able to be in a different place every single day, it almost kind of gives you that feeling of not growing up because there's that sense of freedom of being able to do whatever you want. As far as the band goes, I think the fact that people not just listen to the band but listen to what [vocalist] Jesse [Barnett] has to say from stage in between the songs is why they feel a genuine connection to it. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with being in a band that doesn't have something to say whether it be political or social, but I think in our genre there aren't a lot of bands who are going out and trying to really influence kids in a positive way. The fact that kids still listen to that and want to hear it, that's ultimately what keeps us pushing forward.