Stripped's Optimistic Hardcore

SLO county-based hardcore act recently pulled off a livestream release show on Mar. 18th for their album, A Reaction to Misery in Life.

(From Left to Right: Eric, Trenton, Sterling, Jesse)

Overall, the stream was a successful response to the oncoming onslaught of uncertainty that now surrounds us.


The group, consisting of vocalist Sterling Snow, bassist Jesse Moreno, drummer Eric Sobel, and guitarist Trenton Carrol, formed about a year ago once the band known as Genocide Jack decided to call it quits. Although half the group lives out in SLO while Sterling and Trenton live in Santa Maria, they've been able to setup consistent practice time and fine tune their live set. The member's newfound sound is a bit heavier than previous endeavors, but it's been well received. Playing fast-paced shows with local heavy hitters like Burlesque and Idle Tongues has helped them gain a notable presence in the scene. Circle pits are guaranteed.


After about a year of ripping up the local DIY scene, Stripped has unleashed a new batch of high intensity hardcore. Recorded by Nolan Perry out in Santa Margarita, this album is their first release on wax. In celebration of the project, the group decided to host a record release show; however, it isn't always easy to set up DIY shows in the area. The ever-approaching threat of Covid-19 only added to the already stressful endeavor of hosting a gig, yet the boys came through with a full on livestream performance.


We had the opportunity to catch up with the group once they finished up the stream.

Here's what they had to say:


Q: (Spenser) So how’d the stream go?


A: (Sterling) It’s over now, it went well. We had it make it exclusively live streamed, so it was just the five of us with Chris from Idle Tongues doing sound and his set. Jesse had to drive home after our set, so it’s just Eric our drummer, Trenton the guitarist, and me. This has definitely been an experiment, but I think we pulled it off despite technical difficulties. It would’ve been nice to have a few more people to help out, but I think we did well with our five man crew. 


Q: (Spenser) How does it feel to finally release your own record at this point?


A: (Sterling) I mean I’m the kind of guy to not know until it hits me, but I imagine I’ll feel pretty relieved. It’s been a battle trying to get this thing released or at least have the release party. Knowing what just happened at Stage 9 where the owner just burned everyone that volunteered there and axed all the DIY shows. We were lucky enough to salvage the show and move it to a house in SLO, but then the virus started getting worse. Almost every other day there’d be limits and restrictions on what we were trying to do, but I mean I’m grateful we could still do the live stream that people could enjoy from their rooms. 


Q: (Spenser) How did you go about producing and releasing that record?


A: (Trenton) Well, we went with Nolan Perry which if you’re familiar, he did the latest Pancho & the Wizards record. I think he also did the latest Dudeo Perez and Coffin’s first EP as well. How did you find Nolan? I don’t remember.


(Sterling) um, we had mutual friends.


(Trenton) He also recorded The Mighty Fine and they’re like a local pop punk band from like a few years ago. He did their whole revival album. Every other year they might do a reunion. We originally tried booking a spot in Lompoc, but the guy was like, “I don’t do heavy music or punk at all”. 


(Sterling) Yeah, Nolan said this was his first “heavy band” to do which is why it was definitely a long process of going back and forth between our mixes and stuff, but he really pulled through. I mean the studio’s cool, but it’s all the way in Santa Margarita out in the boonies.

So it’s like an hour drive at least to get out in the middle of nowhere.


It kind of lends to the recording process being isolated and not distracted by what’s going on in the world, but you’re kind of out of luck If you’re trying to meet up to fix stuff. Overall, I’d say it was a pleasure working with Nolan. He was very excited. He saw us as almost a challenge to see if he could actually produce and record a heavy band. 


Q: (Danny) So you’ve been playing punk on the Central Coast, do you think it’s been a positive or negative journey? 


A: (Sterling) Overall, it’s been a positive, but as of late it’s been a struggle. I think we’re gradually making small gains. I like to think that when struggle or conflict presents itself, there’s an opportunity to turn something negative into something positive. Hopefully after what’s happened with Stage 9 and to some extent the CoronaVirus, we can be more supportive of each other over the Internet since we can’t physically be together yet.


Having an online presence as a community would be helpful. I think what’s going to happen for the DIY scene will be very interesting. Assuming we’re still on lockdown, quarantine at our homes, it’d be nice seeing more people live streaming band practices or shows like we did. I know Code Orange pulled off a huge production a couple days ago with Hate5Six, so I’m curious to what the future holds. I’m very excited. 


(Trenton) I hope I see a lot of new bands popping up after this. 


(Sterling) Yeah, all that pent up frustration.


(Trenton) Although, that might not happen considering the whole state of California went on lockdown apparently. That means you can’t leave your house right? 


(Sterling) Well, you have to have a valid reason like work or groceries or band practice. I mean if you treat your band like it’s work, technically you’re not lying. You’d have to tell them as professional musicians this is like how we make bread. 


Q: (Spenser) How long have you been working as a band?


(Sterling) Officially, we started back in August. 


(Trenton) Oh yea, that’s true but we’ve all been together for like a year though. 


(Sterling) That’s because this originated from the fallout of Genocide Jack where we got new members and wrote new songs with a different style. It just made sense to have a fresh start and have a new name that appeals to a wider crowd but you can’t please everyone all the time. 


Q: (Danny) What are some of your inspirations, artists and musicians alike?


A: (Trenton) I don’t know, for this band at least I’d say Pissed Jeans, Thee Oh Sees, and shit System of a Down or something. 


(Sterling) Well, I’d say one band that kind of unifies all four of us is Black Flag. Some other bands we’re really fond of are Weekend Nachos, Converge, Dillinger Escape Plan. More of a fast flow like power-violence bands. We also draw influence from unlikely places. As a vocalist, I’m quite fond of singers like Mike Patton and Nick Cave. 


For this latest album, I got inspiration from people like them or even like Jennifer Charles from Elysian Fields. I feel like vocalists like them kind to bring a sensuality to their music and that’s something that hardcore needs, especially right now. The only bands that come close to that now are probably like AFI or Dillinger once they got their current singer. I feel like drawing inspiration from what I like to call oblique sources makes for better, innovative music. 


Q: (Spenser) Did you have any themes in mind while writing your new album?


A: (Sterling) We didn’t go into this trying to make a concept album, but as far as a motif throughout...you can go back to the name of the album, a reaction to misery in life. It’s like an emotional response to tragedy and hardship. Not much different from any other band playing heavy, angry music. It was very organic, the way we all came up with the songs. 


Q: (Spenser) Do you normally jam in a space in Santa Maria?


A: (Sterling)  In the beginning, we’d just go back and forth between Santa Maria and SLO. At this point, we pretty much just practice in SLO because the space in Santa Maria isn’t as available as it used to be. Half the band lives in Santa Maria while Trent and I live here.


Q: (Spenser) Do you find yourselves playing more shows in SLO or other parts of the county?


A:  (Sterling) South County (laughs) doesn’t really have anything going on lately ever since Skip’s BBQ closed a few years ago. Santa Maria has shows at BiCi Centro and here at the Pub, although with the virus going on...well I guess that’s pretty universal at this point as far as shows go happening anywhere. Prior to this, I’d definitely say SLO. A little bit happens in North County like Manny’s Pizza in Paso Robles. Then you’re looking at Santa Barbara County toward Goleta and Isla Vista where they’re having a lot of shows. 


(Eric) I’d say before the virus, the shows were becoming pretty scant up in San Luis because all the house venues went away. 


(Trenton) Well, there was all the nonsense that happened with Stage 9, it’s like we’re building momentum but it’s like we take one or two steps forward and then three steps back. Yeah, it’s always in waves. 


(Sterling) I sincerely believe that if people in the DIY scene can get organized and serious about this where we start networking and acting as a unified force, we could probably overcome most of these challenges. Not that it would be easy, but I think being disorganized without a structure makes it have a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to dealing with cities like SLO. Despite how the city gives off the image like, “oh we’re progressive and we love arts and culture and the community”, their actions speak otherwise. I’m sure as you know, they’re very hostile to creative forces, DIY art and music. 


It’s really unfortunate that the city of SLO is hostile towards it while cities like Santa Maria or even Paso, I don’t wanna say they’re 100% catering to it, but at least we don’t have those same problems. It’s like the police in Santa Maria have more important things to worry about than kids playing in bands for a garage or house. Whereas in SLO, if you can’t make money off of it, it dampens their image and they’ll hound you. 


Q: (Spenser) Looking forward, do you think more people will want to get out to shows and start doing it ourselves?


A:  (Sterling) I would think so, I mean just coming from my shoes where I am right now like I’m probably going to be stir crazy, pent up and I’ll just want to go see a live band. I imagine after one or two months, depending on how long this “quarantine” lasts, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a burst of creativity. 


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