Exclusive INTERVIEW with STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS

For the past eight years, STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS have been carving their path through the crowded musical landscape, led by the charismatic and enigmatic frontman, Jeff Karr, affectionately known as Stem. Their sonic journey began with a thunderous explosion when they unleashed their five-song extended play (EP) titled “The Hardest Times” onto the world. This audacious debut served as an electrifying introduction, instantly captivating audiences with its infectious hooks, blistering riffs, and searing lyrics. Stem’s poignant songwriting cut through the noise and resonated deep within the hearts of fans, instantly establishing STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS as a musical force to be reckoned with. Hot on the heels of their EP’s success, the band catapulted into the stratosphere with their single “Winners Or Losers (Makes No Difference To Me).” UHS Records, the heralded indie record label of Southern California, recognized the fiery talent burning within STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS and wasted no time in welcoming them into their prestigious roster. Throughout the past year, Stem, the relentless sonic visionary, locked himself away in the hallowed halls of the recording studio. Immersed in a creative frenzy, he poured his heart and soul into the creation of their highly anticipated full-length album, aptly titled “OVERWORKED & UNDERPAID LP.” Released on May 31st, this magnum opus encapsulates the band’s unruly fusion of rock ‘n’ roll, alternative rock, and blues, delivering a sonic experience that resonates with the disenchanted and invigorates the rebellious spirit within us all.

  1. How long have you been performing and recording as STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS, and what is your primary mission as a group?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS:[Stem]Well I Was doing a Solo act from 2001-2016 That’s about the time I started to think about doing a new project.I realize That flipping from One Genre to the next could be Odd and come off as “unreal” but that doesn’t mean that you should stay & hate whatever you are doing.I started The Dead Smokers Band in May of 2016 I started to write some new stuff that was pretty Good it was solid enough to go into the Studio & start work at the same time I had just finished and released what was to be my Final “Stoner Rap” album with “The Adverse Affect(s)” [2017]Not to long after We released the song  “The Hardest Times” as a Single and it  started to do really well it became the Title track the Ep that would become Stem & the Dead Smokers Debut Release & Uhs Records suggested that we put it under a different name then just my Own Solo and So”The Dead Smokers” came into existence the name came form 2007Uhs Records release”The Dead Smoke Lp” Stem & the Dead Smokers Mission is to bring out the best Songs we can represent  what a Classic Rock band can do in the 21st Century.

  1. Who have been your major influences in your writing and playing style?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: I loved the music of the 1950s and 1960s and when I was growing up I dug it I still do. I am also a big fan of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers! I would have to say they were a major influence on how I wanted to do music by playing Live On stage or in the studio guitars in tune and from top to bottom every single part is played live. The Beatles I think are great as well. I actually got to see 2  Beatles live! I also got a lot of respect for Social Distortion they are also a great inspiration. I’m from Whittier CA and they are from Fullerton it’s too far from Where Mike Ness & Social D. But I think each of these bands and their music has touched something that is unique and beneficial to my music. Influenced by the best and I think having that unique love of the 50s and early 60s music gives my music a different perspective and edge.

  1. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: The music we have is very  Interesting would describe our  sound as very Urgent very emotional it can be dark it’s definitely full of attitude it’s got a lot of backbone. I that is what resonates with our listeners.

  1. How has the band evolved and grown since the release of your debut EP, “The Hardest Times”?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: The songs are really that much better the arrangements and the production quality I gave a lot of attention to the production value going into this album about oh 100%. I went into pre-production in October of 2021, and started out with 20 songs/Demos and then got it down to 10 and I thought of different things than on the Ep. It’s a bit it’s more involved. The Single “Winners or Losers (Makes no Difference to me)”, was the band’s follow up release to the Ep. You see the growth from the Ep into the Winners or Losers single into the 2 singles that came before the Album release, they all show a steady rise and the next album after this will be that much better I still got some good ideas coming.

  1. How has the reception been for the new “OVERWORKED & UNDERPAID LP” so far, and how do you feel about the feedback from fans and critics?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: The fans are very much happy and excited about this. I’m proud of the work we all did into this project. I am really just excited to be able to provide something that is truly real for me and straight from the heart and everyone seems to love it. The critical outcome has been really great as well. The interviews as well as the Spotlight reviews we gotten are just great. I feel that it is truly justified and it’s well earned on the part of myself as the songwriter and producer and much deserved for the band. They are some really cool cats and wonderful personalities and talented musicians. I am truly honored to be a member of this team.

  1. Where did you do most of your recording and production work for the album “OVERWORKED & UNDERPAID LP”, and who was primarily involved in these processes?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: [Stem]We did all of the work such as the main Recording at “The Bottom of my the Bag” Recording Studio it’s Uhs Records own little recording studio. Pre-Production was done at our small rehearsal room space I also took my own time at my house and did some work demoing songs and stuff like that. Chainsaw Blues he’s the lead guitar player in the band and he’s the one doing all the lead guitar cuts. I would start by laying down a guitar part a – riff I’d be there  working to perfection and then starting with that and then the drums would begin. We try and get that snare/kick pattern a real solid package going then I’d lay down another guitar overdub. I’d call up bassist Matt Miller and the bass would’ve been laid down at this point. I would also be working out the bass parts on some songs, some songs would have Matt Miller on it, others myself it’s gotta be done to perfection that means a lot of work sometimes. Either way it’s gonna be worth the time and effort at the end of the day it’s all about the songs we can stand by.

  1. Is there a particular song on the album “OVERWORKED & UNDERPAID LP”, in which you feel the band delivered its most perfect performance, on all levels? And is there maybe one song that you keep thinking you should have done a little differently in some way?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: All the songs that are featured on this record are truly amazing and done top to bottom with all we had. I feel that maybe I should of changed the strings on the acoustic guitar before recording that song and the bass guitar stings as well, it would of sounded that much better. Oh well. I gave it all I had and so did the rest of us.

  1. Which would you indicate as the highlights for fans to watch out for on the album “OVERWORKED & UNDERPAID LP”, and is there an overarching theme or backstory to the project as a whole?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: Well it’s a great opportunity to really explore a real rock/alternative rock sound and band and the theme is just about a Man/Woman…anyone who’s trying to make the best out of a situation that has become rocky at best, lost friendships, love gone astray, opportunities vanished. It’s got that real life anyone and everyone can relate to it universal experience theme it’s got that American Hero type of thing Starting out dangerously with some very dark themes at times, but then you got the remorse kicking in and it turns into a real I’ve done my dirt but now I’m cleaned up. It’s got some really solid musical talent.

  1. What led the band to choose “So Long & Goodbye” as the third single and film a music video for it?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: It’s a great song and it’s strong enough to make into a video/3rd Single it was the best contender for sure. I am planning on making the 1st single “I’m Never Gonna (Let you Go)”, that too is a song that is needing a new video. But I’m also looking at another song and probably “It’s just how it is” is most likely gonna be next.

  1. What was the experience like filming the music video for “So Long & Goodbye,” and what can fans expect from it?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: It’s was chill, all done on a small kinda set/soundstage. Real rawness kinda stuff. Straight up to the point. Edits and effects are minimal compared to other videos. But Rock’N’Roll is that kinda thing to the point, no need to make it seem more then it is. It’s an entertaining music video and the song is catchy enough to get stuck in one’s head and I can see this jam becoming a hit for a lot of people. That song that says it all to that special person, “So Long Baby” “goodbye”(Laughs)

  1. How did the partnership with UHS Records influence STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS’ musical direction and growth?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: Well It didn’t influence the band or growth at all. As long as it works out; Maybe makes sense a little on the business side, then I  think the label is cool with it and even backs it up. Uhs Records has always been a fair deal for me. Making it happen, but you as the artist have got to also do your part delivering the quality work and making something that the label can actually make something out of; If that’s the goal in any everything business or entertainment or sports the goal is to be successful. If the artist can do something that is amazing and it’s even more amazing and Impressive if the art can get out and make something for all involved. If you give them crap, I’m sure they will be like cool but I don’t know if we can do anything with this stuff but we support you. (Laughs)

  1. Could you take us behind the scenes in the recording studio where you work on the songs and how the Session for “OVERWORKED & UNDERPAID LP” went down like? What were the challenges and breakthrough moments during the recording process?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: Well the Recording Studio is our home and I and the others when we get into the studio it’s like the best thing, it’s where everything this band has worked at. I’ve been working there since it was put into use back in 2007. Before “The Bottom of the Bag” Recording Studio was built by Uhs Records, Production was done at another studio and of course the music was recorded in a different way. Like everyone else who has done recording on another’s time and or a budget you could only do whatever you felt was best songs fully completed, anything that wasn’t done wasn’t recorded and as soon as we got our hands on a studio it was a luxury. We our aware of how lucky we are.

The breakthrough moments where when I would be working on a song and after it not working out for however long and when it finally did work that was best… Seems like a not so big deal but it was. You can never know how big a song will be when you are working on, what it will be like, you have an idea and all. But when you see the foresight to document it filming it and then when its a huge success it’s like wow how cool is that. I believe in doing “whatever it takes to get it down on tape” I don’t wanna maybe know the details sometimes but whatever it takes!(laughing)

  1. Can you share any anecdotes or interesting stories from the making of the album or the band’s journey so far?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: One evening in the middle of working on a new album a few years ago myself and bassist Matt Miller we were in the studio and I was looking for inspiration and so I suggested that we go out to the Nightclub to the Bar and have a drink; Take in the scenery, I remember telling him “Come on I need to collect some ideas” later on while we watched a daring little dancer climb up that Pole; she went up to the Rafters sliding down to the Stage. The Inspiring moment had moved me so much that when returning to the recordings studio I had everything the Title story & the song “Rafters To the Stage” done.

  1. How important are the lyrics in your music? Is it something you pay particular attention to, or are you more focused on the musical and technical elements displayed in your compositions?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: [Stem] The Lyrics are the most important part of the song and are sometimes often the hardest to come up with, especially if your expectations are high or you are not not sure how to approach, I know others that play the instrument like wow, but they couldn’t write lyrics to save their life, much less quality lyrics, some people just do one or the other, I believe that the words and music need to complement each other and I believe that concept yeah.

[BASS PLAYER Matt Miller]Coming from a lyricist point of view I take the writing process as the main asset to the song. It drives it what direction your aiming for such as dark and dreary or something that every person can relate to. The technicality of everyone from the group as a whole is what makes us unique because everyone has such a diverse background and has put in the work to be where we are today.

  1. Putting aside the accolades or criticisms that fans or the media may afford STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS, is there anything about the band, or the music, you think people may overlook, misunderstand or underestimate in any way?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: I think criticism good or bad when you believe it to the point that it’s unhealthy on the creative side it’s a problem. You have to be careful you know good or bad they both can make one go crazy. Good criticism can make one arrogant and if they believe their own hype to the point your not making quality stuff anymore and you don’t see or believe you dulled the edge. Same thing with bad criticism only on a more tragic level because it’s bad, you bare your soul with your art only to be let down. Early on starting out when you still have a ways to go up the ladder it can hurt to hear that you need some work. I know when you start asking questions you better be ready the answer. I am completely comfortable with my position in the band and in the whole entire thing. I’m trying to be the best I can be and I work hard at it.

  1. Creative work in studio environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two do you ultimately prefer and why?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS:I think they are both great, they are totally different from the other, not a lot of people know that they think that studio or Stage just plug in and play and that is that. I am like no not even, you only have yourself to deal with while the stage has the audience and I think the audience brings out something that is more hard to reach at when you are alone. Best high in the world is performing on stage and the crowd is with you every step and the love they give is worth every moment. It’s the best I have had some amazing performances, moments that are truly special. The performing live part keeps a band tight makes you better musician. I respect both sides. I’d like to be able to play live more then we have been however we are fine tuning the lineup and looking for the right drummer.

  1. What is the best piece of advice regarding the music business that you actually followed so far, and what is the piece of advice you did not follow, but now know for sure that you should have?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: You know should be  cool and kind to the people you meet when you’re on your way up; because you’re gonna see them on your way down again. That’s one I was told early on and it’s worth knowing. I also know that people who have no idea about what songwriting and playing music are also in the music business, and you should know yourself and your music and if your gut feeling is right and a lot of times it is, you should follow your instincts. I tell my friend who’s doing his own thing and he tells me he wants to “Clean Up his music” and I tell him well don’t dull your music edge trying to make others satisfied, for people who you will never even know. If your music’s not from a real place the people will spot your fake and the music will suck. You should also not sign a contract because of your desperation to make it like an immortal rock star. Get a qualified professional to take a look at it, save your money and time. And also keep playing the music no matter what. And watch your money and hope you land on your feet.

  1. What would you consider the most successful, proud or significant moment for STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS so far?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: The new Album did 41K streams the first week of release on Spotify and It’s currently over 53K. That’s been a great surprise for us. The fact that people are listening and enjoying the music is amazing and it’s still early in our career as a band and all but this venture has been truly incredible. More than my career as a solo artist. I was really excited about what I did earlier on and it was me at a different time and stage in my career and in my life. There’s no ego and or anything I feel I need to prove. I feel like this is what I want to be doing and I’m lucky to be able to do it. They say when you find something you love doing you will never work a day in your life. Well I’m still working but it’s a great feeling.

  1. On the contrary, what do you feel has been the most difficult, and trying moment for STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS so far?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: Finding the right people for this project, not just anyone. My buddy Matt just picked up the bass not long ago it’s been a while now however I’m still working with him and he’s in the band doing it. He might not be the guy who’s been playing as long as myself or Chainsaw our lead guitar player, however Matt’s personality and his style fits in perfectly. I’m really appreciative for the way some people in other bass have filled in and played with us, and the only reason why I haven’t asked them to drop that and come on with my outfit is because I now they are doing what they do best and I can’t pay them as much anyway(Laughs).  Yeah man, funding the whole project and all that and finding the right people to come on board and do this. We are almost there, so it’s all good.

  1. How do you see the future of STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS unfolding? Are there any ambitions or goals that you have set for the band’s musical journey?

STEM & the DEAD SMOKERS: I’d like to get on the Billboard Charts, we aimed to truly try with this and the fact the Album has done this well is something greatly appreciated. And I think if I can get a few things in order, like growing our fan base up to a loyal audience and being able to get called for shows and in any given city we have at least a 100 or so there for now that be great a Loyal fan base, a record in the Charts at the top! And a solid band will be the best and sky’s the limit. I know some of the things I’ve listed in this interview are not as glamorous or exciting maybe to some people, but to others who have the same kind of interest they can see the value in everything I’ve touched on. I thank you for the opportunity here and can’t wait till next time. Check out our music, videos, check it all out and follow along with us it’s gonna be amazing and fun. It’s all about to go off.

OFFICIAL LINKS:
https://UhsRecords.com
official website for the Band And Record label
Official Instagram account for Stem & the Dead Smokers
https://instagram.com/stemandthedeadsmokers?igshid=OGQ5ZDc2ODk2ZA==
Official Artist Twitter Account
https://Twitter.com/@StemDeadSmoker1

ARTIST LINK FOR APPLE MUSIC
https://music.apple.com/us/artist/stem-the-dead-smokers/1584182402

Apple Music Direct Link
https://music.apple.com/us/album/overworked-underpaid-lp/1686564710

SPOTIFY DIRECT ALBUM LINK
https://spotify.link/Yw88nKmb7Ab

DIRECT SPOTIFY BAND LINK:
https://spotify.link/bV7zR3td7Ab

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Rick Jamm

Journalist, publicist and indie music producer with a fervent passion for electric guitars and mixing desks !

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