New York City is known for producing some of the most influential and relevant bands the world has seen. The Stationary Set is the Big Apple’s latest prodigy, an indie rock band that stopped me in my tracks at first listen. The band offers immediately addictive melodies and uniquely pristine vocals, while at the same time retaining an edgy rock finish. The Stationary Set- Andrew Lutes (vocals/guitar), Joshua Hoisington (vocals/guitar/keys/programming), Josh Davis (guitar/ keys), Gabriel Kubitz (bass/vocals), Logan Baldwin (drums/aux electronics)- was recently the BMI artist of the month and has played showcases with The Temper Trap, Stars, and Mumford & Sons. I was thrilled to have the chance to speak with the gifted Lutes who kindly filled me in on the band’s incredible album Haunt On, song inspiration, and tracking vocals in the dark.
Haunt On is absolutely brilliant. What was your goal for this record?
I think the goal for this record was to accomplish two objectives simultaneously. On one side, some of the songs that made the cut had been in our repertoire for quite some time, and I think for us they represented where we were coming from. Sort of, our aural history. We wanted to make sure that they got their time in the sun because they embodied a lot of our identity even though we were heading in a new direction.
So, our other objective was to accurately map out where we are going. A track like "WKNDS", for example, is structurally separate from the whole, but embodies for us a challenge that was met successfully- I mean, who releases a single that doesn't have a chorus? We do, actually, and we think it works just fine.
Is there a song on the album that you were initially unsure about releasing, whether it was because it pushed you in a new musical direction or because you weren't sure how people would react?
Everything on Haunt On is right where we wanted it. There were a handful of songs that didn't make the cut for one reason or another- and back to the dynamic of showing our past and future on one record- the songs that didn't make the cut did not accomplish those two objectives.
Take a song we had called "King of Hearts". For all intents and purposes it was a wonderful song for us. It was literature-thick, big, and cathartic. However, it really was just a song we needed to write to move on to more appropriate things. It only represented our musical past and it was just a necessary completed thought- thus, it didn't make the cut. Albums should be more present than that. We didn't want to just release a collection of songs we wrote.
Each song has its own distinct style, yet the album flow is still so smooth, making for a really unique and pleasant listening experience. Is that something you put a lot of thought into?
When we got the master back, we all decided to take a week and play with the order and sequence of the record. It was a non-issue, though. We all sort of already knew how the album should be set up and when the first proposal was dropped, it was met with a resounding "That's what I was thinking...".
It’s hard to pick, but I think my favorite song on the album is "Thanks For Asking". How did the song come about and how has it changed over time?
"Thanks For Asking" is actually an epilogue to a song off our previously released self-titled EP. That song in question is called "Drink From The Well" and deals with the anxiety and uncertainty associated with being unsure of your future- be it that of a relationship as a whole, or introspectively within one.
When I brought the first version of "Thanks For Asking" to the band, it was a very melancholy, almost sad-bastard sounding thing. Lyrically it was always conclusive, but my original voicing of it was just awfully morose. Hoisington spoke up first and said something to the effect of, "No, no, no, no... this song needs to be a celebration." Which I realized made perfect sense- sort of an, "Alright, this thing is finally over!" So the arrangement came fairly quick after that.
How does the songwriting process go?
We write in several different ways. Whether I bring the shell of a song, a completed one, or one of us just begins with a musical idea and we build from there. Sometimes an entire arrangement of a song will be fleshed out before lyrics or melody are even attempted, and sometimes the entire song is constructed around some simple chords and a pre-established set of lyrics/melodies.
What's the strangest thing to inspire a song?
I'm not sure that it's the strangest, but "Don't Be Alarmed" was catalyzed by a young woman, during a night of bar tending in Brooklyn. I walked outside during a quick break and there was this girl on the bench amidst a full emotional breakdown- mascara running, shaking, and her mannerisms switched back and forth from sadness to anger. She seemed to be on the phone with someone trustworthy and between sniffles she said, "I look like I'm insane to these people right now, but I think I'm finally turning back into myself."
I thought it was one of the most honest things I'd heard someone say in a long time. I think a lot of people, myself included, wishes they could go back to being themselves, sometimes.
When you were writing the album were you thinking about how the songs would translate to the stage, or is that something you figure out later?
We only write in a live setting, with the exception of the occasional programmed idea that Hoisington will bring in nearly finished ("Curtains" off the WKNDS EP is a good example of that). But, we play every new song live before we even consider recording it. Our live show is our most precious contribution, so if a song can't hold up live, it can't hold up with us.
In the process of documenting Haunt On there were some aspects that made it in during the recording process that we didn't have enough fingers and toes for during pre-production and rehearsal, but we have our clever little ways of making it work.
Which is the most difficult song to play live?
It's not that it's difficult necessarily, but our relationship with "Sleeping On Floors" is certainly the most unique one we've ever had with one of our songs. Not one of us could tell you when we last rehearsed it. I only remember rehearsing it a few times after we wrote it, yet, we've closed our set with it for the last year.
We aren't really sure why, but at some point we quietly decided that every time we played that song it would be emotionally spontaneous and unrehearsed. It immediately became a big cathartic release every-time we played it.
Even when we recorded it and I was tracking vocals I was hunched over, holding a tube mic in my hands, screaming in the center of the live room- with all the lights off.