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We Came As Romans' David Stephens talks Rod Stewart and Wylie Dufresne

My food repertoire and music knowledge sometimes go hand in hand. I guess it’s because of the memories that are sliced together when music is heard and food enters your gullet. However this instance of sustenance had no bearing on music - or is it vice versa - for my request for an interview with vocalist David Stephens from the band We Came as Romans was purely coincidental.

We Came as Romans' David Stephens (second from right) can cook too!
photo credit: Douglas Sonders

It turns out David is a trained chef who doesn’t only elaborate on vichyssoise but also ear piercing double bass peddles. Yes, David is a member of the ever addictive ensemble We Came as Romans and for what it’s worth, his talents exceed elsewhere too. I was as surprised as my fellow readers to find out that David is a trained chef, knowledgeable in more than just metal chords and harmonic distortions. With that, he was “chomping at the bit” to tell the world his remarkable food narrative.

What came first: passion for food or music?

I'm not sure actually. When I was five years old, I'd put on one of my mom's Rod Stewart cassettes and stand behind these curtains and come out pretending to play every instrument there was. Around that same time, my family had stayed at a nice hotel that offered an omelet buffet with a chef tossing vegetables and eggs with no spatula. I was determined to learn how to flip grilled cheese so the chef taught me.

When time and circumstances allow, are you the chef de cuisine for the band?

Absolutely. Anytime anything is being cooked anywhere but a microwave, the band depends on me to do it. I really don't mind though. I enjoy cooking for my friends because they appreciate it so much.

Music by nature is constantly deconstructed and assembled with different “ingredients” for an unfamiliar yet recognizable sound. That said, have you embraced the molecular gastronomy cooking habits of Wylie Dufresne and the chefs of that ilk?

This guy is out of his mind but I love it. To be honest, I can't even imagine what his food tastes like because it's so bizarre. It must be good though considering how many awards he's won. I love when people push creative boundaries in any art form.

How hard is it to get a good meal on the road when you yourself aren’t cooking it?

It depends what city we're in. If I have a great meal in a certain city, next time we roll through I guarantee I'll be back. Most of the time I can find a good spot to eat, but every once in a while the only things around are Olive Garden, Applebees, and some other fast food chains. And yes, I view Olive Garden on the same level as fast food haha.

For me, playing live music and recording seem intensely stressful as you are always trying to be at your best. Has this helped in any way when it comes to completing a dish and/or reinventing one?

Playing live music and cooking in an industrial kitchen are pretty similar in that you only have one chance to cook your Filet to a perfect mid-rare and you only have one chance to belt out that high note in the bridge. Both mediums have helped me manage stress and pressure well from being around them so often and from all the practice I've had with them.

What is your favorite place to just flat-out eat (no Michelin Stars, no James Beard award winners, just a literal pig-out)?

There's a place in my hometown, Ferndale (one mile north of Detroit) called One Eyed Betty's. They have around 50 craft beers on tap, most of which are from Michigan and some of the best tasting, greasiest burgers and sandwiches. The place has a Cajun flair to it as well that blends in with their menu perfectly. After a few pints and a massive burger, I can't eat again for at least five or six hours and get the heaviest food coma.

Are there any aspirations to open your own restaurant?

Owning my own restaurant is a dream of mine but I'd like to keep it simple and fun possibly throwing in some of my touring and music background. Oh yeah...and lots of craft beer.

You’re on a desert island, rest of your life: give me the only album you need and only dish you’d eat forever.

I've listened to Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory for about 10 years so I'll probably keep listening to it for at least that much longer. Seafood is my favorite but I figure I'd wind up eating a lot of fish on an island so I'll go with a Filet Mignon, some Gyu Dare sauce I could use on some fish I catch, and definitely wild mushroom risotto.

We Came as Roman’s newest album Tracing Back Roots is available now on iTunes and through their website.

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