Hey Stacy, looks like you’ve kept yourself busy for the last 5 years.
Yeah, it’s been a lot. We put the last American Hi-Fi record out in 2005. Since then, we’ve all been doing other stuff. I kind of put a bullet in Hi-Fi for a minute back then and started doing a lot more producing and writing for other artists. It was something I just fell into. I called my manager and said, “I need to take a break from the road.” I had been on tour the whole time with Hi-Fi. I’ve actually been on the road the better part of my adult life. My manager told me that he’d been getting a lot of calls from people who wanted me to write and produce some of their songs and albums. I said, “Oh, that’s interesting.”
When the opportunity to produce came up I jumped on it. This eventually led to me to work with a band called Open Air Stereo. They were the band that was on the TV show Laguna Beach, the precursor to The Hills. So, I was working with these guys and they had to go to MTV to do TRL. They had never really done a gig that size. They were more used to playing beach bars down in Laguna. So, their manager asked me to go along with them to make sure they were rehearsed and set to play. Well, the guys ended up asking me to play rhythm guitar and sing backup. It’s pretty funny because there was no extra room on the stage, so I ended up playing guitar and singing backup in a broom closet off the side of the stage. I was literally standing in a closet with a mic and amp next to a bucket with a mop in it! Pretty glamorous.
Anyway, the people that were working with Open Air Stereo managed Miley Cyrus. Her manager called me a couple months later and said, “Hey, I want you to be the musical director for Miley. ” I didn’t even really know what that job was — I’m a band guy. So, I said, “Look, that sounds great, but I don’t know how to write charts out for musicians and all that.” He said, “Just come meet her.” So, we set up a meeting and I met Miley and I fell in love immediately. She started roasting me the minute I walked in the door and 4 years later it has not stopped. So, that’s what I’ve been doing the last few years. I’ve been Miley’s musical director and I play drums in her band. Also, Jamie from Hi-Fi plays guitar in Miley’s band.
Did you bring Jamie in with you?
I did. Part of the job as musical director is to put the band together.
So you’re the musical director for all of Miley Cyrus’ live shows?
I’m in charge of her live aspect. Anytime we have a live performance, whether it’s on TV or touring, it’s me. That’s my job. It’s fun. It’s essentially like producing but you’re producing a live band rather than someone in the studio. It’s something I’m very comfortable with and I think it suits me quite well. There are a lot of producers out there that are drummers. A lot of times the drummer is not necessarily the main songwriter, obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but a lot of times they’re hanging back. Drummers tend to be more arrangers or people that kinda sit back and take in the big picture and say, “Hey, don’t use that distortion pedal there, wait for the chorus to kick it on” or whatever. I think that’s sort of how I fell into it — just from being in bands all those years.
Who else have you worked with?
As far as producing, I’ve worked with everyone from Ingrid Michaelson to a metal band called EndeverafteR and everything in between. I’ve done everything across the board. I grew up with all kinds of music so I feel pretty comfortable with any genre.
Were you the sole producer on the new American Hi-Fi album ‘Fight The Frequency’?
It’s pretty much Jamie and I. We handled the production on this album.
What’s the message behind the title track “Fight The Frequency”? It seem to have an anthem-like theme to it.
It’s more like a self-empowerment song. I think it was the first song I wrote for this record. It was like a comeback song in a way. It’s saying, “Hey, this is what we do, this is who we are, we hope you like it. If you don’t — go fuck yourself!” Just kidding, not really [laughs]! It’s definitely about self-empowerment.[Laughs] On the other hand, you have this song “Lost,” which seems to be coming from a different direction. What’s it about?
“Lost” is a song that means a lot to me. I’ve been through some personal trials and tribulations over the past year. It’s the song I played for friends and our manager. People really seemed to respond to it. That was one of the reasons we released it as the first single.
We’ve always been a little schizophrenic in terms of our sound, which is something I enjoy because it keeps things interesting. I think “Lost” goes back to something we did before, which was tapping into our more Oasis-like feel that we go for occasionally. My favorite Hi-Fi stuff is when we’re channeling the Foo Fighters or Oasis. That’s when I really think that Hi-Fi’s at it’s best.
Everything was tracked at your studio in L.A.?
Yeah, it was. It was just the four of us. We recorded live on the floor meaning that all four of us played together at the same time. When we got a drum track we got the two rhythm tracks and a bass track as well. It really lends itself to having a cool feeling and a cool vibe. There’s some sort of intangible energy and quality you get when you have four musicians in the same room. And it’s a lot harder to do. I don’t mean to toot our own horn but the fact that we’ve all been playing for so long and that we’ve been paying together for so long made it easier for us to do. It’s the way records used to be made, quite frankly. And, it’s something I feel is becoming a lost art.
Cool. With your new record label, do you feel you have a better grasp on your overall direction?
Yeah, we did this joint venture with Sony and Red Distribution. It gives us a little more control over what’s happening and where the money is spent and what it’s spent on. It just seems like a good opportunity for us at this point. We talked to a bunch of labels, and when my manager and I sat down and looked at everything, we thought this seemed like a really great moment for us to try this out.
Will you be doing a tour behind this record?
Yeah, I think we are. We’d really like to get on a good support tour. We’re kind of looking around at some things right now.
Great, nice speaking with you Stacy. Hope to see you on tour!
Thanks, you too![img credit: Adam Elmakias]
Pick up American Hi-Fi’s new album Fight The Frequency