Stacy Jones is the current singer and lead guitarist for the pop-punk outfit American Hi–Fi. The band has toured worldwide and gained mainstream popularity with its smash hit “Flavor of the Weak” off its album “The Art of Losing.” In addition to being the front man in his own band, Jones is also in charge of Miley Cyrus’ touring band in which he plays drums. Jones spoke with The Daily Aztec on his experiences with both.
The Daily Aztec: How long has American Hi-Fi been a band?
Stacy Jones: Well our first record came out in 2001, but we first started working on the band around 1999 or 2000. We were all in other bands and American Hi-Fi was just a side project we were working on. It was the scenario that any time we were back in Boston we would just get together to jam and basically drink beer and play Cheap Trick songs. That’s when we started writing real songs on the bus while on tour with Bush and those songs became the first Hi-Fi record. So we’ve been a band for about 11 years but we haven’t done anything with Hi-Fi for six years because we’ve been working on other projects. But we’re starting to kick the tires again and it feels good.
DA: When you say other projects, are you referring to playing drums in Miley Cyrus’ touring band? How is that working out?
SJ: Well that’s awesome. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. I got asked to be Miley Cyrus’ musical director. I was asked to put a band together, like a real rock band, that would be her band for 20 years, not just cheesey session guys. I was given creative control to play really anything I wanted and I picked drums because it was my main instrument and first love. So we’ve been her band from day one, and it’s one of the highlights of my career. I’ve also started producing records because I built a studio in L.A. So, the thing with Cyrus’ gig is that I can be a drummer and then produce at the studio and also produce the live show. It’s really like firing on all cylinders and it’s really fulfilling. And she’s awesome, has a killer voice and killer work ethic. I’m just proud of all the work that we’ve done together. Jamie Arentzen, who is the guitar player in American Hi-Fi, has also been playing with us and recently Drew Parsons, the bass player from Hi-Fi, has also been playing with us. So, three-quarters of American Hi-Fi has played with Cyrus.
DA: When did you first make the switch from drums to guitar?
SJ: That was when I was playing with Veruca Salt and we were touring with Bush and I would watch Gavin Rossdale onstage and he was having a great time. Then I was a big Foo Fighters fan and hung out with Dave Grohl quite a bit and both of those guys were pretty inspirational to me. I had always played guitar, but only well enough to write. I could only play some basic bar chords, but one day I woke up on the tour bus in front of a music store and there was an acoustic guitar in the window with a chord book in the strings. It said “Learn to Play Guitar for $100” and I thought, “F— it. I’m going to buy that, and I’m going to really learn this thing.” So I did.
DA: How does it feel to be back to touring on the road with American Hi-Fi again?
SJ: We’ve all been on the road for the last five years anyway because of touring with Miley. But it feels great to be doing it with Hi Fi again. American Hi-Fi has become this sort of inside joke for the four of us and it’s a boys club for us. We get together, drink beer, watch sports and play rock ‘n’ roll. It’s really amazing. And we’re doing it DIY-style right now. We’re rolling around just the four of us without a big crew and we’re not in a big bus. We’re just hopping in a van and going to play some rock music. It almost feels like we’re starting over because we’ve been out of the public eye for six years, which is a long time for bands to just disappear.
DA: Your new album “Fight the Frequency” came out last August. How did preparing and recording that album differ from your older albums?
SJ: One of the things that was nice about this record was that, creatively, we were all in a place where we realized that we all do other things for a living now in music. But American Hi- Fi isn’t the sole source of income and focus like it used to be. So when you alleviate that the pressure really comes off; it just becomes a labor of love. At the end of the day when we’re sitting in the studio working on songs, we just have to please ourselves and that’s just a good place to be. We didn’t have managers breathing down our necks; we didn’t have a giant record company hounding us for another “Flavor of the Weak.” And that’s a cool space, it really allows you to be creative and I’m very thankful for that opportunity. And I don’t want anyone to think that I’m ashamed of “Flavor of the Weak.” I mean I love that song to this day. I’m really happy that I still enjoy playing that song. I know lots of people in bands that had a hit people knew eight or 10 years ago and they’ll play a show and they won’t play the hit. And I’ve talked to some guys who are like, “F that man, we’re beyond that,” and I’m like, “No that’s the song everybody knows, you have to play that.” So I’m very happy to be in a position where I could play “Flavor of the Weak” every night for the rest of my life and I still love it; it’s still really satisfying to perform that song.
DA: When you started American Hi-Fi, what were a few of your major influences?
SJ: Cheap Trick, Foo Fighters, Nirvana. I’m a huge Beatles fan, The Rolling Stones, classic rock in general, Pixies and a band called Superdrag, which was one of my favorite bands of all time. But we’ve always had a very eclectic mix of influences. I like everything from Refused to INXS and everything in between.
DA: What bands have you been listening to recently?
SJ: The new band I really like is Temper Trap. I think they’re cool; I’ve been listening to old Social Distortion records and I got to jam with Social D a couple of years ago on drums and it was f—-ing awesome and I’m a huge fan. I really like The Gaslight Anthem record, I know it’s not super new but I still think it’s a great record.
DA: What advice would you give to aspiring musicians at this point?
SJ: I think a couple of things that work for me is that I like to be diverse. I would say if you really want a career in music make sure you’re open-minded, because you might be in a punk rock band and the next day you could be onstage with Miley Cyrus, and that’s unbelievable; it’s great. I’m very thankful for the career I’ve had, I’ve always been in great bands and I got to produce some really awesome new bands in the past few years, and I get to play onstage with Cyrus. I mean the last gigs we played in Europe, we were playing in front of like 80,000 people every night, which is insane. But then I’ll come down and play the pub at UCSD and that’s f—ing awesome. And so my point is, be open-minded and be diverse. That’s one of the things that works for me and keeps it interesting. I’ll play with Miley, I’ll play with Hi-Fi, I’ll play drums as a session guy on other people’s records, I’ll produce records, I’ll do co-writes with other artists. It’s one of the things that keeps it fun and interesting and it really helps me stay creative because I’m not doing the same thing every day.