We love this band. Stringer's latest album My Bad manages to hit hard with drum and guitar-ridden tracks and completely flip over to give you softer music that you can't help singing along to. And chances are, you might recognize drummer Johnny Spencer from a viral video that social media blew up a couple of weeks ago.
We spent some time with Johnny to talk about Stringer's latest CD, playing the last ever Warped Tour, and the infamous beer video.
NON: So tell us where the name of the band comes from?
Johnny: Have you seen the show The Wire? So Stringer Bell was the initial name we were batting around, but our band mate Mark really didn't want the word "bell" in the name of the band for various reason, so we chopped the name down to Stringer. It felt right for what we were doing, so we went with that.
NON: We love the video for "Ghosts." What's the inspiration behind the video?
Johnny: The video was a collaboration with us and our good friend, Chris Elia. He directed the video and shot a lot of the footage. It was a big collaboration between him and Max. That's another reason why I love writing songs and hanging out with these guys, they are such great story tellers. They tell these stories in such interesting ways. Max was born and raised in New York city, so the song itself is about living in New York city and dealing with the change that you are seeing in front of you and how people want to romanticize the past. But whatever "present" you are living in, it's always going to be different than that and you are never going to be able to fulfill that fantasy. Max can definitely speak more towards that. There are some quotes he said about it online where he speaks more in depth about it. When it comes to the video, Chris had all these old clips that of New York city...so we go back and forth with the old clips and clips of modern New York city. That's where we try to tell that story of old vs. new. We love going to like these "old man" bars and drinking beers in the morning, which is when we shot those scenes in the bar. It was like eleven in the morning when we shot that. It was debaucherous, showing scenes of us partying...those were some of the elements we wanted to show in the video.
NON: If you guys had to compare yourselves to other bands, who do you guys think you guys sound like?
Johnny: We definitely sound somewhat similar to other Brooklyn based bands. There are some bands that are our peers that we look up to like the The So So Glos, we have similar vibes. When it comes to influences, obviously, bands like The Replacements, The Ramones, and Velvet Underground...the origins of punk rock. For most of growing up in the 90s, bands like Green Day and Weezer...and in high school, I was more into emo bands like The Used. We all liked Blink-182 and Sum 41, stuff like that. When it comes to drumming styles, I really looked up to Tre Cool and Travis Barker. When we got older and our tasted got more evolved, we started getting into older stuff. I got really into jazz in high school, I was studying jazz really intensively.
NON: So you guys played the Warped Tour! What does it mean to play the last ever Warped Tour?
Johnny: That's right, we got to play two dates of the last coast-to-coast Warped Tour. It was a dream come true just to play the Warped Tour at all. And to be able to play the last tour, it was a real honor for us. We all grew up going to the Warped Tours. I went to the Warped Tour when it was in Mountain View at the Shoreline as a kid. These guys went to the Warped Tour growing up in New York and New Jersey. Just to have gone and seen these shows with all the bands that we love, it was great. Especially all the local bands, getting to see them performing on the big stage at the Warped Tour. To be able to play two dates, including playing in the Amphitheater in Mansfield Massachusetts, it was really fun. The Warped Tour, in general, Kevin Lyman and the whole crew are so hard-working and dedicated. That was one of the coolest parts, just seeing the amount of hustle that the bands and all the artists put into it. The amount of passion they put into their music, it's unbelievable...and they do it day in and day out for the whole summer. It's humbling to see that level of dedication.
NON: Ok, we have to talk about the video that went viral. Did you go to that game by yourself?
Johnny: No, I went with my girlfriend. I convinced her to go to this game with me. I didn't think I prepared her for what it would be like to go to this game as an A's fan to a Yankees game in the bronx....for the WIld Card...a sudden death match. She did not know what she was getting herself into. That's definitely my fault, I should have. Luckily, when the "event" happened, she wasn't there. She didn't get covered in beer, which was good. But, people were still throwing peanuts at us and calling us a-holes, but it was mostly in good fun.
NON: First of all, that's brave. If you were to go to a Red Sox vs. Yankees game, you would have a lot of other Red Sox fans to back you up. But as an A's fan, you probably didn't see many other A's fans at this game.
Johnny: Yeah, I saw about ten in the crowd. I would look into the crowd and see a green uniform here and there but there wasn't a lot. I knew that coming there as an A's fan I would get some hate, but I always stand up for what I believe in and I love baseball. I knew people would call me names, but it was so worth it to rep my A's because I love Oakland and the Bay Area. So, being there and rooting for my team means a lot to me.
NON: So when that fan poured beer on you, were you in shock? What were you thinking?
Johnny: Yeah(laughs.) When you watch the video, that was my expression(laughs.) I was like,"What the hell? Are you serious?" I would say that given the amount of energy in the stadium and people were kinda throwing stuff at us already, it didn't catch me by surprise that much. The minute it happened I thought, "Oh my god, some Yankees fan just threw beer at me..." At that point it was the 6th inning and they had just hit a two or three run triple and were up 6-0, it wasn't looking good and I was already bummed out.
NON: Ok, so that happens. The video is put up on social media and it goes viral. You had A's fans backing you up, even Yankees fans were backing you up.
Johnny: Yeah, I had literally hundreds of Yankees fans DM-ing me on Twitter. They were apologizing, saying, "This is not who we are. This is not a representation of who we are as a fan base. Please come back and let us buy you a beer." And of course, the narrative online was Yankees fans are jerks again, maybe there was a history of that, but that's not indicative of the entire population by any stretch of the imagination. All the Yankees fans I met there, even Chris and Alex who I met after, were nice and good people. Yeah you have fun and in sports and you make fun of the other team or whatever, but its in jest. Some fans, yes, when you get drunk or get out of control, can do stupid things. That's the important thing to call out, when people do stupid things, we have to stand up for each other. If you are a Yankees fan and you see something, you have to call them out because that's the only time we can really try to keep people in check.
NON: So, the fans who did that to you...they reached out to you and apologized. How did that happen, and were you still mad?
Johnny: I wasn't mad, it takes a lot to make me mad. If I'm reppin' the A's in the Bronx at a wild card game and beer gets thrown at me, to me, that's not something worth getting mad at. Maybe if someone walked up and punched me or been violent, then that's a different story. I wake up the next morning and go to work and that video goes viral...and they hit me on Instagram and apologized. They wanted to meet up and have a beer or something, and I was like, "Yeah, word." At that point, there was all this hate on them and people were calling them names, being really negative to them. I was starting to feel really bad for them because their spot had been blown up so much.
NON: You even had Billy Joe Armstrong(Green Day) back you up.
Johnny: That was an honor to get a shout out from him, we were very excited. I was contacted by the A's, they were going to send me some gear, which was very nice of them. They said they would host me at a game next season. I definitely appreciate the love that I received from them!
NON: So tell us what you do to release stress or deal with mental illness?
Johnny: For me, I've been drumming for over 20 years now. That has always been the most therapeutic or grounding thing for me. Playing drums, playing in a band, doing shows...that's always been a constant for me. Also, always finding a balance in life. If there is one thing that is causing me stress in life, getting in touch with that aspect and just adjust. If work is stressing me out too much, take a time out to work on my mental health. For me it's always trying to find those equilibriums, doing that in life is always important.
Check out Stringer's video for "Ghosts."
For more about Stringer, including new tour dates, check out their FB page!