Stillwater Black came together in 1991 when Chris Thayer met Ahmed and Sam Pierstorff while playing in the pit band for a high school musical production. Issac McCorkell was quickly recruited on drums and the band recorded its first EP, The Last Virtuous Lady of Athens.

In 1995 they signed with Cleaves Entertainment, a now-defunct independent label based out of Southern California's Inland Empire. Stillwater Black recorded their debut LP, Adam. They played frequently with local and national acts including Dishwalla, Save Ferris, Reel Big Fish, and IE punk/ska mainstays, The Skeletones.

In 1997 the members parted ways and the project lay dormant for two decades.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Why you shouldn't buy our music (and why you should)

In this post, I'm not necessarily writing on behalf of the band. We all have ideas about what art means and our roles and responsibilities as creative people. We agree on many things, and sometimes we disagree.

But I will say that the guys are tolerant of my position. And more than that, I think that our history suggests that much of what I'm going to communicate is an accurate description of how we carry ourselves as a creative unit.

Money and art are very strange bedfellows. Art is spirit matter, ethereal, mysterious in its origins, fickle in its manifestations, and unpredictable in its effects. And money is material, earthy, and crude.

To share one's art is to express it more fully. Showcasing your creativity sets up a feedback loop that refines future work while offering the possibility of refreshment to and connection with others. This is, in my view, the absolute best case scenario.

And while all of this beautiful stuff is happening, the artist still needs to eat. To which I say: get a job.

The artist who isn't willing to finance his or her own endeavors is an indulgent brat. If others want to help out, that's great. But I can't respect an artist with no skin in the game.

I'm proud to say that I'm a working guy. I've been a nurse for more than 20 years now. Chris teaches high-school kids. Issac doesn't own a clean shirt- everything's got plaster on it. He's out there breaking his back on the daily.

And we make music. Issac is in at least two projects. Chris has got three or four bands going. He writes comic books. He records his podcast.

We ain't no bitches. We finance our projects because that gives us absolute creative control. We finance our work because nobody believes in our creative selves more than we do.

Once someone else steps in to pay for your art, you are owned. Beholden. There are expectations. With material success comes an audience that demands a specific product. The artist is no longer there to channel this mysterious, ethereal energy we call art. The artist is now a mule churning out product to satisfy a voracious and finicky public.

If that's you, don't buy our music. It's available for free. You can stream it on YouTube, SoundCloud, and Spotify. Maybe you know somebody who has paid for our music. Ask them to burn you a copy.

This does not mean that we are averse to you spending your hard earned money on our music. There are times when this is powerful and positive on every front.

Money is often exchanged as a show of gratitude. We tip people that go the extra mile. If you are using your money to say thank you, you are most certainly welcome!

Marketing music as a way of drawing attention to critical issues in our time can raise important funds to support the people addressing these issues. We'll talk more about this in another post.

And finally, sometimes the artistic vision is vast enough that it cannot be materially realized without a larger collective effort. This requires a considerable amount of trust and cannot happen without cultivating deep and meaningful connections before any money is spent.

Building relationships and community has always been at the heart of the Stillwater Black creative experience. I am proud of the relationship I have with my bandmates. I am proud of how hard we work and how deliberate we are in making sure that we all feel good about the music we are making. I am proud that we never wasted our time indulging in cheap thrills. We didn't use people. We never took advantage of the people around us. We invited them to Denny's after shows and flitted around making friends at the different booths.

In the coming weeks, we hope to share the stories of some of the amazing people we got to know during our active period in the late 90s.

But this is more than nostalgia. We want to rewrite the script about what it means to be a conscious creative unit in today's world. And we want our relationships with these amazing people to be the template for that script.

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