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.

Thursday, October 5, 2017


While I haven't yet had the pleasure of meeting his lovely wife Crystal, my memory of Shane will always be connected to a gig we played in San Diego.

Adam had been released and our label was landing us shows outside of our usual Inland Empire circuit. There was talk of touring, maybe even a bus. We had our own crew, really just a ragtag bunch of friends, but they had experience in theater, some in performance and some in tech. Shane was one of these guys.

I can remember the show in San Diego. I can remember hanging out with Shane for a bit before and after. And I can remember the nearly two hour drive home.

And then I remember turning around and going all the way back. But I couldn’t remember why.

Shane got in touch with us through the blog and filled in the gap:

 “. . . my car broke down. That's why you guys had to come back 😀”

This was before cell phones. No crew left behind, baby.

Our relationship with Shane began with a theater class I was talking in college. I met a really interesting girl in that class and invited her to a Stillwater Black show. She came out with friends, most of them other theater kids. It wasn't long before her friends became our friends. Chris and I were also theater guys, so there was an easy synergy.

Shane had a lot of energy and a great laugh. He loved The Beatles and good conversation. I remember well his heart and his humility.

Shane on meeting Stillwater Black:

I met the band after their record release show at the Wherehouse Music store in Corona. My friend Jay had met the band earlier. He had their album and was playing it at the house. I liked the album immediately. So when he invited me to the record release I jumped at the chance.

I remember meeting Ahmed when he was signing albums. He pointed to a Metallica necklace I was wearing and asked “Why are you wearing that thing?”

I said “Why? You got something better for me to wear?”

I really enjoyed the dynamic of their music. I liked that they had two singers and that Ahmed and Chris split the lead singing responsibilities. In my opinion that gives bands a more compelling sound and they have more range.

I also feel it pushes both front men to produce better music. The competition is real and it's not simply one artist trying to improve on what he's already done but he's also measuring himself against the other guy. There seems to be an element of inspiration as well. If someone brings in a song, you may like it or not, but there may be a sound or a lyric in there that sparks something and puts both artists on paths that may not have been taken otherwise.

I am a big Beatles fan and I often look at why they were so much more successful than their peers. Neither John nor Paul had amazing voices, and when they started they weren’t doing anything revolutionary. They were largely covering and reproducing songs and sounds from the likes of Chuck Berry and Fats Domino. There were lots of bands doing that, but I feel what drove them to the mega-success they achieved is the internal rivalry and collaboration between John and Paul. Not many bands use the two front-man approach and so I really felt it helped Stillwater Black's sound stand out.

And I loved their cover of I've Just Seen a Face! I have heard many, many, many covers of that song and everyone of them pales to Stillwater Black's cover. It’s possible that I like their cover better than the original.

I know blasphemy right?

I loved way they played the rhythm between the verses with heavy, deliberate chords. It gave the song an updated feel and it gave a skinny little uncoordinated head-banger like me a place in the song to connect.

Once I started going to more shows and got to know all the guys it became a real friendship and I just enjoyed hanging out with them. I got to meet lots of people in those days. I remember being with my friends and calling into X103.9 and requesting their songs. We would all high-five when they finally played one. A mess of fanboys really! And I remember the shows at the Showcase Theatre in Corona and feeling like it was so cool to be in a real rock and roll club. With each show I would meet other regulars and we would all hang out. It was a really fun time in my life.

Shane on crewing:

My friend Jay and I really connected in theater. Jay would go on to the tech side of the theater and when we started going to Stillwater Black shows regularly he started crewing for them. I also had some tech experience so I felt why not lend a hand as well.

But there was also a feeling of being a part of something special and bigger than myself. I had access to the band that not everyone at the shows had. We would go out after the shows and the sooner we got the band packed up the sooner we all got to hang out.

Shane on friendship:

I remember taking impromptu trips with Ahmed, like the one we all took to Big Sur. I loved that he was impulsive and seemed so full of life and adventure. That had a positive influence in my life. I am less afraid to try new things. I am less afraid to just drive and see where it takes me.

After Stillwater Black broke up in 1997, we would all still hang out with Chris. This was pretty much at the peak of the swing dance revival that started in the late 90s and for awhile we would head out to different places that had swing dancing. The movie Swingers had come out and I could really relate to that movie. I felt as though my group of friends were not unlike the group of guys in that film.

One night Chris said he was going to this place called Tinseltown Studios in Anaheim (now City National Grove) and he invited me to go along. He already knew how to dance a bit and he took me aside and tried to teach me some basic steps.

Two things happened that night: 1) I realized I really wanted to learn how to swing dance and 2) I would have to take real lessons. I'm a really slow learner and I'm not very coordinated. It takes a lot of instruction for me to get things right.

I have persevered, though, and I look at my difficulties as a good thing now. Once I understand a dance move or a step, I really understand it and I can teach those steps to other people. I have been dancing every week since 2001.

Shane on art:

I appreciate art. Art is highly subjective and personal and I don’t feel it necessarily has to have a purpose. I am in awe of those who can express their art whether it be through drawing, music, dance, or anything else. My dancing is a struggle for me and the hardest part of my dancing is trying to put in those pieces of me that I feel are unique and not just patterns of dance moves that I have learned.

I think we transpose our feelings, thoughts, and desires onto what is around us and it makes the world easier to relate to. As an example, there might be a line in a song, and if we just went through a break-up of a long-time relationship or a particularly important relationship, we'll assign the emotions of that song to what we are going through. But the person who wrote the song might be singing about a one-night stand, or just leaving home, or their relationship with their family.

I think art is a cathartic form of expression for some people. And it can be the same for those who appreciate art. Art can offer perspective. It can challenge us to look at things in new ways. It can make us uncomfortable, and it can comfort. It is a reflection of the human condition, the good and the bad.

I still listen to Adam to this day. The album holds up and there are still themes I can relate to. There is uncertainty, angst, hope, and the observation of the mundane and a longing for more. I'm sure there are nostalgic factors in there, too.

I’m listening to the album as I’m typing this and there seems to be a lot of the band trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be. Not too surprising, I suppose, given how old we all were when they made the album. Stillwater Black's music probably spoke to me in part because of that. We were all trying to answer those questions back then. Even today, I’m not sure I have still fully answered those questions for myself.

Stillwater Black on Shane:

The unanswered questions are the things that bind us. Shane acknowledging his sense of wonder and curiosity is exactly the kind of beautiful humility we remember about him.

May God, questions, and good friends, keep us ever humble.

Demonstrate your humility by listening to longshot, over and over :)

Then get social with us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and SoundCloud