BY KATYA BEISEL, STAFF WRITER
At a concert Nov. 5 in Fat Tuesday’s at University Mall, local band Stone Driver celebrated the release of its second album, “Rocks,” where they played new tracks as well as old favorites from their earlier LP, “Descent.” A classically-inspired space rock band, their music is a diverse and eclectic mix of different rock subgenres, infusing a deep-rooted genre with new vibrancy.
“It’s a little bit of rock, a little bit of grunge and a little blues,” lead vocalist John Gossart said from Fat Tuesday’s stage.
Gossart is joined by drummer Dan Epley, bass guitarist and backup vocalist Tim Boyer and lead guitarist Chad Lesch. While the bandmates are scattered throughout the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, they recorded the album at Zephyr Sage Studios in Falls Church.
“Rocks” features nine new tracks and was produced by London-based sound designer, composer and mixer Sefi Carmel of Soundtrack Creation Studios. A music industry veteran, Carmel has worked with artists such as Bruno Mars, David Bowie, Phil Collins, Michael Buble and Massive Attack.
“Outside of the band really getting into a groove with new material, I think having Sefi Carmel agree to produce our album had a huge impact on our final product… getting his input, feedback and experience on our songs was absolutely invaluable,” Lesch said.
The band said it took the better part of a year to make “Rocks.” The 10 months of work that went into the album saw new additions to the artists’ families, impromptu concerts and numerous rounds of re-writing and re-recording.
Lesch said that the band has a number of disparate musical influences that they draw on. Melding all of those different styles and subgenres together and distilling them into a cohesive album is a delicate operation. Stone Driver’s inspirations span the full spectrum of rock subgenres and entire decades of musical innovation.
“Modern rock acts like Tool and Queens of the Stone Age, grunge and alternative rock bands like Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Jane’s Addiction and classic rock artists like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd have all made a dent.” Lesch said, describing the band’s myriad influences. “There is also some funk thrown in there from Parliament Funkadelic, and some punk influences with the Melvins and Iggy and the Stooges.”
The group identifies as working within the space rock genre, a style pioneered by psychedelic rock bands such as Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix. Characteristically, space rock music is defined by the use of sound manipulation, synthesizers and atmospherics to create a science fiction or out-of-this-world feel. Space-rock has influenced many popular rock groups not strictly inside the genre, including Muse, Radiohead, Thirty Seconds to Mars and Starset.
Stone Driver’s diverse mix of influences makes describing their unique sound difficult. Both in “Rocks” and “Descent”, their eclecticism shows. Epley’s percussion is full-throttle punk—as driving and heavy as any Buzzcocks, Misfits or Sex Pistols beat. Each track is built on a foundation of full-bodied and open percussion.
Gossart and Boyer’s vocals belong to a different brand of rock. Their singing is throaty, powerful and gritty, reminiscent of grunge and alternative rock groups like Pearl Jam or Creed.
Likewise, Lesch’s range stretches from blues, funk and psychedelic to classic hair and glam metal. Lesch and Boyer’s guitar skills feature prominently in each track, acting as the brick and mortar to Epley’s percussive foundation.
The emphasis on guitar is a welcome throwback to classic rock principles. Overall, Stone Driver’s sound is reminiscent of the rock and roll of generations past, when rock music was dominated and defined by blistering electric guitar riffs and strong musicianship.
However, with its vocal roots steeped in a southern rock tradition, complimented by thoroughly punk rock beats, Stone Driver’s sound is a hybrid of old school rock and new age eccentricity.
“In the short term we are stoked to get out playing again local… although recording an album is a lot of fun and very rewarding, nothing beats playing to a hometown crowd,” Lesch said.
Lesch said the group plans to go on tour and play gigs in larger east coast cities like New York, Baltimore and Nashville. Lesch added that he would not be surprised if Stone Driver began to work on a third album as soon as late 2017.
The band will play another concert locally Dec. 3 at the Epicure Café in Fairfax. They are currently booking shows for the winter of 2017.
Fans can purchase both “Rocks” and “Descent” in MP3 format on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. Stone Driver’s music can be heard online using Apple Music, SoundCloud, Spotify and Tidal.