Interviewing bands has to be one of the best parts of music journalism, it invites the opportunity for an artist to elaborate on their music and what it means to them. MEB got a chance to send a couple questions to singer/guitarist of Still The Sky’s Limit, Johnny B., to talk about the band’s touring and some new music to be coming out soon!
MEB: How has the tour been going? Any favorite stops?
Johnny: This tour has been going amazingly well thus far, save for a bit of the weather in the northern part of the country. We are definitely not accustomed to negative 20 degree conditions and blizzards! Luckily, we haven’t hit any serious snags via weather conditions, so the shows have been going on without a hitch. In terms of favorite stops I must say that every night has given us a different story, so to choose one is nearly impossible. What was very fun though was a show we performed at The Thompson House, which is in Kentucky right across the border from Cincinnati, Ohio. We had performed at the venue the night before, and had a day off following the show, so we decided to stay in town to hang out with the people that run the venue (they are exceptionally nice and we have become fast friends over the course of our past two U.S. tours). As it turned out, Hawthorne Heights was performing at The Thompson House that night, so we were going to hang out and watch them with everyone else. In a funny twist of fate one of the bands that was opening no-call/no-showed…so, one of the promoters for the show literally came up to me 10 minutes before the show, and asked if we could do him a favor and play the show. Of course we obliged! In less than 10 minutes I had jetted out to our van, jolted up our drummer Aaron (who was a bit under the weather at the time, so he was trying to sleep it off), unloaded all of our equipment, and were ready to rock. So, that night we opened for Hawthorne Heights. Amazingly fun show, and by far the most random 10-minute twist we’ve had at any show.
MEB: How about any funny stories that have happened?
J: Funny stories on tour are pretty easy to come by, one such happened in Buffalo, New York. We always enjoy inviting people on stage to dance with us as we are performing. So, at this particular show, I invited whoever wanted to join us to do so. Three guys jumped up immediately, and once we started the song the three of them, in unison, all began to twerk to the crowd. Which actually caught me so off guard that I started laughing instead of singing. These dudes had hardcore band shirts on, and had the look as if they were just going to get up there and mosh like crazy, but threw the twerk card out. It was impressive, and might I say very memorable. I’ll also always remember the faces of those in the front row who were as caught off guard as I was.
MEB: I hear you have an album in the works, any details you can share?
J: I can absolutely share details. We are recording a full-length album with producer Erik Ron (I The Mighty, Get Scared, Panic! At The Disco, Foxy Shazam). We have half of the album already recorded, and upon our return from tour the plan is to record the second half. I can also say that our single “Lo Hice a Proposito” will be on that full-length. The great part about Erik Ron is not only is he an uncanny record producer, but he is also a very kind guy and we get along both in the studio and out of it. So its as if we’re just going to our friend’s place to record an album. There is quite a bit of Madden football played during the creation of our albums.
MEB:I read that STSL is based out of OC, but many of you guys are from out of state, can you share what that experience has been like?
J: Still The Sky’s Limit is a bunch of friends that just love playing music together. While we technically all don’t live in the same city, nor did any of us attend the same high school, we all came together very organically through life and meeting as friends through other friends. We do all actually live in or very close to Orange County, California (our bass player Josh lives in Los Angeles County, but at the very edge of it nearest Orange County). I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but my family moved here when I was three years old. So we all grew up in Southern California. What we have been lucky enough to have is a bunch of extended family that live out of state, and truly all over the country; all of which have been exceptionally supportive and have housed us during our tours across the U.S. It’s always such a relief to have that sort of support, especially when we are so far away from our home base.
MEB: Are you guys doing any writing on the road?
J: I find it is pretty difficult to do any serious writing on the road. We are a DIY band at this point, so all of us are very busy while on the road as we are each putting forth every effort into reaching our goals on the road, which for us is a ton of driving, planning, loading and unloading. Our downtime is typically spent napping, its well worth the effort to be sure, but definitely an exhausting day to day effort. Plus, on top of that, many days we perform 2 to 3 shows per day. Two in the early afternoon, and one at night. I have written a few leads for a song during an off day we had in Jacksonville, and I’ve been dabbling with some lyrics for a new song that will be called “Numbers”. On one of our early tours I had actually planned on doing extensive writing while on the road, but found it nearly impossible to focus on it, so I leave that process to the downtime spent at home.
MEB: If you could only pick one, would you rather play acoustically or electrically for the rest of your band’s life? And why?
J: That is a darn good question! Wow, exceptionally tough to answer. I am a huge fan of both styles of performing. Heck, we have albums in both styles; and our drummer Aaron is an animal on that kit, its a joy to hear him every night. If I had to choose, I’d have to go with acoustically though. Again, I love both styles, so the decision wouldn’t be made lightly, but I appreciate the ability to have the simplicity of a voice with an acoustic guitar. I find that I can do more vocally with nothing surrounding it save for a guitar. It gives me an extra challenge within the melody of the song. In fact, I write every song acoustically first, then bring in the full band to fill out the sound.
What are you most excited about SXSW this year, especially it being your first time?
We have been lucky enough to attend SXSW for the past three years. Three years ago we just attended to experience the chaos and excitement of the event, and our drummer had appendicitis so he couldn’t even make it out that time. Last year we were actually supposed to perform at SXSW, but had a van breakdown in New Mexico that halted those plans, so we only made it for the final 2 days of the week. This year, we have at least 2 showcases during the week, and that is what most excites us about SXSW this year. The joy of being able to perform at such an amazing spectacle. We get amped up for every single performance; we each know just how lucky we are to even be able to play instruments and our songs far and wide, but the build up for this year’s SXSW has been especially exciting as we have been trying to make it happen for such a long time. It is also coming right at the tail end of our full U.S. tour, a tour that has been successful beyond even our own imaginations, and to celebrate with the entire city of Austin, Texas will be such a release.
MEB: What are you hoping to get out of SXSW, if anything?
J: Another good question. I don’t think we are hoping to get anything out of SXSW per say, save for just the opportunity to perform in front of yet another amazing audience. SXSW to us is a celebration of the arts, and people from all walks of life come together for the music week and just enjoy each other’s craft. I do know that we are all excited to get to hang out with friends who we know will be there. Some people have been supporting us in one way or another and it will a fun opportunity to simply say thank you to them and spend the time enjoying each other’s company as well; many of whom don’t live close to us, so this is a golden opportunity to spend that time together. SXSW is just such a surreal experience, I just hope to enjoy it and take it all in.
MEB:Since you first became a band to know, what has changed most about each of you?
J: I actually had no idea we were a band to know, but that very phrasing is extremely flattering. I even just turned to our drummer and asked him “Hey, did you know we were a ‘band to know’?” His response was the same as mine. All we keep doing is what we’ve always done: write and perform songs that encompass our lives. To me these songs are literally stories of my life, its like a personal form of therapy. Every song is a piece of my life that I have gone through and found my reaction on the other side, which becomes a lyric set and a piece of music to accompany and express it. My only hope is that one who listens can find a relation within their own life and grab the positivity of knowing that no one is alone. I do feel that I have become a better song writer in the process, of which I attribute much of that to Erik Ron. He has inspired me in a new way to take my ideas of writing songs, and once a song is what I would previously consider “done”, to then go back and see how I can further bolster the music. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even know he’s an inspiration to me yet! I only realized it recently myself, through the recording processes we’ve gone through with him. That is all that has changed in my world. Beyond that, we are simply a few guys that love to travel and perform to people as far and wide as possible, spreading that message of positivity.
MEB: In your recent single, “Lo Hice A Proposito” I read the story about how the song idea came about, could you briefly explain it? And has a memory or incident like this happened to any other songs you all have released?
J: “Lo Hice a Proposito” translated from Spanish to English means “I Did it on Purpose”. This was an experience I had with a girlfriend of mine a few years ago. She and me were at a holiday party, and another girl who was very competitive with my girlfriend made quite a few passes at me during this party (and also beyond that at other events). The song is a dig at those attempts, and the lack of discretion utilized during such an affair. That girlfriend and me (no longer dating, but still great friends, she actually just lent her beautiful voice to an acoustic song duet I wrote and recorded) were exceptional communicators and quickly caught on to the situation and even continue to joke about it to this day. In terms of other songs we have released, all are of experiences life has thrown at me. They are all memories technically speaking. None have been quite the same as the Lo Hice a Proposito, but I’ve had an interesting dating life thus far. A few songs are reflections on my life as a whole, such as “Risk” and the song “And Here I Have” from our acoustic album. “Some Know I Passed” is an homage to my uncle Skip (acronym S.K.I.P.) who passed away unexpectedly a few years ago, and by far the most important song I’ve ever written. Other than that, the other songs we have released are about different relationships and the quarks that have come along via those experiences. The song “Quite Possibly” is actually about my most recent girlfriend, who so kindly decided to give me an ultimatum: choose the band or me. I was so surprised by this development as I had met her after I had already formed the band and many of our conversations were regarding how important the music was to me. She also attended many of our shows; needless to say it was quite shocking and very disappointing. Our songs are snapshots of life.
MEB: Anything you want to say to your fans?
J: We all would simply like to thank each and every person that takes the time to listen to even one of our songs. We appreciate it more than anyone will probably ever know. We have shaped our lives around these songs and for someone to take the time out of their own life to take a listen is really all we could ask for. So thank you to you. And thanks for taking the time to read this; hopefully it gives a bit of insight into Still The Sky’s Limit.