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Published: 2011/05/13

New Groove: Stereopticon

Our current New Groove act as selected by our readers is Stereopticon. The Elmira, New York based quartet features Jonny Peris (guitar, vocals), Kevin Fitch (bass, vocals), Dan Swartz (keyboards, vocals), and Jesse Douglass (Drums). Here is what the band has to say about its development and latest efforts…

Can you talk about the development of the group? How did you meet everyone and how did the current line-up solidify?

We all come from a small town in Upstate NY. We’ve pretty much all known each other since high school or shortly thereafter. Back then we were all in various musical projects of one form or another, and we all knew each other through the local music scene. Stereopticon really came together at a local open jam where week after week we all just kept showing up and jamming together. It was really just good timing that all four of us happened to be looking to start a project at the same time.

*In terms of musical backgrounds and interests, what does everyone bring to bear? *

Each of us really come from completely different backgrounds and our interests growing up, and even to this day, are all across the board. With that said, all of our musical differences really come together in our music. We all share the same desire to try and feel the music and let that essence carry us through our jam. So even though we might have different techniques or influences that we each bring to the table we all share that same goal in the end.

How would you describe the vitality and support of the Upstate New York music scene?

Upstate New York really has a thriving music scene. Unfortunately we haven’t had a whole lot of the support from the scene at this point. That may be because we are just too new, or from the wrong area. Elmira is a fairly small town, and generally not know for its music scene. So it’s been a little bit of a challenge getting into the bigger cities with bigger scenes. There are however some very loyal fans, some really great venues, and some outstanding talent throughout Upstate. With so many amazing bands and such a wide variety of styles it really leads to some great festivals and shows all year long. We had the opportunity last summer to break into a few of those festivals and it was a really cool experience to see all the bands and fans coming together to support the live music in the region. I’m sure as we grow, we’ll continue to grow into the Upstate scene.

Who writes the band’s music? How it is typically presented to the group and how does it then come together?

Generally the song ideas come from me. Then I’ll bring those ideas to the band in a full band rehearsal, and sometimes it’s one on one. The important thing is once an idea is presented that each member then adds his own creative part to the song. The idea behind the song is kind of like a seed planted by one member, but i takes the whole band to make it grow into a complete song.

How do you approach original songs in the live setting?

We really just go for it. 99% of our live show is going to be original music. It’s what we do. It’s why we play. We don’t even really think about it, we just jump right into it.

What about covers, can you talk about what songs you toss in from time to time? Who selects them?

While cover songs have never been a major part of what we do, we don’t neglect them. They can be an important part of the live experience. We really select covers based on what we like as a group. We are always trying to add new cover songs into our shows, and keep them fresh. Some of our more predominant covers are probably “Come Sail Away” by STYX, and “Funk 49” by the James Gang, but like I said we are constantly trying to keep covers fresh.

In terms of cover tunes can you talk about any spectacular successes and failures?

This can really vary from show to show. We might get done playing a show and have someone come up and tell us how much they hated the fact that we played a certain cover for one reason or another. Then, a moment later have someone come up and say that we made their night by playing that same song. With covers you always take a certain risk. Songs mean different things to different people. We try not to focus on the success or failures of a particular song during a show. All that important to us is that we play it as best as we can.

How often do you rehearse? What do you focus on when you get together for rehearsal?

We try and rehearse as much as we possibly can. For the most part we get one or two rehearsals in a week for 2-3 hours each. What we rehearse changes from night to night. Sometimes we might jam all night, others might be spent working on songs and structure. We try and spend as much time as we can jamming, and pushing our limits because jams are such a huge part of our live show.

Can you share some of your performance highlights thus far? Is there a gig (or gigs) that stand out? Why?

We’ve had some great moments in our history as a band. However, there is one show that keeps popping up in our conversations. Last summer in June we decided to hit Lee’s Park near Saratoga NY for two nights. There was just this great connection between the four of us on stage. We were able to take that connection and share it with our audience. It was an incredible energy. We still have fans that were there mention that show to us to this day.

You released your debut studio album last spring. How challenging was it to bring your live energy into the studio setting? What did you learn from that experience that would apply to future studio records or maybe even live performances?

Yes, our album is called “Circles”, named after one of our songs. All in all making the album was a great experience. Going in we really wanted to try to capture the feeling of our live show. So we were all in one room jamming and playing, with very little overdub. It proved to be very challenging. When you play live you create an energy with the people listening and it kind of creates this ping pong effect of energy bouncing back and forth between the band and the crowd. Of course we didn’t have a crowd in the studio so it was kind of hard to recreate. I think we came as close as we could and we are very please with the outcome, but our next studio album will come from a completely different angle.

Any final thoughts to folks across the country who may be hearing about you for the first time from this piece?

Well, we know its hard for people to really get a feeling for a band entirely from printed words, so we really want to encourage people to go and listen to our music online. We’ve been playing together for years and we absolutely love everything about it. We feel we offer a pretty fresh and unique sound with some good energy. We are also starting to expand our traveling radius so you might soon be able to catch us in your town. So please listen to us, friend us on facebook, sign up for our email, and share the word. We have a live show for free download on archive.org, and more coming soon. Songs on our facebook page, and reverbnation page, videos on youtube, and our website stereopticonmusic.com. Oh and most importantly thank you for you support and voting for us so we could have this interview in the first place.

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