INTERVIEW: Stalemate talks ‘The Heat Of The Sun’ following its release

Photo by: Shelby Fickel

The opening seconds of Stalemate‘s latest album showcases some of the best sounds of the summer (dogs barking, a heavy guitar riff and what I think is a lawnmower running). It’s a quick moment for the record, but it throws its listener into a summer-ready vibe.

The Heat Of The Sun is the Cleveland-based punk rock group’s latest release, and since it was dropped, it has led the band to have a pretty hectic past couple of months. Not only did the record mark their first release with the help of a label, but it’s also been met with a slew of shows in order to help support it.

With everything that’s been going on since the album’s June 7 release date, it’s safe to say the band has kept themselves pretty busy during the course of the past couple of months, and they aren’t showing signs of slowing down anytime soon.

While they’ve got a lot to look forward to, Jason Kaminski, who does guitar and vocals for the group, recently reflected over the recording process, the album’s Beach Boys and Brian Wilson influence and how they’ve evolved from past releases.

When the band first began working on The Heat Of The Sun, they didn’t have any different expectations from other releases, but, they did know they wanted to have this one to be the “biggest and best” one they’ve ever made. And, in order to do so, they initially decided they wanted to accomplish two things with this record.

The first was to get on a label, which they did so after signing with Head2Wall, and the second was to stray a little in The Heat Of The Sun‘s sound by creating a “summer powerpop record.” Luckily, they were able to achieve both things when creating this latest release, which can be counted as the band’s follow-up to the band’s 2014 EP Order/Fire and their 2015 album Permanent Things.

“When Permanent Things was being written we were still a trio and Joe joined in the middle of that process. We were transitioning from what we were without him to what we would eventually become and I think some of the songs that were written last were some of the best on the record,” Kaminski said. “When we began writing for The Heat of the Sun, we had a very clear idea about how we wanted it to sound and I think it shows. We’ve had this current lineup for about five years now and I feel like that cohesiveness made this album easier to create.”

With that sense of cohesiveness and an idea of how they wanted the record to sound in the back of their minds, the band then began sorting through the list of people they wanted to work with for the creation of the album. At this point, they enlisted the help of Matt Very of Very Tight Recordings in Pittsburgh to help them with the recording process.

The decision to bring Very on board with the record was one that Kaminski explained was the best for the band. They felt that Very would not only have the best grasp of how they wanted this latest release to sound, but also due to the fact he’s been responsible for the recording of albums they’ve all collectively enjoyed.

“We recorded demos with a friend and that really helped us fine-tune the songs when the time came to record the album. We ended up taking more time to really add layers to the songs, I think that was important to capturing the right feel,” Kaminski said. “Matt was extremely easy to work with and pushed us to [do] our best, we made the right choice.” With Very’s help in the recording process, the band then set forth on working on the rest of the album.

One thing you’ll certainly come to notice when listening to this album is the snippets of Beach Boys references throughout. Whether it’s the beachy vibes you get from it to the literal lyrics that shout them out (listen to “WebMD Says I’m Dying”), it’s pretty evident that Kaminski had a strong pull to Wilson and The Beach Boys when it came to writing things for this album.

He explained that he began writing a lot of songs around the summer of 2017, which is consequently around the same time he got really interested in both Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys.

“I wanted to bring the summer feel and started experimenting with different chord progressions, melodies, and just trying new things that I guess Wilson brought about influentially,” Kaminski said. “I have always admired Wilson for continuing to expand his limits even though people around him were pressuring him to keep churning out songs about surfing and girls on the beach. His later stuff is really amazing, I prefer that more.”

While there’s a clear influence of Wilson and The Beach Boys on this record, that doesn’t mean the band didn’t pull from other sources of inspiration, both musically and from in life in general, to help create The Heat Of The Sun.

According to Kaminski, when the band discussed what the album should sound like, they also talked about what sort of influences they’d want to pull from in order to create this record. What came from that conversation was the idea that they should be finding inspiration from the things that all four of them share, rather than finding separate ones as they’ve sometimes done with albums in the past.

Once that was settled, what came next was an album sound that Kaminski can best describe as coming from a band “that listened to ’90s alternative rock and never got over it.”

He then went on to explain: “It’s funny, one of the reviews of this album said something to the effect of us sounding like if Weezer were from Seattle. Though much of the writing pulls from a Beach Boys influence, the sound of the guitars were purposefully targeting the mid-90s era of Weezer and Nirvana and those big sounds of bands at that time all of us love.”

While they had a strong set of musical inspirations on this record, the other task they had to tackle was writing the best lyrics they could pair with the summer-pop vibes they were going for on this record. It’s safe to say they did so, but with lyrics that take on a darker and introspective tone.

Overall, The Heat Of The Sun explores themes of feeling alone, growing older and dealing with responsibilities that come from that. Kaminski, who primarily wrote a lot of the songs on this record (save for Joe Fish, who penned the lyrics for their songs “Sterling Nails” and “Medium Raw”) explained that to come up with these themes, he drew a lot of his own personal experiences on this record.

“I felt like I was pulling from a lot of my personal experiences with times in my life where I felt alone around other people or when a time comes to move on but you feel you’re not ready. I think it’s something a lot of people feel but might not know why or how to process that. For me, writing songs has been something that helps me process feelings,” Kaminski said. “Much of the lyrical content of this album was coming from an idea of “how did we go from youth to adulthood so fast?” and the feelings that come with that. I can’t speak for Joe, but I know we discussed these themes of the past and then weaving through the mundane parts of adult life to get to the good stuff. I feel like we were both on the same wavelength in that regard.”

With The Heat Of The Sun quickly wrapping up in its production, the only thing left for the band to do was find a label to back it. And they did so with a Columbus-based label called Head2Wall.

“Josh, who runs the label, made himself extremely available immediately and answered every question we had, bent over backwards to help us any way he could and still does. I think that was the biggest take away for me was how much he loved our music and how supportive he is,” Kaminski said. “We had some interest from some other labels and went with Head2Wall because they were the most into it. I think that’s important.”

He then later shared that the experience with signing to Head2Wall also helped him by taking certain responsibilities off his shoulders: “I noticed that once Head2Wall took over the releasing of the record that took away a lot of my typical responsibilities for the band and allowed me to work on my new solo album and tour.”

With the album having been out for a couple of months now, and the band doing a few shows in order for the new tracks to reach a live audience, Kaminski explained that the overall reception to their latest release has been pretty good.

“We have been fortunate enough to receive a lot of positive feedback on the new songs and album. I think the one thing that surprised me, in a good way, is how many different songs on the album people have expressed to be their favorite,” Kaminski said. “I think different people have identified with various songs for different reasons and I think that’s really awesome.”

As for what’s next for Stalemate, the band is still actively promoting their latest album while also trying to play as many shows as they can given their responsibilities outside of the band:

“We all have lives that demand a lot of our time in various ways but we love to play music and strive to make time to do so,” Kaminski said. “We plan to do a few weekenders on the road, but mostly trying to be active locally.”