I met up with Houston band Stonework at their practice space at Rock Center on a recent night; the rehearsal studio itself was a colorful, interesting place, with lots of local musicians coming and going out the front door and the sounds of different types of music including death metal, Latin beats and more being heard through closed doors.
Stonework’s lineup includes Ron Coy on lead vocals and 7-string guitar; Blaze Hauser on lead guitar; Scott Hunter on bass; and Jarrod "El Guapo" Crowell on drums. Coy jokingly adds that he shares lead guitar duties with Hauser but since he himself sucks, Hauser is the primary lead guitarist. There is a lot of good-natured joking and ribbing among the band members, along with the self-deprecating humor, especially between Coy and Hauser.
I first discovered the band back in 2011 when they called themselves Rampancy, whose original bass player and drummer would eventually leave the band; the addition of the new members resulted in a change in sound that necessitated a name change.
“It’s the same music, it’s definitely a different band,” Coy explains. “We’ve evolved since the songs were originally written and they’ve gotten flavor in them. We re-tooled them a bit, they’re not too much different structurally, but performance-wise it’s a little heavier; it’s got more of a metal feel. I like driving music, I like stuff that’s mid-tempo and makes you want to get up and move. It doesn’t have to be breakneck speed to do that, so I like stuff that’s just heavy and kind of like stomping down the hall.”
Stonework’s Facebook page describes their band’s music this way: “Take a chunk of metal, a slab of rock, a splash of blues and put it in a blender. It will fuck up your blender. That's what we sound like.”
“I would say stoner rock, heavy stoner rock with some dashes of Southern rock, '70s hard rock,” adds Hauser. “Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, ZZ Top — stuff like that, and then with Ron a lot of newer stuff like Deadhorse, Clutch, Corrosion of Conformity, and Red Fang are all influences.”
“Blaze and I kind of split songwriting duties; he does a lot of music on the side, so if it doesn’t work for what we’re doing he uses it for what he’s doing,” Coy adds. “He’ll come up with something and I’ll come up with something that matches it and we kind of do that; I’ve written three songs completely in the band and then the rest of them are co-written so it’s about half and half.”
Coy has written all of the lyrics for the band’s songs thus far, including the crowd favorite "Trans Am."
"It’s about a drug dealer who gets a call and has to run a key across state lines and gets pulled over,” Coy explains. “It’s kind of Smokey and The Bandit but a little dirtier, with cocaine involved. It’s the movie that Smokey and the Bandit would have been if Quentin Tarantino directed it. The guy is driving and gets pulled over by the cops and decides to make a run for it, so he floors it, heads out and he’s a wanted man at the end of the song, but fuck it. Just keep driving, man.
“One of my favorite songs is 'My Lover,'" Coy adds. “I like the riff, the structure of the song; Blaze wrote all that. I wrote the lyrics and I really like the way I did that, I think it has its own cadence and its own kind of flow to it and it's unique. It’s a breakup song about a relationship where the guy views the woman kind of like a succubus, or like a vampire or a lycanthrope. He loves her, he’s addicted to her and it’s a relationship that’s obviously toxic but he can’t help himself. Kind of a reaction to a bad relationship; it sounds depressing but it’s actually really cool.”
“Another song we do that I really like is 'Walking Sun,' and the name means nothing,” adds Hauser. “The name has been a placeholder for four years and we just decided, 'Well, I guess it’s called 'Walking Sun.' It’s the only instrumental in our set and it’s definitely the one where we get to get down and really groove because it’s got a really strong blues backbeat to it.”
Here, Coy reminds Hauser that "Walking Sun" isn't quite an instrumental because it does have eight words in it. Hauser compares it to Metallica’s “To Live Is to Die,” which is mostly an instrumental with a few spoken words towards the end of the song.
As the new drummer of the band, Crowell, formerly of The Dirty Seeds, says of learning Stonework's material: “I changed up a little stuff but I kind of stayed true to what was on the original demo. Now the new stuff I just kind of tinker — you know, let me hit some shit and see what sticks.”
“I’ve been given so much leeway it’s been really great," says bassist Hunter of his role in the band. "I will say from the beginning until now I’ve probably become more aggressive. I think originally I was playing a very simple bass line and now I try to match Ron’s and Blaze’s aggression still while maintaining a very subtle bass line; that’s just my personality”
With the upcoming presidential election there was some talk of politics in the room. I asked Coy if he writes any political songs.
“I think the only song that’s even slightly political is 'No Gods, No Kings,' but it’s not really political," he says. "It’s more a personal rebuttal to people who want to convert you to religion. In the song I’m basically saying that I don’t believe so your arguments fall flat; nobody’s given me a convincing argument for a god, so in the song I’m saying you want me to bow to this thing I don’t believe in and you say that God forgives, and if you say you believe in God he’ll let you into heaven, but if you don’t believe that’s like the ultimate sin.”
“You can’t fool an omniscient being," continues Coy. "If you pretend to believe in God and you don’t really believe in God you get up to heaven, if that’s real, and you say to God, 'I told everybody I believed in you, but you probably read my mind and realize that I’m full of shit.' It’s a rejection of Pascal’s Wager in a personal, kind of angry response. By 'No Kings' I mean nobody you’re bowing down to, nobody you’re having any allegiance to; authority based on the fact that they’ve assumed authority.”
As previously mentioned, Stonework was originally called Rampancy. “Nobody knew what the hell Rampancy was,” says Coy. “We had to give this explanation every time; in the Halo [video game] universe artificial intelligence (AI) was part of the game and AIs were only made to live to be operable for about seven years and if for some reason they were kept in service longer or if they had a really menial job like opening doors they would kind of go crazy.
There are several stages of that, of Rampancy, which they would go through," he adds. "Some were violent and they would end up killing people by like slamming doors on them or opening a hatch and blowing them out into space or whatever, so that idea of a machine going crazy was the name of the band.”
“After a while the name stopped fitting with the sound of the music,” explains Hauser. “At first I was writing everything myself and so as the sound changed and the music changed it kind of grew out of it.”
“And I got tired of explaining it and people looking at me like I’m some kind of weird nerd,” laughs Coy.
Coy explains the origin of the new name Stonework. “We put in the work, we bust our ass to do this and there’s a work ethic to what we do and we play stoner rock so stoner rock, stone work.”
“That’s a lot more elaborate than I remember,” counters Hauser, sharing a laugh with the band. “I just thought Stonework was another good way of saying hard rock, a bunch of hard rocks.”
“There is definitely that, “Coy continues. “But as far as my thought process of that name, the connotations of it and stuff I was just trying to come up with something that sounded like a stoner-rock name and sounds heavy and slow because rocks don’t move that fast.”
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For the future of the band going forward, Coy says he has written ten new songs that are worth pursuing and eventually recording, releasing, and performing live so the band can make a name for itself locally, which they hope will lead to bigger shows, opening up for some national touring bands, and bigger things down the road. Hauser adds that within the next 12 months fans should expect an EP from Stonework, and perhaps an entire album.
“Houston has a lot of great stoner rock and stoner metal bands,” concludes Hauser. “There are a lot of great musicians out there and there are a lot of good bands to support. We just hope that everybody comes out and enjoys themselves and has a good time because really that’s what we’re about, we’re about entertaining people and giving them something to remember.”
Stonework performs with special guests Boudain and Crowded Isolation Thursday, November 3 at the White Swan, 4419 Navigation. Doors open at 8 p.m.