Alternative hard rockers, City of the Weak, are finding success through relentless touring and poignant lyrics. The band has released their début full-length album entitled, Pulling Teeth, fronted by the animated and passionate voice, Stef w/ an F, along with guitarist Brent Lindblad and bassist Cody Hoffman.
Music Madness caught up with Stef w/an F and talked about life as an independent band and their debut album. Those scheduling rocks biggest festivals take notice as City of the Weak is quickly becoming everyone’s next must have.
Music Madness: Congrats on the release of your debut album! How has the response been up to this point?
Stef w/an F: It’s been really, really, great. I mean, every time you release something, whether it’s a video, a single, or a record, there’s always backlash. There’s always people who just hate it, or have something negative to say… But this one we haven’t heard a single negative thing. Even the reviews have been glowing about it so we’re really, really stoked about that.
Music Madness: Sweet. That is always good for the ego, and it makes life a little easier. It has to suck when you have poured your heart and soul into creating new music and people rip it apart.
Stef w/an F: Oh, totally. We’ve definitely been ripped apart in the past, and it’s kind of weird this time, I mean, like, where are the haters at? I’m a little disappointed that somebody hasn’t tried to roast us or something, but it feels good. It feels good to get a lot of praise before we get back to the grindstone and start writing the next one.
Music Madness: I love the bands intensity on stage and you may be the only person in the world that uses their middle finger more than I do, and I gotta love you for it.
Stef w/an F: Yeah, I mean, that’s kind of my thing. Stef with an F, middle finger, you know.
Music Madness: These days’ people seem obsessed about labeling musicians/bands and classifying them into different genres and sub-genres. Rather than discussing your genre, how would you describe your sound to someone that is not familiar with City of the Weak?
Stef w/an F: I would say modern alternative rock and roll. I’m kind of with you on that we don’t really get into the sub-genres and whatever the hell. I like to think that we’re just kind of rock and roll. We’re not like the classic rock, like AC/DC or Led Zeppelin, or whatever you may coin classic rock. But I like to think that we have the attitude of what the greats had of just getting on stage and putting your heart and your soul into it, and having a great time, and not caring what other people think.
I feel like your attitude, and your lyrics, and what you say are kind of a big part of what shapes your music. So yeah, it’s a modern alternative rock and roll.
We always try to do our own thing. I mean, I feel like so many bands try to form themselves, and model everything that they do after a couple of influences. You know when you listen sometimes, you listen to the original band and you’re like, “Oh, yeah, they are definitely influenced by this band.”
We always try and be a mystery about it. I mean, probably because we all are influenced by different things, and it’s such a crazy mix of different things, so we kind of … whatever comes out, comes out. I just always want to be original. We all do, we all want to have our own thing, and we always listen back and make sure it’s never like, “Oh, this is a Metallica rip-off song,” or, like, “Oh, that’s a rip-off of a One Direction song,” you know what I mean?
We always make sure we listen. Its like, “What does this sound like? All right, it sounds like, maybe a little element of this, a little element of that, just sprinkle in this,” but it still has that core, this is City of the Weak.
Music Madness: Very cool. I love that you are on the road touring constantly. I am disappointed I have not seen City of the Weak down here in the Tampa area.
Stef w/an F: We just were in Florida!
Music Madness: What? I didn’t get a call.
Stef w/an F: We just played like five dates in April. We love Florida.
Music Madness: Stef, you and I are breaking up! You didn’t let me know. What the hell?
Stef w/an F: I know, I’ll call you next time. We love playing Florida. I think the music scene there is so great. We usually go there a couple times a year, and it’s every day just pretty turnt.
Music Madness: Well, I will be looking out for your next Florida tour. Yeah, April in Florida is coined the loudest month of music in Florida, ’cause they have all the big festivals in Florida at the end of April, and it’s just insanity.
Stef w/an F: Oh, yeah. When we were there, we teamed up with Scott Butcher of Promo Only, and we got to hang out with them a lot and they were saying that too, that in like 11 days there was like seven big festivals. So I’m like, “Wow, that’s crazy.”
Music Madness: Yeah. I think in the last 10 days of April we covered something like a 100 bands between shows and festivals.
Stef w/an F: What!? We need to get on those festivals. Somebody, gotta make a phone call, and tell them that we need on those.
Damn. Yeah, I mean, that’s my dream is doing those Florida festivals, because obviously we did a couple of Danny Wimmer’ s festivals , we did Chicago Open Air, Northern Invasion, Warped Tour but it’s so hard to get on those. It’s damn near impossible unless you have a full team, you know.
Music Madness: I will see what I can do (laughing). So, do you do all the writing, or is it a group effort?
Stef w/an F: Our first two EPs were kind of just, let’s jam in our practice space because that’s all we had. I mean, we were like teenage kids. What else can you really do when you have no other skills than just playing an instrument in a room? So when we get to the recording studio, it was like laying stuff down, maybe hearing all of our parts for the first time. But we’ve grown up a little bit now and we have a little more skills to demo things out and listen back.
So for the new record, everything was demoed out. We wrote a lot. It’s Cody and I that do the majority of the writing and then Brent, our guitar player; he helps out a lot as well. Obviously I do all the lyrics, and Cody is crazy skilled, so he can like track every instrument, can program the drums, can lay it all down and then Brent will come in and tweak things, and I’ll come in and tweak things, add my words. So it worked out a lot better being able to literally hear everything and be able to adjust it that way than getting to a studio, have everybody lay their stuff down and you’re like, “Oh, this doesn’t sound as good as I thought,” you know.
Which is why you can hear the difference with the new record compared to the old stuff. The old stuff is poppin’ and it’s fun but it obviously sounds more like we were 18 years old and 19 years old playing in a band for the first time compared to we spent two years polishing and thinking and making sure everything was just really, really tight.
Music Madness: Very cool! Is there a track on the new LP that people are digging more than the others?
Stef w/an F: You know, it’s actually really weird, because no. We put out “Censor”, this was the first single we actually put out in 2016, and we pushed that to radio and it did really, really well. Then “Ungrateful”, we did a video, a small radio campaign but it did really, really well. Then “Not This Time” is the one that came out with the album, it’s the new video. It just came out a couple weeks ago. That one is doing really, really well. We’ve had the best response on that one, because I just felt like it’s just super really like, relatable to people.
I mean, the other one, “Ungrateful”, uses a lot of imagery with a lot of interpreting images. It’s me going through a house and waking up, it’s all a dream, I have my parents in the dining room, and we’re all sitting at the table for family dinner. They literally have human hearts on their plates and they’re eating their own heart and they’re all pale, and … so it’s really cool, but it’s a lot of imagery and obviously when you have something like that it’s gonna get mixed responses.
“Censor” was one we filmed in a strip club, so that was just crazy partying and like, you know. Throwing bottles of champagne around, so that’s always a mixed response. “Not This Time” was really about not letting people tear you down and it’s about a son, a little kid who wanted to be a pilot. His mom died, he wanted to be a pilot. He’s playing with paper airplanes, it shows him throughout his life, then playing with electric planes, and the dad is trying to get him to do his homework. You know, trying to squash him.
The dad is all crabby, and then it shows the kid grown up and he’s flying his own plane around and it’s done in an airport. It really shows like, you can do whatever you want. I feel like a lot of people relate to the parents or family dynamic of somebody telling them they can’t do something because I feel like we get the most hate or the most doubt from people that we know. So a lot of people are really, really touched by this video. So that one has got me the 100% support, I haven’t heard a single negative thing from it.
But as far as the tracks, I mean, we’ve been asking everybody, “What’s your favorite track?” And everybody says something different. There hasn’t been a single one that’s a front-runner, which is cool that every track is really strong.
Music Madness: Without a doubt. What is your favorite track that you love to play live when you’re all amped up? What are you breaking out?
Stef w/an F: I think “Trust Nobody” is the one for all of us, probably, because it just rips into somebody else. It’s a song that’s written about a friend that we all know and that was helping the band a couple years ago and just totally screwed us. I did a track by track for Pure Grain Audio, and I kinda went into a little more detail of just how this person, you know, was helping us out. Doing our thing, and then promised us the world and then just completely, when shit hit the fan, they just couldn’t have ran faster. It kinda left us all like, pissed.
You know, we’re good people and we always try to help other people, that’s why we’re in a band. It’s about empowering people to live their best life, and this is what we wanna do so that’s why we do it. So it really hurt and it really pissed us off that somebody so close to us could just try and take everything away and not care. So that one was just a very, like, we’ll never trust anybody ever, ever again and that one just has so much aggression and so much, just hate in it. It just feels good, you know, and we’re planning a really big video with explosions and Ferraris, and just crazy. So, to match the intensity.
Music Madness: That is awesome. Do you try to have a message on every song, or is that just how it kinda fell into place this time around?
Stef w/an F: Oh my god, there is nobody who is more specific and into their lyrics than I am. It’s painful, like I wish I could just sit and just write and whatever, but to me every word has to be dripping with imagery and has to mean something, you know, literally and figuratively. Everything, every line represents something. It’s painful, I can literally go through every song and just tell you what every word represents and why I chose this word for that and everything has to have a very, very deep meaning to it. I would never … like, I mean, we don’t really have any love songs. I don’t think our entire discography has a single love, like romantic love song.
I mean, you can take some of them that way. But a lot of them are just about specific people that have come through each and every one of our lives. Or we wrote a song about child abuse, that nobody talks about it. We wrote another one about gay marriage, it was when that was a hot topic at the time, it was like being voted in or voted out. So we’re very socially conscious, we’re very inspired by things that are actually going on around us and what lights a fire in us.
Music Madness: It definitely comes out in your music. Give us a little background about the band. I mean, were you high school friends that got drunk one night and decided to start a rock band?
Stef w/an F: I’m sure. I mean, everything that we do is insanely deliberate. Ever since I’ve been a little kid, I started drawing at a young age. I started writing books, like full out paperback books when I was like five. I don’t know how I knew how to make a book, but I did and writing and drawing has always been in my blood. I feel like it was kinda the only thing that I felt like I had control over and I felt like I could … it just made me happy, and I’ve stuck with that.
Then the poetry turned to song lyrics, I got instruments when I got older and when I turned 17, I’m actually from Montana. So we didn’t go to high school together, but when I turned 17, I moved to Minneapolis. So, literally just to form a band. I was like, “I wanna start a band and I wanna do what I wanna do, I don’t wanna work a 9 to 5 job, I wanna sing and I wanna say what I wanna say and I wanna inspire other people.” So I went to a music school called McNally and basically, I was like, “All right, who is crazy enough to do this with me?”
It was tough finding people. I mean, everybody says they wanna be in a band. There’s so many bands out there, like you said. People just stumble upon things and I don’t think people really understand, like if you’re not in the music industry or if you’re not in a very, very serious band. I don’t think people understand. It’s more than just showing up a couple times a month to a practice. It’s literally like, we live this lifestyle.
We live what we say and we live what we do and I mean, we practice up to five times a week and not take a single holiday off for a couple of years. We, you know, nobody goes home for Christmas. Like, we’re practicing. We’re in the rehearsal studio and we want it to be a great band. Obviously when we were 17, 18 we weren’t. We were kids; we didn’t know what we wanted. We just knew we wanted to be good and I found the right people eventually and we started making music and we started touring. Got in the SUV with a U-Haul about six months after being a band and we’d go to Kinko’s or wherever and make copies of CDs, like burn CDs of the one song we had.
Music Madness: Nice.
Stef w/an F: I mean, it just went up from there.
Music Madness: That is awesome. I think you appreciate it more, as it all comes together and gives you a greater sense of accomplishment. It’s gotta be fulfilling and motivates you to just keep going to that next level. Kudos to you on that.
Stef w/an F: I mean, yeah, absolutely. I feel like the music industry, a lot of its run by money that is like any industry, the world runs on money. I see a lot of bands, some bands who come from a lot of money who can literally just skip the struggle and just shoot straight to the top or somebody discovers them and they shoot to the top because they have a have a million dollar record deal. Obviously, we’re super jealous of them and there’s so many times we’re so bitter about it.
Like, “I wish we had that, I wish we could just buy our way like, “this band, or that band,” but then you’re right. We look back and we think of being, literally touring, it was like five or six of us in an SUV sweating. There was no air conditioning or anything and in Florida, that was actually our first actual tour was Florida. We were just in the ocean, we’d literally bathe in the ocean, get our bar of soap and everything and not eat for days at the time if we couldn’t, we didn’t have the money, you know. Or if we’d get ripped off by a promoter, you just don’t eat.
Looking back, we do appreciate it because it is fulfilling and when you actually have successes. When there’s people who come up to you at shows and say, you know, “I was having a rough day and you’ve made my day and seeing you on stage doing what you do motivates me to do what I wanna do.” It’s the small wins that just make you feel on top of the world, that make you feel like the work is worth it.
Music Madness: Absolutely. It’s 2018 and more and more people seem like they just want to be handed everything. They are not so keen on actually working to get what they want; they would rather take the easy route.
Stef w/an F: Oh, totally. There’s obviously the rich of the rich, and there’s poor of the poor and then there’s everything in between. That’s kinda how you function in society.
I feel like there’s less of the mega stars, there’s less of the little bands, and everything’s kind of starting to get into that middle ground. I guess we’ll just see how that progresses over the next few years ’cause I feel like the era of the superstar, the mega star is kind of starting to come to a close so it’s gonna be a whole new world out there for artists.
Music Madness: Things are changing for sure. I noticed City of the Weak did an Incubus cover of “Pardon Me”, how did that come about?
Stef w/an F: Yes. We did. So every tour that we go on we try and pick a new cover song to play, and we always wanna be expanding ourselves musically. So every tour it’s something from a different era, a different genre. We’ve done everything from Led Zeppelin to Blondie to Nine Inch Nails to Black Sabbath. So we were like, all right. We need a ’90s song, like we didn’t have a whole lot of ’90s in our cover repertoire and we’re all very ’90s influenced.
So we were just looking through songs, and it’s gotta be the right fit. Like, we don’t wanna cover something like Crazy Train for the millionth time, or … we just don’t wanna do a cover that everybody’s done a million times. So we’re trying to find a song that’s different, that’s unique, that’s fresh, that’s relevant today.
I stumbled across “Pardon Me” and I actually had never heard the song before, which is crazy. I’m from Montana, so we didn’t really have rock radio where I’m from so I have huge gaps in my rock education. So I stumbled upon “Pardon Me” and I was like, this is really, really cool but I don’t know how we’re gonna pull this off with all this stuff. We’re like, let’s make it our own, let’s figure it out. So we started playing it and made it our own and it was kind of a gap between our singles and our album.
We had a couple of months off so we decided let’s just go in and record this, let’s try something different because you never know what can happen. Obviously, it’s a great way to get new fans. Like, “Oh, Incubus is my favorite band and here’s this cool cover.” So we felt like the song was just so much more relevant today than it ever has been. Incubus is such a great choice because they’re a band that’s been trailblazing their own way.
Like, the rock industry is such in cliques. There’s so many cliques it’s so exclusive, it’s so stupid. Like, I thought rock was supposed to be this, inclusive to everybody but it’s fucking not. So I thought Incubus was a really cool band because they didn’t seem to be a part of any, this clique or that clique, they just kinda did their own thing.
So I was like, you know, “I wanna be like them, and I wanna be a band that paves their own way, ’cause we’re not a part of any clique,” we’re always, I feel like, getting shunned from this clique or that clique and we’re not cool enough or we’re not this enough for that. We felt like it was just really appropriate and it turned out great.
Music Madness: Well that’s very cool. You were talking about doing your own thing…you guys are an independent, pretty much doing all this stuff on your own?
Stef w/an F: We do everything by ourselves. Obviously, we have our publicist, Doug and that’s kind of it. We don’t have a manager at all. We don’t have a label. We do all of our own distribution. When we did all those pre-order bundles, I had to ship everything out by hand with handwritten letters and everything, which was great. I mean, it was fun, but it was a lot … we got a lot more orders than we expected. So, yeah everything is by ourselves.
I mean, I even booked all of our shows up until August, I believe. We just got an agent a couple weeks ago, but I booked pretty much every single show of our 350 shows up until now, so we’re the definition of DIY.
Music Madness: Yeah, no doubt. It also teaches you the business side of it and I think that’s important ’cause then you know if somebody is taking advantage of you because now you know how it’s done. That way if somebody’s not doing it right then you can just kick their ass and you can give them that big ol’ middle finger.
Stef w/an F: Oh, absolutely. We’re obviously friends with so many bands that we’ve toured with… we’ve done what, 22, 23 tours. But I booked pretty much almost every single one. There’s a couple support tours that I didn’t book but I mean, we see, we’re around so many bands and we see them sign away such shitty record deals or sign with this manager or that manager. The more people you know, just the more you know people’s reputation or who they screwed over or who they worked with and not done a good job.
I tried to warn friends of ours like, “Hey,” you know, “maybe signing away your life for a $5000 record deals probably not the best idea,” and it’s just crazy how many people will just, “Oh, it’s a record deal, who cares?” It’s like, well, I mean, there’s five of you and it’s a $5000 record deal, that’s just the worst idea ever.
So yeah, it is cool to be able to think for yourself, obviously. Sometimes you see bands get, “Oh, well they’ll send out this,” or, “My tours are getting booked for me.” I’m like, fuck you. Like my bitch ass, I gotta do these 12-hour days on the computer. But then it’s like, you know, it feels great when you’re getting 100 percent of your money and you’re in control of what you wanna do and what you don’t wanna do. If we hire somebody to do something and they fuck it up, we’re just like, all right, peace out, you know. It’s never like you’re locked into something forever.
Music Madness: What should we be looking out for with City of the Weak throughout the rest of the year? Anything exciting you can share.
Stef w/an F: Touring, touring, touring. We have a festival this weekend, actually. It’s Saturday in the Park, it’s a big one in Sioux City. Then we’re opening for From Ashes to New in Illinois the next day. Then we’re headlining a Minnesota show, Mankato, Minnesota on the 21st. Then just more touring all year. I mean, fall is the prime time to tour so we will be out in full force in late August through mid-November, and just watch our dates.
I always encourage people to track us on Bandsintown or subscribe to our mailing list so that way they’ll always be updated and it’s just cityoftheweakofficial.com and you can sign up there. I mean, wherever else people wanna find us. We’ll chat with you on social media when we’re on there, and that’s kind of it. Just touring.
Music Madness: Cool. Remember, when it gets cold as shit in Minneapolis that it’s nice and warm in Florida, so I’ll be looking out for you guys come winter time.
Stef w/an F: Yeah, we actually moved, me and the bass player Cody moved to LA for the winter last year because we had enough of this shit, and so we’ve been trying to move south actually. For the last couple of years we never made it and this year I literally loaded up my Prius and our instruments, my dog, and literally just drove there like, kind of impulsively. Didn’t really tell anybody, just kind of dipped town. We plan on doing it again this year, probably bring Brent with us. We actually were looking at Florida, because it looks beautiful there.
Music Madness: It’s just such a melting pot for rock bands of all sub-genres, whether it be symphonic metal to classic rock and roll, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a little of everything which is pretty cool.
Stef w/an F: That’s awesome.
Music Madness: I really appreciate your time. Awesome job on the new LP and congrats on its good reception and I hope it keeps going. We will definitely be looking for you here in Florida sooner than later. Stef, thanks again for your time.
Stef w/an F: No, thank you.
Check out City of the Weak:
Interview by Steve Carlos