Q & A with Stereopticon
Stereopticon, a band based in Elmira, N.Y., will perform beginning at 9 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Bullfrog Brewery, 229 W. Fourth St.
Stereopticon, a rock and funk jam band, recently released their debut album, “Circles,” and currently are preparing for a fall tour.
The Sun-Gazette had the chance to chat with Jonny Peris, the band’s lead vocalist and guitar about their local music scene, their appreciation for their fans and where the name “Stereopticon” really came from.
BETHANY WIEGAND: So who makes up Stereopticon? What roles do they play in the band?
JONNY PERIS: Stereopticon is made up of Dan Swartz, keyboards and vocals; Chris Howard, drums, vocals and cowbell; Jonny Peris, guitar and vocals; and Kevin Fitch, bass and vocals.
BW: You’re stationed in Elmira, N.Y. What’s the music scene like there? What types of venues do you normally play?
JP: Elmira’s music scene is like the tortoise from the tortoise and the hare story, slow and steady. Like many small towns there is a small dedicated core of folks who either love playing music, or love seeing live music.
Unfortunately, Elmira doesn’t really cater to the “original” music scene, which actually works great for us because it forces us to travel, and that’s where we meet a ton of new people and gain new fans.
Don’t get me wrong, we have a solid core of folks in Elmira who love what we do and come out every time we play and it’s a great feeling to have that. We also have a few venues we play in Elmira that we wouldn’t trade in for the world. Small hometown bars that fill up with locals and make you feel right at home.
I wouldn’t say we have a preference as to what type of venue we play. Each town is different from small bars, to clubs, to ski resorts, and outdoor festivals. We love them all.
But if I had to pick, I would say, at least for me personally, that those small local type bars are my favorites to play, you can really connect with the audience, and sometimes they can pack a ton of energy.
BW:What are some of your music influences?
JP: All of our songs have very tight structural parts, but in certain songs at certain times we open them up to improv. I will say that being a “jam band” we improv a lot every show, and when you’re playing improvisational music everything around you is an influence to one degree or another.
Whether it’s the guy in the back of the room at a bar who’s listening intensely to our music while tapping his foot or a crowd of people dancing and being rowdy in front of the stage, we play for the moment, and each of those things no matter how big or small has a major influence on how, and what we play. Those types of things are our biggest influences.
BW: What is one of the craziest thing a concert-goer/ fan has ever done?
JP: I don’t know how “crazy” this is, but it sure was cool. Our typical crowd is a little more reserved than the typical “rock and foll” crowd.
However, several months back we played a gig at Whitface Mountain up in the Adirondacks during peak ski season. A fan showed up who had driven over an hour to come see us. Just that alone is an amazing thing to have happen as a musician, but this guy wanted to help. We didn’t have much to offer, the gear was all set up, we had sound checked the equipment and we were ready to go so jokingly as we were taking the stage we pointed to a box on the floor and said “there’s some shirts in there; sell ’em for us”. Most people would of laughed at us and walked away. This dude took those shirts to every table in the place and he must have sold well over 30 shirts for us that day.
I know it’s not chicks throwing their panties on stage and people crowd surfing, but as a musician traveling that far from home, that was one of the coolest things we’ve ever had a fan do.
BW: Is this a full time venture for all of you?
JP: Unfortunately it is not. While we all love playing music much more than going to work everyday we all do have full-time jobs. We are weekend warriors. Music on the weekends and jobs all week. I know it doesn’t count but I think about it full time, all of the time.
BW: Steroeopticon is a mouthful to say. How’d you come up with the name?
JP: It’s a strange story that’s hard to believe, but 10 years ago I had a dream. In my dream I was visited by two alien creatures, Zweeble and Josh. They advised me that my next musical project that I embarked on was to be called Stereopticon.
They told me this elaborate story of how they invented the Stereopticon hundreds of years ago but humans never fully understood the concept behind it. They told me that this project is my destiny!
BW: You recently won first place in a favorite jam bands poll, what did that mean to you?
JP: It was a great accomplishment for us. It really was our turning point from hometown band to traveling band. Our fans and online listeners [are] what put us in that position and that alone means the world!
BW: Tell me a little bit about your debut album, “Circles.”
JP: “Circles” was a concept album for us. It was weird being our first album and having it be a concept album at the same time. Countless hours were spent tying this vision together. The same vision I spoke about earlier with the dream about Stereopticon.
On the album you’ll hear a great mix of the different styles of music we bring to the table, and you’ll get a feel for how we write and perform our original songs, and even a bit of the improv we play, at least as best we could capture in the studio.
We encourage all of you readers to go to www.stereopticon.bandcamp.com and download and listen to our album free of charge before you come to our show, of course you can go to www.reverbnation.com/stereopticon and here some our tunes recorded live as well.
BW: What can audiences expect at your performance at the Bullfrog Brewery?
JP: Expect the unexpected. We’ll offer up something new and fresh, and also toss a couple covers at ya. This will be our second time at the Bullfrog, and this time around we’ll be a little more comfortable and familiar. We really dig the vibe of the place. They create this great atmosphere with fantastic food, and amazing beers, and we’ll add to that by playing some great original tunes and dropping some funk. We can’t wait!