For the better part of the past year, post-metal pioneers Staghorn have been gaining attention in St. Louis and beyond. Whether it be their unique sound, their captivating live show, or their rigorous do-it-yourself ethics, something about Staghorn is bound to get your attention. I sat down with guitarist Jared Scheurer, bass and keys player Lex Bones and drummer Jack Mideke after their show at Metal Gear in Alton, Il to discuss the band’s meaning and all of the self-made institutions that uphold it.
More than anything, Staghorn seems like an entity more than simply a band. What is Staghorn to you?
Jared Scheurer: Staghorn is a collective of people because it can’t exist without the help of all of our friends whether they create art or come over and help fold record jackets or go to shows with us just to help us carry stuff in. Even down to the people who we recorded with, they are friends as well. We aim for it to always be an inclusive project and on the next record we’re going to have a lot of our friends collaborating as well to add additional special things.
You show a level of involvement that towers over what most bands put in, be it printing your own merch, booking tours, and even building your own amps. It really feels like there is a whole little world around the band.
Lex Bones: [Jared and I] own Mills Custom, it’s our gear company. In order for us to promote our own company it really helps to have a band that plays the gear. So in turn, we tour, people listen to the gear that we play out of and they may like it and want it too. We feel that it sells itself by the way it sounds and the way it looks. The screen printing shop, Leave Your Mark Print Shop, is something we’ve done for a long time and we take pride in our prints because we do a lot of eco-friendly, water-based printing which goes hand with what we believe in in sustainability and things of that sort. So the band really does help the two businesses that we own.
Jack Mideke: We’re sponsored by Papa John’s Pizza.
Jared: The premiere idea is solidarity, creation of your own, and showcasing something that comes through every avenue as a product of our own that has come from our own hands and presented as such to the world. In that way, the primary focus of Staghorn is to educate people that you don’t have to rely on other people, businesses, or entities for your own sustainability. Sustainability and solidarity are two huge themes that are important. We started the screen-printing company out of necessity. I didn’t want to pay for someone else to make it because I have the means and abilities to do it by myself. The amp company was an accident. We just happened to make gear and we love showcasing something that we’ve created.
Lex: Both of those companies have a sustainable approach to them and it helps us to play the stuff we build.
Jared: Also by tailoring the sound to go with our vision.
You have super interesting merch - very unique packaging and cool things like the graphic novel you recently released. Do you think it is important to leave the merch consumer with a little something extra than just a typical floppy 12” or Fruit of the Loom shirt?
Lex: We use recycled products to make all our record cases. This time around we used recycled coffee bags. All hand-sewn, hand stitched. Even the records are pressed out of randomized recycled color vinyl that may be left over from other presses of other bands.
Jared: It’s also more affordable that way.
Lex: It’s quite a bit more affordable but you never know what you’re going to get. It’s really exciting to see what color comes out.
Jared: It kind of puts you at the mercy of the record company, but it’s kind of fun that way.
Lex: As for the t-shirts and the garments that we sell, all of them are USA-made at the least and a good portion are organic cotton or bamboo as well. We definitely promote that.
Jared: It’s important to give somebody something that’s of good quality that they’ll cherish because we live in a day and age where everything is throwaway and disposable. That goes towards the music as well. We want what we’re giving you and what you remember us by to not be something that’s disposable and worthless because we don’t feel that way about our music or our band. We want everything to feel important and lift people up by giving them an object that would otherwise be meaningless if it just had some dumb popular saying on it or something.
As a band, you seem to embody D.I.Y. ethos on a crazy impressive scale. Whether it be in the music itself or all the other projects that are involved. Is that something that you work to implement?
Jared: Yeah, the primary focus of the project is to empower people to do things themselves. D.I.Y. has kind of become the hip way to describe it and that’s a perfectly good thing, but it is important to us to empower people around us, to not have to think they have to hire someone or have to buy something.
There’s a big difference in being a “D.I.Y.” band and being a band that actually does EVERYTHING themselves.
Jack: Even booking shows at my house, I’ve just always wanted to do that ever since I heard that people do that. I just got old enough to live in a house where I can do that often. Definitely living the personal dream. It’s also nice to not have to walk somewhere to load my drums.
You are currently booking a tour for the Spring. How is the lead-up to that going? How do you typically prep for something like that?
Lex: Currently Jared does all the booking. He does it through past contacts and people we’ve met on previous tours. It’s really all done by communicating one-on-one and friends, friends of friends, and bands we’ve played with.
Jared: Yeah primarily through bands that we put up and promote who come through or town and they return that favor. It’s an ever-revolving door and if you are good to people in your city, they are generally good to you in their city. That’s helped tremendously for this tour because we did a couple short little stints already and through those little tours our roots have grown out and friends of friends have gotten involved. Even after seeing us tonight, someone came up and wanted to book us in Springfield, IL. We are having a hard time trying to lock something in for that city, but now that he saw us, he’s down. It’s really grown organically like that. But yeah, I pretty much spend every morning and night trying to book shows.
Lex: Booking is a lot of work for a successful tour.
Jack: It always works better if people have seen you before.
Jared: It’s just nonstop. We’ve already been prepping, we’ve built the gear, our van is prepped, and we really only need to put some more records together.
Is there anything else on your horizon that you are looking forward to?
Lex: We’re writing right now! It’s going to take a long time. We also intend to put out a few zines this year. Those zines are going to encompass living sustainably, i.e. growing your own food and living off the flat of the land, and how you can do that in any living situation. I do a lot of herbalism so they will talk about that and more things to promote living sustainable lifestyles.