Stars In Stereo's Frogs Leaves His Own Mark on the New Album

Rockers Stars In Stereo was formed in 2011. It consists of vocalist Bec Hollcraft, guitarist Jordan McGraw, bassist Ryan “Frogs” McCormack, and drummer Drew Langan. The band had come together after McGraw, McCormack, Langan, and Justin Siegel’s band, City (Comma) State, broke up. Soon after the group released their debut self-titled album, which soon followed their sophomore album "Leave Your Mark" available for pre-order. That lead to extensive touring and show playing happening all over the place. Now that their sophomore release is within reaching distance the band continues to extended their touring portfolio and creating music that will top all that has been done thus far. Bassist Ryan "Frogs" McCormack discussed the band's input to influences, creating music, and the music itself when it came down to the "Leave Your Mark" release.

1. Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Stars In Stereo, and how long the band has been together?

Frogs: This is Frogs, and I play bass with Stars In Stereo. We've been a band for just over three years.

2. Tell us the brief history of your band.

Frogs: Sure thing. Jordan (guitar), Drew (drums), and I had all met out here in Los Angeles and had been in a band before this. That band fell apart at the end of a tour, but we decided to give it one more shot before all going our separate ways. We just needed a new singer. We were introduced to Bec, she auditioned, and just blew us away. We literally started writing songs and hit the studio within days. It’s been non-stop ever since.

3. Where is the band based out of and what is your music scene like there? Are there any local bands you could recommend?

Frogs: We’re still based in LA. The music scene here is hard to define; it is most definitely not what it was in the 70’s 80’s and 90’s. The industry has shrunk so much and become decentralized that it doesn't play as much of a role as it used to. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. It’s extremely difficult for local bands to get noticed and bring in a following, although not impossible. At the same time, there’s a lot less bands just trying to pander to the mainstream.

We’re about to play an album release show for Leave Your Mark at The Viper Room, and we’re having our good friends Cartographer open the show. They are very new, and have only played a couple of shows, but they are really great and I expect big things from them. I’m also a fan of Stitched Up Heart, another great female fronted band. And Schwarzenator, the greatest Arnold Schwarzenegger tribute band ever. I try to catch any shows I can when I’m in town. I recommend checking ‘em both out.

4. How do you describe your music to people?

Frogs: I hate trying to over explain it, I just say we’re an American hard rock band.

5. Why did you want to name the band Stars In Stereo? What does it symbolize and represent for the band?

Frogs: That’s another thing we didn't try to over think. There are a handful of truly great band names in music’s history, but those are the exception to the rule. A great band makes their name great after the fact. Stars In Stereo is something that one of us came up with that we all liked. It sounds good and it’s something people remember, the words don’t have specific symbolism. Of course what the name represents for me now is the music we've written, the shows we've played, and the fans we've met. And hopefully we get to keep doing all that for a long time.

6. Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

Frogs: Les Claypool of Primus, Flea, and Rob DeLeo of STP were early influences on me as a bass player. Musically bands like Tool, Radiohead, Muse, Nine Inch Nails. I mean I could go on and on. Non-musically is a bit tougher; my parents, works of science fiction like books and movies, I’m a huge fan on anime.

7. What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)

Frogs: Our first album stuck pretty close thematically to the idea of seeing the positive in the negative. We wanted to show that everyone is flawed or broken in their own way, and that is okay since ultimately it can bring us all together. On our new album the songs have become a bit more personal, and understanding oneself better. I’d hate to get too specific because one thing we love is how every fan can interpret our songs differently. That is what we want.

8. Do you write your own songs? (Discuss the songwriting process in detail.)

Frogs: Yes, we write our songs. The process is usually a bit different for each one, but generally starts with a riff or a part that one of us has that we like the sound of. We’ll develop it further and write additional parts that fit. Once we have enough ideas, we all get together in our rehearsal space and arrange the parts into a structure we can play a few times and add ideas as they come. At this point Bec is usually just singing the melody without words. Some songs she will write all the words to on her own, some we all sit together as a group and bounce ideas around. It all just depends on how we’re feeling the song come along. Our process works well since we all really respect what everyone else is coming up with, and there’s no judgment besides what ideas serve the song best.

For two of the songs on the new album we wrote with Mike Green, who had produced our first album. He’s a brilliant musician and we work really well with him. We knew that if there was anyone we wanted to co-write with it’d be him. He brings out really interesting ideas from all of us, and he’s just a great dude to hang out with.

9. How long did this CD take to make from start to finish, recording-wise?

Frogs: We started writing a year ago here and there between tours. We had recorded demos along the way, but it wasn't until after New Years that we decided we had an album on our hands. Once we made a plan to switch from touring into album mode, we needed to write a few more songs to make sure we had absolutely the best. We began recording the older songs while we were still writing, which can be a weird process, but ultimately helped the whole album be cohesive. It was about three months from the actual start date to the last day of mixing.

10. What kind of "sound", production wise, did you have in the back of your mind, prior to entering the studio?

Frogs: We all decided right away on how the record was going to sound. There’s a trend in modern rock music to make every instrument sound almost artificially intense. It can almost be an assault on the senses. While this can be very cool and effective if done right, it seems really artificial to me. We decided along with our engineer/co-producer Eddie Jackson that we were going to make a very live sounding record. That meant big drums in a big room, not over-processed almost artificial sounding drums. The guitars are still very dynamic, they breathe, and at times can bend a bit out of tune. We left those elements intact as long as the performances were great. My bass tone is nice and raw, what you hear is what you get. I’ll admit there’s a few edits in there, but mostly just last minute song arrangement changes. We’re a rock band and it was important for us to have an album that holds up to our live show.

11. What kind of input did the producer have during the process?

Frogs: Eddie was very involved along the entire process. Basically from pre-production on he was like a fifth member of the band. Song arrangements, guitar parts, bass lines, drums, vocal harmonies. He is a perfect fit for us because he understands our always-serve-the-song philosophy.

12. Are you pleased with the final outcome?

Frogs: We couldn't be happier with this record. We wouldn't put it out if we weren't.

13. Did the producer use any (weird) experimental miking and/or recording techniques?

Frogs: I wouldn't say he did anything weird. Eddie is just very thorough, almost OCD. Tone is the name of the game. Start with good tone: great sounding instruments and amps, record with great mics and outboard gear, mix on a great sounding console. His attention to detail is impeccable, and I think the end result speaks for itself.

14. How did you go on about capturing your 'live sound' in the studio, or perhaps you didn't?

Frogs: We absolutely set out to capture our live sound. That started with the drums. We recorded in a house, so we setup mics in different rooms to capture the ambient reflections from all over. We mostly used the same gear we use live. We didn't go chopping up every part to make it inhumanly perfect. We pushed ourselves to play with the same energy that we bring to the stage. That can be hard when there isn't a stage and an audience, but I think we pulled it off.

15. Did the record company interfere with anything on your "sound" and songs?

Frogs: We are our own record label, so there’s no conflict of interest there. We listen to outside opinions of course, but ultimately what we say goes. I think that’s been an important part of this process, since we have 100% conviction with this album, we will go back out on the road with nothing but positive energy. I think that will come across to the fans.

16. Are there any "crazy" behind the scenes anecdotes from these sessions that you can share with us?

Frogs: There are quite a few that I can’t share…

17. How has the band’s sound evolved from "Stars In Stereo" to "Leave Your Mark"?

Frogs: The biggest change is how Leave Your Mark sounds a lot closer to how we sound live. The songs are great on both albums, but we really nailed the energy of a big rock show this time around.

18. How would you describe the sound of your new CD to any potential new fan?

Frogs: Big badass rock album. Go listen to it, I’m not very good at describing music.

19. What plans do you have for the future as a band?

Frogs: Touring and more touring.

20. Any final words of wisdom?

Frogs: When a man understands, does he not also over sit?

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