An exclusive interview with Stick Figure
Three of the most explosive acts in the US reggae-rock scene came together for on the “Livin’ it Fall Tour” throughout the West Coast this month. Stick Figure, Pacific Dub and Hirie sold out several venues on this tour, McNear’s Mystic Theater in Petaluma being no exception.
California Roots, who have been the hands-down leaders in reggae-rock concert production in recent years, has brought yet another show not soon to be forgotten. Many familiar faces and friends came together again into a California Roots Festival mini-flashback - except on a Wednesday night in Sonoma County. The room was full of Cali-Roots family: prior attendees, MC’s, DJ’s, media crews, street team members, other band members and even one of the festival’s producers - not to mention the new friends and their fans checking out the lineup for the first time.
We had a chance to catch KBong and talk about the origins of Stick Figure, their big break, and life on the road with the band and tour dog, Cocoa.
How did Stick Figure get started?
How did Stick Figure get started? Well, Scott Woodruff is the creator of Stick Figure. He started making music out of his bedroom probably five years ago at this point. He currently produces the records, and he came out with two records I think, and was working on his third when he moved to San Diego, California, and that's when I linked up with him and we just started doing these bar gigs around San Diego. And I think that Scott was good at getting somewhat successful with just music albums, just producing out of his bedroom and not playing live, and then all of a sudden people wanted to hear the live band like “What's up with the band? This music is good!” and so he started putting pieces together and I linked up with him four years ago via Craigslist actually. We started gigging around and Stick Figure, as a touring band, started two years ago when we got our first offer with The Green. And at that point, we were kind of past the bar scene I guess you could say, and our drummer and bass player at the time both left. Like one moved to Washington, D.C. to be with his girlfriend. Then the other one had like two kids and realized that his time was up, so at that one point it was just Scott and I, and then we got that offer to tour with The Green, and so we put the pieces together.
So, we said yes to that tour with The Green, because I was like: "Okay, Scott, let's just say ‘yes’ to this tour, and then figure everything else out." You know? So, we said yes in like, I want to say end of April. And then it was in May at the California Roots Festival at that time we picked up Kevin Offitzer. I had known him for a while and I had known he was a drummer in the scene, but it was at that California Roots Festival in 2012 I was like: "Dude, I think we've got an opportunity for you. You know, you should definitely keep your ears open. Like look out for an email; We're going to send it to you soon," and we did a few weeks later and told him about the tour, and he took the tour with us.
And then for bass, we were like: "What are we going to do for bass?" Well, Tommy had lived with Scott now for probably like five years maybe, and he played guitar. Grew up playing guitar and Scott was like: "Look, we need a bass player. Like you should just start learning bass. Buy a bass and start learning it," and he did. And then he learned bass and now he's a bass player, you know?
So, you guys have been touring hard.
We've been touring hard. Yeah, just like two years ago and just been going at it really hard. It's crazy and awesome. And in that two years we picked up a management with Ineffable Music Group, who also manages Hieroglyphics, Zion I and Collie Buddz. And then we picked up a booking agent and yeah, it's just been like crazy whirlwind since then. Almost everything is happening so fast.
So, would you say that the big break for Stick Figure came with the tour offer from The Green?
That was definitely a pinnacle moment for Stick Figure for sure, because at that point before then, we were just doing smaller gigs. Like bar gigs for fun and we were getting drunk and just being sloppy and having fun.
Did you guys link with The Green at any particular show, or just they hit you up?
They just hit us up. It was Seth Herman from Rootfire. He hit us up because I think he saw what was happening. You could see that Stick Figure was getting successful just from the albums. You know? And in 2012, Scott produced in its entirety Burial Ground. And when he released that album that was like the pinnacle moment, and in that same year was when Seth was like: "I see what this band is doing and I think that they would be an asset to having us on their tour" you know?
It blows it up, huge. The last couple bands that I've talked to, it's the tour offer, you know, and getting invited on tour with a bigger band was their changing, defining moment.
To date what do you think has been the most epic performance for you?
To date? Well, we've got to thank Dan Sheehan and Jeff Monser for California Roots. That's for sure. Yeah, the California Roots Music Festival was definitely the highlight. That was definitely the top three biggest performances of our career. And I think the other one in the mix was The Greek Theater. Oh my God. Yeah, that's up there too because that felt like California Roots in a way too. The capacity there [The Greek Theater] was 8,000. And when we played, I swear there was like 4,500 or 5,000 already there. It was nuts. It was a huge crowd.
So, in five words or less, what's the worst thing about tour life?
Five words or less? Five words or less. What's the worst thing about tour life? I don't know. I can talk about what some of the downfalls of tour are.
I can do it in two. I would say “body odor”.
Nice. I don't know. I don't know where to start. I mean as far as five words or less, but you miss family. That's for sure. I don't particularly have a girlfriend, but I see the guys that do, you know, and that must be really hard.
That was six words, but yeah, you miss family. That's for sure.
Family, diet, dog. In Scott's case though, he brings his dog on tour. Routine. Routine is another word because you have to adapt to the tour routine. When you get home, you're like: "I'm having a smoothie every morning. I'm eating really complete meals, you know, and exercising." So, when you're on tour, you've got to adapt.
What's your favorite thing about tour life?
My favorite thing? People.
See, that was easy.
That one is easier. So many familiar faces, but my favorite thing about tour is people. Performing the songs live is awesome, but yeah, just meeting people and inspiring people and getting inspired myself, you know? Because I was on the other side of the stage, growing up and seeing all these musicians and being like: "Oh, this is fucking crazy. Oh shit, is that the guitar player over there? Good show, man." Now that I'm on the other end, it's like I love just connecting with those people.
So, growing up, who was your biggest musical influence?
I think if I'm being honest, Blink-182. Yeah, because Blink-182 came out with that album, Enema of the State, summer right before ninth grade. You know, and that album just defined the whole high school thing, and then, from there, I just dove into all kinds of like heavier, faster stuff like Pennywise and NOFX.
So how'd you get into reggae then?
Well, I grew up in Hawaii, so it was kind of natural thing and well, it just came into my life, you know? I think it was towards the end of high school, I bought a Bob Marley album while I was on vacation with my family, and I remember there was a live version of “No Woman No Cry” on that CD, and that was my favorite song. I was like: "Man, this song is legit," and then like from there, I started listening to more Bob Marley and then Steel Pulse. At one point I thought I could listen to Steel Pulse in my head for the rest of my life. Like you know that question “If you could listen to one band playing in your head 24/7 for the rest of your life, who would it be?” At one point I thought it could be Steel Pulse.
That's awesome. Well, thank you so much for the interview.
I feel like I can keep going.