It's been only a year since Stöner, the project formed by desert rock godfathers Brant Bjork, Nick Oliveri and Ryan Güt released their debut album, however they’ve already followed it up with the recently-released ‘Totally’, and, as we find out, have a third album in the can. With Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age in their blood, the three-piece are channelling their history, whole forging forward with their own identity. We caught up with vocalist / bassist Oliveri at Hellfest in France for a chat about the album, the demise of the Kyuss Lives! project, and the passing of former band mate Mark Lanegan. Regular John; Eamon O’Neill.
Hi Nick, Welcome to Hellfest; what’s it like to be here?
Amazing, it’s a lot of fun, massive! It’s massive; so many stages, so many bands, so many people, so it’s amazing.
The last time we spoke, you were sitting on the roof of your house having just painted it.
Oh yeah, I was putting shingles on my house. I needed to. I do all my own repairs and stuff like that. A few upgrades. I get up there!
When you’re not doing that of course, you’re putting out music, and you’ve recently released the second Stöner album, 'Totally'.
It’s awesome. We did two records at the same time, so there’s another record that will come out too. I don’t know if it’s this year or next year, but it’ll come out. It’ll keep us on the road, you know?
I suppose you want to concentrate on getting the best out of ‘Totally’ first, don’t you?
Yeah, of course. It’s a good record.
The reaction to first single ‘Strawberry Creek (Dirty Feet)’ has been strong.
Oh cool, yeah! I didn’t know there was a reaction to anything! I know people are reacting to the record itself, but I didn’t know that ‘Strawberry’ was out as a single. That’s great! I’ve been out of the loop; I’ve been out touring, so yeah, that’s great, that’s fantastic news!
What’s it been like for you to hook up again with Brant Bjork for Stöner?
Yeah, well we were locked down and the guys called me up and said; “hey, you want to jam?”, and I was like; “yeah, of course”, and it was fun playing with the guys. I’ve known Brant for so long, and he was the first person I ever played music with, with another instrument in the room. So whether he’s on drums or guitar, I’m just comfortable. And I was comfortable playing with Ryan, and it just worked. It’s a good three-piece band, it’s got some good songs; there’s fast stuff, there’s slow stuff, there’s heavy stuff, there’s stoney stuff, so it kind of moves around and keeps you not getting bored.
Was the band a natural progression from Kyuss Lives! / Vista Chino?
You know, I really loved doing Kyuss Lives!. It was so much fun. We kind of owed it to our fans to do it because most people were kids when we were doing it, and they didn’t get a chance to see the band. It was a very small band at the time, and the fans took it to a new level we never expected years late. And so, we kind of owed it to our fans to do that tour and to do as much touring as we could on that. Of course we got stopped, but we’re doing this now, and this is great fun.
The band was hit with a lawsuit, which I’m sure you really don’t want to talk about.
Yeah, you know, it’s one of those things where it was beyond our control. I don’t play music for those reasons; I’m not into lawsuits and shit; I want to play music and have fun and enjoy my life, and that kind of stuff kind of kills a band. I kind of feel like, if you’ve got a lawsuit, the band will never ever play again, type thing. It kind of like, destroyed it completely. It’s hard to come back from lawsuit stuff, so it’s one of those things where it’s like, you have to weigh up those things; “do I want the band to be over forever through a lawsuit? Or do I want to figure it out and make something work?”, and it’s just a shame that people that own it want kill it. People that own the name want it to be gone, unfortunately. It should be able to continue if people want to hear it, and it’s a shame.
You reconnected with Josh Homme in 2013, making a guest vocal appearance on Queens of the Stone Age's ‘...Like Clockwork’ album.
You know, we’ve know each other for so long it’s just weird to be at each others’ throats. You can’t force somebody to play music with you. It ran its course just playing music together. We’re still friends, it’s just that we don’t make music together right now. We did so much in a five-year period, in a concentrated period, so much work, that we kind of burned out on each other. So, it is what it is, and he kind of wanted the band to go in a different direction anyway, so he’s taken it there, and that’s where he wants it to go, and it’s great for him. Unfortunately it’s one of those things where, it used to bother me a lot, but it doesn’t anymore. It took some time to heal over some things, and for him too.
When did you last see each other in person?
I just saw him at Mark Lanegan’s funeral, and we were in good spirits remembering Mark. It was a good memorial for him. We had all the crew there, the whole band was there that was from that era, at that funeral, except him [Mark Lanegan}; he was the only one not there.
Back to the present day, and the album’s just been released so it must be great to be back on the road behind the new material?
It’s great! You know, to see people not knowing, we throw old stuff in the set because the new stuff is so new for some people. Like, at a festival like this. There’s so many people that, they want to see it, they’ve heard of it, but they don’t know it yet. So hopefully, they’ll know it now!
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Stöner's 'Totally' is out now via Heavy Psych Sounds Records.