In 2008, when Kris Lohn was a student at Valparaiso University tinkering with the idea of starting a band, he came up with lighthearted moniker Stop.Drop.Rewind based on his original vision to create a synth dance outfit.
Three songs into developing his concept, however, the bassist realized that the sound was heading in a much edgier, more intense, power-pop direction. It quickly began solidifying into a fresh, multi-faceted vibe when his old friend, guitarist DJ Crenson, transferred to Valpo from the University of Maryland and the two began taking their longtime friendship and musical partnership to a whole new level. They had met years earlier, back in their 6th grade science class, and started their first group together by the end of that year. Stop.Drop.Rewind comes by its eclecticism naturally. Throughout middle school and high school, Kris and DJ played everything from punk and emo to jazz, marching band, contemporary Christian and singer/songwriter styled material.
“Our vibe changed,” Kris muses, “and we checked it out and there were no other bands called Stop.Drop.Rewind. It was a goofy idea, but now it’s a ten year old band name so it just works.” The band, whose current lineup includes drummer Andy Sutton and guitarist/vocalist Josh Andrews, will perform at 616 Music Venue in Kenosha February 23 as part of their tour for their just released first full length album Element & Aftermath.
As Kris and DJ tell it, opportunities came rapidly throughout their college career, and the duo – which still lives in Valparaiso – opened for the Misfits, Hawthorne Heights, The Contortionist, Amber Pacific and Halifax. During this era, working with the band’s original members, they released their 2012 debut EP Part of a Whole and toured regionally. Post college, a few of their bandmates moved on, forcing DJ to switch from guitar to drums for a year and at one point, inspiring them to continue on as an acoustic duo. After releasing their three song EP Smoke Signals in 2014, they added Sutton, a Chicago based drummer, and began revamping and expanding their sound – an evolution that’s reached the perfect balance between soulful/heartfelt and blistering/fiery with the addition of Andrews in late 2016 (after their EP Polarity).
Stop.Drop.Rewind have since played South by Southwest and opened for Secondhand Serenade, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, The Spill Canvas, and The Nearly Deads. They’ve become a popular draw at many of the brewery venues that dot Northwest Indiana, including the Byway Brewing Company and Pokro Brewing. They also tour regionally, hitting hotspots in Chicago, Ft. Wayne, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Muncie, Columbus and Louisville. This year, Stop.Drop.Rewind are coupling a return visit to SXSW with a performance at Texas Indie Fest in Austin.
“I think I’m understating the matter when I say that we’re way better on our instruments than we were in 2007, when Kris was just starting this up and I was going through the motions playing with another band in Maryland,” says DJ. “Over the years, we’ve gotten a lot more proficient at translating what we hear to what people want to listen to. The live shows we put on now put a big emphasis on tightness and playing together seamlessly, making sure everyone is hitting at the same time and hearing things the same way. When it comes to vocal harmonies, we don’t write anything we can’t perform live. Production-wise, we may throw in a few synth parts we don’t replicate onstage, but most of the arrangements are ones we can pull off with just guitar, bass and drums. We like to keep the shows fun. We’re a rock band at heart, so we jump around, bang our heads and run into each other – all that crazy stuff.”
Kris, Stop.Drop.Rewind’s lead singer, echoes his partner: “I’m a crazy guy, so I shout a lot. Energy, tightness and making sure people are entertaining and we can keep them rockin’ is always the goal. Unlike the early days, we don’t get up and wing it. Even if we’re playing a dive bar, we practice our banter and transitions between songs. We want everyone to have a great time all-around.”
In an era when many indie bands prefer a non-stop stream of EP releases over creating full length albums, Stop.Drop.Rewind creates a high octane 10 track experience, and a full-on realization of their current sound and deep yet quirky storytelling skills (courtesy of DJ’s provocative lyrics), on Element & Aftermath – their first project with Andrews in the band. Kris felt that another EP wouldn’t allow for the kind of diversity and song development they were after – which ranges from the powerful, punk-influenced two and a half minute gem “Main & Lincoln” to the sweeping, multi-movement seven minute epic “Eraser.”
Prior to the album’s release, the band dropped two singles that reflect an interesting thematic diversity. The hard driving “I Was a Portrait” is, as DJ says, “about as close as you’ll ever get to a love song from us. The overall message is that love is a wonderful and powerful feeling that can be both positive and destructive, but that it shouldn’t be abandoned because of its imperfection.” The track focuses on the creative and destructive power of romantic love, while the music’s often unresolved tension reflects love’s maddening dual nature. “Still,” DJ points out, “the song has a happy ending, because the search for love should not be abandoned even though it may not be perfect even once it’s found.”
“Main & Lincoln,” on the other hand, is a punchy, in your face and to the point drinking song about having fun. It tells the story of someone freshly out of a relationship, out sad-partying with friends and running into his or her now-ex. Old feelings flare up briefly, but these go unexplored because drinking brings a relief too great to abandon. “If I had to summarize the meaning of ‘Main & Lincoln,’ DJ says, “I would say it’s about finding good times during difficult times, sometimes in spite of yourself. Plus, Josh sounds like Brian May from Queen on the solo, and what’s more fun than that?”
“The title Element & Aftermath is like a fancy way of saying ‘cause and effect,” DJ adds. “While none of the songs are connected in a singular way, creating a complete narrative, all of them have to do with reactions to events transpiring or people in our lives. The opening track ‘The Entire Orchestra’ is about our reaction to a TV show. When it comes down to it, I guess I can’t write about anything but my reactions to things. Kris reminds me that on our first EP I wrote a post-apocalyptic song with a scenario that no one will actually experience, so I think it’s best for the band that my lyrics are better grounded in a reality that people can relate to.”
Andy adds, “I think the songs on Element & Aftermath are our way to show the world who we are, displaying different sides of us musically and lyrically. I love working with these guys because they put so much attention to detail and the process of writing and producing. Everything we record is put through the grinder first, and there’s some stuff we go back and forth on literally for a week. We grind until we get the best possible product. That goes a long way when you’re sharing your music with people. Everything we put out has to make people feel a certain way and is designed with the intention of connecting meaningfully with our audience.”
“The music of Stop.Drop.Rewind is just us,” Kris says. “There’s a lot going on, but there’s no pretense. This is who we are, and how we process music and the world around us. We call it ‘progressive’ because much of what music is (or should be) is pushing on ideas and boundaries that came before you. We don’t really see barriers between different kinds of music, so we might take a texture idea that I liked from a Debussy piece, a groove Andy liked from a funk band, and a lyric approach by DJ from a TS Elliot poem and throw them all on top of our early 2000’s emo/pop-punk upbringing. All of those different inspirations have specific effects and emotions associated with them, and we try to blend them in a way that we can control – and in a way that allows the listener to know more about us, how we see the world, and maybe makes them think about an aspect of music or their own life in a new way. Isn’t that the point of art? The bottom line is, playing rock music is FUN and we wouldn’t trade it for the world!”
To learn more about the band, visit stop.drop.rewind.