I had the opportunity to speak with Brendan Stevens, Lead Vocals for The Strive, a Kansas-City based band that straddles the rock and pop genres who are opening with Palaye Royale for Metro Station, a prominent LA-based pop band at The Waiting Room on Friday, November 4. We talked about life on the road, the music business, and about his interactions with Trace Cyrus and Mason Musso of Metro Station. Check out The Strive's newest video, 'Subliminal Friend,'
BuffaloVibe: I saw that you encouraged one of your fans to actually sell your bed to buy tickets.
Brendan: That was Craig. He got on Twitter and he was having himself a time. Do what you go to do to get to the concert.
BV: Tell us about the bus breakdown
B: For Palaye Royale they’ve had a few times that they’ve gotten stuck in random locations. They’re doing better now, they’ve got everything fixed that they needed to so all is well.
BV: You formed the band to avoid the 9-5. Can you tell us about that?
B: We essentially had something in our minds—my Senior year I was rushed into [making a decision] about college. Where did I want to go and what did I want to go for? The band came at just the right time and put what I would want to major in right in front of me. I think it was an easy decision to make.
BV: What has been the most fun and what has been the most challenging thing about being on the road?
B: The most fun is that every day is a new town and a new city. We have done our fair share of shows that were part of events [transitioned to now] having shows where fans our receptive and came to hear us play music. This is clearly rewarding. A lot of places I [had] only seen in movies when I was younger. It’s cool being able to point out certain things [to my bandmates]. The worst part is trying to stay healthy, to eat right, and to avoid getting sick. I have a cold—I’m sure you can hear it. I’ve [picked up] a cold the last few days. You never really know how much sleep you are going to get or when you are going to sleep. Everything is a whole lot of hurry up and wait. There’s not much to complain about when you are on tour.
BV: Do you have people that cook for you, or cook with you, or do you mostly go to restaurants? How do you do it?
B: We’re on a budget. We do a lot of fast food—I know it’s not good for you. Here at the Canal Club in Richmond—we had catering. It was awesome-chicken alfredo, all your veggies and your carbs. Most of the time we don’t know when we are going to be able to eat again so we grab fast food or go to Walmart and try to find something healthy—a sandwich or something.
BV: Do most of the guys in the band have girlfriends? Is it a crazy, like, revolving door of women?
B: Not really, Michael is the only one of us with a girlfriend. Nick, Greg, and myself are single. We’re out here, we’re doing this, this is our first major national tour. We don’t really focus on it. It sounds like the opposite of what you want to hear. We’re here on business, and we’re trying to do the best we can for our business.
BV: What has been the biggest surprise on tour?
B: We were nervous about having to drive through the night a few times. We did it once before but we had to do it four nights this tour. We had to buckle down but it didn’t feel as bad as we thought it would be.
BV: Have you got to know Trace [Cyrus, vocalist, Metro Station] really well?
B: I have got nothing negative to say about the guy. He keeps to himself a little bit. He’s always down to meet the fans after the show. He’s respectful. He was the first guy to reach out to me on the first end of the tour. When he was walking by with merch he was like, “Brendan, right?” He was appreciative of us.
BV: And what’s Mason [Musso, Metro Station] like?
B: He’s the nicest human being. He watches every band and every song. He’s always the first one to reach out after a long drive. We met up and had lunch together at the mall. We’re here and we’re touring together-that doesn’t necessarily mean we need to hang out. He works really hard. He has a voice to kill for. He’s a role model and one of the first guys to take us under his wing.
BV: Do you have conversations about music, movies, politics?
B: [discussed] what we are going to do on Halloween?
BV: Are you going to stay and do the Missouri thing?
B: My grandma and my dad are there in Kansas City. There’s something about LA that I love so much. Everyone is running their own little rat race of doing what they want to do.
BV: How has Kansas City influenced you musically?
B: A lot of good bands come out of KC to Chicago. It makes you work harder. In the age of Twitter and Facebook, it is easy to discover new music. When we were starting, Twitter hadn’t really evolved yet, and you [had to do] small regional tours to get a buzz going. Our location reminds us of how hard we have to work to make these things happen, and of the business decisions we need to make. The West Coast music scene is so much more constant.
BV: What would you tell your 16-year-old self?
B: I joined the band at 17. You are about to start something that is going to consume more time than you think, and you are going to be faced with a lot of hard decisions. The right decisions aren’t going to be easy. Never stop talking to people. Keep networking, even 7 years from now, you are going to be so deep into this thing, you are going to need all the help you can get?
BV: How many hours are you putting in?
B: It’s a lot of hurry up and wait. There’s usually 2-3 hour drives after the shows. Get up and drive at 10:30. Drive, then hour and a half of unloading and merch. The sleep has been more sporadic than I’ve been used to.
BV: What were some of the hard decisions you had to make?
B: We had to make the choice to piss off some of the promoters. We wouldn’t do the Saturday band-jam downtown because we weren’t making any money. Making the decision to play less, and being smarter with your money. Disciplining yourself to have to have a good enough business plan and a budget. When you are 23, you can’t afford to make stupid 17-year-old mistakes. It may be hard to hold yourself to putting the numbers in every night but it’s the right decision. If this is going to be your career, you need to be super professional about it all the time.
BV: Do you have an accountant, or do you have parents, or friends with those skills? Who helps you with those things?
B: When we were 18, our drummer’s dad helped us make The Strive an LLC. We have been owners of our own business for 5 years now. Our drummer’s mom goes over what we earned, our taxes, that’s a whole different whirlwind when you are used to having a bartending or serving job. [Even] keeping track of every gas stop the band has made that year for our taxes. It’s kind of wild.
BV: Do you guys get tattoos in different cities?
B: Greg and I got tattoos at Cornerstone Music Festival on an RV across from each other in Bushnell, Illinois.
BV: What are some of your strangest nights?
B: We were following Cartel for their 10-year Anniversary Tour. We were following them in my car, and hustling CD’s, and trying to form a relationship with Cartel. We were so huge on those guys. It was the last night of the tour, and Cartel had got us guest-listed for the show. We got in and met these two girls that were super, super out there—you can tell they had been partying all night. They could see we were from out of town and it was my 20th Birthday that day. We wind up going with these girls to this pizza place and get these gigantic pizzas, and she spent like $45 on this gigantic pizza. So, we ate with them for a while and when we were getting ready to leave, she grabbed me and said— “he’s the birthday and he’s coming with us!”. They tried to get me to come to their car. I went back to the van and sped off. They sent us Facebook messages the next week [because] they were really pissed that we had taken the pizza.
BV: Did you have a lot of musical training as a kid?
B: My dad forced me into choir in 6th grade. I was the only boy. Then in high school, I just wanted to skateboard. I didn’t care. My dad was like, “you’re going out for the musical.” First day when I was supposed to audition, I was tagging along with my 18-year-old neighbor. My dad was a teacher at the same district. He knew before I even got home that I didn’t show up to that audition. The next day I was trying to get into this kid’s car, and he’s like, “no, you’re going to audition.” I did it, I ended up getting in, I was pissed. I ended up having the time of my life, and getting to know a whole bunch of upperclassman. I was a freshman at a school that was at the dividing line of where a new school was going to be built so I didn’t have a lot of friends. I became friends with a lot of the upperclassman. They would drive me around. I always felt better around people who were older than me. From there, I got into the chamber choir, the acapella choir. We did that competitively for four years of high school, and I did a bit of theater and vocal training. I spent a lot of my adolescence in choir and in musicals.