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STilGONE w Conductor, Art & Funk Collective
May 26, 2023 @ 8:00 pm - 10:30 pm
Doors : 7pm, Show : 8pm
Cover : $10 in advance, $15 at the door
Rachel Hergett (Bozeman Daily Chronicle ) on STiLGONE:
Ask each member of Bozeman band STiLGONE about the music they play and you’ll get a different answer. Keyboardist Cal Treadway, who drives from Helena for as many shows as he can, calls it “funky and jazzy.” Matt Sloan, who sits in on saxophone, says the sound is “an eclectic collection of different genres and sounds.” It’s “live hip-hop,” according to new drummer Ezra Bowman, referencing songwriter, frontman and guitarist Symon Palmer’s penchant for busting out a rap now and then.
“I grew up in Billings and everyone listened to Wu-Tang, everyone listened to Andre Nickatina,” Palmer said over beers on Monday. “Hip-hop music was big.”
Palmer, who hid a burned CD copy of Wu-Tang’s explicit debut album “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” under his bed when he was 9 years old, started spitting bars to emulate the attitude of artists he was hearing.
“There’s such a confidence to hip-hop music and what rappers do,” he said. “There’s such a swag element and I don’t think I had enough of that.”
STiLGONE’s uniform of choice — whatever outfit they want plus a bolo tie — is both a nod to the gold chains rappers often wear and Palmer’s Wilsall-raised grandfather who often sported them.
Aside from the bolo ties and a desire to rework a few outlaw classics, STiLGONE stays away from country music. The band’s roots are heavily steeped in soul and funk, with a dose of hip-hop. And the latest iteration — influenced by Palmer’s evolving listening tastes and metal, rock and jam band leanings from bassist Carl Hansen and guitarist Chris Cowan — is heavier.
“It’s more rocking,” Palmer said. “I want to be a little more, like, grimy, you know?”
Palmer cites The Love Darts, a local punk band fronted by Jimi Kehoe, amid bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Alabama Shakes and Idles as those responsible for a “fuzzier” sound.
STiLGONE is also heavier because of Hansen’s love for giant stacks of amps. For his two-man project Reach for Grabtahr, Hansen splits his signal into two separate stacks with different effects, Treadway explained.
“Carl’s the man,” Treadway said, then added “Carl hosts band practice, so we’re obligated to speak highly.”
While the band’s sound has evolved, it does maintain a soulful thread that ties the other sounds together. A more neo-soul centered version of STiLGONE was founded by Palmer in 2016, but disbanded before lockdowns for COVID-19 in 2020. At the time, Palmer thought making music was stressing him out and said he was at a low point in his mental health. But it only got worse after he quit playing. Now, he admits he was wrong.
“Music really keeps you (expletive) sane,” Palmer said. “It gives you a goal, it gives you a purpose.”
Palmer is not willing to reveal the story behind one of the newer songs, “Starships,” but said it is an example of how he is able to channel some of his feelings into writing (though he is still a proponent of therapy).
“It’s a good way to talk to yourself about it before you talk to anyone else about it, which I think is an important part of the process,” Palmer said.
STiLGONE found new life in May 2021, when Palmer, Cowan and former drummer Keelan Evins discussed playing together during a gathering at the Filling Station to honor Joe Knapp, a local musician who had died days earlier. Hansen threw his hat in the ring to join the band at another memorial gathering for the late musician, this time outside of Clarkston. Knapp, he said, would appreciate his role in bringing the band together.
“He had that effect on people,” Hansen said. “He wanted them to meet musically and be creative.”
Evins left STiLGONE in order to travel this winter, and Bowman has spent the last few months integrating with the band. He started by studying Evins’ drumming, but has added his own flavor as he has gotten more comfortable with the material.
“I’m a firm believer that if you’re going to put your own taste on something, your own spin, you should definitely learn where it came from,” Bowman said.
Bowman has played with bands such as Modern Sons and the Dane Andrew Thompsen Band, but said his own style leans more funk and hip-hop. Bringing that sound from his headphones to a live band has been a welcome challenge as he has discovered new techniques to use the drum kit to bring a similar punch to an electronic clap or an 808 kick. It has also been a joy integrating with the new group of musicians.
“I honestly think we have some of the most talented people doing what they do best,” Bowman said. “It’s great to put them in the spotlight.”
The love and respect between bandmates seems to be core to the band’s mentality.
“(Integrating Bowman) is going really well because everyone gets along really well,” Palmer said. “It’s easy to play music with people you actually like hanging out with.”
Though Palmer writes the lyrics and basic structure of each song, he then brings the shell to practice where the band develops the sound together.
“I like having the camaraderie, the team aspect of it,” Palmer said. “You gotta enjoy it, man, or what’s the point in doing it?”