By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
The Minneapolis, MN-based Alternative hard rockers, City of the Weak, are a band unwilling to compromise and destined to make it big. Fronted by lead singer/songwriter, Stef w/ an F, along with Brent Lindblad – guitars, and Cody Hoffman – bass, this powerhouse trio is building up quite the reputation as an entertaining, high-energy, no frills, outstanding live band.
City of the Weak just wrapped up a successful month-long headlining tour of the USA last week. They will have the opportunity to even win over thousands of more fans when they perform at one of the biggest rock music festivals in North America: Rocklahoma on May 25th.
The band will be releasing their début full length record entitled, “Pulling Teeth,” which was produced by Craig Owens, on June 22, 2018. Their previous releases include: White Fire Alarm (EP) 2013, Disclosure (EP) 2014, Censor This (Single) 2016 and Ungrateful (Single) 2017.
What follows is an exclusive Rock Music Star interview with one of the hottest women in rock- Stef from City of the Weak!
Rock Music Star: Hi Stef, I want to start off the interview by talking about the current tour you’re on the “TURN IT TO 11 TOUR,” with Echo Black. You’ve been on the road for a little while on this headlining tour. How has this tour been, so far?
Stef: The entire tour has been really awesome. Every day has been really great. We’ve had people come out that we recognize at every show, and then there’s lots of new faces. So, it’s definitely been an overall success.
RMS: Do you have any crazy road stories, from this tour, that you want to share?
S: Crazy road stories… I mean, it’s definitely been eventful, I’ll tell you that. It’s not so crazy, but as we were leaving for tour, our bass player went to go pick up the van in Rochester, Minnesota, and literally like, 24 hours before we were supposed to leave, he like, flies off of the road and goes into a ditch. So, the trailer and the van are completely unusable for the tour, and we’re leaving in 24 hours. So, having to scramble and get together a vehicle and get our trailer in the shop, which, fortunately, we were able to take the trailer and just replace tires every like, week or so because one of the axis is bent. But, that was pretty intense.
RMS: Right before the tour started, that happened, huh?
S: Yeah, literally the day before. Like, “Oh, we’re leaving literally tomorrow morning, so we gotta get this figured out like, right now.”
RMS: I can imagine that must have been very stressful.
S: Yeah, we couldn’t find anything. Then, thank God, there was this one dude who was super awesome- he lives in Minneapolis- and he was able to get us something affordable- which, vehicle rental and affordable usually don’t go together.
RMS: What are your plans for after this tour?
S: We have a record coming out in June, and in May we have a couple of one-offs, including Rocklahoma, which is going to be really, really great- 3:00pm, A Perfect Circle, and The Used, and The Cult- so I’m pretty excited to do a festival down there. It’s our first time playing an Oklahoma festival.
RMS: You’ve played some pretty big festivals before, haven’t you?
S: Yeah, we did a date on Warped Tour 2014, and then we did Rockfest, which is the large one in Wisconsin, twice. Last year, we did the main stage. We did 3:30 the very first year, which is insane. We did Northern Invasion, we did Rock USA with Ozzy Osbourne, which was super insane. So, we’re definitely no stranger to the festival model.
RMS: That’s pretty impressive. Last March, you posted your video for your new track, “Pardon Me,” which is a cover of an Incubus song. Why did you decide to cover that song?
S: I feel like the song is just so much more relevant today than it ever has been, and we’re very big on lyrical content, and really meaning what we say. I feel like a lot of bands aren’t these days. I feel like a lot of bands have people write their songs for them, or with them. I feel like a lot of rock ’n’ roll, unfortunately, gets very watered down today, in being afraid of offending people, or this and that. I think, “Pardon Me,” is really real and really raw. I loved how honest it was. I think, when we first approached doing this song, we were like, “You know, this is going to be a tough one to cover, because the original is already so great and so individualistic.” But, we decided to go for it, because we like a challenge. We were actually really happy with the result.
RMS: You said you have a full-length release coming out in June. Is that being distributed through a major label, or are you guys putting that out yourself?
S: We’re putting it out ourselves.
RMS: How challenging is it, being an independent artist? Have you guys shopped your music to a major label, or are you content doing it yourself?
S: We want to do it ourselves. We’ve had label experiences in the past. We obviously got offers on the table, but we just don’t want to take anything. I think the scariest and worst thing would be turning over our ownership to somebody else, and then your hands are tied. We’ve all seen it happen, where bands have success right away, and then a label wants to pull funding or shelf them, and then your career kind of gets stuck. We never want that to happen. We have a really amazing team behind us; we have a really great PR team with New Ocean. I’m working with a tech company to help do the release with us. So, it’s going great. It’s definitely a lot of work, because everything falls on our shoulders, ultimately, and we’re the boss.
At the end of the day, we have the final say in what we want to do and how we want to do it. But, I will take that challenge any day over having somebody else tell me what to do, because we’ve kind of been there and done that, and we don’t like it. I’d rather lose sleep because I’m working too hard, not lose sleep because I’m afraid of having my entire career overturned or controlled by somebody else.
RMS: That seems very common. Bands either were signed, or went through the frustrations of trying to get signed. Ultimately, at the end of the day, they’re happy that they’re doing it themselves. Like you said, they have that control. You don’t have that control when you’re working for a record company.
S: Oh, totally. Even with money; the fact that we literally get 100% that comes in is really nice (laughs).
RMS: Definitely. City of the Weak formed in 2012. Can you just briefly tell us about the formation of the band?
S: I moved to Minneapolis, and I started going to a training school for music. I started jamming with people, and just kind of went from there. I mean, it’s not really a crazy story or anything. You just kind of find people, and see who is stupid enough to join a band with you, and get in an SUV and start touring the country.
RMS: Were you pretty set on your musical direction, at the time? With City of the Weak sound- did it just kind of form from the people in the band?
S: It just formed over time. I mean, I was 18 years old. What 18 year old knows what they want to do and has a plan? Nobody does. So, we just kind of formed over time, and things happened naturally.
RMS: Who were some of your musical inspirations, growing up?
S: Growing up, I had a lot. I remember starting with the Beach Boys when I was about seven or eight, and then hearing Shania Twain’s, ‘Up,’ record on the radio; I had to run to K-Mart, which was the only store we had in my small town, and I bought the, ‘Up,’ record. I found more rock music once YouTube or Yahoo radio became a thing. I started listening to Linkin Park and Avenged Sevenfold and Good Charlotte. Then, my most recent influences were more like the Warped Tour, Pierce the Veil. I started going to Warped Tour around 2012, so that kind of shaped who I am, musically, as well. Now, it’s kind of all over the place; everything from Rihanna to From First to Last, to Nothing More. There’s so much great music out there.
RMS: What are your other interests, besides music? Do you have any other hobbies, or any other things that you are involved in?
S: Hobbies. I wish I had time for hobbies. I played tennis when I was in high school, and I actually did really, really well. I played competitively, and traveled around the states, and had competitions every weekend. I loved tennis; I miss it. Obviously, being in an independent band, it is your life. Obviously, I love business and management. When I have a few days off, I’m home. Sometimes I’ll get hired for a one-off event for management or hosting gigs to make a little extra money. I love animals- I have three pets. I have a turtle, a Turkish Van cat, and a little rescue chihuahua that I love very much, and I try to spend as much time as I can with them.
RMS: The last question I have for you, Stef, is- what is the one thing you’d like to accomplish as a musician before you decide to retire from it?
S: Just changing people’s lives little by little. For example, last night, in Buffalo, we had a couple come out. They were like, “It’s been a really hard week, and this is exactly what I needed.” They were rocking out in the front row and going crazy. I had so much fun just singing to them. They knew all the words, and they were having a blast. The girl was saying that it was just a good release to come to our show, and she was so glad she came out. They were so gracious and so kind. Just seeing little things in people’s lives, and getting a peek into what they do for a living, and who they are is really cool. It’s awesome to know that we were a good part of their month, or their week, and it makes us feel good.
RMS: That’s a different answer than I usually get. That’s great. Thank you, Stef, I appreciate your time. I’m sorry I missed you guys. Hopefully you’ll come back to Buffalo soon.
S: Oh, absolutely.
For more on City of the Weak, click here.
Special thanks to Doug Goldberg for setting up this interview. Also, thank you to Dana Kaiser for her timely and super accurate transcription.