A Chat with Stumble Day (15.05.20)

Stumble Day is a bay-area based rock band that blends gritty, songwriting-focused rock with a pop sensibility and unconventional harmony. We had the chance to chat with Stumble Day’s frontman, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Noaa Rienecker (NR) about their new EP, influences, strange dreams and much more.

OSR: Cliche as hell, but how did you come up with the band name Stumble Day?

NR: Well, the short answer is it came from a rather forgettable poem I wrote a few years back. The long answer concerns what the name came to mean to me.

There’s a story from the Buddhist Canon about a novice who would follow Buddha around India listening to the teachings. He would listen ardently by day and by night would go into town, get fucked up, raise hell and blow a wad of cash. Every morning he’d drag himself and his throbbing head back to wherever Buddha was teaching and start the whole process over again. One day he asks Buddha how he got to be such a paragon of equanimity. He says, “You hold your shit together so seamlessly. Every time I take a step towards enlightenment, I just stumble and fall. Do you have advice for me?” Buddha did. “Just fall in the right direction”, says the enlightened one.

I can relate strongly to the inebriated seeker in more than a few ways. We stumble every day in one way or another, that much is certain. It’s up to you to learn how to fall in the right direction.

OSR: Introduce the band using a single sentence.

NR: Stumble Day plays sharp, catchy rock music with an edge and a focus on songwriting.

OSR: Tell us about your EP Stumble Day?

NR: This is a five-track collection of good songs that are actually a little dated in our repertoire now. Although this is our debut EP it took us almost two years to put together. I was trapesing all over the world with a guitar on my back and could only work on this band when I was back in California and could get everyone’s schedules together. Now I’ve been back a year and we are digging in as a band.

The EP has a nice balance of textures. Some tunes are groovy and funky, some piano-driven and harmonically interesting, and then there’s ‘Enough’ which is our volume-up-to-11 rock ‘n’ roll track. I’m pretty proud of some of the lyrics on this record, and Dillon and Jason are a fabulous rhythm section.  

OSR: Does the EP have any personal significance to the band?

NR: I’ve known Jason since I was five years old and Dillon since probably 14. My first bands ever were with Jason, he’s like a brother to me. Our lives diverged for a long time while I was studying and travelling and this is the first serious project we’ve had in years. So that feels pretty special. He and I have a deep musical bond – it feels like he knows what I’m gonna play before I play it.

Dillon is also one of my closest friends. He’s one of the best and most accomplished musicians you’ll ever meet and has always been a kind of mentor to me, both in music and more broadly in life. It’s the easiest to work with and the most pleasant band I’ve ever led.

OSR: Was the EP simple to write or did you butt heads a little?

NR: *laughs* I wrote all of it, so that aspect went quite smoothly.

OSR: If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be and why?

NR: Hard to say. I could easily list my influences here, but I think more realistically I’d love to one day do something with Eli-Carlton Pearson and his band PSDSP. He’s a friend and neighbour and has a fascinating mind and musical style that sounds like an extra-sophisticated Soundgarden. I just love what he does.

OSR: How do you feel life experiences influence music?

NR: Music is a direct expression of life, like flowers or biodegradation. In the ultimate sense, there is no part of human activity that is not an expression of life, even death and robots. Perhaps more to the intent of your question, though, I think if you don’t have a life, you won’t have much to write about. Think about the boring trombone player that gigs at the bar down the street from your house every Sunday. He’s got an album for sale by the bar with a picture of him on the cover and it’s called Changes or In The Pocket or some equally lame reference to jazz pedagogy. If his life is sitting in a practice room running scales eight hours a day, then that’s what will come out of his horn. I have no interest in hearing that kind of human experience channelled colourlessly through ‘Stella by Starlight’ for the millionth time. I have no problem with jazz; I love jazz, this is just an example.

Everything I write about comes from things that I’ve done, seen, felt or have happened to me. A lot of what I consider to be the source or depth of anything good I’ve written comes from things that aren’t music. Art doesn’t imitate life and life doesn’t imitate art. They’re arbitrarily distinguished conceptual areas of a continuum called reality or consciousness.

OSR: Who influences your music?

NR: Most significantly right now, Paul Simon, The Wood Brothers, and Joni Mitchell are the first that come to mind in terms of songwriting. Pink Floyd will always be my favourite band. Jason and I grew up listening to Nirvana, Soundgarden and bands like that, as well as Steely Dan, Rush, XTC, The Police and punk bands like The Descendants, X and the Dead Kennedys.

Image courtesy of Stumble Day

OSR: What is the most important thing in your lives?

NR: Art and love.

OSR: If you could change one aspect of your life, what would it be and why?

NR: Ooof; I guess I would have someone else do all the work around my music. Right now, I’m my own manager, producer, publicist, accountant, booker…the list goes on and on. Most musicians these days are in this position. DIY is all well and good, but fuck I don’t wanna do ANY of that shit. I just want to create and perform.

OSR: What do you think makes you unique?

NR: I think we have a cool sound developing that’s both interesting and accessible. The lyrics are, I hope, a bit more substantive than the average rock band. I just wanna write really good songs and we’re getting better at it all the time. It’s catchy, but it makes you think. I like shit like that. 

OSR: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

NR: Ideally, we’ll be touring full time and I’ll get paid for doing what I love. I don’t care what level it’s at, I just want to make art and not have to do anything else.

OSR: What is the strangest dream you have ever had?

NR: Life.

OSR: Do you have any final message for your fans and potential fans?

NR: Life is about feeling things, learning and witnessing beauty and horror. Have as much fun as you can. Also, check out the record, I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks to Noaa Rienecker from Stumble Day for chatting with us! You can find more about Stumble Day on their Facebook, Instagram and official website.

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