Upon their tour with The Scars Heal In Time, “Stef With An F” of Minneapolis, Minnesota is a true artist in every sense of the word. In a time when budgets are tighter than ever in the music industry nowadays, Stef and City Of The Weak show the importance of staying completely true to oneself and to the art instead of selling out to record companies, which I would be completely understanding that it would be incredibly easy to do. I want to personally thank Blank TV! for reaching out to Madness To Creation in regards to this interview as they had a stop at Gabe’s Oasis in Iowa City. Get to a local show and support the scene! Without further delay, here is my conversation with Stef of City Of The Weak.
M.T.C.: Your band had a really cool opportunity getting to open up the Rockfest USA festival up in Cadott, Wisconsin, what was it like sharing the stage with Ozzy Osbourne and Rob Zombie?
Stef: I never envisioned it. I remember watching the show when I was a kid, I don’t remember what it was called though, with his family, and I was like, “mom, who are these people, who’s Ozzy Osbourne”, and my mom was like, “don’t watch that”. I’m from a very conservative family, so I didn’t really listen to music at all growing up, and she’s like, “don’t watch Ozzy Osbourne, that’s horrible”, and I’m finding out more and more the great that he is and we got to share the stage with him, which was nuts.
M.T.C.: What’s your favorite Ozzy/Black Sabbath song?
Stef: Sounds cliche, but I like “War Pigs”.
M.T.C.: How was the crowd response for you all?
Stef: It was great, people loved it, our meet and greet after our set was for over two hours. Those festivals are great, it’s always about people that love music and see new artists and see their favorite artists, festivals are always great to us.
M.T.C.: What’s the craziest thing that somebody has done during a meet and greet?
Stef: That’s a tough one, everybody is pretty chill, but I’ve signed some boobs, butts, I’ve signed articles of clothing. We’ve taken shots with people, we check their ID’s of course, we’re professional about it, but everybody is really chill, a meet and greet with us is kind of like a party, nothing too crazy, I’m sure it’ll change as we get older. I feel like our fans are like family, they respect us and we respect them.
M.T.C.: Do you prefer moshpits or crowdsurfing?
Stef: Crowdsurfing. Moshpits are kind of scary, I remember one time we opened for Asking Alexandria three years ago from back when we were still wilder, I remember playing topless on stage, and I put electrical tape on my boobs before the Butcher Babies ever did. I remember jumping in the crowd and I punched this kid right in the face, he thought it was the coolest thing ever, and he was like, “I’m never washing my face again”, it was a huge, crazy moshpit, it was nuts, it was f****** cool, I don’t know what got into me, but never again. *laughs* It will be more crowdsurfing.
M.T.C.: Let’s say I just stand there in the middle of the crowd and I’m on my phone Facebooking or texting or whatnot, how do you react?
Stef: I get up in their face, it’s my job as an entertainer to entertain you, and I’m trying to make it an experience for you as my job, sometimes if they’re unresponsive, I might call them out a little bit, depending on the show, and depending on the setting, but I’m pretty respectful of the crowd, I would never go up and hit somebody’s phone out of their hand, I get the meaning behind it, they’re at your show, but at the same time, they paid money to be there, you never know if it’s an emergency or if somebody’s mom is dying in the hospital, I never want to be that guy. I feel like if I ever did that out of rage, “rockstar wannabe hits phone out of somebody’s hand whose mother is dying”, and that’s how I’m going to be famous by being an asshole, people pay money to be there, if that’s how they choose to spend their time, I can’t control that. I’m also a female and people will quickly say, “oh, she’s a bitch”, but I have to be careful, but Corey Taylor can say and do whatever he wants, his fans are his fans, that’s who he is and how he’s marketed, so he can basically get away with murder.
M.T.C.: Is it different or difficult being a female in a male-dominated industry?
Stef: It is different, but at the end of the day, we’re all making music, people might think differently of me. There are pros and cons, some females just want to whine about it and say how hard it is, some women are like, “screw that”, it’s not about being a victim, I really think that it comes from both, a pro is being that we’re a minority and I think that’s a great thing because people remember me, whether it’s bands we’ve played with or promoters, all I gotta do is send a photo, and they’re like, “I know you”, but the con side of it is if it’s the first time we’re at a venue, people are like, “are you the merch girl”, it’s usually coming from people that don’t know us coming in as a newer band, some might say derogatory things. We were playing at a festival two days ago, it was a little mini-festival, but this one person kept saying overly sexual stuff to me, he’s older than my grandma, and he’s like, “you need to bend over more”, and I’m like, “how do you think it’s okay to say that, I’m working, you’re working here because of me being here as an artist, and you just disrespected, you’re disrespecting me and that’s not okay”. I get really bothered by that stuff. I do call people out on that stuff, people think that it’s okay, and the only reason he was working was because of artists like ourselves coming to town. I respect security the same as the president of the biggest label and I expect the same respect, it’s kind of a downside of it being a sausage fest at times. *laughs* Some guys think they can just say whatever they want, but I shut them down pretty fast, it’s such a small price to pay for being in the music world.
M.T.C.: Speaking of the music industry, you all released the music video for “Censor This”, I remember at a festival in Iowa, you talked about the state of the music industry(I’m paraphrasing), take us inside that music video and message of the song.
Stef: At the time we were making lots of changes, as a band we don’t mind criticism, sometimes you have to listen to that in order to build a career and some bands don’t want to listen are ignorant when it comes to taking criticism very well, and we’re going to do what we want, sometimes that’s not a great thing, and people who have been in the industry for a long time kind of know a bit more marketing, and a little bit more about what sells, so I think we took that too far. We listened too much to the point where everybody is going to have a different opinion and we were at the point where we were doing what every person said and we hit that point to where, “who are we, I don’t even know who I am anymore, I don’t know how I dress anymore, we don’t have an identity, we don’t have a band”. At the end of the day, that’s why we’re a band because of our songwriting and our strong messages, and our music sucked even, all of our songs sucked. We couldn’t get a song written for this album, and we were like, “screw this, we hate what we are doing, we don’t have any identity anymore”, let’s just write the first thing we want to say, we’re not going to think about how we write it and the structure, we’re just going to say whatever the f*** we want, and that was the first song we wrote. It just said what I wanted to f****** say, it was actually our first song to ever chart on mainstream rock radio charts. It was kind of proof that if you are just yourself, just own it, and people will follow that, people will respect that. Some people didn’t like the song at all and I was at the point to where, “I don’t give a f***, don’t like it, there’s plenty of radio stations that will spin it, if you don’t want to spin it, who gives a f***, we will try next time, we’ll try the next single, and if you don’t like that song, I don’t give a f***. There’s all these people that will support it, there’s always somebody that has criticism, and you just have to take it for what it is, and if you don’t like it, too bad, we are who we are and a lot of people will respect that.
There’s a lot of bands that are just the product of a label and the product of management, it’s really evident, a lot of bands on the radio are really like that, to me it’s generic and it’s boring, a lot of them sound exactly the f****** same, props to them, if you’re just trying to sell records, then cool, but I want to be remembered, I want to be a legend, Queen was Queen and Ozzy was Ozzy, they were like, “this is me and f*** you”, I feel that a lot of bands are lacking that these days, and we’re like, “f*** it, we want to be the first City Of The Weak, you know?
“Censor This” by City Of The Weak
M.T.C.: Let’s say there was a record label called Stef With An F, how would you run the record label and who would you sign?
Stef: I would have it be artist-friendly because I am an artist. It would run like any other label as far as you would get your advance, have a contract, I could see that it would be fair. It’s tough to come across a fair deal because there’s not a whole lot of money being made. As far as local bands I would sign, I obviously really like Gabriel And The Apocalypse, I know that’s really biased because I’m best friends with Lindy, I love Lindy so much, we had a bbq with them before we left for tour, and I love the theatrics for it, the scene that they’re in, I think that they could do much bigger because their sound, but they look all heavy, tough, and gothic and it would scare some more of the mainstream music people away, but if would just listen to their music, their music is good! I’m not really into the scary industrial metal that they used to play at Ground Zero all the time and it was this super gothic nightclub, they could do so well playing mainstream shows. We’re more of a pop/alternative band, but our fans really connected on both sides while we toured with them. I love them, I feel that they could definitely have more mainstream success and not pigeonholed into this industrial metal, their songs are really great. I think great music is great music no matter what f****** genre it is, if your song is really good, then that’s where it’s at, I love “The Ghost Parade”, it’s really solid. I obviously want to work with Lindy, I love her and she’s a professional.
M.T.C.: If you had to create a song with Lindy, what would the song title be?
Stef: Bad Bitches! My tough side always comes out when I’m with Lindy, she’s so tough and bad, she’s always a badass and s***, so I gotta toughen up a little bit.
M.T.C.: Let’s talk about the other recent music video, “Ungrateful”, what is the song and video talking about?
Stef: Well, we froze our asses off, the original thought behind it was going to be of a frozen waterfall. The setting was at Gooseberry Falls in Minnesota, it’s at a state park with all of these waterfalls and when winter comes, they freeze, basically we wanted to portray how it’s cold and very frozen while talking about and questioning about why I’m such a cold and calloused individual and questioning how we all are in some way, we’re all ungrateful and questioning whether it’s something that we learn or with that being already programmed within us, so obviously the video needed to be cold and to match that. We didn’t get Gooseberry Falls because there were drones and stuff and you can’t really shoot drones over state parks, so we actually just drove to a secret location, and we were down the road and just pulled everything out, and we were like, “screw it, let’s just shoot this video”, it was a beautiful location and the house scene with my parents would have hearts on their plates, eating their hearts, but it’s actually a human heart replica, it’s something that they actually use for real films and stuff, and they were made in L.A. or whatever, and I wanted to portray that people eat away at their hearts, and trying to get at whatever eats away at our hearts, and trying to escape that by running at a house while everything is burning up, it’s a lyrical thing in there, but it’s a lot of imagery, it’s just about us trying to express how we are the way we are and all of the different theories and different things that have happened and how I feel and what I see in my head, when I write a song, it’s more I feel something, and trying to have to put it into words, I don’t really write a lot of words, I have to have a feeling, I have to have a song and a riff, and I just feel something, like “word vomit”, none of it makes sense, and if you would read it, you would wonder, “what is all of this, it’s jibberish”, and I kind of form it into sentences and little phrases, the video is all of those little pieces put together.
“Ungrateful” by City Of The Weak
M.T.C.: Speaking of imagery, when you look in the mirror who do you see and what would you tell her?
Stef: That is a really deep question, I love it! I don’t look in the mirror that often except to do my makeup and I’m like, “oh man, I look like a trainwreck” *laughs*. I feel like I’m very honest and very real, I feel like I remember everything, when somebody says something, I just remember a lot and I take in a lot. I value everything that I have. I appreciate people, I’m a very deep person, I’m not a surface person and I like to get to know people on a deeper level, and that’s why I do music, my music is very deep, every word means something, every line means something, I could go and explain every line on ten f****** minutes on every line, very deep, raw, and personal.
M.T.C.: Is that what people can take away from your upcoming album then?
Stef: Yes, and I can’t wait to put this f****** album out, and I’ve been sitting on this for almost a year now. It’s literally been like my life in the past two years, there’s not a filler, every word I hope people will take away and latch onto those words and take it all in, and take it to heart.
M.T.C.: What’s the name of the new album?
Stef: It’s called “Pulling Teeth”, we’ve only mentioned it a couple of times, we’ve been talking about it for awhile now, we recorded it last November, the bass drum even has the front cover of it. The record is about become ourselves like it was pulling teeth, it was about fighting our way to literally get to where we are, it was always a fight. The imagery is of bloody teeth and having the noose around them on the cover. Our bass player Cody does all the designs. He sat on that one for a f****** while, and he was like, “I want to do something about teeth” *laughs*. I wanted to name the album “Trust Nobody”, and it’s a very big track and it kind of sums up the whole record, we don’t f****** trust anybody anymore after we’ve been stabbed in the f****** back enough, and our whole record kind of revolves around that, “Pulling Teeth” just felt good.
M.T.C.: Sounds better than a dental procedure.
Stef: It’s funny you said that because “Ungrateful” was originally called “Pulling Teeth”, and it was written while I was having my wisdom teeth taken out and all of our tracks have working titles until it becomes a real song, and I was like, “guys, we’re not having a f****** single called “Pulling Teeth” because nobody is going to remember that title, they’re going to hear it and nobody is going to know how to search that s***, so that’s a big part for us, they gotta be able to find us, and we had an interlude that we ended up naming “Pulling Teeth” as well and it worked with the imagery and the meaning behind it.
M.T.C.: I know that you have to get ready for a show, is there anything else you would like to add?
Stef: Just Google us, find us on I-Tunes, Spotify. Come to a show if you’re in the area, thanks for the great questions!
City of the Weak Show Review:
City Of The Weak, whether it’s 10 or 20,000 people, deliver just as hard no matter what. Stef has such a gifted commanding stage presence about her. She really got the handful at Iowa City engaged with their performance. Their sound was incredibly tight and people sang along to their singles “Censor This” and “White Fire Alarm”. Go see them if they are in your area! Here are the tour dates as they are providing support for 9Electric on their current tour! Click here for tickets and further information!
Tuesday, August 29th- The Empire Concert Club & Bar in Akron, Ohio
Wednesday, August 30th- The Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan
Thursday, August 31st- Route 20 in Sturtevant, Wisconsin
Friday, September 1st- Aftershock Live! in Merriam, Kansas
Saturday, September 2nd- Herman’s Hideaway in Denver, Colorado
City Of The Weak also has a one-off date on Saturday, September 16th at The Loaded Buffalo in Mundelein, Illinois with special guests Saint Tragedy and Achilles.
Check out City Of The Weak at the following locations: