H-P's Mary Mortem recently sunk her teeth into Santa Cruz's Stellar Corpses back in December 2011 (before the release of their new album; "Dead Stars Drive In") to get the inside scoop on the new album, life on the road and the secret of their growing popularity. Let's hear what they had to scream...
If you don’t know who Stellar Corpses are, you are missing out!
With their good looks, catchy tunes and energetic stage presence, a horror rock obsessed girl just can’t help but fall in (music) love with these charming dead boys. After the first time I saw them live I was completely hooked! During their December to Dismember tour (2011) I had the chance to sit down with Singer/Guitarist Dusty Grave and Guitarist Emilio Menze for a friendly interview.
Mary Mortem: You recently played with one of the biggest psychobilly bands to date, Tiger Army, and legendary surf punk rock band Agent Orange at the October Flame V concert in Anaheim. How did that opportunity come about?
Dusty Grave: Well, we’ve known Stormy the booking agent, and Brian Tiger army’s manager, for a while now, so they just asked us to play. What Brian told us is that Tiger Army picks the bands to open up for them at October Flame, they just asked us to play, it’s just like any show.
MM: That’s awesome! So did they know your music?
DG: Yeah, we actually had an opportunity to play with them before and the manager said that they were fans of ours. Which I thought that was very nice, very cool.
MM: This wasn’t the first time you’ve played with them then?
DG: Technically, yes.
MM: What was it like playing with them because they are both so popular?
Emilio Menze: Its interesting when you ask that question because I remember the first time I had ever heard of Agent Orange. I was in eighth grade it was my talent show at Aptos Junior High and these kids were friends of mine. They were really into punk rock and had older kids come, and [they] played an Agent Orange song, The Last Goodbye. That was the first time I had ever heard of Agent Orange and I wasn’t really into bands yet so I thought the song was really cool and it stuck with me. So hearing that we were playing with Agent Orange was definitely awesome.
MM: That sounds very nostalgic.
EM: Yeah! It was so weird hearing that [The Last Goodbye] live it was very cool.
MM: And they dressed up!
EM: Yeah! They were all super nice guys and all the Tiger Army guys were really cool to us.
DG: Yeah, it was so cool because it was just like any other show except there were fifteen hundred people there and it was awesome!
MM: How has playing that show affected your popularity and fan base?
DG: I think that there is a bigger buzz. There’s a bigger buzz it seems like going around which is cool.
EM: Especially since we did well too. We really prepared for that show we practiced more for that show than we ever have in our entire career of Stellar Corpses, I guess you could say, and I think it really paid off. We hit them with as much energy as possible and the crowd really reacted well. So I think we did great, it definitely didn’t hurt.
MM: So after the show did you just get flooded with "Likes" on Facebook?
DG: Yeah and signing autographs and taking pictures we’ve never done anything like that.
EM: Which is always an honor too.
MM: On Halloween you released your first officially music video, Vampire Kiss, can you tell me a little about what that was like for you? How did that come to be?
EM: The first thing that comes to me, we had been playing Vampire Kiss, and another song off the album called Dead Stars Drive- In, for years now and we recorded the album last, I think it was last May or maybe April. We recorded awhile ago and have been waiting so long to put it out but it’s not out until January  but we’re, like itching for everyone to hear it. So it was so nice to get the reactions from the songs, from the video. One of our good friends from Texas stayed up all night so he could be awake at midnight California time to download the song, watch the video. Its cool to hear feedback on songs we’ve worked really hard crafting.
MM: I really liked it. It did a lot of nods to Lost Boys which was really amazing, especially you’re part Dusty. Do you think releasing a professional style music video has taken Stellar Corpses one step closer to mainstream as opposed to where you are now, where you were rather?
DG: well I guess if you mean exposing us to a wider audience I think that video would appeal more to a wider audience than a crappy homemade video like all our other ones, not all our other ones but you know like a cell phone video thing.
EM: Yeah it’s definitely been a good tool for us. I’m not a huge fan of music videos at all but I really like it and it definitely changed my mind about how useful a music video is for a band like us or any band.
MM: You will be releasing your third studio album which also features what is the newest member of the band drummer, Kyle Moore, what can we expect from this album?
DG: You’ll see how our song writing has improved and our vision of the band is still the same. Our vision for the band has always been to have fun sing along songs and that’s what we did with this album, totally is. You know we always try to do that and over the years we just get better and better at writing songs but we always have that in mind.
EM: Every song has a big chorus and we incorporate double bass this time which we’ve never done on the prior ones. It’s subtle though, we don’t really overkill it. But Kyle’s definitely got more, I want to say aggressive metal edge, but we are not a metal band but you can see that shine through a little bit. We just really took all of our time. Like I said, some of these songs are years old that nobody’s heard before or you know some of them had been floating around in our heads for a long time. I just think it devolved more than Welcome to the Nightmare, not that that one wasn’t developed but this one is definitely aged like a sweet fine wine.
MM: When you guys make an album I know you are very do it yourself, like Emilio you do the art work and everything for the albums. Can you give me an idea of what the process is like that you go through?
EM: With Welcome to the Nightmare we did everything pretty quick in terms of artwork. Another thing about being in a band in general, its kind of difficult to get four people to agree on one thing. Especially like art because its such a specific and personal thing. I don’t want to say it was rushed but we didn’t really take our time with it. With this we really took a lot of time and wanted to get that kind of nostalgic drive in feel to it. A lot of the art we didn’t do it ourselves but we hand picked the artist that would do it and then Dusty worked a lot on the photo shop aspect too, which we did on Welcome to the Nightmare, to piece it all together. Its really cool, the liner notes are so awesome. I definitely urge people to not just download it but to actually buy a physically copy of the digi pack or the record because the art is really, really special I think.
DG: You know we are putting it out on vinyl and cd.
MM: Which I am very excited about!
EM: yeah the vinyl’s are going to be cool because half of them are going to be a dark translucent purple and the other half are going to be a dark translucent blue. You saw the album art work, it’s going to match it really well.
MM: I am really excited because I am one of the few people who still buy cds and I do look through the liner notes. I am really excited because, like you said it gives it that little extra love and care to it and look to it.
DG: Yeah there are a lot of little details, a lot of little things to find.
MM: You almost learn more about the band if you look at their liner notes. I think I’ve learned more about bands from their albums than I think anywhere else.
EM: Yeah we tried to pack as many pearls in the liner notes and our art work for this album for the fans as possible. So they can look through it once and they might not notice something until maybe the third time they look through. There’s little cool things hidden in the background.
DG: All the lyrics are in there we encourage people to learn the lyrics and sing along.
EM: We are going to be releasing all the lyrics for the album before it actually comes out too.
DG: To the [Stellar Corpses] Street Team first, of course. SCST!
MM: For life!
EM: It was really good on this album because for once we had so much art work to work with. Because before, I don’t necessarily want to say it was like we were scrapping the bottom of the barrel to get enough art together to make it for Welcome to the Nightmare. So it wasn’t like that but just compared to this we just have so much artwork now, and it was really terrific, a lot of our good friends did a lot of amazing work for free for us. Not just art work but like live photography, some promo shoots, a lot of our most talented friends came together to help us.
MM: That’s awesome! You have amazing music and put on some of the best shows I’ve seen what do you think it is that sets Stellar Corpses apart from other psychobilly bands or punk rock bands or sexy rock and roll bands or whatever you want to call yourselves?
EM: First of all, thank you.
DG: Yes, thank you, well I don’t know what sets us apart from other like psychobilly bands?
MM: Just from bands in general. When I see you guys you have such a stage present and you are totally invested in what you are doing.
DG: We’ve worked on that, you know that just comes from practice. If you don’t practice then you’re staring, you know you’re just worried about playing the right notes, but when you practice a lot and you practice with each other a lot, then you learn how to entertain people. You go beyond just playing a song and you really draw the crowd in and interact with people and also interact with each other and people love that. You know I love that, when bands do stuff like that, you know come out and move around on the stage and rock with the crowd its great. That’s just the way a show should be and we know that.
MM: That’s probably one of the things that hooked me other than Emilio being so kind and saying hi to me. It definitely makes it fun for me to take pictures of you guys.
EM: We really try to make it more of a show aspect instead of just going and seeing some guys play instruments not that there is anything wrong with that. So we try to add a big show feel, like at Tiger Army we had them turn off the lights and play Cry Little Sister. People love that stuff and it gets people more amped. Also I was thinking about it today, you know we don’t drive nine, ten or whatever, how many hours to sit there and look bored. We drove this far, we want to kick ass for the people who paid to see us or the one person that knows our songs the ten people or the hundred people. It makes no sense to drive all day and then not kick ass you know? What are you doing it for if you’re not going to give it one hundred and ten?
DG: I guess another thing too, is some bands have like an agenda in their lyrics you know. That’s not our thing and so its more about the experience and for an hour or however long we have together, we can all just forget about the outside world and be in the moment and have fun and that’s the point of it. So if we completely get lost in the moment up there on stage then we are kind of like allowing everybody else to do the same, [instead of] if you are sitting up there looking nervous or preaching at people.
EM: Yeah we are really against any form of preaching. One more thing is when I go to see my favorite band or a musician I really look up to, if they first hit the stage, they are blasting through one of my favorite songs and there’s like so much energy, I feel like I’m watching my real life heroes kicking ass. You know, serving justice in a way that is so inspiring, but that’s how I aim for us to be.
MM: I think that’s awesome and it definitely draws people in! Where would you like to see the band in the next few years? If you could have anything for Stellar Corpses what would it be?
EM: I don’t necessarily want to be famous or be on MTV, I just want to be able to pay my rent and live somewhat comfortably. You know even like if we were playing for a crowd of one hundred people every night guaranteed that would be amazing that would be really cool. I really like the idea of us
having a huge underground cult following. Yeah, that’s me.
MM: What about you dusty?
DG: Big sing alongs, big parties every night.
EM: We’d like to be touring Europe a lot more we went once I know we want to go again.
DG: Yeah. We are just paying our dues right now, and scraping by and you know, pounding the pavement. Just working really hard and I would just like to see that progress into more people being aware of us. I know there is a lot of people out there that haven’t heard us yet and when they do they are going to like us, they’re going to come to our shows and have fun with us and I just want that to happen more and more.
Pictures by Mary Mortem
**My apologizes that this interview is a bit outdated as Stellar Corpses newest album Dead Stars Drive-In has since been released and is available for purchase here:
Visit their store and show your support:
I HIGHLY recommend it!!
You can check out Stellar Corpses’s tunes on their Facebook page here:
And there music video Vampire Kiss here:
Great job Mary!!
Awesome interview. These dudes are the coolest guys ever!!
They are the future of Horror Rock.
"I feel like I’m watching my real life heroes kicking ass." Great quote!