photo by: Jena Ardell
Melody with a mission – as Chadwick Stokes and The Pintos hit the road in support of their new record
“There’s always going to be people trying to get you down, want you to be like everybody else,” sings Chadwick Stokes on “Joan of Arc” – the opening track from his self-titled new record with The Pintos.
Almost immediately you are met with a graceful challenge by the way of telling a story. It’s a songwriting method Stokes has always subscribed to whether in Dispatch or State Radio. On Stokes latest endeavor, his first official record under his name with The Pintos, the female voice and perspective is front and center right out of the gate (and on the album cover). This just happens to coincide with the fact that Stokes’ non-profit organization, Calling All Crows, which he started in 2008 with his tour manager, Sybil Gallagher, is currently promoting their latest campaign to encourage the safest possible concert environment by combating sexual harassment and assault at music venues.
This approach of practicing what you preach while allowing the soothing sounds of music to serve as a blanket of unity is part of what has kept Stokes going for almost 25 years, while at the same time offering new and exciting creative missions.
Shortly after release day and exactly two weeks prior to tour kick-off, I had the opportunity to speak with Stokes about this exciting new chapter of writing, hitting the bell with your elbow and ultimately – having a meaningful impact.
photo by: Mike Smith
Your first record as Chadwick Stokes and The Pintos is officially out and your about to hit the road – how are you, how does it feel?
It’s exciting to have it out there and it’s a relief. Most artists don’t listen to their records all that much, but it was fun to put it on at midnight the day it came out. The songs had been around for a while and we had such a blast making it. I’m of the mind that once the songs are recorded, I want to release them. The aim was to always have it out before the tour. It’s been a long time coming so I am so glad to have the record out, it just feels great to have the day upon us.
From a writer’s perspective – how do you know when a song you have written is best aligned with solo material vs. a Dispatch song or even State Radio?
Writing for me is better if it’s unconscious – when there’s not much thinking going on and afterwards I determine where the song lands. With Dispatch it goes down the different identities within the band. When I’m writing for Dispatch or State Radio, you get into the mindset of “Oh, these guys would like to play the song like this,” I then can navigate from there. It is somewhat based upon the people in the bands.
Regardless of your band, I always find there is a strong sense of community with your music – it makes people very appreciative of the music and of each other.
I love that. There’s a community within the band itself and then there’s the community that you touched on. That’s what it’s all about. In Dispatch, especially in the early years, there was not much of a difference between the band and the people at our shows – we were roughly the same age and there was never a big wall between the stage and the crowd. I’ve always tried to hold on to that. With The Pintos, Tommy (Ng, bassist) was a fan first and volunteered for Calling All Crows – that’s how I met him. So, it’s great to see that come full circle.
What’s very unique about The Pintos record is that you bring to light some very important and heavy subject matters in a very calm and melodic way as opposed to a typical angry or aggressive delivery.
Thanks, that’s cool that you bring that up. Protest music and political music is near and dear to me, but mostly it’s about the story – that’s what I am interested in. If the story had bigger political implications, then all the better. Story is melodic in its own way. That’s why there’s that element.
The song “What’s it Gonna Take” is a good example. How did that song come to be?
After each time there’s a shooting, that’s what I say to myself – “What’s it gonna take”, especially after Sandy Hook a few years ago dealing with such young children. If that didn’t bring about major policy change, I’m not sure what will. That’s where the phrase came from for me, but it’s one I say to myself often in frustration.
There’s frustration and complaining about certain things like this and then there’s the “What am I going to do about it.” That’s where something like your foundation Calling All Crows comes in. How can people get involved right now?
They can visit our website for a bunch of information but especially right now about our Here For the Music campaign (#HereForTheMusic) – which teaches people what they can do if they see sexual violence happening during a show. There are tools you can use if they come across some sort of mistreatment or any uncomfortable situation that may be happening. We are really trying to highlight that and educate those who are coming to our shows on how to handle it so that it ultimately stops.
Calling All Crows is planning a ton for our next chapter. Stay in tune with us, it’s going to be nuts this coming year with the election, so, we will be encouraging as many people as possible to vote.
Over the years though, we’ve focused so much internationally. It felt natural to look inward now and see what was happening right before our eyes. It was shocking for me to see how many women have been assaulted, groped or violated at a show. The statistics we got were astounding. Luckily, our initiative has really been embraced by all promoters. Calling All Crows has been asked to attend many festivals and to train staff members. We have been very pleased that other bands and the community has embraced this initiative, and we still have a way to go.
photo by: Jena Ardell
You are about to embark on your first official tour supporting Chadwick Stokes and The Pintos, what are you most looking forward to?
We’ve had a bunch of one-off shows here and there, but just to be a band out on the road – playing different sets every night gives us the opportunity to be tighter. I love the idea of comradery within the band and the music. It’s a fun evolution to get better and better as the dates go by. By mid-tour you feel like you are firing on all cylinders and things are really coming to life on stage. I’m really looking forward to that.
Coming full circle here, what does this Chadwick Stokes and The Pintos moment in your career mean to you?
It means a lot. More than anything, I feel so lucky that I am able to do this. My brothers in The Pintos and Tommy who was a Calling All Crows volunteer, JR (Jon Reilly) who has also played a little bit with Dispatch, Asa, who is our guitar tech and tour manager, has become like a little brother to me, he was in high school when I first met him with State Radio. So, it’s a wonderful cast of characters. To be able to make music with them and be in the world of the arts for a living – I never could have dreamed that would be possible. I feel really grateful to be able to do it.
CHADWICK STOKES AND THE PINTOS TOUR DATES
Dec 4 – Holyoke, MA – The Gateway City Arts +
Dec 6 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom +
Dec 7 – Philadelphia, PA – The Foundry at Fillmore +
Dec 8 – Washington, DC – Sixth & I Historic Synagogue
Dec 10 – Ann Arbor, MI – The Ark +
Dec 11 – Kalamazoo, MI – Bell’s Eccentric Café – Back Room +
Dec 13 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall +
Dec 14 – St Louis, MO – Blueberry Hill +
Dec 15 – Nashville, TN – 3rd & Lindsley +
Dec 21 – Boston, MA – House of Blues *
Jan 9 – Solano Beach, CA – Belly Up
Jan 10 – West Hollywood, CA – Troubadour
Jan 11 – Berkeley, CA – Cornerstone
Jan 14 – San Rafael, CA – Terrapin Crossroads
Jan 15 – Chico, CA – The Big Room at Sierra Nevada Brewery
Jan 17 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
Jan 18 – Vancouver, BC – Fox Cabaret
Jan 19 – Seattle, WA – Tractor Tavern
Jan 24 – Boulder, CO – Fox Theatre
Jan 25 – Denver, CO – Bluebird Theatre
+ with Mihali as support
* 12th Annual Calling All Crows Benefit Show