What's your favorite kind of soup?

Chad: I like a good broccoli and cheese soup. I've always liked that. If I had the choice of any soup, I'd probably go back home and get some Tuscana soup made from my mom. Reese might even be in the same boat there.

Frank: Cream of mushroom with chicken. Loaded up with hella crackers though, like two and a half packs.

Reese: What's the soup that comes hot with cheese melted on top? French onion.

Ryan: I’d go ramen.

John: I like borscht.

BLUESTEM is a Vancouver based alt rock band that is dominating the underground scene. Their energy on stage is contagious, and crowds can’t help but mosh and scream along, as they play DIY venues such as Buddha’s and Victory Square. Composed of Frank (vocals), John (vocals/ guitar), Ryan (guitar), Chad (drums), and Reese (bass), this group has created a sound that blends multiple genres from punk to hard rock, to even elements of rap on their album’s final track. Chad, John, and Reese were also in a band called Easy Trance, with one album entitled Medium Funk, and a few singles that followed. BLUESTEM released their debut album ENDLESSLY in February of this year, following the release of the first single “BLUR”. The band is also known for their at home festival, Stemfest, which features the boys as well as other local bands in a fun backyard house show setting. The first Stemfest featured some of my other favorites such as Felisha and the Jazz Rejects, Cat Larceny, and Lunchtime Band has played all three of the events. I was able to attend the second Stemfest, which is where I discovered Lunchtime Band, and Dour (formerly know as Spice Tuna). On the day of Stemfest three, I got to sit down with the band before the show to discuss their debut album, the infamous festival, and their upcoming EP SHACK (coming August 31st).


I talked to some of you about this earlier, but I’m curious as to how the band formed, and how you all met?

Frank: Yeah, so me and John have known each other since grade one. Obviously haven't been doing music together since then, but I think we started Revenge of Genesis in grade seven. We were in a band together for about two or three years in junior high and then that split, and John went on to do solo stuff, I went on to do solo stuff. Then Easy Trance, and you guys can take it from there.

John: Yeah, basically BLUESTEM formed when Frank moved out here to BC from Manitoba, we're all from Manitoba and moved here I guess five years ago now. How long have you (Frank) been here now? A couple of years ago, you moved here?

Frank: This will be my third summer, so about two years now.

John: Then Frank was here, and he was doing his rap thing already. We were doing Easy Trance, but that style was a little bit different. I always liked having different avenues with music and being able to have different sounds. When I was in a band with Frank back in the day, our sound was quite a bit heavier. Now that he was doing rap, I thought maybe we should try something. It's kind of a Rage Against The Machine type of thing, something a bit harder. That kind of led more into wanting to have more singing in our music.

Frank: We just kind of started one day. I don't know what happened, but there was no point where we were like this is a band now, we just started writing music. I think we sat down and wrote “ENDLESSLY”. That’s when we were like, there's definitely something there.


How did you decide on the on the band name?

John: That was a process.

Frank: We kind of bounced through a lot.

John: In the end I was trying to come up with band names and my mom was on vacation and trying to help me with band names. she was like, “how about Blue Stem Trail?” or something like that, because there's a trail in Birdsville Park close to where I used to live in Manitoba. Blue Stem Trail is in the park there.

Reese: Yeah, it's funny coming up with band names is always such an interesting process. A bunch of people are trying to decide on one thing that's unique and represents the group in some way. At one point we were looking up horse names because there's so many good band names that are just horse names.

Me: Yeah, it's gotta be really difficult to get everybody to agree on it too, because you all have your own ideas that you want to bring in and then one person vetoes it, and you’re kind of back to square one.

Frank Yeah, there's been times where three or four of us have been like, okay I like that, and then there's one guy that says no. There's been many times where we thought we were close.

Chad: I liked Ditch Weed; I kept saying that one.

Frank: Or Sincerest Apologies was one of the ones that that was a front runner, but it just felt too wordy.

Chad: Frank said Bad Father at one point, and I liked that, but it was taken.

John: That's what happens whenever you find one that everyone likes, there's always another band.


How did Stemfest start? How did that kind of begin?

Reese: The first one was because it was your birthday, right?

John: Yeah, it was my birthday, so we just wanted to have some bands in the backyard and do something a little different. We have the space for it here, we had a couple of parties before. Reese was telling you that we did that Fight Night thing in the past. So, we knew we could definitely pull some people out and get a crowd out here and may as well just have some local bands too and make that a thing. We try our best to be involved with the music community. We would like to expand Stemfest from there. This is kind of just our beginning idea.

Frank: I think with Stemfest for the most part that was the main goal, just to build a community or make us more visible in the current community. Four out of five of us are from Winnipeg, so we're kind of outsiders in some sense. We don't know everybody. We didn't grow up out here. So, it is kind of hard to break in to some degree, but I feel like we’re doing something where we're putting on an event that anybody can come to and anybody is welcome as long as you have good intentions, and you want to come hang out.

Reese: And there's tons of people we know from out East, like Langley area that might not be able to make the trip all the way downtown to see some of these bands. They can come out here and see great groups like Felisha and Lunchtime.


To add on to Stemfest, what is it that you're wanting it to become in the future? Do you have plans for it?

John: I mean, right now it's just an idea. I'm not going to put everything into trying to do a festival, but we have looked into getting a venue and the expenses that would go into that. If it gets to the point where it gets shut down then we're still going to want to do it, but we're going to need to actually get a proper place for it. We'll see how far or how long we can get away with it, but for now it's just about getting more and more people aware about it.

Frank: Eventually I think we would want to move it. We're not going to do it at the house forever. Ideally if the band does well, it's only going to get bigger. I would like it to be like the Odd Future carnival or something at the biggest extent. I would love it to get to that size, but obviously we just got to keep putting in the effort.

Reese: It'd be cool to bring comedians and stuff in too. Just making it a big event, even tonight we have somebody who owns a food truck, and they might be able to bring the truck out.

John: It's also to help promote local bands. It's really hard to get into festivals. We all apply to these festivals trying to get in every year and you don't always make them. That's why we have Lunchtime on every time, we think they're top tier in Vancouver and they're kind of slept on. I like helping out bands like that. If we can help make it more popular, then that's just good for the underground community.


To kind of move away from the Stemfest stuff, you guys have two vocalists, which is cool. The main being Frank with the grittier, unclean vocals, which I love. What made you kind of decide to add that into the mix?

Frank: Me and John have always been dual vocals. John was more of a backing vocal back then, but now with this band we share the lead vocal spot. Sometimes I'm completely just doing the backing, which is awesome. It's nice to be able to share that workload and not necessarily have one or the other being the star of the show. I want the band to be the star of the show, right? It's all of us up there putting in the effort.

Reese: It gives us an opportunity for you guys to write and another person sings it, depending on what the song calls for. If there's a song that calls for two vocals, then we can do that. But we've got other songs like “Slow Down” where it's more just a vocal with backups.

Frank: We have “Solitude” on the project, I wrote most of the vocals on “Solitude”, but John sings that just because it was a better fit for his vocal style.

John: I’ll just say this for Frank, because he didn't, but Frank just loves to scream. Like “Why is he gritty? Why is he like that?” I think he just likes to scream.


What are each of your individual influences that you feel you take inspiration from into this project?

Frank: Start with Ryan. What do you think?

Ryan: I love like David Bowie. Alice In Chains like they said, Title Fight is probably a common one that we all share.

John: Yeah, Title Fight was a really big inspiration kicking off Bluestem in our first writings, because I was really listening to them for a while.

Chad: I take drumming inspiration for lots of the stuff that I do from Primus, and Chili Peppers. Chad Smith has a really simple but complex kind of drum style. I also love lots of the drum tracks on Godsmack songs. But I'm also just doing my own thing.

John: I've always been inspired by Jimi Hendrix, one of my favorite artists. I'm pretty open too, I started with piano, so I like classical music as well. Then that kind of moved into more hard music when I was in high school and that was Rage Against The Machine and Five Finger Death Punch.

Reese: For me, playing with these guys is awesome because it gives me a completely different outlet for my bass playing. It's made me a better bassist because I've forced myself to rip as fast as I can whereas before, when we were in our other group Easy Trance, it was a lot more melodic bass playing. It's expanding my music horizons because a lot of these bands that these guys are saying they're influenced by; I wasn't turned onto until a lot later.


I know you guys have already told me about some of the things that you've got in the works. Can you hint at anything in the future?

John: Yeah, definitely. We're going to be looking at doing another EP here soon. We recorded with Dan at Park Sound. It's going to be a four song EP that we are planning to put out sometime this summer. (Now revealed to be coming August 31st!)


What's the song writing process for you guys as a band. Is there one person who writes all the lyrics, or do you do that collectively and bring it to the group?

John: For the most part I would start with the guitar riff and then go from there. Our sound is definitely evolving a lot more, Ryan's getting more involved with burning some riffs too, and then we're building it from there. To answer the question, at the moment we’re just jamming together and if somebody comes up with something that sounds cool, we're just going to hop on that and see where it goes.

Reese: Tons of voice memos of random song ideas.

Frank: Yeah, we have so much to work off of now, it definitely feels like we're a lot more of a cohesive unit now. Everybody's just coming together collectively with their ideas, and it's nice being in a group where I've known everybody, except for Ryan, for over five years.

Ryan: Yeah, they didn’t really do a good job of explaining earlier, they're all from Manitoba, but I'm from here.

Reese: We're very close friends and the catalyst for our friendship was all music. I'm trying to think back, the first time I met Frank was at a Dairy Queen and you had a mic in your backpack and had just come from band practice.

Chad: Is that when you boomed all over the table?

Frank: You want me to tell that story?

Me: I feel like you kind of have to now.

Frank: So, one time me, Reese and our buddy Daly, shout out Daly wherever he is, we were sitting in a Dairy Queen. This kid that I went to high school with was working at the Dairy Queen, and I asked for one of those chicken wraps.

Reese: The flamethrower wrap.

Frank: Yeah, but he extra flamethrowered it. There was too much flamethrower sauce and I started eating it. I'm dying and I see Daily has got a drink. I didn't realize he finished his drink and hawked a loogie in the drink. I took a big sip and he's like “bro, I just spit in it”

Reese: This man is profusely sweating while this is happening.

Frank: Yeah, like buckets. I'm panicked, I need water and when he's like, “bro, you just drank my loogie” I immediately threw up everywhere, all over the table, and ran out.

Reese: And our other friend ran out and yelled “HE PUKED!” it was just absurd


Do you guys have any goals for where you want the band to go in the future?

Reese: If we can get on a festival circuit, that's the ticket. If we can be ripping for audiences that don't even know us and just garnering more fans.

Frank: 100% I think that's my main goal as well. I think our main idea behind dropping three projects in a year is like obviously a record label is going to sign you if you're talented, but I think the main thing that they're probably looking for is if they can recoup their money back off of you, the money that they're investing. If they can see that these guys work, they’re putting out three projects in a year and they're going to keep doing that, then they're going to eventually make their money back. That's my goal, just to get signed, get some kind of distribution deals, somebody buy us a van, put us on tour.


If you guys were all in the zombie apocalypse, who do you think would fit each role?

Frank: I play hella zombie games, I think I'd be the one to survive for sure.

Ryan: I think you’d turn into some sort of feral man.

Frank: Yeah! I’d be the king of the sewer. Everybody would live down in the sewer and I'd just be down there with a little rebar scepter.

Reese: I think I would probably take on a hunter gatherer sort of role. Picking berries, looking for resources, building fire.

John: With his sidekick, Chad, for sure. Like Mario and Luigi.

Frank: But you gotta remember, there's zombies after you as well. It's not just a merry time.

John: I think I’ve figured it out. Me and Ryan would probably be builders. Frank would be our defender.

Chad: I’d be a chef. If these are slow zombies, then I think as a unit we could probably get pretty far and get each others back, but if they were fast zombies right away, I thought I don't know how Frank would do because he's got baggy pants. I think we as a unit would now have to watch out for him.

Me: Who do you think would die first?

John: Frank would die first.

Ryan: I think Frank or Chad, because they’d do the riskiest stuff

Chad: You'd see Frank biting a zombie’s neck or something.

Me: If you bite a zombie does it turn into a human?

Frank: Whoa, that's crazy, what if that’s the cure and nobody's tried it yet?

BLUESTEM's social links: 


Individual photos by Flavia:


Band photo by Adam Dunn: