The Folks Who Make It Happen: Steve STB of STB Records
Hey guys! In this new series I’m doing, “The Folks Who Make It Happen” I will be digging in behind the scenes of some of our favorite labels, agencies and more in order to give you guys a glimpse into how the music industry works and how things are meant to be developed. The first person gracious enough to consent to an interview was my dear friend Steve of STB Records, the dude who has brought you everything from Year Of The Cobra and Wounded Giant to Toke and Geezer. With a successful gym run out of North Jersey, a background in punk and hardcore and a work ethic that can’t help but to astound, Steve remains the man in the New York and New Jersey scenes. It was an honor for him to answer these questions!
In brief – how did STB get started?
I’ve been collecting records since I was a young kid in the punk and hardcore scene in NY / NJ. I’ve always loved the idea of vinyl. The feel, the look, the extras, the limited editions, the hunt for the rare. I always wanted to put out my own record. When the time came it just happened to be that I was really into doom and stoner rock. Still am. So I contacted Dopethrone on the fly and we agreed in a day and two days later the record was ordered and the Facebook page was created.
I’m a jump in the fire kind of guy. My goal was to release records that I would like to buy. I am sick of the wack, no thought vinyl pressings. No insert is an insult unless it’s a gatefold or there is some artistic twist that doesn’t warrant it. But a regular jacket with an LP, no info, nothing to read, I dunno just give me the download code then. Buying an LP should be an experience. From the box its delivered in, to opening that box and getting free stuff, to putting the slab of wax on the record player and reading through all the stuff that came with the album.
You will laugh but Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” LP is a blueprint for something that will keep your attention while listening to the album. The liner notes read like a story book. Basically I just went for it and here we are! I am blessed and so grateful.
Psycho Las Vegas really put it all into perspective. The amount of people that went out of their way to come up to me and thank me for making cool records was amazing. They were stopping me to just showing interest in what I was doing, and wearing my shirts! Two people actually told me STB changed their lives. That is crazy! It was surreal. I didn’t realize the impact. It re-ignited my love for the label and why I started it. I am hungrier than ever.
Obviously, you come from hardcore – how has that impacted your attitude towards your label?
150%. Hardcore and punk shaped pretty much everything I do in my life. My ethos, work ethic and mindset are all mostly from immigrant parents and growing up in the NYHC scene for the past 25 years. The DIY ethic is not something I made up but it’s something I embraced from my upbringing in the scene. I am VERY fortunate to have found hardcore and punk when I was a kid. It saved my life. Gave me a voice I never had as well as confidence and friendships only few could ever truly understand. The energy, the attitude, the music, the chaos, even the violence. It all taught me something profound and special. I get chills still thinking about when I first discovered that secret world. I was dumbfounded by the whole thing. I had a million questions, and those who were kind enough to answer still remain close friends to this day. Everyone was on the same level. I was truly accepted for who and what I was. I never felt normal till I found my friends in the hardcore punk scene. It’s something I am truly honored to have been a part of. I really can’t speak enough about how much of an impact its had on my life.
As for the label, its honestly my way of staying involved and being a part of the movement. I can’t sing or play music so this is my way to give back. Stoner Rock / Doom, Hardcore, Punk. Its all parallel. Same scene diff riffs. In NY at least the scenes are very incestuous as well. I see a lot of old HC friends at stoner rock gigs nowadays. I honestly may have never taken the chance to start the label if it wasn’t for the mindset hardcore music gave me.
What brought you from hardcore to stoner rock?
Funny thing. The same dude who started bringing me to hardcore shows introduced me to stoner rock. Tom from Poisoned Mind Records. That guy knows every form of rock music. Owns every album in one form or another and loves sharing stuff with people. Tom was in my sister’s class, he is about 4 years older than I am. He and I met when I was skateboarding after school one day and we hit it off. Although I was younger, back then weirdos hung out with weirdos. He would drive me to shows because I didn’t have a license yet.
He is the first person to ever show me what a bong was and my first time I visited his house he gave me a GIGANTIC Jane’s Addiction “Nothings Shocking” poster I still own to this day. Fast forward, about 7 or so years ago I was talking to Tom and said “I’m so bored with the same music give me something different”. He sent me Graveyard, Witchcraft, Electric Wizard, Goat Snake, The Sword and some others I can’t remember. I was immediately enamored. It was the the same feeling I felt finding punk and hardcore. I was in! I researched every band, went to every show possible. Went for just the music. I was at the point I didn’t even want to know anyone in the scene because I didn’t want anything tainted. I wanted to like the bands for their music not for who was in the band. Basically, Tom from Poisoned Mind is the man. I owe a ton to him and he runs one of the coolest vinyl labels around people need to check out that label.
What defines the STB brand to you?
“This life has no meaning unless we grow together”.
I send a personal letter to every band I sign with and explain to them what that means. STB Records and the STB Family are more than a label throwing music on wax. I have created a community of like-minded people all working TOGETHER to create their own destinies. We all help one another out. It’s not just me at the top doing everything. We are a collective of people who bring something to the table that we all utilize when the time calls for it. Toke and Year Of The Cobra are touring in Europe together. Yes, that tour is going to slay! But it’s no coincidence that happened, the bands take the STB Family concept VERY serious. They look out for one another. They are protective about it.
I love meeting other label people and inspiring other labels to start. I do not get upset when someone copies an idea I am honored. There are more than enough bands to go around. Todd from Ripple and his wife had a profound effect on my when I met them in Vegas. I will forever call them friends. With Cursed Tongue Records, I talked Niels into starting it and helped him get moving on his label. It was the least I could do being that he supported STB from day 1! As for The Company Records, Josh does my graphic design. One day I was like “You can do this yourself, let me help you.” Look at those labels now they are killing it. That to me is the biggest affirmation as a brand. When you inspire and help others to create. I am not sure STB is really a “brand” but more of an essence. I hope STB carries on way past me. I want a young hungry kid to take the torch and bring it further than I ever could with the same passion and heart.
How did that brand originate? What inspired it?
Again, not to sound redundant but it all grew from the NY Hardcore Scene. When I was 15 we had a crew of friends 15-20 deep. Skaters, punks, skins, straightedge kids, goths, metalheads etc. A real melting pot of unique dynamic kids. One day sitting around someone jokingly said we should start a crew called Strength Through Brotherhood. As kids we took major ownership of it for a while. I was given the moniker Steve STB and its stuck ever since. There are people to this day who only know me as “Steve STB” or “STB” who have no idea what my last name is. It was only proper to call the label STB Records when the time came.
It’s an homage that shows respect to the past and everything that lead to the inception of the label. Like Judge said “Those days are gone man, but they’re not forgot.”. Fast forward to the past 10 years. Musical tastes have evolved and expanded. I am still heavily involved in the punk and hardcore scene but I am infatuated with the Doom/Stoner movement going on. I love it. The grassroots thing that is going on in this scene is what inspired me to take action finally. It’s very DIY, very parallel to the hardcore punk scene in the sense of its self-ran attitude. Its young and passionate as well. It hasn’t been tainted with too much ego and political bullshit yet. I love that. I wanted to be a part of it. I was at a time in my life where I was able to give back and get involved so I just did. Literally I woke up, said I’m going to do this. Now look at where STB is. I am so thankful and realize how fortunate I am every day. It’s a dream to be able to do what you love. It’s an absolute honor to do what you love and have it be respected and received by people all over the world.
Tied into that – what are you looking for when you sign bands? What’s the biggest mistake you see bands making when approaching you?
I’m going to start sounding stupid now. My main question to every band is “Are you or were you ever involved in the punk or hardcore scene?” If they answer yes, we move forward, if they answer no, I’m going to need convincing. It’s not to be a dick or anything, but the band and I will just get along way better. We will just “get” one another. Most of the time at least. Other than that, I am a vocals guy. With this type of music, the riffs are all similar at some point. I believe great vocals really bring a band from “not bad” to “Whoa who is this?!”. I am also a sucker for a killer hook. It’s just gotta catch my ear. I play a lot of music in the background to my life. Everything I get sent to me gets uploaded to my iTunes and I press shuffle and go do work. If it makes me pop my head up and replay, that is a band I want to give a bit more attention to. Finally, the band needs work ethic. This is stoner rock” but I have no time for lazy burnouts who don’t give a fuck or entitled babies who want to micro manage every move I make. Be cool!!! We’re in this together. Trust me, I am not buying a home in Costa Rica from the label. Your band invested money into recording, I get it. I am investing money into pressing distribution and PR. Trust the label and the process. My biggest issue is the band wanting to control every move. If that is the case the bands should self-release. In this day and age, it is super easy for a band to self-release, I actually encourage it.
On top of this, the band needs to embrace social media. It’s a necessary evil. If they tell me they don’t do Facebook or Instagram. I am out. When I like a band, I check their social media. If I see them putting in the work to update posts and pics and promoting themselves, I am in. You want to see the band have some passion for what they are doing. Are you just interested in playing music or are you committed? Interested means you take the path of least resistance and do what is easy and “hope” people like your band and hear you. Committed means you will do whatever it takes to get your name out there and you will passionately peruse your vision for what you want your band to be.
I am not looking for “hustlers”. Hustling is a game. I am looking for passionate hard-working bands who get it. I appreciate hard working people that get shit done. Year of the Cobra, hardworking and efficient. Goya, Hard working as hell! Toke, nose to the grindstone up at 6 am responding and taking care of business. Geezer, Pat doesn’t stop! In this day and age everything is a dime a dozen. Your attitude work ethic and ethos are what grabs my attention.
When a band is being lazy or arrogant with a “What can you do for us?” attitude they will get a sent to Pirates Press with a link to the self-release package. When I am sent a download link with “listen to this” and that’s it, I most likely won’t. On the other hand, a 4-page bio with every band you ever played with including the 500-band festival wont get fully read. Just give the bullet points and the music. I swear I listen to 95% of it. I have to say most bands and reps are cool and they are like “Hey you mind checking this out?”. Of course I don’t mind I’m honored! I’m not fucking Rick Ruben, I’m on the same level with the bands. I’m in the crowd. I don’t care about being on the list. If you’re on my label I most likely will buy your merch, not take it for free. Anytime I’m on the list I split the ticket with a friend to get more people in the door. Just be your selves and send the music and let it speak for itself. Have confidence in what you created. Don’t compare it to everyone else. I am a stoner doom label. I am pretty certain what you sound like already.
You run a successful gym, how do you balance that with your label life?
The gym is my bread and butter and my main focus. It’s as much of my heart and soul as STB is. Its ran the same way with the same ethos and I am so grateful every day that I get to live out my passions. My career paths have been magical. It took a lot of time, work and learning to get where I am today. Don’t get me wrong, I still get up 345 am every day and get my life moving. I have a strict morning routine that sets me up to be my best so I can execute CrossFit IGNITE and STB records to the best of my ability every day. A lot of people look at my life and think it was all handed to me and it’s easy. Nothing you passionately want is easy, but if you are passionate about what you are after it’s fun.
The label gets hectic around release time, so balancing both get a bit stressful, but it gets done. My shipping turnaround times leave something to be desired, I do what I can. If I could remove one aspect of STB it would be the shipping. I say that but, I’d probably be a punisher making sure the records were being packed the way I wanted anyway so no time would be gained!
Funny thing is when I started STB I committed to myself that I would not let it stress me out. That didn’t happen! BUT the way I went about making things as stress free as possible was a great feeling. “Oh, your records broke.”, “No problem here is another one, take two”. I don’t care. I mean that in the most respectful way. I CARE A TON, but I don’t give a shit about the bullshit. I love sharing music and inspiring people. Sometimes I just send people free stuff. It doesn’t matter at the end of the day. What matters is the influence the label had on people, not how much money it generated.
The gym I’m tighter with business wise, BUT when I saw STB taking off and how I was so free with it, I started applying that mindset to the fitness community. I would give away free information, create free routines and just be cool with people and concentrate more on the influence and effect I was having on my staff and athletes rather than the bottom line income each month. It totally changed the game and we are busier and more productive than ever before. I can honestly say STB Records also changed my life for the better in many ways. It allowed me success. I don’t measure success with money. I measure success by how much freedom I have. Freedom to live my life how I want, the way I need to, to be the best me. To be healthy in my mind, body and soul. That is success. STB Records allowed me to achieve that. I am forever grateful and proud of it.
What are some of the big goals of your label over the long term?
Long term goals are just to keep on inspiring and be inspired. Every time I say it’s time to slow down some dynamic awesome band with great people gets put into my life and my fire starts to burn. Take Toke for example. I ended up drinking with Jeremy and his dad at the bar at 3am. We hit it off and I was so taken back by how great him and his family was I just dropped a quick line “if you guys ever want to do something together hit me up”, the rest is history.
I would like to release some more records from the bands on my current roster. I find I want to consolidate and support the hard-working bands more. Instead of trying to crank out a new release a month. I want to put that time money and focus into helping the bands that are working for it reach the next level. I also would love to do some sort of STB Records showcase. Have STB bands play at an event where everyone can see them. Have free giveaways when people show up, even make the show free. I’d love to create an awesome exciting wild crazy fun event where people leave effected. Where they leave going, “Now that was some real shit right there”. We forget sometimes it’s not about the bands, it’s about the fans. They are the investors. Are we fulfilling the return on investment?
What do you love so much about music?
Everything. It provokes all emotion from happiness to sadness, relaxation to violence. It is the true puppet master. The chaos and recklessness of a punk show to the way the super loud riff shakes the shirt you’re wearing at a doom show. The way a silent room just filled with a piano playing a dark tune can provoke tears. It’s all so powerful. Music speaks a language anyone can understand. Its universal. I truly love everything about the purity of music. I am forever grateful for music, all aspects and I owe my life to it.