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Stick To Your Guns’ Jesse Barnett: “When The Community Comes Together, The Individual Can Thrive”

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 4 August 2022 at 13.25

"Sometimes you have to hate to love, and Stick To Your Guns pulls that loving action out of me"

Stick To Your Guns'
new album 'Spectre' is out now via End Hit Records. 

Vicious, vital and flowing with as vile as it is vying for change, it's a record that feels all the most potent and poignant now than when they wrote it back in 2019. It's that relevancy and realisation of how the world continues to spin in such an erratic manner that serves as the biggest reminder of why bands like Stick To Your Guns are needed in the world. 

To talk a bit more about that, we sat down with vocalist Jesse Barnett...

How does it feel to have a new Stick To Your Guns album out in the world, especially following a time when you weren’t sure what would be possible with the band?
“It’s interesting because it put everything we do under a microscope for a bit. I feel that’s something that everybody has experienced in some way over the past couple of years. Ordinary people realise that their lives aren’t exactly what they were told that it was in many different ways. And I feel like the same thing happened to me. I enjoyed the break but also found myself in this weird depressive mode because like got changed so drastically, and I think that has a lot to do with identity. I had spent so much of my life being the singer of Stick To Your Guns, but then when it came down to it, who am I? If you’re not careful, you will start buying your own bullshit when you start to consider those things, especially when you have so many people around you regurgitating that bullshit back to you. I want to think that I took the necessary steps to distance myself from the band and explore other paths, or even go in deeper on the parts of me that I took for granted and were just sitting there. 

"And starting my own bookstore and making that community space at this time has also helped me when it comes to Stick To Your Guns as well because it allowed me to find another part of me to celebrate rather than the part that was lying dormant.”

When it’s almost the first opportunity you have had in almost 15 years to have that space and reconsider things in a different way, you start to wonder what things would be like if you had had the opportunity earlier…
“The thing is that when you’re young, touring is the best thing in the entire world. Your whole world quite literally opens up, and you get to go and see things that you never thought you would be able to. But if you’re not careful, the tour can turn into a train you’re not allowed to get off. It becomes this ever-moving vehicle that keeps on pushing you forward onto your next thing, and before you know it, you’re back home and have no idea what has happened or allowed yourself space to think.”

How would you say that the things you experienced during this time affected what you were doing with the band? Where exactly did this batch of songs come from?
“This album was finished at the end of 2019 and was supposed to come out in 2020. But as far as these songs go, a huge insecurity that the band had was whether it was going to matter anymore. A lot of people are hearing it now and thinking, ‘Oh, this is obviously what you were going to put out at this time’, because we are living in a highly politicised time all over the world, and it just made sense. Yet it was written before everything was put under the microscope for people, our view of the world pre-pandemic. And amazingly, from there, things got worse. The things that we have been talking about was almost like we saw the way that things were heading. There are decades where nothing happens, and then there are weeks where decades, and that’s what the time after us finishing this felt like. There was this hope that people had that we would be coming out of this all thinking, ‘We went through this difficult thing, and it brought us closer together,’ as well as highlighting injustices that have never been clearer than they are now. But as we can see, that isn’t the case. 

"And when people talk about Stick To Your Guns records, they say, ‘Man, this sounds so fucking pissed off’. And there’s a bit of anger in there, but that isn’t always the case. We can get annoyed at individual people or specific things, but we exist in a system that creates monsters. Why don’t we go and turn the monster machine off? Why don’t we make a new one? That is our hope and ambition, rather than just being pissed off.”

And that hope that things can change and sharing the positivity that can come from joining forces keeps you coming back and making more songs and continuing to take to the stage. It’s what makes you want to keep on helping people…
“I think it’s about making sure that you are actively trying to help in whatever way you can, rather than it being about the individual actions. No matter what we do, it could easily fall upon our doorstep as well, and you would hope that there would be people to support you if you needed it. For me, the problems of my neighbour will end up with me, so why not help each other with as much as we have? Though there are also a lot of problems in society today that don’t need to exist but do because it makes a tiny group of people very rich. We shouldn’t have a housing problem, for example. It’s these things that we should be focused on and keep on trying to highlight.”

It must be interesting that though everything that these past years have represented and the things that you have learnt and grown through, you look back on the person you were when you recorded these songs and see just how different you are…
“I would say that Stick To Your Guns has become a much more introspective band than in the past. I feel like you must understand yourself before understanding your place in your community. But I also feel like our place has been to kill the idea of individualism. And that’s not in terms of not worrying about what you like and what makes you tick. It’s more about collective thinking. That’s something that has affected hardcore as well because very rarely do we have collective thinking, and when we do, it’s for a very short period. But when we need it, it is so powerful. That’s the biggest difference for the band now and the band back then. Putting more of the focus on the community because when the community can come together, the individual can then thrive. The more work we all do together, the less work we have to do on our own.”

But until then, you will be compelled to keep on moving and keep on creating and trying…
“1000%. That’s what it is. That’s the driving force for Stick To Your Guns. It’s a vessel for me to keep on talking about these things. In the time that we have been in a band, we have been able to show that there are things that we can do to make this life and this world a better place. A place where we can be happy, that is my pursuit. And with the band, that comes through anger. Sometimes you have to hate to love, and Stick To Your Guns pulls that loving action out of me.”

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