Saturday, May 11, 2013

Stosh: Music From Madison To Greenfield...

Stosh Jonjak from his personal collection


Stosh Jonjak moved from the hipster haven of Madison, Wisconsin to its Pittsburgh counterpart, Greenfield - yah, we're comin' after you, Larryville - and has moved on from his bassist days with the popular and hard traveling Midwestern band Clovis Mann to becoming a complete musical entity unto himself - band, producer, promoter and distributor.

Jonjak, a native Wisconsinite, played for the blues and power rock trio for six years. In his paraphrased words "...we saw a lot of asphalt together, hanging out in a van, and subsisting on beef jerky and Dio sing-alongs at 4 in the morning after playing another roadside attraction. We averaged 60-100 shows a year around the Midwest, and did everything from hour-long showcases in college towns to playing roadhouses in the middle of nowhere."

"If you’re at some bar at the edge of civilization, you need to be able to play everything, whether it be outlaw country, classic rock, or even a polka or two, so that definitely stretched me as a player, and taught me a lot about arrangement and songcraft (not that I plan on writing any polkas anytime soon)."

He's effusive in his praise of old bandmates Ethan Noordyk and Dan Walkner, and Clovis Mann, still going strong, recorded a couple of albums with enough material for another.  Stosh learned about more than just laying down a bass line with Clovis, and began putting that business-end knowledge to good use here.

Jonjak came to Pittsburgh three years ago because of career opportunities for both his wife, a Pittsburgh native, and himself. He's a dad and has a day job to pay the bills. As for the music scene, he thinks Pittsburgh "...is the ideal size, big enough to support the local legends of the area yet small enough to be inclusive of newer talent. There are great media outlets, a host of blogs and good coverage in the press. And there are some really strong venues for every slice of the musical pie."

It's also where he found a chance to indulge his Euterpe. He explains "I spend too much time in my basement in front of flickering computer screens while recording and engineering away on Pro Tools. Assuredly, I’ve melted my mind, but that’s a small price to pay because, of all aspects of music, I’ve found I am most excited about writing and recording."

He writes his songs by notebook jots and records by structuring a lead vocal with live guitar riffs, throwing in a beat with a drum machine, overlaying the whole thing and adding the background vocals, a process that makes him "an army of Stoshes."

The result is his album Stosh. "This album is for people interested in sitting down and exploring 55 minutes of music straight," Jonjak said. "Unintentionally, in creating the songs, there happened to be a theme (each song is about a close friend or a family member) that ran through the whole album, so it made sense to put it all together and hope that people listen to the thing all the way through." (Just click on either this Broadjam or Stoshsounds link). It's definitely an olio of rock genres, described as "psychedelia, grunty, sludgy rock, and catchy electronic space sounds."

So any chance of getting Stosh out of the basement and on the stage? Probably not for awhile, anyway. "I’m not sure I’m ready to play laptop live just yet, which brings up the larger umbrella topic of what is the most effective way of promoting music?" Jonjak's take is "Playing thirty minute showcases was essentially the only game in town twenty years ago and I won’t disparage the value of a live show, but so much of the musical landscape has changed. Once you have a product you now have the potential to reach an unprecedented number of people via electronic promotion."

"With just a little legwork and at basically no cost you can upload your album to streaming services, submit your album to multiple, high-traffic marketplaces, and reach everyone you know via social media. It’s an exciting time for small, indie bands or musicians because of this access."

Give "Stosh" a listen; Old Mon played the album through while writing the post and it does work well as a unified piece even with the mash of styles. And you can't beat the inspiration.

The song “Life Intervenes” is about driving around with his bandmate buddies. For "Black Coffee" Stosh wonders if you've ever downed so much joe that you feel like your heart is going to explode? "See You In The Yucatan" is the tale of Evel Knievel meeting Metallica. "The End of the World" is based on an exchange held after the apocalypse. The tune "Grand Ambition" is a more traditional theme written after his daughter was born.

So hit one of the links above and let the rock roll.

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