Some of us love music for its lyrical value. Often songs can lend insight into politics, love, religion, social change, philosophy and human nature. We use lyrics as mantras to carry us through tough times. We get lyrics tattooed on our bodies because, to us, they are more than just words; they are words by which to live.
So what happens when a band decides to remove that lyrical aspect to their music?
“We get asked about that all the time,” laughs saxophonist Ryan Stigmond. His progressive jazz-funk band STIG is currently on their first coast-to-coast tour. While STIG may not have a vocalist, each member sings and screams with their instrument, from the saxophone to the guitar. Their decision to refrain from any lyrics came easily and, according to Stigmond, allows the band to explore new musical avenues.
“We’re not here telling people how to feel or think. I think [not having lyrics] leaves more room for the music to speak for itself. There’s a lot more room to play around.”
STIG originally formed out of Berkeley College of Music in Boston, Mass., where all the members were attending. After releasing the Downtown Tom EP, producing their studio album Flex and changing around a few members, STIG settled into their lineup and took to where they feel most at home: the stage. With jazz and funk, the music leaves plenty of room for improvisation, and STIG make use of that room, exploring deep sensuality in songs like “Fireside” or creating massively catchy grooves as in “Boardwalk Monster.”
According to Stigmond, the live sound is essential not only to the music they play but to making it in the music industry.
“[The music industry] is really at a place now where you have to play live in order to be successful, but we love playing live, and, really, this music is best live.”
This is perhaps why STIG’s first studio album Flex was recorded live in various venues around the east coast. Part of what makes Flex such an interesting listen is because of the interaction with the audience, the way they dip down to a whisper and build it back up into an explosion of funky jazz.
“It’s all about vibing off the room and reading the people,” says Stigmond. “It’s about that unspoken conversation and creating grooves for that moment.”
STIG’s fall tour is their first time travelling coast to coast and will bring them from Brooklyn to Santa Cruz, Calif., as well as Flagstaff where Stigmond and keyboardist Tommy Knoles grew up. As young musicians, Stigmond and Knoles played together with members from other Flag bands such as Tiny Bird and Four Cornered Room whose members, coincidentally, play in Proud Mother, the opening act for STIG this weekend.
“We grew up playing with these guys. It’s like a reunion, really,” says Stigmond. “It feels damn good to come back. The Orpheum is the room to play in Flag.”
After their fall tour ends, the band looks forward to recording another EP in Connecticut and then maybe relocating to Denver. For now, being jam-packed into a small van with smelly musicians, writers and photographers is where STIG would rather be.
STIG will be performing Sunday, Oct. 8, at the Orpheum Theater with Proud Mother. For tickets and information visit www.orpheumflagstaff.com.