Credit: Adam Elmakias
Stacy Jones (singer/guitarist)
Drew Parsons (bass)
Jamie Arentzen (guitars)
Brian Nolan (drums)
“I can’t believe that 10 years have gone by and American Hi-Fi is still alive and kicking.”
That’s the first thing Stacy Jones will tell you about American Hi-Fi. The four-piece rock band, originally from Boston, now based in Los Angeles has been through a lot.
Originally signed to Outpost/Interscope Records, which went under before the band finished recording their record, American Hi-Fi got signed again and released their self-titled debut album on Island Records in 2001. With help from legendary producer Bob Rock, the album went on to sell over 750,000 albums and spawned the major hit single, “Flavor of the Weak” as well as “Another Perfect Day”, which was used as the theme song for the 2002 Winter Olympics. The band spent the next 2 years touring non-stop with artists like Elvis Costello, Matchbox Twenty, Sum 41 and Bon Jovi.
In 2003, Island released American Hi-Fi’s sophomore album - an edgy, angst driven rocker entitled, THE ART OF LOSING. Despite strong sales, the label dropped the band to focus on their “Emo” roster leaving American Hi-Fi for dead. The band persevered and made their next record on their own with producer Butch Walker. The result was HEARTS ON PARADE, a more lighthearted album which Maverick/Warner Bros. Records released in 2005. Another successful release, but this time the music industry was buckling and American Hi-Fi found itself without a home again.
After 3 record releases with 3 different major labels, 6 years of constant touring and pressure to make a living as a band, the guys decided to take a break. Jones, who in another life was the drummer with Veruca Salt, Letters to Cleo, Aimee Mann and Tanya Donelly, decided to pursue another longtime passion, music production. He set up with studio partner Bill Lefler and within months had work lined up with Meg and Dia, Ingrid Michaelson and The Cab, while Epic Records tapped him as an in-house Producer/A&R Executive.
While at the label, Jones connected with Miley Cyrus’ manager during a “TRL” performance. One thing led to another and Jones found himself appointed as Cyrus’ Musical Director, in charge of every aspect of her live and televised performances. He also took on the role as her drummer and hired American Hi-Fi’s Jamie Arentzen to play guitar.
It may seem like a strange fit, but Stacy and Jamie felt very comfortable in the role. Jones says, “Miley is one of the most talented, hardest working artists I have had the chance to play with. It’s not easy keeping that kind of pace and I have a lot of respect for her. It is quite a contrast to the life of a rock-n-roll band though. Vans and trailers are traded for private jets; The Scottish Inn is swapped for The Four Seasons; CBGB suddenly becomes the Staples Center. At the end of the day, if we didn’t feel like she was the real deal, we wouldn’t be able to do this every night.”
While Jones’ schedule is rigorous, he felt the calling for another American Hi-Fi record. “I have a lot of amazing things in my life, but I recently went through a really dark period personally. I realized that the one constant positive has been the music and the people I play with in American Hi-Fi. They are like brothers to me.”
With original members drummer Brian Nolan and bassist Drew Parsons, the band started getting together for a week here or there, rehearsing, writing and recording their ideas straight to track, giving the recordings a live and very human feel. On writing, Jones feels that this record is the most close to home. “I found myself writing lyrics that reflected my own life more than I had in the past. Where I once hid behind vague concepts and cryptic lyrics, this time I poured my emotions and my own experiences into the music.”
The resulting 13-track record titled FIGHT THE FREQUENCY, produced by Jones and Arentzen, returns the band to their rock roots and perfectly balances their ability to pen hooky rock songs with their raw, edgy sensibility. “Fight The Frequency” and “This is a Low” display that the band are still pound for pound heavyweights when it comes to cranking up the amps but it’s songs like “Lost” and “Where Love Is A Lie” which capture the heartache and growth that Jones has clearly gone through over the course of making this record.
After meeting with numerous record labels, major and indie, American Hi-Fi elected to create their own label, called Hi-Fi Killers/The Ascot Club, through Megaforce/RED/Sony, on which they will release FIGHT THE FREQUENCY on August 17th, 2010. Although Jones and Arentzen will continue to work with Cyrus, the band has plans to tour for the first time in several years. After playing a recent show in Boston, Jones says, “It still feels like it did when we were in our rehearsal space in Boston. We’re trying to make great rock music that we care about, but not taking ourselves too seriously. I can’t wait to get out on the road and tour again.”
So like Jones, you may be shocked that American Hi-Fi is still a band—and still a good band. In fact, if you see the kind of skills these guys bring to a concert; serious chops, keeping the guitar solo alive and well and a tight as f**k delivery, you might walk out thinking that you saw one of rock-n-roll’s greats.
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