Stray From The Path: Justice Crew
Stray From The Path have taken on the challenge of topping their gargantuan breakthrough record, and somehow managed not to self-destruct in the process.
Words by Daniel Furnari.
So you’ve slugged away for 14 years in an underground band before finally breaking through on your seventh album. You’ve taken said record on a few laps around the world, played bigger shows than you had ever imagined and life is looking peachy… right up until you realise it’s time to write another album.
“Oh my god, I wanted to die… It was terrible!” laughs Stray From The Path guitarist Tom Williams. “I mean, we wrote Villains in a garage when we were kids, and no one cared about it. We wrote the next record in Misha [Mansoor] from Periphery’s apartment – no one really gave a fuck about it. We did Rising Sun, and a few kids had started to care, and then when we wrote Anonymous suddenly it all just blew up. We’ve been writing records with no fanbase for all this time, and now we have this fanbase, what are we gonna do?!”
Writing and jamming a large amount of the material during soundchecks over their relentless touring schedule proved difficult at times, which Williams explains led to some turmoil within the band’s ranks. Although he assures us all is harmonious now, things got a little heated in the endeavour to step up their game.
“We had a big blowout at a show in South Carolina, screaming at each other, and we don’t do that – we were always the band that made fun of bands who fight. We’ve all been best friends for years! But I felt like they didn’t understand the kind of pressure that was on us. I was telling them, ‘You guys have to bring it! This record needs to be better!’
“I’ll never forget, the next time we went into the studio, Drew [York, vocals] showed me a loose-leaf piece of paper with lyrics all over it, and on the top it said ‘Outbreak’ in big letters, and I was like, ‘This, this is what I’m talking about motherfucker!’ He finally brought it – the whole band did! We really beat ourselves up writing this record and it paid off.”
That same track, “Outbreak”, became the record’s hard-hitting first single, a scathing attack on America’s pharmaceutical industry (who Williams says “don’t treat illnesses, they just create returning customers”). It’s just one of many controversial topics covered on the record, the sort that listeners have come to expect from the always outspoken band. Titles like “First World Problem Child” show Stray From The Path at their most forthright, dealing with racial issues in an uncompromising fashion.
“No one touches white privilege in America right now even though it’s such a huge problem,” states Williams. “I have debates with fans online a lot, kids saying things like, ‘Black people always want to pull the race card when they get arrested’. But they don’t know the first thing about being a black person in America. They’re privileged and they don’t understand. And likewise, I’m privileged too, and that’s why I feel it is my duty to say, ‘Yo, there are people in this world not getting the same things I’m getting’.”
Of course, this no-punches-pulled approach to social issues doesn’t come without a cost – the band have earned their fair share of enemies for speaking their minds, but for Williams and co. the need to shed light on injustice trumps all, especially in the current climate.
“When ‘Badge And A Bullet’ came out, kids were saying stuff like, ‘Fuck you guys, I’m burning all my Stray shirts now, my dad’s a cop, how dare you’ – but what does your dad have to do with a pregnant woman getting punched in the stomach by some other cop? I don’t know why they think they’re the ones being attacked. These arguments come from people who are protected by the privileges we’re talking about and are afraid to lose them. If you don’t like what we’re singing about on this record, you’re eventually not gonna like something on a future record, so you may as well stop listening now!”
Stray From The Path / Hellions / Antagonist AD / Void Of Vision Tour Dates
Thu Jan 7th – The Brightside, Brisbane (18+)
Fri Jan 8th – Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast (18+)
Sat Jan 9th – The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle (18+)
Sun Jan 10th – The Bald Faced Stag, Sydney (AA)
Tue Jan 12th – Uni Bar Stratton Room, Wollongong (18+)
Wed Jan 13th – The Basement, Canberra (18+)
Thu Jan 14th – The Evelyn Hotel, Melbourne (18+)
Fri Jan 15th – Fowlers Live, Adelaide (AA)
Sun Jan 17th – The Evelyn Hotel, Melbourne (AA)