William Hebert – June 18, 2014
The Stay-Alives’ “Survival Tips” EP uses a great blend of catchy pop melodies and gritty-sounding punk, allowing it to avoid the mistakes sometimes made by pop-punk bands. The band is able to craft melodic tunes that are really fun to listen to, but it never gets too far into bubblegum territory.
In fact, the EP’s sound more closely resembles a candy bar with peanuts that’s sweet, crunchy and occasionally salty, rather than bubble gum, which has no real texture and loses flavor quickly.
The guitar work is not especially complicated, but it’s fast chords and gainy tones compliment singer/guitarist Craig Erpelding’s vocals, which lie somewhere in between Billie Joe Armstrong and fellow Chicago punk Ben Weasel, though Erpelding’s vocals are not as nasally as either.
The instrumental “Elephant Hat” gets “Survival Tips” started in good fashion, and the band’s balance of sweet pop and salty punk is demonstrated best on “Pessimist in Me” and “Misery Loves Company.” As a change of pace, “What I’ve Become” channels the dynamic alternative rock of the 90s, while “Ya Mutt” maintains it’s fun feel throughout, despite its lyrical theme, with quick choruses and med-tempo verses.
The rhythm section skillfully brings the songs to life, with drums that lend an energetic tone and basslines that give the songs depth. However, the guitar and bass sometimes feel a little underpowered, and it would have been nice to hear them with a bit more “umph.”
Overall, though it may not be groundbreaking, “Survival Tips” is a fun, solid pop-punk record that’s worth checking out.
William Hebert – Punk Rock Connoisseur and bassist for Sunnydale High
Kristopher Irons June 18, 2014
A New Generation in Pure Punk Power
Helmed by the guitar and vocals of Craig Erpelding, the bass of Patrick Granberg and percussion of Scottie Wojo, together known as “The Stay~Alives”, Survival Tips is a 5 song EP worth owning from this hot Chicago based punk trio.
The rock genre has taken a backseat to hyper-produced pop in recent years and the messy guitar and breakneck beats that define pure impassioned rock seldom penetrate the Top 40s. As such rock is left with familiar names but no heroes to bring in a fresh sound to the genre.
Enter The Stay~Alives. Stripped down to the basics, this freshman effort serves as a reminder of the early 1990s to 2000s when everyone found their inner punk and developed a new appreciation for simplicity, power, and angst driven lyrics, ushering in a rock-friendly era for the mainstream ear. The Stay~Alives have tapped into this same potential that has built and rebuilt rock time and time again, and fans are left to wonder what they will bring to the world of rock on a polished full length album.
Survival Tips may only be a simple EP, but from its simplicity, each song shows a uniqueness in spirit that deserves an audience.
Leading with “Elephant Hat”, a short, fast instrumental piece that nods to garage bands that just want to jam and make some noise, this is a fitting opener to set the mood for a session of passionate punk rock.
“Pessimist in Me”, a solemn title which carries a driving beat and powerful eager lyrics, takes its energy from early 2000s rock albums like My Chemical Romance’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. Just listening to this song should well up feelings of nostalgia for anyone who was a teenager or had teenage sensibilities in that era.
“Ya Mutt” is a catchy, groovin’ tune that commands toes to tap and fingers to snap. Caustic lyrics juxtapose the pleasant instrumental vibe – that is, until the chorus arrives when all the pleasant puppy-like qualities of this song disintegrate into the harsh power of embittered rock to give this dog some bite.
Do you remember bands like Puddle of Mudd, Hoobastank, Staind, and all those big radio names that defined the 2000s alt rock era? If so you’ll get a familiar vibe from “What I’ve Become”. A grim introspective song with radio friendly riffs, this bummer-strummer harkens back to that era of alt rock. Experimental and emotional vibes pour off the guitar as Craig sings his heart out and it’s clear the lyrics come from a real place of pain and self-loathing, making this one of the most sincere sounding songs on the album.
And finally, Survival Tips transitions out of the melancholy and back into good feeling rock with “Misery Loves Company”. Without saying too much, this is a song to play for your friends. And how fitting for this song to punctuate the EP since it’s a song you want playing on a Friday night out with friends after a long work week. I won’t spoil this song’s lyrical content, but no matter who you are, you will probably want this song on your iPod at the ready for such a night.
Even with the influences from the 90s and 2000s that inspire this band, it’s clear they have a unique identity and something fresh to add to the genre, which I’m certain will thrive on a polished feature length album. Anyone who wants to hear the next step in the evolution of rock should keep The Stay~Alives on their radar.
Kristopher Irons – Musician and Author of Dyslexia