Stu Folsom is an enigma. Asking the man to expound on his relationship with music is uncovering a bottomless well of niche expertise, biting wit and regional love. As the brainchild of storied Las Vegas heavyweights Folsom, Stu has been able to profess and demonstrate this passion for his craft by writing and releasing music (the band has released) and embarking on national and international tours over the past 15 years.
So when Stu and various band members debuted a new project, SpiritWorld, in the summer of 2017, many were puzzled. Here was a band who traded, its signature gainy guitars for clean-cut Telecasters, and rambunctious, hard-hitting mosh parts for melodic choruses and bridges. The band’s demo showcased the its ability to fuse the twangy leads and simple chord changes of country music with the energy and vocal delivery of hardcore/punk. It was clear that SpiritWorld was an entirely new endeavor, independent of Folsom’s enduring legacy.
Spirit World is slated to release a split 7” with Houston hardcore/punk outfit Black Coffee via Head2Wall Records in early Fall. We chatted with Stu Folsom about beginning a new project, its first show and aspirations ahead of the record’s release.
What is SpiritWorld?
SpiritWorld is a hardcore punk band from Las Vegas, NV. I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting another band for a long time, and when Matt and Austin moved to Las Vegas and Kingman, AZ, it all kind of fell into place. We wanted start something fresh, and really push the songwriting in a different direction.
I knew I wanted to do a band that would be open range—no barb wire fences based on genre or scene politics. I wanted to focus on building a sound that could incorporate my love of the core, country and punk rock, and bounce around based on whatever starts to feel like a banger.
Why go in this direction/sound?
I’ve always loved the sound of those mid-'80s records that X, Steve Earle, and Dwight Yoakam were doing; those Billy Zoom, Pete Anderson, and Dave Alvin style rock 'n' roll leads just ripping over the top of country songs are some of my favorites.
Our sound really jumped that direction when I bought my Telecaster. I had all these country songs I had written, and I was picking little runs-in between the chord changes. I started playing those same riffs on the Tele … they just tore out of the amps and reminded me of those mid-'80s records. Matt and my longtime producer Lord Beezus were like, “Holy fuck, Stu! You need to make this kind of record!”
Once we had the general idea fingered out, I just started blending in some other songs I had laying around that felt natural, but were faster, and more punk. I pulled a lot of vibes out of my old Blood for Blood, Lucero, and Transplants records. Even though we don’t sound exactly like those specific bands, it’s that attitude of blending whatever the fuck style you want into your own songwriting that I wanted to tip my hat to.
Talk to me about the SpiritWorld demo. What was the process behind that?
We went up and recorded seven songs with my soul brother Sam Pura (The Story So Far, Basement). The four songs on the demo and the two on the split (with Black Coffee; forthcoming on Head2Wall Records) are from that session.
I really missed the old days when my friends were all putting out zines, starting bands turning awesome DIY projects a reality. I sat down and took a bunch of the photographs that (guitarist) Matt and (partner) Jen and I had taken the last few years during our travels, and made a lyric zine with them. I really wanted the artwork to reflect how much love and effort goes into making a new band from scratch. There was something really satisfying about making something that looks bad as fuck and collectible. But when someone wants to checks it out, they have to destroy something that is super limited and obviously handmade.
I made a few hundred of them and put them online on our Bandcamp page for $20 a piece until they sold out. I mean it sounds insane to sell a demo that you can stream on Spotify, but it worked out. The price is how much my time and love is worth, burning candles and Xerox-ing these things one-by-one. I’m proud of the way they came out. Maybe I’ll make another batch when we start playing some more shows.
Your first show with Power Trip was pretty wild...
First off, fuck that show, but it was a hell of a way to kick off this band, so check it out: I love Power Trip. The dudes from Double or Nothing turned me onto them a million years ago, and every record they put out gets blasted nonstop in my circle. So, when [Power Trip singer] Riley hit me up and said they were coming out, I was beyond stoked and knew that SpiritWorld was going to pop our cherry. The SpiritWorld set was bad ass. As soon as I started singing, there were tons of people screaming every word back at me and getting down.
Now, what caused the show to suck is that we didn’t have enough songs ready to play a full set, so we decided to do a secret Folsom cover set. I made this rad interlude that had all these movie clips from Swingers and Fear and Loathing, shit-talking about Vegas and layered them with all the Folsom sound clips we used on records. The place starts getting ignorant while we are switching guitars and amps.
I remember that. People were going wild during that interlude.
My poor babe, Jen and, my friend Edger’s preggo wife, Amber, move clear in the back and literally, right when we start playing “If You’re a Viper,” some dickhead is crowd killing and windmills them both—smashing Jen right in the mouth.
He hit her so hard that her bottom lip tore in half.
She stumbles over to our merch table where [guitarist] Nick’s daughters are chilling—blood pouring everywhere, and checks on her. He takes one look at the damage done, turns around, and knocks out said dickhead— leaving him laid out on the floor. Nick saw the kid bounce his head off the floor, and tells Jen and his wife (who are in the bathroom at this point, realizing she needs a shit load of stitches), “Watch the girls I have to bounce!”
What were you doing during it all?
I, of, course have no idea anything happened until we finish playing, and Nick’s wife runs up and starts chewing my ass. She said, “Hope your happy, fucker, Jen’s on her way to the emergency room and Nick killed some boy!” That was a total boner kill and I didn’t even see one second of Power Trip’s set.
Luckily, a few days later, Jen is all stitched up and laughing about it and we found out the dick head was Dustin’s brother and he is alive and well and apologized for being a dick head. And I should mention that before I booked that show Jen had already bought us expensive tickets for our anniversary that night to see Kings of Leon. And my dumbass hit her with the old, “but baby… it’s the Trip!”
Talk to me about the forthcoming split with Black Coffee. How did it come to be?
Well, I been knowing Ryan from Black Coffee/East End Barber Shop going back 15 years or so. Folsom played a lot with him and Rib's (Iron Age, Ancient VVisdom, etc.) old band, Ten Crowns, back in the day and we’ve been best good pals ever since. He had a band called The Burden with Caleb that was the shit. If you haven’t checked out Catholic Guilt and Feral Children, you are missing out on some of the best songwriting to come of out of Texas Hardcore since Life of Hate.
Nate from Head2Wall was living in Vegas for a few years and we got to talking about doing a seven inch together outside of a Mariachi El Bronx show downtown. Ryan hit up our boy Give Up, to make the artwork, which turned out killer as usual. That is his dad on the cover riding some rank bastard! So sick. He sent that over and said he really wanted to nail the SpiritWorld Cosmic Cow Punk theme for the cover. I’d say he hit a home run. Thanks, bro. Shit is rad.
Walk me through SpiritWorld’s songwriting process. How does it work?
I used to write songs and then get together with the band in person and flesh out the arrangements. If I already had a lead that was cool I would turn over to Matt and he would learn it and make up the rest of the second guitar part. If I only had the rhythm parts, then Matt would sit down and write the leads. For the new stuff I’ve been working on I usually write the song and then sit down and program drums until I have it close to what I hear in my head, track the rest of the guitars and vocals, then send the band a full demo to check out. Matt and I have spent a ton of time sitting together writing songs, so anytime he is in North America and I can pin him down we come up with some rad shit.
Ultimately, what’s the goal for SpiritWorld?
In the short-term: We are dropping that split seven-inch this fall with Black Coffee from Houston on Head2Wall Records, then going back into Panda Studios with Sam to track four of five new songs for another 7" that will come out early next year.
I just bought another van this December and she’s a total cream puff. It’s 2000 Dodge 1500 Ram Conversion Van with 50,000 miles. Jen and I almost died hitting some black ice outside of Chicago after we picked her up. Talk about holding a tight ass on your maiden voyage! We had to get towed up out of a frozen ditch, but I somehow avoided the dread van flip. Sorry, Lambgoaters.
We stopped to see our nephews in Iowa and grabbed 300 lbs of tube sand for the rear axle with my brother, Curtis. It was a little sketch but we managed to make it down to Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa to catch Turnpike Troubadours on their New Year’s Eve run on time! I mean, we did break down again in Kingman and spent the day benching freight trains out in the Arizona desert with Austin. It’s all good though. I think we got this bastard broke in and we will be able to get her down the highway and start playing shows without issue. Did I mention that Jen hates van life?
Long-term goal: I just want a conduit to get out the art I make to people who want to get down. I really haven’t shared anything. I have been writing since my twenties with the world and I’m sitting on albums-worth of songs that I am really proud of. It took a lot of hard work and grinding, but I was able to build a really stable and beautiful life with Jen that will allow me to have a great career, keep my mortgage paid and make the records and art and books just how I want without needing anyone for anything. It’s one thing to find people that get what you are doing and want to help you; it’s something entirely different to need them.
Any last words or shoutouts?
Check out all the rad stuff our friends Give Up, Head2Wall Records, Running In Place Records, Oversight, Rhyolite Sound, World Tension, Suffer the Loss, Black Coffee, Moon Blood, God’s America, Gatecreeper, and Power Trip are getting into.