Interviews

Former Dead Icons Bassist Stanley Sievers Discusses His Comedy Career & Upcoming Film

Photo: Sandy Swagger Jones

Born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, Stanley Sievers was the bassist of metallic hardcore band Dead Icons from 2008-2013. The group's sole studio album, Condemned, saw release via Bullet Tooth, the record label founded by former Trustkill Records owner Josh Grabelle.

In the years since Dead Icons' breakup, Stanley has kept busy as a filmmaker, actor, and comedian in Los Angeles, learning his chops in the Chicago improv comedy scene by training and performing at iO Theater, Annoyance Theater, and Second City.

Most recently, his "mosh retirement guy" videos have gained a wide audience on TikTok and other social media platforms, leading to his most ambitious project to date, a mockumentary that he just wrapped shooting a few weeks ago.

I recently spoke with Stanley about his journey from hardcore band in Lexington to making a movie in Los Angelesl

Tell me a bit about your introduction to hardcore and the bands that made you a fan in the first place.

My introduction to hardcore came from going to local shows in Lexington, Kentucky. I would go see basically any bands because I didn't have many friends at school, and going to shows made me feel like I actually belonged somewhere. Touring bands would sometimes hop on shows, and sometimes they would be hardcore bands. 

Folks would also set up distros (this was pre-streaming-era shit) where I'd fumble through tons of CDs and records and buy stuff that looked cool. I already liked heavy music and some punk, but I never really got with the messaging when it came to the punk bands I saw.

Hardcore bands were heavier and had more of a positive message, which I liked. Eventually, it was the best outlet for my aggression as a teen. Now I'm an adult and it still pretty much works the same way. So yeah, local shows. I think Go It Alone was the first hardcore band I actually saw live. 

You recorded and toured with the band Dead Icons starting in the late ‘00s into the early ‘10s. What are some of the highlights of that time in the band for you?

Dead Icons was/is a major highlight in my life. We aren’t really active anymore aside from a reunion show every now and then, but we’re still friends and keep in touch. That part right there is the biggest highlight.

The friends I made from being in a band, touring, going to shows, I can’t even quantify how important that was to me. I still see people that Dead Icons played with 10 years ago, randomly running into them at fests and stuff like that. It’s great. 

Also, getting to travel and see parts of the country I never would have been able to otherwise was a huge highlight. Putting out a record on Bullet Tooth/Trustkill was a big one too. Loved that label growing up. 

What did you learn about that experience and wy did the band end up breaking up?

The biggest takeaway from Dead Icons, for me, was that you can do something if you put your mind to it. It might not turn out exactly how you want or happen the way you want, but if you keep hustling and getting better, you’ll make progress. Also, from that band I learned a lot of “journey is the destination” lessons.

Looking back, I have so many great memories even though I never wrote anything down and barely took any pictures. I wish I did, but I didn’t. I guess that’s another takeaway. Write shit down and take pictures. 

We broke up because some members had life transitions happening and it made it so touring wasn’t an option anymore. In hindsight I'm glad it happened when it did so that I could get into comedy and filmmaking. Also, we didn’t know you could just continue being a band and not tour. You can just… do that. You don’t have to break up. 

Dead Icons (Photo courtesy of Bullet Tooth)

When did you get into the comedy improv world and did you find any of your experience performing music transferable into that medium? There’s a history of comedic actors who got their start playing in bands.

I got into the comedy and improv world about a year or so after I stopped touring. It was kind of by accident, actually.

Once I was no longer doing the band thing, I was looking for a new creative outlet. Besides music, my biggest passion had always been movies and comedy. I used to watch every single stand up special on Comedy Central, and I loved the show Whose Line Is It Anyway? On top of that, some of my favorite movies were (and still are) the Jim Carey, Adam Sandler, Leslie Nielsen, and Mel Brooks movies. 

I was living in Lexington, Kentucky and wrote/directed a few short films while living there. After that I knew I wanted to do it in a bigger way, so I moved to Chicago. 

I started taking improv classes at iO Theater and Second City to meet comedic actors, and I ended up loving it. I found that my experience performing in a band helped me with comedy because if you’re having fun on stage, the people watching you are having fun too.

I didn’t have stage fright and liked performing, so all I had to do was figure out how to translate my sense of humor to improv. The biggest jump for most people is just performing in front of people in general, but I had been doing that on tour for years.

What have been some of the key projects you’ve worked on throughout the years in the comedic realm?

I made a short film in early 2020 called Samurai Sword. I wrote, directed, and acted in it. It was a huge undertaking and it was super scary because it was all me. If it sucked, I had nobody to blame but myself. But, it turned out great and actually helped me get management for TV/film a few years later. 

Through social media I met a director and writer named Brandon Dermer. He ended up casting me in a commercial for blink-182’s comeback, which was a huge opportunity for me. I obviously grew up listening to Blink, so being able to do that was bucket list stuff.

Performing on a house improv team at iO Theater in Chicago was one of the best times of my life. I met so many of my closest friends and collaborators from taking classes and performing at iO and other theaters like the Annoyance and Second City.

Being able to perform in front of a theater full of folks and get that immediate feedback from laughs is the closest I have come to the feeling I got from playing music.

What was the impetus for your mosh retirement videos and was there a moment when you realized you were onto something that was resonating with people?

I had been making videos online for years just trying to figure things out. I had made short films, music videos, sketches, all kinds of stuff, but never thought to make fun of hardcore. I just didn’t think people would like it or care. 

Eventually, I kept kicking around this idea for the 'mosh retirement guy' based on people I saw at shows growing up. I was like fuck it, 'I’ll make this video just to make the couple hundred people I know from touring laugh.' If that’s all that comes of it, who cares. It makes me laugh and if it makes them laugh, that’s all that matters.

What’s the story behind your mockumentary and how is that coming along? I know you were crowdfunding the project. 

Okay, so the mockumentary started out as an idea I had after the first "mosh retirement guy" video I did. I saw how much people loved it, and immediately started thinking of a way to do something bigger with it. So I spent the next year making videos, some about hardcore, some not, while figuring out what that project would be. 

Eventually I landed on doing a mockumentary. I was going to shoot it with a little money that I had, but I realized that the character belongs to a lot of other people besides me. So many people had reached out saying how much it made them laugh, etc. so I figured i’d give folks a chance to be a part of making the project in a bigger way through crowdfunding.

The crowdfunding process was pretty difficult. There’s a lot of logistics to figure out, and you’re making yourself pretty fucking vulnerable in the process. Asking people for money is always a weird position to be in, but I eventually came to see it as (along with the perks) I'm providing a lot of value for that donation by creating a project that thousands of people want to see. 

READ MORE: The History of Parody Hardcore Bands

Nobody has ever made something like this, so I knew it was going to be unfamiliar territory. Inevitably you’ll get some push back along with the support, but that’s any time you try to push boundaries creatively. 

I was also able to get some brand sponsors from Pabst Blue Ribbon and Overcast Merch, as well as Burgerlords donating some dank fuckin’ burgers to the crew. The sponsors pushed me over the edge to get me through production and post, so the project is getting made.

Right now I'm working with this guy Randy Baublis who is an amazing editor, and we’re making good progress. I’m still on track to get this project out by the end of year, which is exciting. 

What’s the funniest/silliest thing about hardcore?

The funniest thing about hardcore is the people who can’t hold two things to be true at the same time. Hardcore can be both extremely important and mean the world to people, while at the time being objectively pretty silly. Moshing is hilarious. It just is. 

When I was in my early 20s in hardcore, everything was so fucking serious. I don’t think I would have been open to the culture being roasted at that time because it was basically all I had. However, once I got older I started seeing it from a different perspective. I never stopped going to shows, supporting bands, listening to music, all that shit, but now I'm a little more self aware with how ridiculous it all is.

I think it’s the best music in the world and it’s an integral part of who I am, I just also think so many aspects are extremely funny. 

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Hit up this link to learn more about Stanley's various past and present projects.

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Tagged: dead icons