Stay Gold Drummer Eagle Barber Looks Back on the ‘00s Seattle Hardcore Band’s Run Together

Photo: Dave Mandel

When I first started attending shows in the Northwest in 2001, Stay Gold was on practically every bill. Whether it was opening for a touring punk lineups with bands like Good Riddance and Death By Stereo or playing alongside their contemporaries in Champion, Contingent, and Left With Nothing, it seemed as though Stay Gold was inescapable in the local hardcore scene.

Stay Gold's melodic sound, packed with anthemic sing-alongs was perfect for the signature Seattle pile-on. As a young show going outsider, it seemed like they were on the ascent and would be touring the world in no time. I guess I was just in my own little Northwest hardcore bubble, because their first real US tour didn’t go so hot.

Then, right when Stay Gold released their full length album, Pills and Advice, the band broke up. Their official last show was their record release in Tacoma’s Hell’s Kitchen venue alongside Terror and Allegiance. That’s a hell of a way to go out. 

Aside from a 2005 “final” show and a reunion at Rain Fest, Stay Gold has stayed dead. To commemorate 20 years since their release, Indecision Records released a small run of the first two Stay Gold 7-inches together on an LP called Another Time in 2021. The record sold out in just a few short hours. This was proof to me that despite all their bad luck, Stay Gold had retained a group of a loyal listeners. 

Speaking of commemorative releases, Indecision Records will be dropping a 20th anniversary of Pills and Advice will a special pressing in late summer.

I’ve always been curious about the abrupt end to Stay Gold, so I chatted with drummer Eagle Barber about the band and everything that led up to their LP release show being their final gig.

Was it Dave Mandell of Indecision Records who came to you first about putting together the Another Time collection?

It was, yeah. I hadn't even realized it was the 20-year mark. Those first couple seven inches have been out of print for quite a while now and Dave has always been really good as an archivist of music. He was really pushing to get everything out there digitally. He and I worked on getting everything up on Bandcamp, but you know there's nothing cooler than vinyl records.

As great as it is, I want the music to be out there for everyone to be able to find on a digital platform. He was like, “Yeah, you know we should do something kind of cool and limited and special for the 20th anniversary." I was like, "Yeah, absolutely man. Let's do it.” 

So it wasn't ever a plan to just release it on your own?  If you were going to do it, was it was always going to be with Indecision?

I think so. I mean, yeah. It was certainly never our plan as a band to come back. I mean, we're spread out all over the country at this point, you know. We got back together to do the Rain Fest thing, but you know outside of that, we don't keep in great touch. It's totally humbling that Dave or anybody would still take an interest in revisiting this stuff all this time later.

I mean, we've always been indebted to Dave just for supporting the band and putting his time and energy into it. And you know, the fact that he had the interest to do it again as this anniversary thing. It's completely humbling because you're just like, “Why does anybody care about this band that we did 20 years ago?” But he was pumped to do it. I'm really happy to say that he was able to sell them all. That would have been the worst feeling, like, “Oh, that was really fun. I sold 20 copies.”

That would have been like how we operated as a band 20 years ago, you know. We would probably be giving those things away 20 years ago. That's all I wanted, was for Dave to be successful with it because he put the time and money and resources back into doing it. So I was super happy that that they sold out relatively quickly 

Were you surprised about the amount of people who were so stoked on it?

I'm always surprised. I mean, I can't even tell you. The funny thing is, I really tried to push it on social media. I started an Instagram account for Stay Gold when the Rain Fest thing was happening. It was put together as a way that we could sort of promote doing this reunion show and occasionally when I get photos and older stuff I'll post about it. But you know it's not something that I maintain on a daily basis. So, every time Dave was putting information and posts out there, I was always trying to re-up it.

I can't tell you how many direct messages I got from people. I think it's tricky. A lot of people don't realize that us as a band, we didn't really have anything to do with you know, manufacturing and putting it out and distributing it.

I don't know if people even really recognize, especially outside of the Northwest, we were not a successful, popular band. I don't know if maybe people outside of Seattle thought we were a bigger band than we were at some point, but I do get a kick out of interest that is coming around now. Part of me is going like, “Where were you guys 20 years ago?”

I mean, we went to the East Coast and it's basically what destroyed our band. It was an absolutely terrible tour. Shows were bad. We had a whole string of Canadian dates that were totally canceled. They wouldn't let us across the border. So at that time it felt like nobody cared about this band. Seattle was always fun and we always had pretty good trips down the West Coast, but nobody really cared so it has grown into one of those bands that I think is a lot more appreciated after the fact.

In a way it’s kind of like, “Oh, it's a bummer” but then at the same time, I don't even have the words to express to people how humbling it is that people are interested in something that you made 20 years ago. There's still people out there with Stay Gold tattoos, outside of the band. You see those from time to time. Stuff like that, I mean, there are no words. I don't know how big popular famous successful bands deal with that kind of stuff or if they just think it's nonchalant.

Photo provided by Stay Gold

I mean, to me, as a person that really only has like three or four band tattoos, I think about how important those bands are to me and the fact that anyone else out there would tattoo themselves with something I did, it's insane. I don't even know how to wrap my head around and it's absolutely just the most humbling and weirdest but really the coolest feeling. I was telling someone, I never really thought that we were—I thought we were like, a good band, yeah, you know, we were fine. I really enjoyed it and you know we were so much younger and we were doing what we want to do.

We had a good time, but we certainly never felt like we were doing anything that was going to be remembered 20 years later. I think I can speak for everyone in that kind of stuff just doesn't come into your mind. You don't ever really think about anything you're doing as something that's going to be important or significant 20 years down the line. It's totally crazy to me.

Photo provided by Stay Gold

You went on this one US tour and you came back and being that you weren't a humongous band, there's not a ton of documentation of this. What led to the dissolution of Stay Gold? Was it really just being together for that whole tour and just not getting along?

No. I mean, that was a piece of the puzzle and I think the odds were kind of against us on that particular trip. I mean one thing it's always important to sort of reconcile when you're talking today is, you know, I'm in my 40s now. My temperament or my mentality or even my emotional depth is far superior as a 40-something-year-old to a 20-year-old. And it sounds really funny to have gotten to that point now where I'm the old person reflecting back on being a kid, but I think a big part of it is that you had five personalities, and anybody that's ever been in a band knows this whole story.

It's not particularly interesting to anybody that's played in a band. Being in a band is like dating five different people at the same time. Think about how much work goes into a single relationship. Then doing that same sort of dance with four other individuals and all who have different personalities and you're also young so you're at that point where we were kind of crossing into young adulthood.

I think that's a critical time for a lot of people that maybe thought they knew who they were what they were about or what they wanted to do. I think a lot of that started shifting and kind of changing first for some of the band and then for someone like myself. Not to speak for everyone, but for me it really wasn't changing. All I really wanted to do was play music and do the bands and I wanted to get back out there and go on tour. But at that particular moment we had a member who was in a relationship and he thought that was the most important thing.

We had another member who was in school and so education was a big priority for him. The thing with that particular tour is we had one of the founding members quit right before the East Coast tour, so we had to bring in our friend Paul as a fill-in. So we already have the stress of teaching a new person songs and getting into a van with a new personality. We kind of got started on the wrong foot on that trip.

Another thing that people that play in bands will think is the absolute most ridiculous thing they've ever heard is we left Seattle and our first show was in Virginia Beach. So it was very poorly planned. It was a very poorly booked tour. That's three days, you know, that's three days on the road with nothing—no income. Just to get to your first show was a lot of gas and the greatest thing is that our very last show of that tour was in New Jersey.

So we literally had to get to the East Coast, do the tour, and then drive all the way back. As soon as we get to the East Coast, Ross ends up flying back home for something, so we're kind of stranded in DC for a couple days. Trying to get into Canada was a disaster. We got denied at the border, so we had three to five shows in Canada that we lost out on. So, you know we end up sitting at a friend's apartment in Connecticut playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater and eating takeout. So there goes those shows, there goes that income.

It was definitely the most poor I've ever been on a tour. I mean, our per diems were like two dollars a day. There was a point where that was just coming out of Ross's pocket—our guitar player was just like giving us an allowance because he was the most financially stable at the time.

Everything about the tour wasn't very good. It was kind of at the height of the American Nightmare, Converge—I mean Converge is sort of always at the height and top of their game—but it was very much like a Bridge Nine and Deathwish kind of era. More darker hardcore.

One of our shows out there was this festival—it was Bridge Nine Deathwish fest and we were like the only band that wasn't on either of those labels. The only band that was not from Boston or the East Coast and we played at like 11 on a two-day festival where all the bands are these very dark, you know, Boston East Coast fashioncore kind of bands. 

We just stuck out like a sore thumb. I mean, frankly nobody on the East Coast gave a shit about Stay Gold. We do have some friends like, “Oh, I was at the Long Island show” or “I was at the Boston show.” I was like yeah, you and no one else. You know that's cool and all, but it's not sustainable. We just were not successful on the East Coast. It was kind of one thing after another. It was a bad tour. Actually, half the band ended up flying home, which left only a couple of us to drive the van back. That eliminates more than half of your driving shifts. Whereas maybe you had to get three days across the country and you had five people to do it, it's like now we had three.

We got back to town and honestly, I came back pretty defeated. I thought, “Okay. I'm super glad to be home, but what's next?” Like, let's just get over it and let's figure out what we're gonna do. I think some of the songs that we were writing in those kind of final days that came out on the LP, I was really excited to kind of see where we would go next musically as someone who was writing a lot of the songs. By that time, honestly everyone else was just checked out.

I think Chad kind of made up his mind that he wanted to be in his relationship and that was the most important and Ross has always kind of been like “real world life is first and foremost and like hardcore's maybe not even secondary”. I don't mean that as to be reductive to Ross at all—he's just, you know, where a lot of guys are kind of like you know those hardcore lifers and you know band dudes forever he was just more like, “Oh, I'm always going to focus on my education and my career and being a fully developed grown-up," which, again, to his credit, that's why he's a lot more successful than all of us at this point. He kind of had that mentality.

When we lost Chris it was only sort of a matter of time before his younger brother didn't really want to do it because I think he was like, “Oh well, I'm kind of lost now without my brother. Maybe I don't want to do this either.” So I'm just kind left holding the bag. A part of me, I had the foresight to know that we weren't going to be able to do this forever, like we literally only have like right now and you guys are really fucking it up, you know. That was a really hard part for me.

You know, you can be old and like kind of settle down later, but it's like if we're gonna do this thing like right now is the only window we're really gonna get to do it, so you know frankly it was like get over it you know. It was just like I said, kind of everything that could go wrong on a tour went that way and we got back to Seattle and we actually had our record release show booked. But that was our last show. Our record release show was the end.

Yeah, so not only was that stupid and terrible timing you know, also you have to think about Indecision Records from the standpoint that we're totally leaving Dave hanging. He just put out this record and it's like, “Here's our record release show and that's our last show.” I always felt bad because it was kind of a time when Dave had a lot of really good quality successful bands on the label and I always just felt like we were just such a bunch of jackasses. I think part of it was, you know, we were too young to really realize what we had and what we wanted to do.

We looked at other bands on Indecision that seemed to be doing better than us. I always felt like, “Man, we're on a label with like Count Me Out and Faded Grey and the first Death By Stereo record I thought was so fantastic. We just always thought, "What are we doing? Why are we on a label? Why are we on this label?” At that time when some of our favorite bands were on the label, so I always just felt embarrassed, you know.

I just always felt like, “Man, Dave, I'm so sorry that you signed us to your label and we just were these dumb jackass that didn't know what we're doing. You put all this time and resource into us and we just totally left you high."

But I'm sure Dave is like, “I don't care about Stay Gold. I had plenty of bands that were successful and doing cool things.” And again, to his credit and it kind of proved me wrong. I mean, here we are 20 years later and he was stoked to put out this anniversary thing. I live like 10 minutes from Dave.

I mean, Dave's always been one of the greatest people we knew, and just the fact that especially at that time he was willing to take a chance to work with our band when he had all these really great bands in his roster. We just always personally felt like a total phony, you know. I never want to be one of those people that talks about the glory days, but I was always disappointed in how we handled ourselves and the fact that we weren't able to just sort of roll with the punches and be like, “Oh yeah, we had a lousy tour, big deal.”

And of course when you look at things in hindsight its like, you know guys that quit the band because they wanted to be with their partners you know. Those relationships didn't last more than another year, so it's like all those things like... you should have put all that stuff on the back burner and like... let's focus on this you know. 

Photo: Dave Mandel

What are a couple of your positive memories of your time with Stay Gold?

To be fair, it's almost all positive, you know? The way we sort of came to an end was a bummer and the recording of Pills and Advice was not the best. We had already started when our guitar player quit, and at the time we kind of were under the impression that the guy who was engineering or recording with us wasn't particularly interested in it. Our guitar player quit right when we first got started. We had an intern that kind of came in that was taking over the board and he's record.

As a songwriter of the band at the time, no big deal, but I'm in the studio playing both drums and guitar tracks because our guitar player quit and we don't have anybody to teach the songs. I'm pulling double duty trying to be a guitar player and a drummer in the studio at the same time. You know, the whole recording process sucked.

The tail end of Stay Gold was like a very difficult tumultuous time, but prior to that, I mean it was one of my favorite bands I've ever done. I think one of the things I take pride in is that we were always just such dorks, man. We weren't ever cool guys, we weren't ever the cool band. We went out on the road with some guys with some very questionable rock star behavior and mentality, especially in light of today's climate of all these sketchy bands and band people, you know.

Photo provided by Stay Gold

It's so funny to look back on those days because we were just a band of five total nerd goofballs. On the road when we weren't playing shows we were playing like handball and going bowling and going to the movies from time to time. I'm proud of the fact that we were never sketchy band dudes, you know what I mean?

We were just a bunch of nerds, and in a way, I think that probably hurt us as a band. We didn't really have style or like a shtick or any sort of swagger like cool bands. Especially at that time when there was so much of that sort of fashionable element in hardcore. We just didn't really have any of that.

So I do think it was probably a testament to both the people that did enjoy what we did was because of that and then maybe we didn't really find as much success because we didn't really play into any of that stuff….I do look at some of the bands that to me are some of the most important hardcore bands or my favorite bands and a lot of times it's not the bands that everybody thinks are the most revered or the most popular or in the forefront or vernacular of hardcore.

Some of my favorite bands are those kind of fly under the radar ones. They're super important to me and super important to a few people. They’re maybe not necessarily the hype popular band. If Stay Gold has a place in that kind of of world, to me that's way better than being the super hype popular loved band.

I'd rather have five really passionate fans than 100 sort of hype fans. I think we live in that space which is cool, you know. 

Stay tuned to Indecision Records for the 20th Anniversary of Pills and Advice coming Summer 2022.


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