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Stretch Arm Strong, on Tour with Strung Out, A Wilhelm Scream, Valient Thorr

The Palmetto state hardcore veterans, Stretch Armstrong are back with their fifth and most accomplished release to date, Free At Last. Their perfect blend of hardcore and melodic punk rock coupled with their positive heart-felt lyrics comes to its creative zenith on this record and their giant hearts are worn more proudly upon their sleeves than ever before.

After the release of their final album for Solid State, “Engage,” the band embarked on countless tours in sweaty clubs as well as sharing the stage with the likes of New Found Glory and Good Charlotte. Soon the guys from Syndicate management, home to bands such as Thursday and Shadows Fall, would offer the guys in Stretch a unique opportunity. To be the flagship band on their new label We Put Out Records.


With major label backing and an independent state of mind, “Free at Last” will not disappoint their faithful and should attract legions of new fans. It is definitely the album of their career and most focused material. Catch the band on tour all fall and winter, hitting the road first with Strung Out, then going back out again with the Suicide Machines, with George Clinton throwing down with the band at the CD release show expect great performances and don’t be surprised by impromptu guest appearances.

Stretch comes smashing their way into Denver on Saturday, October 15th, at the Ogden Theater with Strung Out and Wilhelm Scream. Kaffeine Buzz caught up with Stretch vocalist Chris Mclane before the show

Kaffeine Buzz: Free at last didn’t sound as if it was a huge departure from the past three records, but you can feel a sense of cohesion as far as the way the songs flow. Tell me about the evolution of the band in the studio?

Chris Mclane: Well, for the first time we had the chance to spend a whole lotta time on a record, it was the first time we spent over 5 weeks on anything other than a U.S. tour. So we went down to Florida to record the record with James Wisner, he recently did the last Underoath, and Dashboard Confessional records, he also did some early New Found Glory and early Poison the Well stuff as well, anyway, he’s a real passionate person who doesn’t let anything fly unless it’s perfect, which at first was completely annoying to deal with (chuckles), but that’s exactly what we needed, instead of relying on things we’d done in the past. He pulled things out of us, I didn’t know we had, it was great, we had time to get exact guitar sounds, and go through mixes of everything, and if it wasn’t perfect it didn’t pass.

Obviously when the record is done you still find minor things, but we’ll probably do that to everything we ever put out, however I think, that these are, without a doubt, the best songs, that we as a band have ever written, and hands down the best production we’ve ever had. Ryan Greene mastered the record, and fortunately for us he is a big fan of the band, he put in a lot of time and made it really work, but it goes back to the fact that he had a great product to begin with as far as the recording and the tracking, but the stuff he did with it was amazing. And he had such a great ear for it already from all the bands he’s worked with from Fat Wreck Chords and stuff, he was able to put that slick sound on the rough edges we already had, polished it up and I think it turned out to be a great record.

So that’s the long drawn out version of what I was trying to say, we had more time to get it right, and learned how to adequately get prepared for it as well. We didn’t want to use a lot of tricks and things, cuz even though it’s a little slicker, you’re not going to do stuff you can’t pull off live. We have a sampler to do some intros and stuff but other than that we didn’t over computerize it or anything. We also did something we’d never done before, Dave (guitar/vocals) and I took some vocal lessons in New York City, our label hooked us up with Melissa Croft who has become huge in aggressive alternative music. But I mean, I didn’t get this job cuz I was a great singer (laughs), but I was able to tour, I could scream my head off and I could run around stage for 30 to 45 minutes, but after awhile though as a band, you start writing stuff with melody, and after touring for 32 out of 35 days, I don’t want to be hoarse or lose my voice, but now we can preserve our voices and use them more efficiently. But ultimately we didn’t cheat in the studio, it was long, and tedious, but we did what we did to make us a better band. It’s great, but we still have a lot to prove.

KB: You guys have toured and have played a wide variety of shows and with several shades of audiences. Talk about differences in shows, from the New Found Glory / Good Charlotte tour to say, small hardcore shows?

CM: The things is with the New Found Glory / Good Charlotte show, I don’t necessarily know that we quote un quote “belonged” on a tour like that, but it certainly was a great experience for us. I mean we’ve played every crumby club and basement from coast to coast to squats in Europe, and during the New Found tour in Dallas, at the Verizon amphitheatre, we played for 22,000, which was insane. And obviously only two to three hundred of them knew of us, but it’s like, what a great experience to play in front of people who would normally never come to see us, so for them (New Found Glory) to take us out was huge.

As a band we learned a whole lot of things about playing in those situations and those kinds of venues, and it was great, whether we gained a ton of fans or not, the experience was phenomenal. Then right after that big tour we did nothing but small rooms in Japan and then came home for a small club tour. You know if there’s a place to play and people that want to come see it, that’s the one thing we’ve prided ourselves on as a band, you know we were one of the first hardcore bands that played shows in Puerto Rico, we’re lining up a show in Israel, we’ve got people over there that want us to play Jerusalem.

I think the New Found show set us up to do a lot more, and I’m sure some people discredited us for that, but a lot of people when they don’t understand something, their first reaction is a negative one, so we just stopped prescribing and adhering to that philosophy and that mindset, because the people that say these things aren’t in a band, number one, and number two, they probably live at home with mom and dad. I’ve played every small show you can imagine, so to get in front of thousands of people is a great experience, I mean, I don’t work two jobs when I get home from tour, cuz I like the punishment, don’t get me wrong things have gotten better, but at the same time with success comes a lot more stress, and more obligation. Our level of stress probably pales in comparison to some bands but, from where we are and what were trying to do you know, four of us are married, two of us have kids, and homes that we own, bills, groceries. We’re very fortunate to be in the position we’re in, but there are very few people that can see all of that, so ultimately we make decisions based off of what the five of us in the band feel.

KB: What kinds of guilty pleasures do you as a band have, or are there any secret inspirations you might have?

CM: Lately in the band we’ve been listening to every Led Zeppelin record, which isn’t necessarily a guilty pleasure, a lot of the guys in the band have been searching for rare stuff and bootlegs and what not. We’re all kind of closet Kiss fans, like the Dynasty days, we all went to see the reunion tour. We’re fairly normal, uneventful guys that happen to tour and travel together all the time, and there are certain things we do, like we love to find good, authentic Mexican food. We always go to the worst part of town to, the shadier and the smaller, is generally the better you know. This last tour we were on, we counted, we ate Mexican like 22 of the 35 days on tour, and we love it.


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