Sound Tribe Sector 9's Zach Velmer discusses fan base and song-writing process ahead of Savannah show

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comApril 18, 2013 

**STS9-2011-FINAL-without nutstars

    WHEN: 7 p.m., April 24

    WHERE: Trustees Theater, 216 E. Broughton St., Savannah

    COST: $32.50


The decision by California-based instrumental band Sound Tribe Sector 9, known as STS9 to its legion of loyal fans, to make high-quality recordings of its performances available for purchase and download less than 24 hours after any given show was an easy one.

They simply put themselves in the shoes of their fans.

"It's really exciting to be able to give our fans a chance to relive the show they saw the night before as soon as the next day," drummer Zach Velmer said. "If I saw a band in San Francisco, I'd love to be able to own a copy of that show. I don't give a (expletive) about a show they did in Oregon. I wasn't there. Doing it this way just feels more personal, and it's something that is really born of us being music fans ourselves."

Known for its visually and sonically entrancing live performances, the band will perform April 24 at The Trustees Theater in Savannah as part of a months-long tour that also saw STS9 play to a sold-out crowd at the Music Farm in Charleston last month.

The tour comes as STS9 is putting the finishing touches on a new studio album, its first studio release since 2011's "When the Dust Settles."

"It'll be out soon ... well, soon-ish," Velmer said with a chuckle. "We have a couple working titles, the art is done, and we're really in the last stages of getting it out. We'll let everyone know when it's ready."

Velmer discusses engaging fans on social media, being an instrumental band and the summer festival circuit.

Question. On the band's website, you see dozens of tweets, Instagram pictures, and YouTube videos posted by fans, why did you guys decide to design the site that way and how important is fan engagement to you?

Answer. Social media is becoming more and more how we experience the world and has a lot to do with how closely connected everyone is ... and we wanted to extend that to what we do. I mean, we get to play music for a living so we're ... blessed beyond belief but we've always felt a connection and this very real, symbiotic relationship between us and our fans. So, anything like this that comes along that allows us to interact with them, we're going to embrace it and have fun with it.

Q. You guys have a very loyal fan base, some of whom even know the last time you played a certain song. What's it like to experience that kind of devotion?

A. It's a blessing and a curse (laughs).

Q. As an instrumental band, what is your song-writing process like?

A. It sounds cliche to say, but the process is different for almost every song. It can be as easy as someone playing something on an acoustic guitar or me saying, "Hey, I've been working on this thing" and boom, a new STS9 track is born. I wish it were a little more conventional. It would definitely be easier to go into the studio saying, "OK, we're going to write Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday." Our process is a lot more natural and a lot more organic.

Q. STS9 recently wrote the score for "ReGeneration," a documentary produced by actor Ryan Gosling about the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Would you guys be interested in scoring other films?

A. Absolutely, but it's a very intense, different process than how we work. I mean, you have a director that you're writing music for and if he doesn't like it, you're going back to the drawing board. You're not working for yourself anymore. You're working for someone else. It was a challenge, it was grueling and it was super eye-opening, but ultimately, we learned a lot.

Q. The band has played nearly every summer music festival in the U.S., including Bonnaroo and Coachella, do you guys have any favorites?

A. The thing about the festival circuit is that you usually do like a year-on and a year-off, so a lot of the festivals we did last year we're not doing this year. We're doing this new festival at The Gorge in Washington that we're really excited about and a new festival in Baltimore. It's always fun to play the newer events, not to mention you get to see and hear a ton of new music and see old friends and stuff.

Q. What are you listening to now?

A. I'm completely addicted to Miguel, and I can't stop listening to any of his stuff right now ... Been listening to a lot of Azealia Banks, who is so dope, and Frank Ocean. I'm really into a lot of feel-good music. Summer is coming and that stuff just puts me in that mind-set and makes me feel good.

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at


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