One would be hard-pressed to find a batch of musicians who have more effectively perfected their approach to three completely different styles than those in Stud Count. The Philly-based powerpop powerhouse shares members with hardcore head-punchers Drill Sergeant and death rock dynamos Academy Order (covered by Cvlt Nation here and here, respectively), but the purity and power of the sound on their upcoming, self-titled debut LP would have the listener think that this band has been their only baby for the last decade or so. Simultaneously a throwback to the very best of ’90s alternative and a look forward at how coloring outside the genre lines will move punk forward, Stud Count’s debut is a brilliant masterclass on effective, catchy songwriting that reaps the benefits of following its own rules.
As if it were the easiest thing in the world, these musicians craft spiny earworms that burrow deeply into one’s consciousness and find a home there for weeks. With the hefty sonic invention that typified bands like Screaming Trees, Redd Kross, Fugazi, and Teenage Fanclub and the melodic prowess of Blur, The Thermals, No Doubt, and the criminally underrated Noisettes, not to mention the excellent Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack, the songs on this LP naturally build on those from earlier releases. These tracks are cohesive, provocative, powerful, and more fun than most of what’s been released in any genre this year.
The previously released singles of the Stud Count LP have done a beautiful job of building on the fantastic foundation of the demo and the EP, Pleasure Center, by weaving Letters to Cleo together with XTC and The Buzzcocks. New single, “Maniacal Laughter,” is a slight departure from that groove, a grittier and snottier raw punk that veers into the spooky and the pissed, somewhere at the intersection of Amyl and the Sniffers, Shoppers, The Coathangers, and Pissed Jeans.
Emerging from feedback is a pulse-quickening open-chord progression over galloping drums, a recipe for more elbows and steeltoe-cartwheels than one would usually expect at a powerpop show. The song is a meditation on disloyalty, on burned bridges, and on a life left better for the ties one cuts. Norelle’s voice is mighty and righteous, authoritative. This whole song feels like a decision to explode from the ruins of the past, to stand up straight, to clench one’s fists, to lift one’s chin and furrow one’s brow. It’s a decision to be the better, the stronger, person. The mindset is infectious, as the listener has no real choice but to be fortified by this instant favorite.
As if the earlier singles weren’t evidence enough that this album will be a must-listen for anyone who enjoys music anywhere on the pop-punk-hardcore continuum, “Maniacal Laughter” drives the point even further by showing just how broadly the band can cast their net for influences while still keeping the very coherent, very special sound that has come to define this fabulous project.
Please enjoy the world premiere of “Maniacal Laughter,” and be sure to keep an eye on Bandcamp, Smartpunk, and Convulse for the Stud Count LP release on 7/22.
This band shares members with Drill Sergeant and Academy Order, and all three projects are very different stylistically. How is the writing process for Stud Count different?
SC: It’s a pretty similar process across three of our current bands- I write the bones of the songs, get with our drummer Bret to practice the songs and rough demo them, then we write the vocals/leads etc. The only difference with Stud Count is Norelle writes most of the vocal melodies and lyrics. When I wrote the first songs for this project, I intended to do vocals, but a few weeks in, we had the idea to try Norelle instead, and it sounded so much better. After that, we delegated the vocal responsibilities to her, which really defined our sound.
While punk has been moving away from melody for the last decade or so, there seems to be a cultural shift toward a more inclusive melodic approach in punk and post-punk right now. Why do you think there’s been this change?
SC: Personally, I think it has mostly to do with the lack of lifestyle orientation in subculture. When I was coming up in punk in the early 2000s, there was an assumption about the way most of us were living; a fairly short list of acceptable lifestyles and world views according to our politics/genre of listening.
That doesn’t really exist anymore now that punk/hc has been accessible for a while. Kids get into the music however they get in, they live however they want and absolutely refuse to be gatekept, for better or for worse.
To me, that’s a good thing. I was there for the worst of posturing; it was pointless and sad. We have a culture that constantly preaches unity, soapboxes for its varied conflicting principles but can’t come to an agreement about pretty much anything- it’s better to just throw the whole bs code of ethics away and enjoy our time.
The singles you’ve released so far are stylistically diverse while remaining loyal to an overall sound. Who are some of the band’s biggest influences on this record, and how do you find your balance between poppy punk and an edgier sound?
SC: At the heart of it, we’re a punk band. Pop music has been the back beat of punk rock since its inception; even The Ramones got their name from a pseudonym of Paul McCartney. Whether that’s the straight up powerpop stuff that makes up the majority of our sound or harder stuff like “Maniacal Laughter,” it’s still Stud Count.
For this LP, I really just wanted to cover the gamut of sound we drew from in writing it. Everything from 90s punk-adjacent stuff like The Replacements/Wipers/Lemonheads to The Sundays, Cranberries to mid 2000s USHC throwback a la Government Warning, Career Suicide, etc.
What bands would Stud Count love to tour with now that shows are happening again?
SC: it’s hard to narrow it down, but to name a few-
Drug Church, Angel Du$t, The Bombpops, Lurk, Spiritual Cramp
How has the band’s vision or approach evolved since the demo and the Pleasure Center Promo?
SC: When I wrote the demo and promo tapes, I was hoping to fall into a category of punk bands like Liquids, Hank Wood & The Hammerheads etc- that sort of rock n roll evolution from mid 2000s basement hardcore; a punk n roll band for hardcore kids. While I still love that stuff and see we have a draw with that scene, the stuff I wrote for the LP branches into some poppier, more polished territory.
People hate on a lot of the pop side of punk-adjacent bands from the early 2000s like The Hives or even Sum 41 but those bands were responsible for getting a generation into punk. We’ve already gotten to share fest space with some of those bands on our first tour this past May, and it’s something we’d all like to see more of if it’s available to us.
How did the band choose “Through My Window,” “Give Me Time,” and “Maniacal Laughter” as promotional singles?
SC: Really just wanted to give people a sample of what to expect from the LP. Everything from Fuse Rock Channel-era indie rock to Deranged Records-style hardcore punk.
Can you briefly explain the ideas behind “Maniacal Laughter”?
SC: We wrote the song about watching people go from friends to monsters, seemingly overnight. The track is about surviving all of that, hoping the best for those who’ve hurt you and being thankful for the shedding.
What should people know about Stud Count? About your debut LP?
SC: Mostly that we like to rock and have fun.
For the LP, really just that we’ve been working on these songs for like 2 and a half years, and can’t wait for everyone to hear it and to play them live everywhere we can
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
SC: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. Support Evan, Cvlt Nation, everything on the Smartpunk and Convulse Records rosters
Listen to the Stud Count catalog on Spotify and on Bandcamp.