Seven-Year Itch 

Local band StumbleBlind on recording, live performances

Around here, we have a particular notion when it comes to our local musicians: We assume that they'll always be around. We say to ourselves, "Oh, I see Band A is playing this weekend. I'd rather go see a movie. I'm sure they'll be playing again next weekend. I'll see them then." Often, it's true: Band A probably will play again next weekend and maybe the weekend after that. Sometimes, we never get around to seeing them at all. In the meantime, Band A is changing lineups, refining their sound and working on ways to expand their fan base beyond just the Valley. This describes just what local rockers StumbleBlind have been doing for the last seven years.

Vocalist Heidi Rath, guitarist Melissa Shaffer and vocalist/guitarist Ron Thomas have been together as StumbleBlind from the beginning. Bassist Andy Schanz joined them about a year ago and drummer No. 6 (yes, there were claims that the last five drummers combusted spontaneously) Chris Cullinan came on about a year-and-a-half ago. I sat down with four members of StumbleBlind (Cullinan was unable to get off work) over a pitcher of beer to chat about these veterans of the local music scene.

BW: You guys have been together seven years. Has your sound stayed the same in that time?

RT: No!

HR: We've always been eclectic.

RT: We've grown so much over the years. This is the first band that [Shaffer] and I have played guitar in. (Thomas used to play drums.)

HR: I'd always wanted to be in a band. Way back when, there was another member of [StumbleBlind], and he called me and asked if I wanted to try out for the band. I said, "Sure. Why not?" That was in March of 2000.

Do you guys write lyrics first and then the music?

HR: These guys will lay down the fundamentals of the song--bass, guitar, drums--and then I'll come back with lyrics. [Laughs] Sometimes a year later. Sometimes there will be a lot of changes [in a song] so it makes it a little more difficult.

So if they come up with a song that has a really tough vocal part, it's up to you to figure out how to sing it?

HR: We totally collaborate. We'll spend a whole practice breaking [a song] down and going over it. Everyone has a say. That's been one of the great things about this band from the get-go: the [collaborative] effort.

It's been almost seven years since your last CD, Unevenaware. Are you working on a new one?

HR: Our new CD is mixed and mastered; we're just working on packaging right now. The songs we have on myspace (www.myspace.com/stumbleblind) are on this album.

RT: We finished the CD about a year ago, but our old drummer is on the album.

HR: It doesn't have the same drummer on it, and it doesn't have the same bass player on it, so it doesn't sound like us live now.

Where do you hope to go from here? Are you planning to tour?

RT: We would like to travel and tour. We'd like to get out of Boise and see how we're perceived outside of the area.

HR: The one time we did travel out of town, we played at the Mint (in Los Angeles) a couple of years ago, and the crowd reception was amazing. We're still reeling from that show.

How easy is it for you guys to pick up and leave your lives behind and go out on the road?

AS: No problem.

HR: I have a job that's pretty forgiving.

RT: Same here.

MS: Me, too.

Are you guys doing any label shopping?

RT: We'll put this CD out ourselves.

HR: We may look for a label later.

RT: We'll probably do that with the next CD. We're looking to start recording this summer.

Heidi, I know your boyfriend is also in a local band. Do you and he ever have issues over that?RT: Never. He gets what I do, and I get what he does. There's never been an issue.

Do the rest of you have good family support?

AS: All across the board.

HR: I think that's been a problem with other band members. Their family support wasn't there, and they had to make a decision: go with [their] family or stay with the band.

AS: [Laughs] Music first! Not really. We all work together to try and be understanding and forgiving, and we're always there for each other.

Is there anyone in particular you guys are listening to?

RT: Locally, the Universal. Those guys are great.

HR: Them and Lacuna Coil. You don't see a lot of female-fronted bands.

You don't see a lot of female guitar players, either. [To Shaffer] Is there anyone who you're inspired by?

MS: I really like Chrissy Hynde and George Harrison. I don't know if they speak to how I play guitar, but they're people I really like.

HR: We love the Donnas. They actually influenced some of the lyrics in one of our songs. They came out with a song that was pretty snotty, so I wanted to come out with a snotty song. "Stalker" was influenced by the Donnas. It's the female perspective of stalking someone. To see us [perform it] live is pretty tough. I jump off the stage or on to a speaker.

How did you come up with the song "Disco Pistol?"

RT: We wanted a dance song. That song is one that expresses what I wanted from the beginning: We just want to have fun. We take ourselves seriously, but we want to have fun, too.

Is there anything else you want readers to know?

HR: We just want people to know that we have an eclectic sound, and we really think we have something to offer everyone.

RT: With Andy joining the band, we have a new sound and a new attitude, and we're pretty excited.

AS: We put on awesome live shows.

MS: Yeah, we do.

Check the live music guide each week in Boise Weekly for StumbleBlind show listings. Visit www.myspace.com/stumbleblind to hear StumbleBlind's music.

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