After several years of hiatus, Belgrade is returning to the hardcore map of Europe - one of the most important representatives of this sound nowadays, the American band Stick to Your Guns, will soon be its guest. This five-piece band comes from Orange County, California, an extremely fertile hardcore/punk/metal soil that has spawned a number of world-famous and important bands for that scene. Before their premiere performance in Serbia, their guitarist - Josh James, formerly a member of the Evergreen Terrace, was kind enough to answer a few of our questions. We talked about the new album, looked back on part of their career, and, of course, we mentioned upcoming Belgrade concert announced for Monday, April 10, at Dom omladine, where they will be supported by the local Blankfile. Enjoy your reading!

This year you are celebrating the band's 20th anniversary. How would you describe the past two decades and how do you look today at all that you have achieved as a group in this period?

We definitely didn’t expect to be a band for 20 years. To be honest when the band started there weren’t really any goals at all. I think it’s all been in small steps. After the first record came out, the band went on tour and we just kept repeating that process. Write, record, tour. It works for us. When we realized this was the 20th year of the band it was kinda shocking, it’s wild how quickly time goes by. We’re very grateful for all the support over the years and hope that our music will continue to affect people in the way they want and need.

It also took you 20 years to come to Serbia for the first time - why did it take so long?

There’s been a few times in the past where we tried to play Serbia make but it didn’t work out because of logistical problems. When we got hit up about this show we were so stoked. We love going to new places and are very honored that your scene has invited us to play.

Last year you released the album "Spectre" - how are you satisfied with the new album and what has been the audience's reaction so far?

Ya know, Spectre has an interesting story. We recorded it at the end of 2019. In March of 2020 it was being mixed and mastered and the plan was to release it in summer of 2020. Half way through mixing the pandemic hit and everything band related was put on pause. I think the last thing on our minds was the band and the record. Between the pandemic and the social unrest we were experiencing in America it just didn’t seem important. We all learned how to have life without the band and the record was kinda just put on a shelf. In 2021 when bands started being active again we planned to go on tour and release the album but then the tours got cancelled, it was just a real confusing time. Honestly I’m shocked the album ended up coming out. It’s been a hard album to push for various reasons but the audiences’s have really seemed to be stoked on it. Songs like Weapon, Hush, A World To Win have all had great responses. As a band that always feels like the biggest accomplishment…seeing people at a show enjoy the music you’ve put a lot of work into.

Several songs stand out from the album like "Weapon" and "More of Us Than Them", and there is also "Who Dares Wins" which opens a quote from leftist activist and artist Utah Phillips - how did that happen?

Jesse was on a big Utah Philips kick during the recording of Spectre. He played the clip for everyone and we thought that was a great way to kick the song off.

It seems that in recent years many hardcore/punk bands shy away from socially engaged lyrics, while you never hesitated to talk and sing about that. How important is it for bands to say out loud what they think about it and clearly express their own political position?

I can’t speak for everyone in the band but I personally think that artist should write and sing about what they’re passionate about. If you got something to say about ice cream then say it, if you got something to say about heartbreak then say it, if you got something to say about the Bay of Pigs invasion then say it. Speak from the heart. Be genuine. Don’t try to have an agenda. Don’t be scared and don’t be fake.

While we're talking about political topics - the album "Diamond" contains the song "Bringing You Down (A New World Overthrow)" featuring Karl Schwartz from First Blood, which is actually a support for the Occupy Wall Street movement. How did you decide to take such a step?

In 2008 the US housing market crashed. It created a lot of homelessness, and we saw a lot of fucked up shit as a result. Jesse’s family lost their home during that time and was obviously effected. It took around 3.5 years for the market to “recover” which was right when we were writing our album “Diamond” and the Occupy movement started popping off. Bringing You Down was a product of its environment with a lot of personal connection.

Stick To Your Guns had performed in Kenya in 2017. at This Is Africa festival, organized by Hardcore Help Foundation, as the first American band ever. How did it happen and how was atmosphere at the concert?

Hardcore Help is an amazing foundation based out of Germany that we have worked with for years. They reached out with the idea of us playing Kenya and we instantly said yes. It was one of the coolest shows we’ve ever played. That experience was a highlight of our career.

How familiar are you with the music scene in Serbia and the Balkans in general? Do you know some bands and artists from around here?

I’m not very familiar at all. I know about Dead Ideas from the early 90’s but thats about it. I’ve heard a lot about Expectations, they’re playing our show in Sofia, so that will be cool to check out. I love when we get to play with bands from other parts or the world or local bands.

What are your expectations from the Belgrade concert?

Honestly, I have none. I’m just excited to play and hope kids dig it.

And finally - what is your message to the audience in Serbia before your concert on April 10th?

Thanks for having us!
Interview done by Timočanin