Nothing Set in Stone | Carrying the Torch

NSINSTONE 75All bands who’ve experienced any level of success can attest that it’s persistence and hard work, rather than luck, that allows them to navigate the bad times on the way to the good.

 

 

NSINSTONE 500

Ever since Paul McCartney’s pre-Wings outfit took their first bows on the Ed Sullivan stage to rapturous applause, young men and women with nothing but raw talent and desire have tried pulling the proverbial sword from the rock and roll stone. Unfortunately, musicians, by nature, are a wily and very combustible brand of creature. Because of this, most bands never quite make it out of the garage, imploding as a result of that inevitable mixture of gunpowder and fire commonly known as “creative differences” and “personality issues.”

Yet for every 10 or 20 bands that spin off the rails into the chasm of obscurity, there are the few who find themselves connecting with like-minded artists reading from the same page, wandering down the same road. St. Louis’s Nothing Set in Stone are not only clicking with each other, they also seem to be connecting with live audiences wherever they lay down the rock. Just like the best origin stories, the guys in Nothing Set in Stone came together through a series of fateful encounters and random introductions.

“Our bass player, Phil Billingham had been recording a lot of artists, a lot of rap and R&B, just helping people out,” says lead vocalist Nick Audrain. “I just got out of the Navy, and Phil was telling me about this guitarist that he met through work, Shawn McMullen. Shawn showed him some riffs, and they were really steeped in deep blues mixed with rock. We ended up recording his parts; I picked up a pen and paper and started jotting down lyrics.”

Bolstered by their confidence in this newfound writing chemistry, they figured that, since they found a home for their creativity, they might as well find a home for themselves to flesh those ideas out. “Six months in, we pitched in together and got a band house and we moved in,” he says excitedly, “and the songs were sounding great. As we kept going though, we realized that they would also sound better with the kind of rhythmic structure that only a drummer could provide. So we started looking.”

Of course, this is the point in our story where our musical heroes could have easily joined their fallen brethren, never finding that last, all-too-important piece of the puzzle. As anyone who has ever been in a band, or who is familiar with a musician who is in one, finding a good drummer is never anything less than a daunting task. Luckily, technology had their backs and they went to the one place where you can find almost anything. “We looked and looked, and it just wasn’t working,” Audrain says, still mildly frustrated at the memory. “So we hit the internet and checked out Craigslist and found Brendan Kolk. We talked over lunch, played him some of our music, jammed, and hit it off.”

It was an integral piece of the puzzle for more than just the obvious reasons. As Audrain relates, “He writes really innovative parts, so we started writing songs with him involved, and the songs just kept getting stronger.

Armed with an incendiary batch of material that successfully mixes influences ranging from Incubus to A Perfect Circle, Nothing Set in Stone took the next step and started booking gigs to take the show on the road. Audrain had made some inroads with venues thanks to his father, St. Louis mainstay, vocal powerhouse Billy Audrain. The elder Audrain helped land the guys a gig at The House of Rock, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive ever since—certainly enough to keep them being invited back on a regular basis.

Currently, the band is hard at work on their debut, a concept album called Death’s Road to be released later this year. Without going into detail and spoiling the story, the songs artfully weave a narrative about a man who’s lost his way, and after many trials and hardships, ultimately finds redemption. All bands who’ve experienced any level of success can attest that it’s persistence and hard work, rather than luck, that allows them to navigate the bad times on the way to the good. The members of Nothing Set in Stone certainly have more than luck to thank for their current progress, and if it’s redemption they’re looking for, they have clearly found it in their music. | Jim Ousley

Nothing Set in Stone plays The House of Rock in St. Louis on March 10 at 7 p.m.; tickets are $5.

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