Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) | 3.19.10 & 3.20.10

The conversations between sessions were often about intrigue and espionage so that vibe seeped into the record a bit.

The Pageant, St. Louis

The genre-bending instrumental group STS9 is known for their exciting live performances and sprawling musical compositions; and their new album Ad Explorata is a continuance of that theme. When I recently spoke with keyboardist David Phipps on a day off in Salt Lake City, I asked him how they keep their audience engaged in the absence of a vocalist or front man.

 “It’s a pretty big production. Even in the early days when we would play nickel beer nights we were the only band bringing techno-beams to a bar,” Phipps says. The band recently invested in a LED video wall that allows them to project imagery that corresponds with the themes to their songs. According to Phipps, “It’s a big part of the show. It’s also a big expense and a big task for our crew, but it’s pretty visually exciting.”

The thematic content of the band’s new record is not obvious, of course. And they like it that way. “It was the fast record we ever made and it includes pieces leftover from Peaceblaster as well as some new stuff,” Phipps says. The conversations had during this recording process provided the inspiration for the song titles, but the band is not interested in stating an overt theme for the record. “[Guitarist Hunter Brown] is a huge history buff-not a paranoid history buff-but he’s into the CIA and such,” Phipps continues. “The conversations between sessions were often about intrigue and espionage so that vibe seeped into the record a bit.  If you Google the song titles it will kind of layout a sort of connect-the-dots puzzle. It’s more fun for the fans and us that way,” he says.

The album was released on the band’s own label, 1320 Records—an organization that Phipps described as “a new take on what a record label is and how it works with bands. We are hands-off publishing rights and hands-on publicizing the release.” Fellow 1320 artists The Flaming Skulls will open their upcoming St. Louis shows.

Fans attending STS9 shows enjoy not only a dazzling visual and sonic spectacle; they also contribute to the band’s charitable organizations. “One dollar from every ticket goes towards something good, whether the buyer knows it or not.” Currently the band is raising money to build a home in New Orleans for a needy resident through the Make It Right Foundation. “We wanted to see results, not just hand money over to the Red Cross or something. We wanted to be on the ground with it,” Phipps says before adding that they have raised over $104,000 of the $150,000 goal. “We’re in the home stretch.” The band members also support a number of causes, including a Florida high-school team that builds and races solar-powered cars. Phipps’ own brother is an award-winning teacher at the school and he admits to being “amazed at what these kids are doing. STS9 visits St. Louis to perform a pair of shows on March 19th and 20th at The Pageant. Tickets are still available.

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