"American Hi-Fi has become kind of an inside joke for the four of us," says front man Stacy Jones by phone from his downtown Los Angeles home. "It's become kind of this boy's club where we drink beer and we watch sports and we play rock music." Not an entirely bad gig: over the span of their 10-year career, American Hi-Fi have had hit singles in "Flavor of the Weak," "Another Perfect Day" (which was used as Coca-Cola's theme for the 2002 Winter Olympics) and "The Art of Losing," and they've toured in support of artists such as Elvis Costello, Matchbox Twenty, Bon Jovi and Fall Out Boy. American Hi-Fi are currently touring behind their latest full-length release, Fight the Frequency.
OC Weekly (Dave Good): Why did you leave Boston for LA?
Stacy Jones: I had this penthouse apartment over in the Fenway area. I had a private roof deck that looked into Fenway Park a little. It was a cool hang. But we were touring so much at one point that I realized I paid for the apartment for the year, but I'd only slept in it 10 times. And it wasn't cheap. I had my friends pack my stuff and put it in storage. When we got back from Lisbon, I was scheduled to go to New York. I got to the gate, and my plane was canceled due to mechanical problems. But the plane on the left was going to LA. I said, "Can you get me onto that flight going to Los Angeles?" I've lived here for going on nine or 10 years now.
Ten years ago, when American Hi-Fi was brand-new, you guys worked with Bob Rock.
He has become a mentor for me. I'm producing now, and a lot of the things I'm doing I learned from him. He's really great at getting a performance out of a player or a singer. He's big on preproduction, making sure a song and the arrangement is right. You'll try a song 10 different ways with him. He breaks a song down to its core and builds it up different ways to see which is the best way. People don't do that as much any more.
Is that your formula for producing a band?
I'm kind of trying to brand myself as the guy you go to if you want to actually play your instrument and sing on your album. It sounds kinda funny to say, but it's true. A lot of records these days are made so quickly and the budgets are so low. And with the way technology is now, you can have a guy play a guitar part and kinda flop through it. You can chop it up, edit the fuck out of it, and you've got, like, perfection. And perfection has no place in rock & roll. I like to try to get as much of the real performance out of a person and get that on tape.
What prompted you to make the switch from drums to singer/guitarist?
I was playing drums in Veruca Salt, and we were on tour with Bush. I was standing on the side of the stage one night, and I was watching Gavin do his thing, and I was thinking, "Wow, that guy looks like he's having a lot of fun up there. I think I wanna try that." As fate would have it, a couple of days later, I woke up on the bus, and we were parked in front of a theater. I opened the blinds, and there was a music store right there. And there was a guitar with a Mel Bay chord book in the window. It was a hundred bucks. Great deal. And I said, "Fuck it. I'm gonna buy that guitar."
And then what?
I started writing the songs that would become the first American Hi-Fi record while I was on the Veruca Salt tour bus.
But you still play drums for Miley Cyrus, correct?
I do. Yes. One of my favorite gigs that I've ever had. And the thing that's great about that gig is that I'm also her musical director. I get to play drums, which is my first love and the only instrument that I feel confident on, and also I get to be a producer as well, producing the live show. When I'm doing that gig, I'm firing on all cylinders.
Which do you see as your main gig: Miley or American Hi-Fi?
I've always enjoyed mixing it up. That's one of the great things about the position I'm in. I just turned 40, and I have not had a real job.
You are not 40. You don't look a day over 30.
[Laughs.] I am 40. Rock & roll can do two things: It can age the shit out of you, or it can preserve you.
You have a real knack for crafting pop hooks. "Lost" is a great example. That song has more hooks in it than a fishing trip.
[Laughs.] I'm a product of all the music I've listened to growing up. Even when I was a little kid, I remember listening to music differently. I was always dissecting it, picking apart what made the song appealing to me. I've always done that. Music can affect me on a day-to-day basis. If I'm listening to the Clash, I'll sit down and write a song that sounds like the Clash. Not because I want to, but because that's just what happens.
American Hi-Fi performwith Tony Sly from No Use for a Name and Void 808 at the Slidebar, 122 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-2233. Fri., 11:15 p.m. Call for cover.